The Kings of Summer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts finally follows up his impressive 2013 coming of age debut film with something completely different. The sporadically entertaining creature feature Kong Skull Island. Set at the tail end of the Vietnam War a group of scientists and military personnel travel to a remote South Pacific island believing that they are on a geology expedition but are in reality on the hunt for proof of monsters. I doubt it would be a spoiler to say that they find exactly what they are looking for resulting in some effective creature design and some exciting set pieces.

The 70s Vietnam setting is also well used and gives this a strong and different feel from most modern blockbusters. Which is helped no end by cinematographer Larry Fong's solid work. Though the film does overdo the nods to Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness a little. From the shots of helicopters flying over jungles to a 70s rock soundtrack to John C Reilly's comic riff on Colonel Kurtz, as a US WW2 fighter pilot who's been stranded on the island for 30 years (named Marlow after the central character in Joseph Conrad's novel), to a boat trip up a river, the film's debt to Coppola's classic is hard to ignore. The film also throws in a bit of Hell in the Pacific too, so though it goes out of its way to offer something different from previous Kong movies, it still pilfers from other war movies to tell its story.

Where the film falters quite noticeably and disappointingly however, is in regard to its plot and characters. A basic 'getting from A to B' plot is overpopulated with thinly sketched characters that it’s impossible to get emotionally involved with. Frankly they could probably cut out Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson's characters and you'd barely notice. If you asked me to describe their characters beyond guide/mercenary and war photographer I'd struggle to be honest. The fact that Hiddleston's character is called Conrad is about as deep as he gets. Several other excellent actors including John Goodman, Samuel L Jackson, Shea Whigham, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and Thomas Mann do their best to breathe life into these one dimensional characters but with only moderate success. John C Reilly gets the closest to offering up a slightly more rounded character but then his mostly broad comic performance also feels like it's been lifted from a totally different movie anyway. Even Kong himself is a more straightforward creation, lacking the emotional weight of previous incarnations, despite the motion capture efforts of Terry Notary and Toby Kebbell. Like Andy Serkis in King Kong, Kebbell plays a human character as well as Kong, but his Koba in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a much more interesting role than either.

For all its impressive CGI, striking visuals and effective set pieces, a wafer thin plot and one dimensional characters mean that Kong Skull Island never quite rises above the level of competent B movie. It certainly has enough fun moments to make it worth watching but it could have been so much more.

For those willing to stick around right to the very end, there is a post credits scene that hints at the possibility of more monsters to come. If they can come up with a better plot and characters we actually care about it may be worth looking forward to.

By Kevin Knapman

Kong: Skull Island (12A)

1h 58m

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly

UK Release: Friday 10th March 2017

Kong: Skull Island: IMAX Featurette

Kong: Skull Island: "Magnificent For This" Clip