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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Film Review: Kong: Skull Island (2017), Terrorism, War and The Genre Film

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly
Written By: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein & Derek Connolly
Directed By: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Release Date: March 10, 2017
Rating: C

Today's most riveting film about race is a satirical horror flick inspired by The Stepford Wives. Last year, it was an allegorical, animated film about talking animals. Back in 2005, it was King Kong, but that's a story for another day. While this year's reboot of the same film is not about race, it just goes to show that there is more to these genre films than most people think. 

Genre films are films categorized by their similarities, both visually and thematically, to other films and a popular genre that people tend to overlook is the monster movie genre. Kong: Skull Island is a monster movie and that's something no one can deny, but it's much smarter than most people give it credit for. While a giant monkey is this film's main selling point and it sells this in a beautiful, stylistic way, the ideology behind what Kong, his island and the different ways these people interact with him are what make the movie worth watching. Kong is a huge gorilla that lives on the newly discovered, Skull Island. The story begins when an expedition team lands on the island and starts dropping bombs on it; something Kong doesn't really appreciate. Therefore, in return, he massacres a bunch of their crew and destroys their airplanes. Terrible, right? However, John C. Reilly explains that they were trespassing on Kong's land when they came onto the island. He also explains that Kong also protects the island's inhabitants from the many predators that roam the island, which causes some to the crew to rethink some of the things they've been doing. The film could have gone further with the characters' epiphanies to deepen the anti-war metaphor, but it strays away from it the minute it happens in order to keep up with the film's quick pacing. 

After the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the US declared a so-called "War on Terrorism". It alleviated the fears that many Americans had when it came to their understanding of terrorism and how exactly we, as a country, planned on stopping it. What exactly is terrorism and who exactly are we stopping, though? Unbeknownst to many, there are many different forms of terrorist acts that occur today, like the profuse amount of mass shootings that constantly keep happening within our own country. However, after the "War on Terrorism" was conducted, we relaxed and thrust all our worries aside because we believed the military and the government would have our backs. While that seemingly brought us together as a country, it also divided us in a way because the government wasn't giving us much information about who the enemy was. We had an enemy identified and that enemy was the people who committed those heinous acts and the people who put them up to it, but there was no real overall enemy. Instead, we painted our own enemy to relive our consciouses about terrorism because we now believed we knew who we were fighting. However, it just caused more problems within our own country. Islamophobia and racism ran rampant then and still does now all in the name of national security. We created an image for terrorism that was neither accurate or beneficial for defeating terrorism, which is sort of what happens in the film.

The expedition crew painted Kong out to be the enemy when he wasn't. He was protecting his people from an even greater threat when he massacred their people and planes because the bombs would have attracted it to them. Lots of people died at his hand and that's a terrible thing, but technically they were trespassing on his land. The ironic part is that people in America are killed for trespassing on someone else's property, so Kong technically wasn't doing anything wrong. He was living his life the only way he knew how and they that interfered with that simply because he looked and acted differently from what they were used to, so he was instantly painted as the enemy; an enemy that needed to die even though, at the end of day, he was the hero and they the villains. Even when Samuel L. Jackson is told that Kong wasn't doing anything wrong, his ego still wouldn't falter. He continued to try and avenge his fallen soldiers by killing Kong and it's the very thing that gets him killed. 

Going further with this idea of a blood-thirsty, war-mongering military obsessed with placing blame on a specific group of people and creating a war out of nowhere, please note that the film is set in 1973, during the Vietnam War. While "The War on Terrorism" is a hypothetical war and it's more a term used as a scapegoat for our nation's fears about terrorism, the Vietnam War was an actual war and one that was completely unnecessary. And like "The War on Terrorism", we went into the Vietnam War without a clear idea of what exactly we were fighting for. Another huge reason behind Samuel L. Jackson's character wanting to defeat Kong is because of the fact he feels this need to rectify the mistakes make because of the Vietnam War. We lost the war and Jackson was attempting to try and create another one to win because as American's we feel the need to win because we supposedly know best even though that's not always (or usually ever) the case. Though Kong: Skull Island has all this to say, it doesn't say so via its characters. The story, Kong, the location and the way the film is shot says it which leaves little for the cast to do besides fulfilling their archetypical role for the film's lackluster metaphor.

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