Hey, look at that: they’re making another King Kong movie. At first I thought that Kong: Skull Island was a sequel to the 2005 King Kong, but the two movies apparently have nothing to do with each other. Instead, Skull Island takes place in the same world as the 2014 Godzilla movie, but back during the 70s, as part of a rebooted Godzilla vs King Kong franchise.
I went to see Godzilla when it came out, and despite how successful it was, I didn’t think it was all that good. For a movie about Godzilla, our mutant giant lizard hardly featured. Instead, we were stuck following around some white guy, and the movie desperately tried to force us to care about him and his problems. This was a particularly big issue for me, because at its core, Godzilla is about nuclear weapons and the destruction they caused to the Japanese people. Instead, although the movie starts in Japan, the setting quickly switches over to America and chooses to follow around a nearly-all-white cast. The one Japanese guy in the movie gets a whole line about what an awful idea using an atomic bomb in the middle of a city to kill Godzilla would be.
With all that in mind, I can’t say I’m too excited that the new King Kong movie is going to take place in the same world as Godzilla instead of being a sequel to the previous 2005 King Kong movie, but it’s not as though that movie was a great story either. In comparison to the 2014 Godzilla, the 2005 King Kong definitely had a stronger set of protagonists to follow around, but the movie was hardly perfect. To start, it was really long, and there was no reason for it to be that long. Instead of telling a story, the movie kept sidetracking to give us scenes of giant bugs biting people’s heads off. Every King Kong movie to date has been pretty racist as well, but the 2005 version sometimes felt as though it was competing to be the most racist. The main characters are attacked by a bunch of dark-skinned aboriginal people who murder a couple of guys, kidnap someone who we’re supposed to perceive as an innocent white woman, and perform some scary tribal dance while their eyes roll back in their heads. Everything about their presentation was meant to other them and let us know that they are terrifying non-civilized, non-white people—from the camera angles, to their crooked teeth, body piercings, and filthy clothes—and then there’s my personal favorite “what the fuck moment”: random shots of a dirty child hissing at the camera for no reason whatsoever.
As such, I’m not too upset that Skull Island has nothing to do with the previous King Kong, but given the history of the King Kong narrative itself and the movie’s ties to Godzilla, I am a little concerned about how it will all turn out. At the very least, though, Skull Island doesn’t look completely terrible—the trailer makes it seem fun and light-hearted, and the movie even mocks itself a few times, which means that it probably won’t take itself too seriously. Mostly, I’m just looking forward to King Kong ripping apart helicopters. The cast is also fairly diverse. We’ve got both Samuel L Jackson and Jing Tian, a Chinese actress. This is a huge improvement from the Godzilla movie. But considering that the natives this time around are only nice and don’t attack the main characters because of some white guy who lives with them, I’m hesitant to give it the benefit of the doubt. I’m also a bit concerned, since I had no idea watching Godzilla that it was meant to be part of a franchise involving King Kong. This movie takes place a good forty years before Godzilla ripped apart California, and yet at no point was the giant gorilla mentioned in a movie about another giant monster.
I’m definitely going to see Skull Island when it comes out in March, if only because I love both King Kong and Godzilla, but I greatly worry that this new movie will have all the same racial problems as the past movies.