Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island ★★★★

Sometimes there's no enemy until you look for one.

Did we win the war?
Which one?
That makes sense.

Kong: Skull Island is an anti-war movie. A bombastic, B-grade, postmodern, stylish, genre flick, blockbuster anti-war movie.

Jordan Vogt-Roberts regurgitates cinematic references in a wild, haphazard spew that, through sheer velocity, excuses the flat characterization on display. Much like the post-human concerns of 2014's Godzilla, however, the human characters here are inconsequential anyway. The horrendous spectacle of Skull Island is the actual star.

Beginning in World War II, the main theme of the film is established immediately as an American and Japanese soldier, after surviving harrowing plane crashes, resume their roles as combatants. Each is so invested in the war that they fail to recognize their mutual distress. Only later, when John C. Reilly appears as the aged American soldier does the audience learn that he and the Japanese soldier bonded over time. The initial red-eyed blind rage between the two is where the film situates itself.

Set in the shadow of the Vietnam War, Kong and Colonel Packard become symbols for humanity's addiction to war. Packard is thankful for one last mission - upset America pulled out of the war in the first place - only to be gifted the motivation of revenge by Kong. Kong, himself, is quick to fight any invader into his territory. Skull Island becomes a metaphoric Vietnam, with American aggressors blundering into a foreign land they do not understand. The counterpoint to that perpetual desire to fight comes in the mute, benevolent natives - a commune that walls itself off from the conflicts of the world around it.

All of these ideas are conveyed in the most grandiose, hyper-stylized way possible, with Vogt-Roberts placing his camera in every exaggerated angle, at every frame rate available to him. A thematic and intertextual sister to Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island promises that Warner Brothers' Monsterverse is shaping up to be a rather compelling cinematic universe of mythic conversations and genre pleasures.

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