Yesterday, Warners Bros. released a trailer for the upcoming film, Godzilla vs. Kong. It is utterly bananas, scoring an easy five out of five “holy shits” on the Ari Notis “Holy Shit, This Movie Looks Amazing” index. If you agree, allow me to make a recommendation: Watch Kong: Skull Island stat.
Warner Bros. Pictures (YouTube)
Kong: Skull Island, first released in 2017, is billed as an action flick but, really, is just one long cut-scene. The film, largely set in 1973, follows a small contingent of American soldiers at the end of the Vietnam War exploring an uncharted island for a just-one-last-mission pitstop on the way home. What could go wrong?
The setting allows for a whole lot of Apocalypse Now imagery and era-iconic rock music, to the point where you’d be forgiven for thinking Skull Island is just another jingoistic military film. Not twenty minutes in, you’ll be disabused of that notion. An unearthed tree flies out of the sky, spearing a helicopter. Everything explodes. King Kong looms, 30.48 m tall, against the horizon. From there, it’s a mix of horror and nearly nonstop action as the surviving soldiers all try to traverse Skull Island without angering the region’s building-sized monsters. (They fail. A lot.)
Like the best games, Skull Island doesn’t take itself too seriously. When seeing King Kong for the first time, one of the soldiers asks, “What the hell is that?” Yes, King Kong’s stature is an abnormality — and a frightening one, at that — but c’mon: He’s obviously just a really giant gorilla.
Some scenes look like a level straight out of a first-person shooter. Watch the following clip, where a small group of soldiers go up against a small army of monsters with Battlefield-style weaponry. Or fast-forward to 2:31 to see the film’s coolest single shot in which Tom Hiddleston dons a gas mask, picks up a katana, and slashes through a pack of pterodactyl-like creatures.
Legendary Pictures / Movieclips (YouTube)
Such a video game moment.
I recently watched Skull Island, mildly hungover on a Saturday morning, and could not shake the feeling that it could’ve been a video game. The way Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson traverse through the jungle, the way they banter without a care in the world despite the extremely risky circumstances, the way they admire Kong from a lofty perch, not unlike the giraffe scene in The Last of Us. It all feels like a Naughty Dog jaunt, albeit with, y’know, monsters the size of skyscrapers.
The director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, is no stranger to gaming. His Twitter profile states that he “thinks in the language of video games.” Watching Skull Island, that’s unmistakable. There’s also a boat in the film called the Grey Fox, a reference to Metal Gear, and Vogt-Roberts is even slotted to direct a movie based on Metal Gear Solid starring Oscar Isaac in the lead role. And just last year, he directed a cinematic spot for the Avengers game. (If only the game itself was as action-packed as that trailer.)
Vogt-Roberts has made headlines in recent years for more than just his résumé and not for good reasons. In 2017, he was violently attacked in Saigon, an event that was caught on film in one disturbing, ten-minute shot. That same year, the actress Dana DeArmond said he kissed her without her consent, after finishing Comedy Central’s Mash Up. “Don’t make this weird,” he allegedly said.
Godzilla vs. Kong, directed by Adam Wingard (Death Note, Blair Witch, You’re Next), will release in theatres on March 26. In the United States, it’ll be available on HBO Max the same day where subscribers will be able to stream it at no extra cost for 31 days.
Calling it now. Kong wins.
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