Review: Big hairy action aplenty as Kong returns

Matt Adcock reviews Kong: Skull Island (12A), starring Tom Hiddlestone and Brie Larson
Samuel L Jackson in Kong: Skull IslandSamuel L Jackson in Kong: Skull Island
Samuel L Jackson in Kong: Skull Island

“This planet doesn't belong to us. Ancient species owned this earth long before mankind. I spent 30 years trying to prove the truth: monsters exist…”

The one true king of the monsters is back – bigger and better than ever. Kong: Skull Island is an atmospheric apocalyptic romp that knocks the monkey business out of Peter Jackson’s 2005 effort.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts bring Skull Island to full living, breathing, cinematic life and from the impressive opening manages to keep the action rocking along without short-changing any of the characters. The humans range from Samuel L Jackson’s hard war-bitten Packard who vows to take Kong down, through to Brie Larson’s plucky photo-journalist Mason Weaver who wins the huge ape’s heart – these are characters worth spending time with and ones that we get to care about. Which makes it tough in places because Skull Island is a place of death so maybe don’t get too attached to anyone.

Tom ‘High-Rise’ Hiddlestone stands out as adventurer Conrad (and not just for his accent), John ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ Goodman gives good value as scientist Bill Randa but it’s John C Reilly who brings some welcome comic relief and savvy observations – having been stuck on the island for 30-plus years.

Then there’s the monsters and boy, this is where Kong: Skull Island really shines. Upping the ick and gore factor to a pleasing degree (probably pushing the limits of a 12A rating), the various humans – especially the soldiers accompanying the expedition - get taken out in all sorts of grisly ways. The CGI menagerie includes mutant tree topping spiders, limb tearing pterodactyls and monstrous water buffalos but it’s the skull crawlers who are the main danger. Part lizard, part alien, part skull – all threat - they are the stuff of nightmares and when Kong fights them it's a monster battle royale that makes even the Kong vs Tyrannosaurs fights of yore look weak.

This is Kong’s film though and he’s superbly realised – massive and heroic in a way that we haven’t seen him before, the scene where he first encounters the helicopters invading his home is one of the best action sequences ever committed to film.

Many critics have been sniffy about Vogt-Roberts’ new take on Kong but for me this is the daddy of all monster movies. Pure hairy excitement, lavishly and stylishly shot, backed with a killer ‘70s soundtrack – this is a super fun monkey-em-up that will leave you grinning and demands a sequel.