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Passing Inspection, in Kong: Skull Island:

In Lord of the Rings -- the movie -- two young hobbits meet extremely powerful denizens of the ancient world -- the Ents -- and actually trick them into joining a fight they had decided against joining. It's easily their most self-activated moment in the series -- they weren't operating under anyone's instructions; there was no way to know whether Gandalf would have approved of their actions or not. They simply had a vision of their own world coming tumbling down as a result of the Ents' decision, and, infuriated, decided to further test the Ents on how resolved they would be in their detached independence if they saw with their own eyes the devastation Saruman the wizard had already incurred on Middle Earth. In the books, Tolkien tries to inscribe both hobbits at the finish of their adventures, as not really having changed all that much. But if such was declared at the end of the movie series, it would read false -- "no," we would say, "we saw something there... with their behavior with the Ents, that didn't read as something they had been up to routinely in the Shire. For the Shire was the Shire in part for it balking at loud challenges that tugged at something deeply true, though withheld from conscious view, that drew people to change." In the movie, at least, these two hobbits were out on an adventure in which they did not return the same way they set out. For them, a spark was kindled out there.

Kong: Skull Island invites the kind of "adventure" the book series Lord of the Rings offered the two hobbits. The personnel who seek out this previously undiscovered island, receive from Kong and from the tribe of humans that live there, exactly what the hobbits receive from the Ents in the book. They park next to extremely dangerous and great entities who could destroy them one hundred times over if at all motivated to do so, an estimation that they are not "orcs": that they are not a threat, and might even be tolerated and even hosted for awhile. This is the "grail" these "adventurers" find for themselves on this island. Indeed, the most emblematic moment is when the young female photographer takes a photo of the assembled indigenous tribe. It's later in the movie; they've had their opportunity to absolutely recognize the tribe as not in any sense primitive, but actually far in advance in temperament, wisdom, and social accomplishment than any human society alive today; and found the tribe grace them as those who would do absolutely nothing that irked the tribe in any way. And the moment she is commemorating is their joyous success is establishing themselves as harmless, as willing to understand them in any way they bloody well want ... as not much worth anyone's bother, really.

This is how they score their "victory" -- his deigning them as passable, and maybe even worth helping: which he actually does, save them that is, though he seems to make clear that it's not as significant a moment to him as his normal behavior of rescuing stray or trapped cattle of his "flock"-- with Kong too. No one is going to more declare Kong as actually an ancient, great protector of all things weak... as the equivalent of Treebeard in Lord of the Rings, than these humans are. No one could possibly be more sincere when they declare that they'd die before letting the rest of the world know about him. They're not interested in brag; only in re-staging frights and seeing demonstrated an ability to be warded against them. They'd forsake themselves of this immunity for absolutely nothing. He could have smashed them to smithereens... but owing to how they presented themselves to them, they knew in his short time considering them that he'd categorized them as sincere in their apparent resolve to abay themselves to him in any way they possibly could. This is what they sought form him: proof that they had this "power."

Possessing this "ability" -- to be deemed "not a threat" by a scary, powerful entity -- is what so shamed Corporal Upham, in Saving Private Ryan, that he needed to reclaim his "masculinity" in brutally killing the next human soul who came across his path who tried to disarm him into being affable. There is no sense that there will be any of this upcoming here. What we have here is the beginning of a time where a movie watching audience takes delight in adopting through their avatars a poise that'll distinguish them for perhaps a decade or so. It is the poise that most held during the 1930s, where before triumphant, powerful and scary "entities" -- Hitler, Mussolini... and perhaps even Roosevelt and Churchill -- who claim themselves as shepherds of the people... who are folkish in their essence, and who seem associated with some great power of ancient origins, arisen again, you could imagine yourself safe if suddenly put before inspection. Four years hence, when nationalism has further caught on, and pretty much everyone has decided that we are in a war of civilizations where our fates are tied to "great leaders" "bravely" trying to defend our own, after multiple decades of "liberals' efforts to break it down from within," we will have shaped ourselves through movies like this one so that we'll be the ones photographing, not just our great Trumps, protectors of our Mother Countries, but perhaps even of the "righteous" carnage they create in their paths... all the people hanging from gibbets we'll joyously stand beside, taking selfies.

It's funny this. There's all this effort put in the film to show how the female lead is an empowered feminist war-photographer, but this is only done vis-a-vis the men in the group. Amongst them, she's settled in comfortably as as brazen, as pronounced, as any of them... as much as any of them, she's been in the shit. Then they're all set out into the field... to chase victory in proving themselves absolutely abnegative, absolutely unobjectionable, to ancient greats returned to view. They chase victory... in successfuly comporting in the stereotype of the properly feminine.


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