We didn’t really need another King Kong movie 12 years after Peter Jackson gave us his bum-numbing three-hour epic. That featured some of the ropiest CGI and most stomach-churning scenes I’ve seen in a mainstream monster smackdown.
However, the makers of Godzilla have a plan: they revamp the classic old radiation-born lizard one year; wait a while; resurrect the king of all monsters movies and then team them up for the ultimate smack down.
But first we have Kong-Skull Island, the two-hour epic which sees SAS veteran Tom Hiddleston striking heroic poses: hands on hips in a tight tee shirt, showing where all that gym work went.
He’s teamed with a small army of US soldiers and assorted experts sent to the eponymous region to investigate mysterious goings on before enemy forces do.
Thrown into the mix is Weaver (Brie Larson), a likeable photojournalist and one of the few women in the entire movie; obsessed military man Samuel L Jackson; John Goodman, adding gravitas to the proceedings as one of the team who get the mission green-lit, and countless military and money types who may as well walk around with VICTIM stamped on their jackets.
The whole thing is brisk, snappy and feels like its edited in the dark with garden shears.
There’s barely a chance to build up any tension before another poor soul has met their fate at the claws or jaws of another monster predator.
But let’s start at the beginning.
After a Second World War-set intro when two opposing soldiers face off on a rock on that isle of mystery, we are given another Godzilla-style intro featuring fast cuts before things jump to 1973 Vietnam and the assorted members of the mission are assembled.
We know what a couple of them do because the tools of their trade are shown in close up. Thankfully it’s a gimmick that isn’t pursued for long.
The influence of Apocalypse Now is so obvious in its scenes and some advertising that I’m amazed it wasn’t crowd funded by a Francis Ford Coppola fan club. But if you’re going to lift inspiration from somewhere, lift it from one of the best war movies ever made.
Following the Army’s squad of helicopters through an electrical storm, in which Sam Jackson spouts the sort of rousing dialogue probably polished by an uncredited Quentin Tarantino, we emerge in the Jurassic Park-style land that time forgot. Had a Doug McClure lookalike turned up with a U-boat full of extras as a homage to those creaky 1970s fantasy movies involving plastic dinosaurs, I would not have been surprised.
What KSI gets right is that roller coaster sense of fun. Yes, it’s nonsense, but those assorted films with prehistoric creatures and daring explorers has been the staple of books and cinema for centuries, and they’re not about to fall out of fashion any time soon.
While some of the dialogue is so-so, the creature effects are mostly terrific.
The nightmarish skull-headed lizards are gloriously creepy, and it’s hard not to feel for Kong every time he takes a bullet or a bite.
I’m glad Kong isn’t shipped off to the States for yet another New York-set finale. We’ve seen enough of those in previous incarnations, though arachnophobia sufferers be warned: one scene involving a giant spider is bound to give you nightmares.
Is it the best film of the year? No, but it is an engaging B-movie with a great cast and some wonderful action scenes.
I don’t emerge from the cinema feeling short changed, but I do wonder whether Godzilla vs King Kong will be a let down on a par with Batman vs Superman when it finally sees the light of day in a few years.
Well worth a look.