It’s 1973, in the twilight days of the Vietnam War. The United States has all but conceded defeat in the ceasefire and the government in disarray. The White House is encircled by protestors, and the Watergate scandal hasn’t even hit its stride.
Monsters always mean things: the original Godzilla was subjugation under the A-bomb blast, the Cloverfield mega-crustacean raw panic in the face of 21st century terror. This Kong, who kebabs military hardware on palm trees, is humiliation on the world stage writ large – 100 feet large, to be exact. No world power likes to be made a monkey of, but especially by… well, you know.
“Mark my words, there’ll never be a more screwed-up time in Washington,” says Bill Randa (John Goodman) as he clambers from a taxi on Pennsylvania Avenue. He gets zero marks for foresight, but the comment’s forgivable, given the context. As a senior member of a mysterious task force called Monarch, Randa suggests that America needs an easy victory somewhere – anywhere – to shore up its tottering global standing. So he assembles a team for a resource-stripping mission to a strange land mass called ‘Skull Island’, recently discovered by a US spy satellite.
The hit squad government officials (including himself), a military detail (led by Samuel L Jackson’s Lt. Col. Packard), plus a tracker (Tom Hiddleston), a photojournalist (Brie Larson), and various science types. They can arrive before the Soviets and are equipped for almost any eventuality. Almost.
Kong: Skull Island is the seventh official remake of or sequel to the original King Kong film released in 1933, but the first that could have been pitched as a loopy, audacious B-movie riff on Apocalypse Now. It’s evidently been made on the understanding that merely unveiling an enormous primate isn’t much cause for excitement in itself – even if the new breed is four times taller than the Empire State-climbing original.
Overall, King Kong lives! But only just. This is an uneven adventure that’s saved by the spectacle of its towering title character and the various beasts with whom he shares his island home.
Worth Seeing?: Maybe