I finally got a chance to see Kong: Skull Island. Yes, this movie came out in 2017. Yes, I’m finally writing about it now. However, this movie was so much better than it had any right to be that I HAVE to say something.
This movie is really fucking good. The blockbusters that I’ve seen in 2018 and 2019, such as Aquaman, Infinity War, Solo, Skyscraper and others, seem to exist purely to entertain for a few hours. They do have themes and messages, but these messages always felt hollow and cliched to me. This movie didn’t.
The premise follows a group of soldiers and scientists on a journey to explore a newly found island, as the Vietnam War ends. There they encounter Kong, a giant gorilla. They also discover the island is a hellish landscape filled with large insects and other beasts that want to kill them. They have to fight for survival and try to escape the island.
From here on out, there will be mild spoilers for the movie in this review. You have been warned.
This is a war movie as much as it’s a monster movie, but it doesn’t just say “War bad. Peace good.” and not dig any further the way a lot of movies do. It looks at the effects of war and the people it leaves behind. This is most strongly seen in the colonel leading the the team of the soldiers in this movie, Preston Packard, as he struggles to find purpose and stay relevant with the Vietnam War being over. Packard is a proud supporter of the Vietnam War, and he in denial that America lost. He even says America “abandoned the war” rather than admitting the loss. Packard going to the island as a great way to save face for himself and America. He leads his already war weary team to Skull Island to protect the scientists, even though this is a dangerous situation. Thanks to his choice most will not return home.
The movie draws interesting parallels to the Vietnam War and the nature of warmongering in one particular scene where one of the soldiers, Earl Cole, talks with the head scientist. He tells him “Sometimes there isn’t an enemy unless you go looking for one.”
This applies to Kong in that he’s really not a threat to our characters unless they provoke him first. He is the protector of the island, and takes care of the people who live there. He only attacks the soldiers because they bomb his island and attack him. Throughout the story it’s revealed that Kong is necessary to protect the world from an even greater threat. Yet Packard, fueled by revenge over his fallen men and his need to be a hero, refuses to back down from fighting Kong, even at the cost of his sanity. It’s an interesting and thrilling dynamic.
It would be easy for a movie exploring these themes to feel stuffy and pretentious, but this movie also stays as entertaining as the typical popcorn flick. There’s a lot of engaging action scenes. Death comes for these characters without warning or discretion. It honestly had me on the edge of my seat.
All this makes for me my ideal movie and I’m glad I watched it. I didn’t enjoy the 2014 Godzilla movie but this one gives me hope that Godzilla: King of the Monsters will be a lot better; If this next Godzilla movie has even half of this movie’s depth, I’ll be pleased.
As for this movie, if you haven’t watched it yet, I definitely recommend it. Also if the comics for this movie are any good, please let me know in the comments.