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Kong: Skull Island review – Actors eclipsed by fuck-off ape

This Kong is fucking massive. I think that’s the main thing director Jordan Vogt-Roberts tried to establish in this commentary piece about the effects of keeping ape enclosures too close to nuclear power plants. He’s 100ft tall (Kong, not the director). Imagine the size of his balls. Imagine being underneath him as he emptied those balls. Honestly, having him ejaculate on you would be like someone pouring a bath of warm, gelatinous egg whites over you from the top of a building. You’d be crushed.

It seems like the sort of thing he’d do, too. On Skull Island – the storm-cloaked, unchartered spit of land that houses all of Michael Bay’s rejected monster ideas – Kong strolls around like his first name’s King, most likely marking his territory by unloading numerous batches of milky sexcrement. It’s an obvious move to affirm his dominance, but it’s also a statement about the frustrations of hairy men in the age of Tinder.

He goes fully ape shit for the best part of the film, smashing everything in sight when he realises he doesn’t stand a chance with Brie Larson. In full swing, he’s punching helicopters out of the sky, tipping uncredited extras into his canyon-sized mouth, and practicing his golf swing on giant skull lizards with uprooted trees. He looks glorious doing it, too. Being set in the 70s, just after the Vietnam War, he’s basked in a lovely napalm hue that really brings out the fiery orange in his eyes. He’s never looked so strong and handsome, but the problem is Larson’s entire body can fit in the palm of his hand. It can never work between them.

That’s one thing they didn’t really get away from: Kong having a thing for blondes. Despite the humans immediately proving themselves to be a threat to his habitat, he doesn’t feel the urge to pulverise her when she’s standing right in front of his ginormous face. Still, the level of intimacy and screen-time we get with Kong is a major improvement on Peter Jackson’s 2005 film, which didn’t see the Eighth Wonder of the World appear until you’d already lost interest. What was even more disappointing was that he was only 25ft tall. Pathetic. You could have lobbed a rock at his head.

In Kong: Skull Island it only takes five minutes for the hairy behemoth to rear his head. And you don’t have to endure too much of the boring talky stuff before he’s back on screen again. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it: you can’t keep the bastard hidden when he’s tall enough to be spotted from the opposite side of the island. Upon arrival, they immediately see him, eclipsing the fucking sun like a fat person standing in front of a projector.

Vogt-Roberts has definitely done him justice, but the same can’t be said for the characters. They’re all so one-dimensional you could convincingly argue that it’s a metaphor for Kong flattening everything. Not only that, no one in particular stands out as a lead. There’s Tom Hiddleston’s rugged tracker, who’s more of a James Bond impressionist taking part in a Bear Grylls survival show, and Brie Larson’s photojournalist, whose plan is to dazzle anything bigger than her with her camera flash, but neither of them have the emotional weight or screen-time to warrant protagonist status. If anything, John C. Reilly’s stranded loon is the only one with a fleshed-out backstory – he’s been living on the island since he crash-landed there in World War II. Oh, and Samuel L. Jackson gets to say ‘mother fucker’.

Obviously all of these characters have names, but somehow that feels completely irrelevant in a film about a giant, frustrated landscaper. All that matters is that they go to the island to discover an idea from 1933 is still more interesting than all of them combined. Then again, perhaps that’s a statement in itself – Larson’s lack of involvement representing humanity’s weak approach to environmental protection. Or Brexit.

Three out of five.

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