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New Escapist Video! On “Kong: Skull Island” as a Metaphor for War…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with the Monday article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film channel – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

Given that Godzilla vs. Kong is going straight to HBO Max, we thought it might be looking back at Kong: Skull Island. In particular, what made the movie such a delight in contrast to Godzilla and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Indeed, part of the genius of Skull Island is the way in which it positions its monster as a metaphor similar to that of the Japanese Godzilla, but from a distinctly American perspective.

New Escapist Column! “Kong: Skull Island” and the Monster in All Human Hearts…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the announcement that all Warner Brothers films are going to HBO Max, I thought I’d take a look at one of the films related to that move, in particular Godzilla vs. Kong and one of the films leading into it, Kong: Skull Island.

Skull Island is easily the best of the films leading into Godzilla vs. Kong. It is appreciably stronger than either Godzilla or Godzilla: King of the Monsters. A large part of that is down to the fact that it actually has themes, using its central monster to construct an exploration of the idea of warfare. Indeed, one of the more interesting aspects of Skull Island is the way that it implicitly positions King Kong in parallel with Godzilla, turning the giant monkey into a metaphor for the American experience of warfare in the twentieth century.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Kong – Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island has an endearingly “pop” sensibility to it.

There are moments at which Kong: Skull Island feels more like an evocative theatrical-length montage than a film. This is only the second feature-length film from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, and the movie has jarring and disorienting quality to it. Vogt-Roberts saturates the screen with reds and greens, whirls the camera at incredible velocity, and cuts at an impressive tempo. Even dialogue heavy scenes are constantly panning and cutting.

Sundown showdown.

This approach does no favours to the cast. Most of the players in Kong: Skull Island seem to have more trouble finding a consistent character throughline than mythical monsters. Tom Hiddleston seems quite lost for most of the film. Brie Larson probably does the best job of any of the major players, although the rapid-fire editing helps John C. Reilly seem suitably eccentric as the obligatory insane exposition character. Veteran performers like John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson are forced to hold on for dear life.

However, none of this is a problem. For all its flaws, Kong: Skull Island never over-estimates how interesting its human characters are, mostly treating them as a vehicle to get to the promised monster mash. Vogt-Roberts’ direction might seem hyperactive and over-caffeinated, but it understands this. The camera and the cuts are always moving towards the monster, with the characters serving to deliver thematic dialogue and look suitably moody as seventies music plays over montage sequences.

“Oh, so that’s why they call it Skull Island.”

Kong: Skull Island never feels entirely cohesive as a feature film. That is not a fatal flaw. The movie feels weird and ethereal, the audience constantly kept off-balance by the heighten stylistic choices and the gusto with which the movie seizes upon these opportunities. After all, the eponymous island is a place where anything is possible and nothing is as it appears. It feels somewhat fitting that the movie drifts into a loose free-form style driven more by imagery than by story.

Kong: Skull Island feels in someways like a monstrous monster movie, and there’s something quite appealing in that.

No bones about it.

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