Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island ★★★½

Whenever I talk to people about Godzilla or any of the kaiju movies, they give me the impression that they seem to have forgotten the nuclear bomb allegory of the original Godzilla back in '54. Some of them still remember it, and I give props for that, but from the reception of Kong: Skull Island and its stab at the Vietnam War what Godzilla did for WWII (even having someone responsible for halting the Viet war in the first place being part of the cast, Brie Larson's photographer character), it just seems to me that a lot of people aren't appreciating what's truly valuable about cinema and storytelling. If you came for the special effects and the cool fight scenes, go watch one of those many antique Japanese Godzilla flicks that came out after the first one. Go watch Ultraman for all I care. Hey, even Pacific Rim had a sequel. Kong: Skull Island isn't for you. Neither is the rebooted Godzilla of 2014 that you guys whined about so much, which FYI, also had a subtle message about post-WWII and how history repeats itself in warfare.

But you know what? I'll grant you something - Godzilla (2014) was kinda boring. I didn't need to see all that stuff about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch's prior lives before the MCU. Fair enough. But watching Kong: Skull Island, I felt it was a step up. Its messages are clearer and more focused, even if there's still some improvement to be made in terms of character and dialogue (Samuel L. Jackson's B-word at Brie was well-placed IMO for that stupid line she had).

Just picture this: a group of young American soldiers sent to die in a war between foreign forces that Uncle Sam had no business in interfering. Sounds familiar? In fact, in spite of the characters being archetypal, all the characters here have some background agenda regarding American warfare. You have a war veteran that still craves for the blood of war like Packard; you have a veteran that was haunted by the two American wars he's experienced and just wants to forget about them like Conrad; and then you have a WWII veteran who just wants the chance to see his family again like Marlow; last but not least, Bill Randa has his own personal war going on as the last survivor of a foreign attack. What's interesting (and hilarious) however is that after just getting out of one mess the Uncle Sam was responsible in (the Vietnam War), the Americans are so eager to jump head-in to another one with the exact same nature! Golly, history repeats itself just in a bare minimum of a day after the war ended!

I remember Bob Chipman said something interesting about character archetypes that appeal on a universal level; the benefit of that is that because these characters are so generic (and therefore relatable), you'll have more time to focus more on adding layers on top of their generic backgrounds (instead of wasting time explaining to the audience some convoluted character nature), which was what Independence Day did, adding diversity and personal conflicts into the characters' personality and racial backgrounds. While the final product failed to have any of these additional layers that ID4 had, if you have read the interviews, you know that the writers wanted to incorporate more layers in Hiddleston and Larson's characters, so I at least have to give them props for that. And even with what we have here, I personally felt that the characters were written decently enough for me to see what an idiot Packard was compared to the other sane men (and women) here.

The only outstanding characters that were truly generic were probably the scientists; but they are always the red shirts in these monster movies anyway.

Point is, for an era that could very well produce a mindless monster flick like Pacific Rim, I appreciate what director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and his cast did. It might not be the most polished beast there is, but it's a step in the right direction for the future of Hollywood.

Oh, and one last thing: the cinematography here is A-solid. I had real vibes of Apocalypse Now in the scenes when Packard first comes face-to-face with his newfound enemy. It was haunting and it had the suitable kind of rage that comes with a bloodthirsty veteran like him.