Random Thoughts on Kong: Skull Island

In no particular order. Spoiler warning in effect.

  • Kong: Skull Island is a much better movie than anything called Kong: Skull Island has any right to be. We went in with pretty low expectations and we were pleasantly surprised.
  • This movie is a fine demonstration of how important good acting is, even in a movie that is mostly about a giant ape smashing stuff. Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson stand out, but the entire cast is solid. (After this movie and Avengers, I’m going to say yes to any movie that includes Hiddleston and Jackson squaring off.)
  • Kong very smartly avoids two of the major tropes for what happens when modern white westerners encounter native cultures. One is the Heart of Darkness / Apocalypse Now trope: the westerner goes out of control and loses his sense of humanity. The other is the Dances With Wolves / Avatar trope: the westerner “goes native” and becomes a better native than the natives. In Kong (despite the ways the movie plays with Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now), the newcomers and natives achieve mutual understanding and respect while still remaining who they are.
  • The movie is littered with the sorts of characters who always die in this kind of film: the nerdy sidekick who provides occasional comic relief; the soldier who keeps talking about how much he wants to go home; the crazy old man in the wilderness who has information vital for everyone’s survival. Two of these guys are even black. And they all survive to see the end credits.
  • It’s so nice that we have started to see movies that respect that men and women can go through difficult experiences and form close bonds of friendship without automatically becoming romantically attached.
  • It wasn’t a surprise when Deadpool used the post-credits scene for a meta joke, but when big action movies like this start doing it, that might be a sign that the post-credits scene is getting played out.

 

Additional randomness by Eppu

  • I agree—KSI is an exceptionally good monster movie.
  • I also noticed the presence of several competent black men who weren’t clones of each other and who didn’t die first. (About fricking time!) Now do the same for black women!
  • Speaking of women, it’s really rather pathetic that there are only two female characters with a major speaking role in this movie. Even more pathetic than that, we saw the photographer (played by Brie Larson, whose coat check girl in The Community is fantastic) shoot plenty of film throughout the story, but the biologist (Tian Jing, whom we first saw being awesome in The Great Wall) had hardly anything to do that showcased her expertise. Jing’s character didn’t get an arc, either. Boo.
  • Also seconding the merits of no forced romance.
  • KSI was also brutal, as it should, what with the predators the size of skyscrapers. I hesitate to say “refreshingly brutal” because I don’t find explicit gruesomeness appealing (like Game of Thrones, blech). On the other hand, I’m also quite fed up with sanitized movie violence (Warcraft: The Beginning was particularly ridiculous in this respect). I guess what I’m trying to say really is that, for my taste, KSI danced the line between making the stakes high and turning off the audience expertly.
  • It was nice that Kong got to stay on his island instead of being dragged off.
  • I saw several reviews that praised KSI‘s visuals. I was sceptical—how special can you make a war movie with a giant primate?—but, boy, was I wrong. It. Was. Beautiful. The directing and cinematography (as far as I can tell, being a complete civilian) were fresh and innovative.
  • KSI referred to historical events from the storytelling point of view effectively and efficiently, and the movie was really well styled and propped. The usage of archival film footage, photos, and other visuals was plentiful but not overwhelming, and the invented elements fit in seamlessly. Kudos. (And I don’t even like the 1960s-1970s style!)

Image: Kong: Skull Island poster via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

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