MOVIE REVIEW - Kong: Skull Island smashes its predecessors
SKULL Island goes ape shit with the King Kong franchise in this oversized retro reboot - to hugely entertaining results.
The second film in Legendary's MonsterVerse shows just what you can do with a top-shelf cast, some cracker dialogue, and a director who doesn't take himself too seriously (but who has a deep respect for the genre in which he is working).
Kong: Skull Island is Jordan Vogt-Roberts' first major Hollywood film and only his second feature (the indie coming-of-age drama, The Kings of Summer, screened at Sundance film Festival in 2013).
It's an extraordinarily assured multiplex debut - a clever, but not-too-clever blend of humour, action and myth.
References to films as diverse as Apocalypse Now and, well, the original King Kong (1933) are woven seamlessly into the screenplay.
And there's a scene-stealing performance from a Richard Nixon bobble-head.
Bucking the recent trend for origin stories with a darker and more realistic tone, Kong: Skull Island takes the creature feature back to its matinee roots.
One could almost imagine Tom Hiddleston's former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad being played by Dirk Bogarde or Errol Flynn.
The film is set at the very moment the US troops pull out of Vietnam - it's "one last mission" for the hapless military escort charged with protecting a motley bunch of US scientists and cartographers in their data-collecting efforts.
The imaginative co-ordinates of the recently-discovered Skull Island lie somewhere between Jurassic Park and Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
Combining a little bit of science with a whole lot of creative licence, the filmmakers have come up with a selection of megafauna so diverse, it must have had the visual effects artists salivating.
Some of the creatures on Skull Island could well have walked the earth along with the giant kangaroos and monster goannas. Others belong to a Jules Verne novel or even Harry Potter.
The latest version of Kong eclipses Peter Jackson's 2005 incarnation in terms of both scale and motion-capture technology.
When Kong plays volleyball with the Army helicopters or tears the tentacle off a giant squid with his bare teeth, he's terrifying.
In his exchanges with Brie Larson's naturally appealing "anti-war" photographer, on the other hand, he's genuinely empathetic.
John Goodman's underplays his part as expedition leader and redeemed crackpot so the character doesn't come across as a cliché and John C Reilly has a lot of fun with his role (there'll be no spoilers here).
After his ill-judged appearance in that other sorry ape film, Samuel L. Jackson redeems himself in Skull Island as the decorated war hero who doesn't know when to stop fighting.
The scenes in which he goes eyeball-to-eyeball with Kong are just corker.
This Kong is already King of the newly-created MonsterVerse.
Kong: Skull Island opens tomorrow.
Kong: Skull Island
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Verdict: 4/5 stars