Monday, May 20, 2024

Monsterverse Watch: Kong - Skull Island (2017)

Watched:  05/20/2024
Format:  Max
Viewing:  Third?
Director:  Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Selection:  Jamie

Confession time.  Or, possibly, self-realization time.  

I can be a wee bit protective of OG versions of popular entertainment content.  I think it's important to know where something which is part of the zeitgeist first appeared, the context, and - if I can - seek out that original bit of entertainment and understand how it came to be.  

My personal feelings on the original King Kong (1933), I've tried to make clear.  
I won't belabor too much on the original King Kong film here, but suffice to say, knowing most people are only familiar with latter-era version of Kong, I always want to direct the spotlight back to the original formula, because it's an amazing technical feat as well as a lovely film.

But this can mean I come into new versions of beloved material with a skeptic's eye.  I didn't hate Kong: Skull Island (2017) the first time I saw it.  But I felt I was trying to be as generous as possible in my write up, while still pretty put out that this was not King Kong.  

What is true is that, in 2017, I was fairly unfamiliar with the history of Kong at Toho Studios.  It's possible I'd seen Godzilla vs. Kong at the time, but I don't think so - or didn't process it.  But here in 2024, I've now enjoyed much of Toho's kaiju output, including the two Kong movies I'm aware of.  And watching those movies, goofy as they might be, helped me contextualize Kong within the plans for Monsterverse and not see it as the terrible fit I'd first felt it was.

Look, I really just needed to say "there are multiple versions of this character and the Kong story."

actual picture of me finding peace with the co-existence of two Kongs

It does not hurt that I've kind of fallen in love with both Godzilla vs Kong and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.  No, they're not good movies in the classic sense (they're great movies!), but I like them for what they are.

But I hadn't revisited Kong: Skull Island since the Too Many Kongs podcast.  

I can now see a lot more of what people liked in this movie.  I'm not looking for Denham and Anne.  I'm not trying to figure out how Kong will get to New York.  I'm not disappointed in the lack of dinosaurs.  

I can appreciate the insanely large cast, and am less baffled by Brie Larson's role in the film as I've quit trying to force her into the mold of Fay Wray.  John C. Reilly is absolutely terrific, and Samuel L. Jackson does a really solid job with his limited screentime to create a buyable character.  Hiddles is doing his best as an action hero, but he still feels maybe a little too smart being a guy who runs around with machine guns.

The CG is lovely, the locations and sets to die for.  

But, yeah, I'll never not kind of side-eye the decision to tie this so closely to the Vietnam War.  It feels like one of those generational things, of which I am certainly guilty, that the war and it's impact just get turned into a setting.  But mostly that this isn't Vietnam, it's movie-Vietnam turned into pop entertainment.  Which shouldn't be a huge deal, but the references are something I very much remember as a generation working through its feelings about a shared trauma.

I'm kinda over that, I think.  Maybe.  (I kind of have to be based on how much goofy stuff I watch tied to WW2).  And kudos to them for not once playing Fortunate Son or any Wagner.  

Mostly, it's fun to see this early version of Kong, knowing what's to come, and that this really is pretty solid continuity.  There's absolutely a straight line from this movie and Godzilla: King of the Monsters to the recent Monsterverse film.  

I appreciate the various action sequences, and that they really do carry narrative weight in much the manner of the first King Kong movie.  They're very well choreographed, and the design on this movie - including in fight sequences - is pretty remarkable.  Each setting provides something unique for the participants and is fascinating to look at.  

Anyway, I can learn!  I can grow!  I can let shit go!  

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