Back in 1997, I went to see Titanic. I wasn’t expecting much…I mean, I already knew how it would end, right? Well, it wound up being a film that sat with me for days, maybe even weeks. Now, at that time I was a 19-year-old kid that watched slasher movies and Mallrats on repeat. I wasn’t really used to thinking too critically about how a film’s world could reflect, mirror, speak to or in some way affect my own reality. Titanic, though, it fucked me up. A weird existential crisis kinda followed that film for me. I haven’t seen it since that one time in the theater, but it’s an experience that I will always carry.
Other movies have elicited similar responses over the years. The Sacrament, for example, infected my brain for a good week after I watched it.
On the other end of the spectrum, though, comes a movie like Kong: Skull Island. Where The Sacrament forced me to revel in the reviled for longer than I had planned to and Titanic upended my existence, Kong is so…happy, in ways. It’s a film that forces me, or rather inspires me to change the lens through which I view life and my various roles in it. To consider family, friends, relationships. History, the future, the planet, wars, victories, losses, how microscopic humanity is in comparison but how huge everything is, can be and should be. That all sounds to me like a ton of self-help book bullshit, but it’s the flood of emotions I felt while watching Kong in the theater.
***Caution: Maybe spoilery stuff below!***
Many aspects of the film have been swimming around in my head the past few days, though chief among them is the film’s historical context and how it informs certain character’s decisions. Set on the heels of the Vietnam War, the military portion of our crew is set to go home after a long, uncertain fight. Samuel L. Jackson’s Col. Packard is introduced to us looking solemnly over a box of medals, wondering aloud what all of these were even for. It’s clear the outcome of the war is hitting him pretty hard. It’s from that personal crisis that his glee over one last mission is born when he gets the call about the excursion to Skull Island. One final mission before his tour is over. Speaking about the outcome of the war, he later quips, “We didn’t lose the war; we abandoned it.” Who knows how many years he spent in the trenches fighting a nebulous war that most people did not support against a vague enemy? It’s pretty easy to see why he sees such a black-and-white adversary in Kong. It’s things like this that just add layer upon layer to the film and its characters’ motivations.
***End spoilery stuff!***
It should be noted, for context, I’m not any kind of Kong-ophile (though I plan to change this very, very soon). Skull Island is the first King Kong movie I’ve watched in full, for sure. Outside of the classic, ingrained-in-our-brains scenes from the 1933 film, I don’t know a ton. My primary exposure to the King was the Crestwood book in my elementary school library (pictured below).
So, if you haven’t yet, go see the fucking movie!