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A Kong for a ride

OUT NOW! KONG: SKULL ISLAND obviously isn't mind-blowing, but if you're ready to check your brain at the door, it's a fun ride.

Set in the early 1970s, a group of fresh Vietnam vets, a handful of science geeks, a mercenary and an anti-war photographer fly to an uncharted island surrounded by perpetual storm clouds. The humans predictably piss off the hirsute native by dropping seismic charges all over his home in the name of science; they are naturally greeted with a less-than-friendly reception committee. However, as the surviving nature-botherers try to regroup, they quickly realise that an oversized ape is actually the least of their concerns…

For the second film in the shared monsters universe kicked off in 2014 by Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, Legendary Entertainment has once again offered the gig to an indie director without massive blockbuster credentials. Jordan Vogt-Roberts follows in Edwards’ footsteps and the result is a survival flick burdened with a script that does the film, and its A-list cast, no favours. Expect no metaphorical subtext like in the good old days; here, Samuel L. Jackson pursues a hilarious personal vendetta (read: a repeated staring contest) against Kong himself, while a bunch of archetypes fight for survival. It’s also an adventure flick that can’t quite strike the right balance between its self-conscious pulpy moments and its horror-tinged beats, which include some impressively gruesome deaths, one of which feels like a nod to Ruggero Deodato‘s Cannibal Holocaust.

Yet, for all its flaws, it’s hard not to sit back and simply enjoy the big dumb fun. While the characterisation runs thin, the director admirably wastes no time in making the action come thick and fast. Kong: Skull Island ends up as a goofy mishmash of Apocalypse Now and a monster movie, which features some impressive CGI and a show-stealing John C. Reilly, playing a WWII pilot who accidentally crash-landed on the island and who has been stranded there ever since, perfecting his sword-swinging and beard-growing.

Far less romantic than Peter Jackson’s King Kong and significantly more flamboyant than 2014’s Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island is consistently daft popcorn entertainment, a B-movie that needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible… preferably once you’ve left your brain at the door.

Kong: Skull Island | Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (USA, 2017) with Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman. Starts March 9.

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