Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Kong: Skull Island

In stark contrast to Peter Jackson's pointedly romantic take on the monster, Jordan Vogt-Roberts' Kong: Skull Island finds the Eighth Wonder of the World serving as a protector God on an island teeming with violent, scurrying beasts. Kong is presented as weary, an assailed figure who roams incessantly. He might be happy to live in harmony with the mute human tribe that share his island but he's also constantly having to defend his throne from a variety of oozing pretenders.

Past Kong films have focused on the kind of chaos inherent to these towering primates - how can mankind hope to co-exist with this wonderful thing? With zero way to communicate, the bustling, puny humans fall into cowed, passive-aggressive patterns, hoping to either appease or tranquillise their Kongs. Blondes are offered up; food tributes are loaded with sedatives. These great apes are organised as affronts that mankind must conquer then tame. Skull Island diverges from this model, there's a franchise or two up for grabs after all. John Goodman and Samuel L Jackson's ragtag landing party aren't here to capture the massive gorilla, their only task is to marvel at his strength and survive in his presence.

The Kong we see here may be ferociously territorial but he's also heroic. A name creature big enough to score his own standalone feature before Legendary Pictures thunder on towards their own version of Ishiro Honda's Destroy All Monsters. In Vogt-Roberts' film Kong isn't a tragic suitor doomed to fall (Brie Larson's photographer barely turns his head), he's a potential ally showing off his exciting, prop-assisted move-set. Skull Island doesn't just dwell on this monster mashing either. Like Honda before him, Vogt-Roberts uses his titans to tell broader stories about clashing global ideologies. When John C Reilly's shipwrecked World War II fighter pilot attempts to puzzle through the proxy war politics that have landed in his lap he does so by drawing parallels between Kong and the Soviet Union. Both, he reasons, are powers to be respected rather than pointlessly engaged.

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