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Kong: Skull Island is a movie that is heavy on special effects as part of its charm, and director Jordon Vogt-Roberts knows that. In fact, he would prefer people to see his movie the way it was intended in theaters, and one TV network has totally botched it up. HBO, still a big purveyor of recent release movies, is not showing Kong: Skull Island in the correct aspect ratio, which means viewers are missing seeing the movie how it was intended to be seen. According to Jordan Vogt-Roberts, fans who caught his major monster flick on HBO for the first time caught the same version that people who watched films on airplane screens did.
Dear HBO, Based on Twitter, it seems you're playing the AIRPLANE edit of Kong: Skull Island that shifts aspect ratios. I begrudgingly made this version to preserve my original framing in certain sequences. Why are you playing this compromised instead of the original? Ugh...
Speaking on social media, Jordan Vogt-Roberts explained that anyone watching Kong: Skull Island on HBO is getting a really rough-looking cut, especially since there are shots with items on the far left and right of the screen, including shots with "Kong's eyes," which might make viewing the movie in the incorrect ratio a not-so-great experience. The whole thing's really strange, considering HBO shells out quite a bit of money to nab popular movies, but it may be more common than you would think.
In fact, it reportedly may be very common for the subscription pay cable network to show films in the incorrect aspect ratio. The initial Twitter comment turned into a full-blown conversation with Keanu director Peter Atencio, and the two directors shared the pains of how terrible their movies look in the incorrect ratios and how a lot of companies don't seem to care. Per Atencio, sometimes he will do a different cut just for the airlines and they still won't try to make the effort to play a movie in the ratio he wants, choosing a 4:3 ratio instead. But per that director, HBO is the worst offender. He said:
Nope, HBO refuses to play anamorphic movies in the correct ratio unless they're contractually obligated to. It's now the first part of any deal I make for projects. Completely ridiculous that they don't do it when even tv commercials are letterboxed these days.
Sure, this may not seem like it's a huge deal to the average movie viewer, who is less honed in to how a movie should look on the screen, or even all the little things happening on the sidelines of a film that a director might fret over. Directors are paid to make a thousand careful, often detail-oriented decisions every day, so I find it easy to see how many of them could go down a rabbit hole of annoyance regarding this particular issue. Whether watching Kong: Skull Island's airplane edit in a weird ratio bothers you is likely dependent on your own understanding and expectations about a film, and HBO may be banking on that. Luckily, you can always catch the flick via a medium that is not HBO. In fact, if you want to catch the monster flick the way Jordan Vogt-Roberts intended it, definitely avoid the subscription cable channel.