The good thing about Kong: Skull Island is that you get exactly what you pay for – monsters, lots of them, all in variations of large. The main attraction King Kong is the size of a building. He’s majestic, proud and even, sensitive. At one point, he rescues the only woman on screen and lays her down gently with his outsize palm. We also get ferocious, towering lizards who seem like the bigger, more vicious cousins of the raptors in Jurassic Park. There’s a giant octopus like creature – Kong slurps his tentacles like tasty Ramen noodles. There is a gorgeous, outsize water buffalo with heavily lashed eyes, a massive spider and a creature who looks like a cricket mated with a tree trunk. I can assure you that the humans – especially lead actors Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson – are the least interesting elements in Skull Island. Though the ferocious, fuming Samuel L. Jackson does get a few stand-out moments – at one point, when someone suggests that they call the cavalry, Lieutenant Colonel Packard declares: I am the cavalry.
The creatures – especially the sad-eyed Kong – are jaw-dropping. Kong: Skull Island pops when they are onscreen. But the humans with their leaden dialogue drag the film down. Characters say lines like – Come on, every second counts. Yes, we know that every second counts when you are the only humans on an island populated by fantastic beasts. Skull Island is described as a place where God did not finish creation and where myth and science meet. Director Jordan Vogt Roberts and writers John Gatins, Dan Gilroy. Derek Connolly and Max Borenstein toss out the traditional Kong tropes – there is no love story here. Instead, they find inspiration in Francis Ford Coppola’s classic war film Apocalypse Now.
The story is based in 1973, at the end of the Vietnam war. Once again, the jungle is the heart of darkness and we have people in a boat going deeper. Napalm features and a character is named Marlow, just like narrator in the Joseph Conrad novella, which inspired Apocalypse Now.
But don’t worry. None of this changes the inherent silliness of Kong: Skull Island. Tom Hiddleston looks distant and uncomfortable. Larson has little to do. The heavy lifting here is done by Kong who is flat-out glorious. See this for him.