In 1933, two men, Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, faced a monster task: how do you make a film about a giant ape that climbs the Empire State building believable to an audience?
Eighty-three years later, with CGI now king, bringing the main monkey man himself to life is, thankfully, no longer an issue. But instead, it seems that making the human characters appear realistic has, bafflingly, become increasingly more difficult.
I mean, it says a lot when you find yourself relating more with a 150 ft chimp created by computer nerds than you do to Tom Hiddleston. One has charisma, subtlety and a considered performance. And the other dated Taylor Swift...
Still, the blame can't be solely placed on the cast. With the aforementioned Hiddleston, selfishly keeping his famous buns to himself here, and last year's worthy Oscar winner Brie Larson on board, there's no shortage of talent in the Jordan Vogt-Roberts-helmed blockbuster.
But, similarly to 2014's Godzilla reboot - whose titular monster will face Kong in the next instalment - and 2015's dino-mite smash Jurassic World, it seems the directors of today are far more concerned with spending time and money ensuring the action scenes are top notch than investing any effort into creating believable and well-rounded characters.
Luckily, as with 80% of modern films, Samuel L Jackson is present and correct to - just about - save the day. The Hollywood legend's natural charisma shines through in spite of a lazy script, gifting us with at least one character that actually resembles a human. Additionally, halfway through, John C Reily becomes a - very - welcome addition to the party, bringing some much-needed light relief to a film that might want to disperse the task force at the centre of its plot on a new mission - to locate some humour.
Still, the action scenes that have clearly taken priority over character development are, in fairness, breath-taking. They ensure that by the midway point, all is pretty much forgiven. Oh, and monster-lovers, you're in luck. As well as Kong, Skull Island introduces a whole new batch of horrifying and jaw-dropping beasts to the big screen. This leads to some genuinely thrilling moments, and fans who are craving some top-class bone-crunching will more than get their money's worth here.
Of course, as ever with these films, the main issue is that if the powers that be haven't bothered to make you care about their protagonists, then it somewhat dampens proceedings when said -characters find themselves in danger. Did none of this century's directors attend 'Spielberg class' in film school?
Still, while I may not give two hoots about whether Brie Larson's limp photographer gets crushed to death by a giant spider, I still found myself jumping out of my seat several times during the movie. Kong: Skull Island is exhilarating in that sense, and once the action begins, I found I couldn't relax for the remaining duration of the film, so hard was it to predict where the next beast was coming from - and when.
Obviously modern Kong films benefit from the fact they get a free pass with regards to being compared to the game-changing 1933 original, because so much time has passed the cinematic style warrants the argument redundant. However, this film will inevitably be compared to Peter Jackson's King Kong, released to an underwhelming level of success in 2005.
Is it better? Well, yes and no. The problem with Jackson's reimagining was that it was in dire need of a cut-throat edit. A bit like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, the Kiwi legend had perhaps become a little too 'precious' about his footage. So much so, in fact, they might have considered renaming it King Long (although I'm sure that title has already been claimed by several adult film companies...) However, Jackson had far more to boast about when it came to the human characters he created, and also had a better-looking Kong in my opinion - not that looks are everything, but you see what I'm saying. In Pete's favour though, his film was more of a direct remake - enabling him to utilise the iconic sacrificial intro scene - and the even more iconic NY finale.
Mercifully, the new Kong doesn't drag like Jackson's did, and just about matches his predecessor in terms of action scenes (although there's nothing here that can top the jaw-dropping Kong VS T-Rex scene fighting while tangled in vines from the 2005 outing.) Fortunately, much comes close. Kong's first proper appearance in this film - not counting a tease at the beginning - is exactly what the word epic was created for. Don't look down... Even more mouth-watering, a scene where KK treats himself to an all-you-can eat seafood buffet is visually astounding. The fights - of which there are many - are so well-crafted you'd think they'd been directed by the producers of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, and the terrifying skullcrawlers make for a more than worthy opponent to our favourite chest-beater.
So, in conclusion - is it worth watching? Definitely. Is it better than Godzilla 2014? Yes. (And that film wasn't to be sniffed at.) Is it better than Jackson's Kong? I'm calling it a tie. Is it better than the Planet of the Apes reboot? Hell no. Will it be threatening Marvel at the top of the box office? Unlikely. If you're into action, this really is an unmissable movie you're bound to go bananas for (sorry.) But if you need your blockbusters to come with a little heart, then perhaps go and see Logan instead (from what I've heard, admittedly, I've yet to see it.) I'd be very surprised if this film flops, put it that way. Beauty might have killed the beast, but there's still definitely plenty of life left in this franchise.Suggest a correction