Tuesday, 28 March 2017
Kong: Skull Island
In striking 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 a weary, 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 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 and food tributes are loaded with sedatives. These Kong are affronts that mankind must tame. Skull Island differs 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 territorial but he's also inherently heroic. A name creature big enough to score his own standalone feature before Legendary Pictures make their own version of Ishiro Honda's Destroy All Monsters. In Vogt-Roberts' film Kong isn't a tragic suitor doomed to fall, he's a potential ally showing off his new, prop-assisted move-set. Tellingly, 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 the King and the Soviet Union. Both he reasons are powers to be respected rather than pointlessly engaged.