Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Visit to Skull Island

Skull Island. That's where I want to go.

Okay, it's obvious that I just spent a mesmerizing three hours on Peter Jackson'sKing Kong. Outstanding movie, well worth the time and the money. Never mind that I paid P20 more than I would have in Dumaguete.

While the giant ape may have been the title character of the film and the main vehicle for the story, but what really caught my fancy was Skull Island. On Skull Island, everything grows to grotesque gigantic proportions. On Skull Island, everything has fangs.

On Skull Island, there are still mysteries waiting to be explored.

With Skull Island, Peter Jackson caught everything that I loved about the adventure fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard, and Jules Verne. This could just as well have been the land that time forgot, or the city underneath the earth. Yes, it's fantastical; impossible, even. But a whole lot of fun.

Unfortunately, something like Skull Island cannot exist in fiction in the contemporary setting. Skull Island can only live between 1890-1939. The progeny of the Industrial Revolution clashed with the last remaining mysteries of the world. Optimism versus the unknown, in a time never more to return. (If I am wrong, please send me the appropriate counter-example.)

Skull Island and other such imaginary locations are what's missing from Philippine fiction. Fantasy doesn't have to be set in the world of dwarves and elves; science-fiction doesn't have to be set in the future; and the time frame in question doesn't have to be one of struggle against American colonialism.

Stretch the imagination a little bit and Skull Island could be one of the thousands of wild, untamed islands we had at the time. Just think: Siquijor with its sorcerers. Or Mindanao with its pirates. Even colonial Manila would make a fine setting for a seedy rendezvous.

Oh, I admit, it will all make for very bad fiction. But it makes for very enjoyable adventure fiction.

We definitely need more Skull Islands.

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