When I heard that “Kong: Skull Island” was coming to theaters, I had my fingers crossed that this version of the notorious mega-gorilla wasn’t just some unnecessarily meaningless 2-hour film of monkey versus man. “Kong: Skull Island” displayed all that and so much more. This Vietnam-era version of the Kong mythos exhibited subtle commentary on environmental issues and war, woven smoothly into a story of scientific expedition. It is a must-see.
It tells the story of a scientific expedition to the unchartered territory of Skull Island with a military escort fresh out of the war in Vietnam. When the team disturbs the life of the island under the pretense that dropping bombs will rupture the thermal energy for research purposes, it angers the great Kong, who then, of course, shows up to defend his territory. Kong’s battle with the helicopter fleet of the team portrayed what I see as a very important lesson for mankind — the earth itself is life, and that it takes care of its own. According to Bill Randa (played by John Goodman), “This planet doesn’t belong to us. Ancient species owned this earth long before mankind.”
I believe that this film highlights man’s abuse of the earth and the ideology that the earth is slave to our species— the thought that it’s ours to manipulate and use for our benefit at the expense of the other life forms. Man’s perceived superiority was displayed strongly by the Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (played by Samuel L. Jackson) throughout the duration of the film. In a scene after Kong’s first retaliation to the helicopter fleet’s bombing, a massive bloody palm was discovered by the Colonel, which he responded to with pride, and commanded his men to find Kong, proclaiming, “It’s time to show Kong that man is king!”.
“Kong: Skull Island” also surprised me with some passive-but-chilling commentary on war, with soldier Hank Marlow telling the men the story of the rifle of his choice for combat which he claimed to have taken off a Vietnamese farmer after he invaded his home. Marlow said the farmer informed him that before the U.S. military had entered Vietnam, he had never known what a gun was. The soldier ended his story with a very important message — “Sometime’s there’s no enemy until you look for one.” I also enjoyed a quote by Captain James Conrad, head tracker on the mission, who said, “I guess no man comes home from war, not really.” I believe that this speaks to the risk that war poses to the mental health of soldiers, whether it be as serious as a mental illness like PTSD, or be it just the mere fact that watching men and women die like mere flies and having to choose between killing or being killed, on the spot, changes people in ways that few people may not understand outside of experiencing it.
If you can overlook good quality actors and actresses struggling to stay afloat amidst the extravagant and overblown special effects and unexpected plot twists, then “Kong: Skull Island” is definitely worth the watch.
Tashnah Dixon is a junior psychology and sociology double major. This review reflects the views of the author only.