KONG: SKULL ISLAND. US, 2017, 118 minutes, Colour. Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L.Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz,Tian Jing, Toby Kebbel, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann. Directed by Jordan Vogt- Roberts.
King Kong has been part of movie consciousness for over 80 years, his first appearance in the 1933 classic which introduced him on his island, his being transferred to the United States and the famous climax on the Empire State Building.
There were sequels, variations on the theme, remakes in 1976 and, by Peter Jackson with Naomi Watts, in 2005.
And now, here he is again.
The audience is not left in suspense because Kong makes his first appearance at the very beginning of the film, 1944, a South Pacific island, planes crashing, a Japanese and American confronting each other – only to find themselves confronted by Kong.
The action in this adventure takes place in 1973. President Nixon’s announcing the cessation of hostilities after so many years in Vietnam. Some of the military, especially Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) are reluctant to leave action and go back to civilian life. When an opportunity arises for him to take his men on a special mission to the South Pacific, he agrees with alacrity.
The background of the mission is an expedition to an unknown island. Leading a delegation to Washington and an appeal to a senator is a wealthy man (John Goodman) and some scientists – the senator, Richard Jenkins, thinks that the mission is nonsense but is persuaded to support it when he hears that it might become a cold war pawn with the Russians.
The other significant members of the mission are Jim Conrad, Tom Hiddleston, an SAS man who is strong on security, and a photojournalist, who has covered the war in Vietnam in order to promote peace and human respect, thought to be a man because of her name, Mason, played by Brie Larson.
As the ship sails towards the island, it is covered in fierce storm clouds and so helicopters are sent in, explosions set off in order to rouse the creatures on the island.
Needless to say, Kong is not very happy at being so disturbed and there are vivid sequences where he destroys so many of the helicopters as if they were little toys in his hands. Packard is very aggressive and terms the weapons on Kong, wounding him.
After his attack, there are two groups on the island, one centred on Packard who wants to get the weapons and to destroy the creature, the other centred on Conrad and Mason, she busily photographing everything, he wanting to lead them back to the rendezvous.
Much easier said than done because of the range of creatures on the island, prehistoric giant creatures, a huge water buffalo, an enormous spider, a large squid, devoured by Kong, ferocious lizards and pterodactyl swooping for prey. As a fierce creature and monster film, this one does very well.
There is one surprise in the form of John C. Reilly, the surviving American who landed at the beginning of the film, who has made friends with the rather silent and painted inhabitants of the island, advises them that Kong is friendly but that there is another enormous lizard creature who wants to destroy Kong – and, in a long sequence, we see the two fighting and the bad creature doing his best to destroy the good Kong.
Needless to say, not everyone survives, but Conrad and Mason, climbing a cliff to fire a flare for the rescue, come face-to-face with Kong and there is the expected moment of Beauty and the Beast, Mason touching Kong, he rescuing and cradling her.
Which means to say that as a version of the King Kong story, this is not bad at all.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.