Twelve years after his last film appearance, King Kong stomps back into cinemas looking bulkier than ever before. The giant ape now stands at 100ft tall, dwarfing the 25ft monster we saw in Peter Jackson’s 2005 movie. Fortunately, this super-pricey reboot set in the ’70s gives Kong plenty of reasons to throw his weight around.
The film begins with a motley crew of soldiers and scientists, plus photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), exploring an unchartered island in the Pacific. Director Jordan Vogt-Robertse delivers the first action sequence fast: as soon as the crew’s helicopters hover over Skull Island, Kong swats them down like flies. With several crew members dead, tensions fester. US army colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L Jackson) refuses to leave the island until he finds a missing soldier, but former SAS captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) wants to lead the team to their designated rescue point. The group also disagree over their true enemy’s identity: is it Kong, or the island’s lizard-like predators, the Skullcrawlers?
Kong: Skull Island’s simplicity is refreshing, with only John C Reilly’s Hank Marlow, a stranded World War II soldier the crew find on the island, given a proper backstory. Vogt-Roberts supplies lots of CGI surprises and wry period details. In one scene, we see crew member Reg Slivko (Me And Earl And The Dying Girl’s Thomas Mann) introducing an out-of-touch comrade to David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’.
There are some silly moments. Larson made her name with her Oscar-winning performance in Room, but here she’s reduced to having Samuel L Jackson hiss “B***h, please!” at her when her character makes a suggestion. Dialogue aside, this is a film that provides some supersized thrills.