Review / ‘Kong: Skull Island’ (PG) **

DIRECTOR Jordan Vogt-Roberts’s 118 minutes of in-your-face fantasy purports to tell the backstory to all those cinema and TV incarnations since Merian C Cooper first put the great ape on the big screen in 1933, making him the monstrousest villain of every monster movie before and since then.

The IMDb tells me that the closing credits for Vogt-Roberts’s film are followed by a homage featuring movie monsters Godzilla, Rodan, King Ghidorah, and Mothra. I didn’t see them. One can only stand so much.

I give it two stars for special visual effects. And because I couldn’t avoid sensing that, no matter how damned stupid and nationalistically hubristic the whole thing was, Samuel L Jackson knew he was getting well paid to over-play Col. Packard commanding the helicopter squadron carrying a military team assigned to protect and support a research team examining this hitherto unknown Pacific island.

It’s 1973. America has not lost the Vietnam war, merely disengaged itself. Its military machine needs a new deployment.

Entrepreneur Randa (John Goodman) persuades the Pentagon that the newly discovered Pacific island needs studying to see what goodies await discovery there.

Writers Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein have had fun devising clichés for a large team of off-screen technicians to inflict on those unfortunate chaps doomed to succumb to everything from giant spiders to giant prehistoric birds and cephalopods before Lt Hank Marlow of the US Air Force, who has spent 27 years on the island since his World War II plane crashed there, comes to their aid.

As Hank, John C Reilly gives the film’s most satisfying performance. Sweating it out in the gorilla suit, Toby Kebbell uses his eyes to tell what the big fellow might be thinking.

With a reported budget of a trifling $US190 million, “Kong: Skull Island” was partly shot south of Brisbane at Oxenford and on Mt Tamborine. As I write, the internet doesn’t yet show how it’s performing at the box office. In an otherwise empty cinema were me and two young guys. Make what you will of that information.

At all cinemas

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