Sunday, April 16, 2017

Kong: Skull Island


Kong: Skull Island started with the obsession of Bill Randa (John Goodman) but unfortunately got dominated by the obsession of Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) to kill Kong all throughout. I haven’t been to a mission even remotely similar to the one in the movie but unless it’s a war I don’t see how Col. Packard, a Vietnam veteran, can hijack the mission and thereby the story.

The mission to Skull Island is primarily a Landsat project, a mapping survey taking advantage of the still significant presence of American forces already beginning to leave Vietnam. As a Landsat project that should make Victor Nieves (John Ortiz) the top dog. Randa who requested to piggy back with the mapping survey through a US Sentaor could easily grab second. Plus he knew most of the cards, that monsters inhabited the island.

But still as military escort whose primary mission is the protection of the principal, Packard have given way to either Nieves or Randa? The mission is not the elimination of the danger but safety of the principal. Randa who was the one who requested the escort from the same US Senator – granted Packard wasn’t even aware of this – did not even impose his control of the mission. And he was with Packard the entire time after the mission got dispersed; separated after the first encounter with Kong.

Nieves was separated with a smaller group along with the supposed hero of them all James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), tracker and former British SAS. He died before the dispersed groups reunited. Even when they were united Randa was lame duck all the way.

Heroic pretty boy tracker James Conrad didn’t give much resistance to Packard. The question choosing a pathway should have been normal to him: which is dangerous and which isn’t. He still gave way to Packard knowing full well that it goes into the heart of a territory filled with oversized creatures; an environment that he has never seen before in all his years of experience. Of course he did much of the heroic stuff that got them out but James Conrad should be a hero not a grunt.

My last hope was Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) who calls herself an antiwar photographer.  At the beginning of the mission she had a small disagreement with Packard if the US lost the war on Vietnam. High profile actress with an antiwar character vs high profile senior actor playing an obsessed Colonel humiliated from not winning Vietnam. It could have worked.

She could say what Kong is to the island after having learned it from Hank Marlow (John C. Riley) because the scientists led by Randa if they opened their mouths have no presence at all. She could have said to Packard that this is not his war; not his home; that it’s all over. She could have used any analogies in relation to Vietnam. She didn’t. Mason is just a pretty face like James.

Because the worse thing in this movie is the Vietnam soldiers complete with uniforms, period correct M16, Hueys, and music – the music sets the atmosphere more than most. I can imagine the point.  The pompous American who is a foreigner but thinks he can own and control Vietnam – the analogy works for Packard in Skull Island.

What’s bad is that the American soldier in Vietnam is such an emotionally charged image that is far away from a science fiction atmosphere of building sized monsters.  The least the filmmakers could have done is put a counterbalance to the obsessive American soldier. The trailer’s line “We Don’t Belong Here” should have been said right in Packard’s face with emphasis.

Vietnam or rather Skull Island should have a voice. Nature should have a voice. It may be monstrous in size but leave it alone; nature goes about its own business. Randa himself should have had more lines, going nose to nose with Packard that says Skull Island is just the beginning since this movie after all has franchise building ambitions.  

Because right now without that other voice Kong: Skull Island feels like a Vietnam movie.