At the height of World War II, a pair of fighter pilots – one American, the other Japanese – crash on an island in the South Pacific. The duo quickly resume their fight on the ground, only to be interrupted by a massive ape-like creature.
Skip forward to 1976 and Monarch agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) co-opts a geological survey mission launched to map a previously uncharted landmass known only as 'Skull Island', and hires a US military helicopter squadron under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) to act as support. Also along for the ride are expert tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson).
While dropping seismic explosives on the island, the helicopters are attacked by a 100-foot-tall ape, leaving the survivors scattered. Conrad and Weaver soon encounter Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), the downed US pilot from 1944, who reveals that Kong fills a vital role on the island, preventing an aggressive race of gigantic reptiles from escaping. But elsewhere, Packard – still smarting from the US military's defeat in 'Nam – vows to fight a war they can finally win, against Skull Island's gigantic protector…
Seemingly designed for those who thought that Gareth Edwards' majestic Godzilla (2014) was too 'slow' and didn't contain enough giant monster action, this second instalment in Warner Bros.' interconnected 'MonsterVerse' is a playful, fast-paced, action-packed creature-feature that refuses to sit still or take itself too seriously.
And rather than simply rehashing the familiar King Kong story, this new movie cleverly keeps the action confined to Skull Island with director Jordan Vogt-Roberts reshaping the material to his own ends. The result may lack the emotional core of the previous Kongs, but it's ultimately a lot more fun – feeling in many ways like the spiritual successor to the films of Ray Harryhausen.
Based on this outing, Kong is still the king of the movie monsters. Now, roll on 2020's Godzilla vs Kong…
Picture: Kong: Skull Island's visuals are a breath of fresh air among the homogenous aesthetics of most modern Hollywood blockbusters. From wide sun-lit vistas to the billowing clouds of green gas that fill the giant boneyard (Chapter 9), the Blu-ray's AVC 2.40:1 Full HD encode boasts a striking colour palette. Flesh tones tend to push a touch hot at times, but given the lush setting, it seems fitting.
Detailing is excellent throughout the film, with the frame-filling close-ups of Kong's face showing just what the half-a-million polygons and 19 million hairs that went into his creation gives you. Black levels are solid and contrast is flawless.
The reference-quality 1080p encode also exhibits a fine layer of grain that helps distance the film from its digital origins, and gives it a look that feels more in keeping with its 1970s setting.
Picture rating: 5/5
Audio: As good as Kong: Skull Island looks, it sounds even better. Right from the off, with the sound of fighter planes buzzing the various studio logos, the Dolby Atmos mix (or 7.1 TrueHD core) sucks you into the action and surrounds you with precision-placed effects that pan seamlessly around the enhanced soundfield.
Things only get better once the action moves to Skull Island proper. The sound of helicopters taking off from a boat (Chapter 2) registers impressive front elevation, while the subsequent flight through the storm (Chapter 3) gives a taste of the dynamic effects to come. But it's Kong's arrival (Chapter 4) that shows what the mix is truly capable of, offering up a whirlwind of surround effects and high-impact LFE as he swats helicopters out of the sky. And from that point on the film – and its soundtrack – rarely lets up.
Audio rating: 5/5
Extras: Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts provides an enjoyable commentary for the film. Realising an Icon (12 minutes) looks at the process of reimagining Kong, while Summoning a God (13 minutes) deals with the VFX used to bring him to life. On Location: Vietnam (six minutes) and Tom Hiddleston: Intrepid Traveller (seven minutes) focus on the shooting locations. Through the Lens (two minutes) is a gallery of Brie Larson's on-set photography with commentary from Vogt-Roberts. Rounding things off are four deleted scenes and a 'vintage' Monarch video (eight minutes) covering the events of the film.
Extras rating: 3/5
We say: Monstrously good AV ensures that this epic creature-feature is a real Blu-ray behemoth.
Kong: Skull Island, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, All-region BD, £25
HCC VERDICT: 4.5/5
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