King Kong is the single franchise least needing of another update yet, for some reason, this month saw the release of Kong: Skull Island, the eighth instalment in a series about a big, destructive gorilla. Set against the backdrop of post-war America, a hunt for uncharted land is led by government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman). Setting his sights on ‘Skull Island’, a destination used without a trace of irony, Randa recruits Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and cheesy Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) to assist in the fact-finding. With Nixon in office and a general anti-war feeling prevailing, plucky photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) joins the expedition too. Together, they encounter Kong: the gargantuan eponymous gorilla that dominates the action with his almighty buttocks.
Helicopters plummet from a sky painted gold as the titular monkey plucks soldiers from aircrafts like crisps from a packet. Men become little more than red stains on the jungle floor as they are squished underfoot by Kong. The carnage is gory and moreish and spectacularly satisfying. In one delightful scene, a minor character has his limbs casually detached from his body by a pair of carnivorous birds in flight. This is what I came for. This is why I paid £8.60.
The first half hour is blood-soaked brilliance, it’s the rest of the film that I had a problem with. Precariously, the Kong attempts to contrive a storyline out of the mass butchery that is the premise. Why? A gorilla stamping and throwing and batting and crushing miniature humans about the place is enough of a storyline to sustain an action like this. One hour of puerile primate action would have sufficed. Instead, Vogt-Roberts drags it out for two hours, introducing other overgrown beasts along the way. There’s a giant goat for no reason, a huge spider that does very little, and a big squid of little significance. At one point, a tree grew four limbs and became mobile. This is when I eventually stopped paying attention to the film. Fantasy overdose.
Samuel L Jackson gives a recital of the only character he has in his repertoire. This time, he’s called Preston Packard, but the name is the only difference in his performance that is largely the same as his ones in The Avengers, The Hateful Eight, Snakes on a Plane, etc. As a character, Packard typifies the work of Jackson’s later career: macho, silly and lacklustre. Is Jackson no longer capable of serious roles? Each scene in the film is punctuated by Packard’s meaningless asides that are neither funny nor relevant. They are, however, slightly more bearable than Tom Hiddleston’s single worst assigned line in his career: “C’mon you bastard!” he shouts comically in Etonian shrill as a giant lizard trails not far behind him. Most of the script is like that.
I was hoping that this ridiculous offering from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts might be Kong’s last outing, for the oversized monkey’s grave to be concreted over, sealing him away for all of eternity. No more reboots, remakes, sequels, prequels, whatever. How unfortunate it was, then, for me to find out that Godzilla vs. Kong would be arriving in cinemas in 2020.