Monday 6 March 2017

Kong: Skull Island ... War at its worst

I STEPPED into the cineplex expecting director Jordan Vogt-Roberts's King Kong reboot,
 Kong: Skull Island, to deliver a political statement on the Vietnam War, and it doesn't disappoint. The film may be set in the wake of US forces leaving Vietnam in 1973, but its tentacles reach until the present day.
   The film, which takes its inspiration from Apocalypse Now and Jurassic Park, overflows with references to Vietnam War and possibly every other conflict the US is mired in. It's part war film, part horror film, and can't seem to decide which is more important.
   The moral of the story is the US accepting the status quo in God-forsaken parts of the world, and that attempting to change it brings only more death and destruction.
  The scientific expedition members and the accompanying US army helicopters and soldiers get their asses beaten by the hairy beast in their first encounter, and a hard-headed officer, Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), reflecting on the many casualties under his command, vows to exact revenge on the gargantuan beast.
   But the Americans come to realise that it's better to leave things alone because the evil monster (read: baddies) is actually protecting the populace from other more evil things.
   Heck, the Americans may even have to go to the aid of the evil monster, and they'll certainly keep mum about its existence.
Tom Hiddleston wishes he's with Taylor Swift.
   Packard, on hearing news that the US army has to pack up and leave the country, looks at his many medals for bravery and says: "All that for what?"
   He's referring to the US army being ordered to leave, and he can't contain his joy when his squadron is asked to take up a final mission to accompany an expedition to a deserted island.
   He's the kind of guy who finds his reason for living by massacring Asian enemies.
  He later says: "We didn't lose the war. We abandoned it." He's referring to the just finished war, but he could be referring to recent conflicts (Iraq War) in which the US deserted the country it had invaded.
  His final words of wisdom are: "This is a war we're not going to lose."
 A soldier under his command says: "Sometimes, an enemy doesn't exist until you look for it."
  Let's talk about the big hero. My gosh, he's huge, probably as big as the hero on which this movie is based, Godzilla.
   And you feel the love lavished on it by the director. You see Kong enjoying a light display at night (a sensitive Kong) and you empathise with it being injured when Kong cleans his wounds in a lake.
   The Apocalypse Now links are seen in the loudspeakers in helicopters blaring music, the convoy of helicopters, a boat ride on a snaking river, and the mad army officer who becomes unhinged when  executing his plan. The Jurassic Park links are seen in the use of a tropical island with limestone cliffs and ancient-looking birds attacking prey.
  Kong's at its best when the action is frenetic, for example, the helicopter attack on Kong will keep
The Chinese biologist who doesn't do biology, but can use
a gun with ease. Her American counterpart
can use a machine gun without training.
viewers on the edge of their seats because the editing and sound are terrific.
  I particularly enjoyed the ingenuity in a giant spider's legs looking like bamboo sticks, or a soldier not realising that a tree trunk he's sitting on may be something else.
   The final fight between Kong and a big creature is straight out of Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005).
 The characters don't do much, except Packard and WWII survivor Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), the former because of his rants, and the latter because his whiny voice and curly hair add dimension to his character of a man stranded on a weird island for nearly 29 years.
   Him surviving on the island and becoming best friends with the Japanese pilot who crashed at the same time he did is also noteworthy, because it suggests that US has let bygones be bygones, and that your former enemy could become a great ally.
  Things are more interesting when Marlow is on screen. Marlow adds to the theme I mentioned about Kong's ties with the populace. He tells the Americans that the natives honour Kong because its their protector. "He's God to this people."
  He explains to the belligerent Americans that Kong attacked them initially only because they had invaded its territory (like Americans being attacked whenever they invade a country).
  James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) plays an ex-British Army officer who's now a tracker who's good at playing pool, except he doesn't do much tracking because Kong always seems to find them effortlessly.
   Anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Oscar winner Brie Larson) is supposed to be the one Kong
WWII survivor Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) has seen much
while being stranded on the island for 29 years.
pines for, but nothing much happens in that area.
   She's supposed to take pictures of destruction, but laughs it up when staying with a native tribe with painted faces, who look like they stepped out of a National Geographic article on weird tribes.
  A Chinese biologist (Tian Jing), who can hardly speak English properly, is also in the expedition, but she's just there for the huge Chinese market. She can use a gun without training, just like her US counterpart (Corey Hawkins), who goes one step further by accurately hitting a target from a distance with a machine gun.

 3 out of 5 stars







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