A Love Letter to Jordan Vogt-Roberts Regarding KONG: SKULL ISLAND
Kong: Skull Island has been playing in theaters for a little bit now, and as someone who had proclaimed this film to be one of the greatest works of art ever even before it was released, I’ll start off by saying that it is so much more. If you don’t want to read an article that consists of the ramblings by a dude that watched a monster movie and fell absolutely in love with it, go ahead and go back to the homepage and read something else. But if you do want to read something like that, you should stick around.
Where were we?
Kong: Skull Island is very much a film that explores the differences between using violence to solve your problems, over using compassion and curiosity to solve them. The most notable example of this difference is when the humans first crash land on the island, and a group of them come across a species that lives in the water and has moss grown all across its body. A soldiers response to the presence of this creature is to take aim at the creature, ready to cause it some harm and possible get himself and the others killed in the process. But Tom Hiddleston’s character is able to reason with him to lower his weapon, and as the character does put down his gun, Brie Larson raises her camera to take a picture of the creature simultaneously. This isn’t the only example in the film where compassion is shown to be the better option than violence.
Take for example when Toby Kebbell’s character is by himself and realizes he had been sitting on a creature that looks like a hollowed out log. At first, he takes aim and even fires at the thing, but he soon realizes that the creature meant no harm, and he lowers his gun. Even the creature simply wanders away from him without retaliating. And the final example is the basic understanding of the relationship Kong has with the inhabitants of Skull Island, including the native humans that live there. Kong is depicted in this film as a protector, a guardian, a creature that isn’t simply on a destructive path and everyone else tries to stay out of its way. For the first time in awhile, Kong has a purpose other than “crazed ape that just wants to stomp as many humans as possible”.
And there in lies the true beauty of Kong: Skull Island. Much like the absolute bananas and amazing cinematic masterpiece GODZILLA (2014), both of these films have taken iconic monsters that have always been used as fearful images, and turned them into heroic figures. Both films have given there monster leads purpose, rather than the simple and repetitive “destroy all humans”. Save that narrative for future films down the line, for now let’s let their introductions be positive ones. From a creative standpoint it’d be best to let the monsters change into hating humans by seeing how humans act whenever they appear to keep nature balanced. Have a Kong movie where humans have started harvesting the island for resources, and instead of them learning the error of their ways they keep on doing it. That would allow for Kong to turn into a rage filled machine with hate in his heart regarding how humans are selfish creatures. But for now, build up to that slowly.
Another thing Skull Island did perfectly, was take notorious character archetypes and troupes and change them while also having fun with them. Take for example the most known one, that of the big macho soldiers that are getting ready to head into battle. I loved the imagery Vogt-Roberts and cinematographer Larry Fong used. Showing images of soldiers flexing and being all around bros, and then automatically thrusting them into situations where they were sobbing, vomiting, and entering almost instant shell shock, was an awesome aspect to entertain. And I can honestly say, not one single character in this movie is some perfect action God that fires his gun perfectly and seeps manliness. Heck, Tom Hiddleston is the “main hero” but even he doesn’t really have any uber-manly scene. He has some cool scenes, but nearly every other character does as well. Brie Larson also has cool moments, such as when she helps Kong in defeating the main skull crawler by firing a flare into its eyes. Instead of her simply being an object that just shows up on screen for dudes to gaze at, she does stuff.
The final thing I want to touch on is that we finally have a Kong movie where the native people of color on the island ARENT DEPICTED AS MINDLESS SAVAGES! (whoop whoop) That alone seals this movie as an all time winner. Where the Peter Jackson movie went out of its way to depict the native poc as a violent and savage race that would bludgeon the travelers to death, Vogt-Roberts actually showed them to be a caring people that essentially adopted John C. Reilly’s character when he crash landed onto the island.
Seriously, Kong: Skull Island takes everything previous Kong films did wrong, and does them 100% correctly.
I love this freaking movie.