Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 2017. Legendary Entertainment, Tencent Pictures, Warner Bros.. Story by John Gatins, Screenplay by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly. Cinematography by Larry Fong. Produced by Alex Garcia, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Thomas Tull. Music by Henry Jackman. Production Design by Stefan Dechant. Costume Design by Mary E. Vogt. Film Editing by Richard Pearson. Academy Awards 2017.
Monkey trouble doesn’t even begin to describe what a scientific expedition and ists military escort experience when the assessment of the geological properties of an uncharted island reveals the place to have more than a few aggressive inhabitants. With the Vietnam War winding down and the American government looking to increase its power in the South Pacific, John Goodman convinces his superiors to fund a trip to Skull Island, taking along with him a mercenary sea captain (Tom Hiddleston), a reporter (Brie Larson) and a whole platoon of traumatized soldiers led by a vengeful Samuel L. Jackson. Within minutes of their arrival, a giant gorilla appears out of nowhere and starts swatting helicopters out of the sky, forcing survivors to cross the island on foot to a rendezvous point in time for their pickup. The challenges on the way there are plentiful, especially when it turns out that our good friend Kong isn’t the meanest thing that the place has to offer. Played out with healthy doses of Donkey Kong-level mayhem and Joseph Conrad-style exploration, this action-packed distraction has a game cast and moves at a great pace, beginning with the right level of brisk exposition before getting to the meaty stuff without wasting any time. The film delivers on the fun, and thankfully isn’t the bloated length of Peter Jackson’s 2005 extravaganza, though a touch of the romanticism of the classic original wouldn’t have hurt the pleasures of all the rampant disaster: this King is all duty and no desire, when he restores the distressed damsel to safety, he walks away before she has a chance to open her eyes and share a moment with him. There’s also, ironically, a lack of grandeur to something that features so many aerial shots of giant jungle expanses populated by mythically large creatures. I assume that the visual effects are sometimes rough looking as a way to preserve the B movie flavour of the plot (which is also set in the seventies to justify the hipster chic abounding everywhere), but there’s a sense that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has been handed a lot of well assembled elements and doesn’t know how to handle them. Given that his breakthrough feature, The Kings of Summer, was an example of having no idea how to handle the elements of a much smaller and simpler film, this can’t be too much of a surprise, but quibbling aside this is a diverting and easily watchable adventure.