Kong: Skull Island: Man Is Not King

1973: A band of explorers and scientists are accompanied by a group of soldiers in pursuit of the mythic. They’ve ventured to an island in the Pacific Ocean, on the grounds of hearsay, a place where creatures of the nightmarish variety live. Prehistoric and the monstrous are no longer just stories from myths and legends. The creatures our team encounter make the grunts in Vietnam look like toy soldiers, as Kong makes mince meat out of man’s machines when humanity starts dropping bombs. Kong is the nicest creature on the island. Will they survive to tell their story or become myths in the legacy they are trying to create?

We all know humanity has an innate fear of the unknown and what it does not understand. As a species, we would sooner reenact Rolling Thunder than study what we don’t understand. Cut off from all they hold dear, Skull Island makes the guerrilla warfare missions in Vietnam look like a child’s birthday party. As they adapt to the canopies of Kong, the ultimate battle ensues, the fight between man and nature. They fight a battle on two fronts, the first with human nature and the latter with the big creepy crawlies they encounter on their expedition. As their pursuit of knowledge becomes on of survival, they must escape this steroid-induced Jurassic park, a place in which man is not king.

James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) are a couple of badasses!
(Kong: Skull Island, Warner Bros.)

“Don’t go into someone’s house and start dropping bombs unless you’re picking a fight” says Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), a man who has been marooned on Skull Island since the Second World War.  This is one of the most potent lines in the film, as it’s a true reflection of man. As kids we’re taught to be kind to one another. That’s all good and well, but when you see conflicts in the name of oil and religion, I start to scratch my head. We fight, we brawl and we kill, often in the name of greed or because someone else has a different opinion. Humanity is trigger happy, and that’s depicted through the film’s backdrop, the Vietnam War (1955 – 1975), a conflict to stop spread of an unAmerican ideology, communism.

Well, I really enjoyed this film. Skull Island is Jurassic World on steroids and it’s certainly no family film. It’s the Dante’s Inferno of Mother Nature. It’s well-shot with excellent CGI, but I was most moved with its honest critique of the human spirit. Man is not good, but it’s not bad either. It shows the true face of humanity, the ugly and the outright beautiful. If the natural world was a horror movie, it’s name would be Kong: Skull Island. Even before we get to the island, we can see that the human race has a premeditated plan, to start some shit. They’re packing guns, bombs and god knows what else. It’s no secret that everything humanity touches turns to dust and this is one of the best representations of that I’ve seen in a while, via the moral ambiguity of its characters.

John C. Reilly plays Hank Marlow, marooned on the island since WW2
(Kong: Skull Island, Warner Bros.)

The first half an hour is pretty feel-good and then we get to the island, which left me thinking “well that escalated quickly.” We are witnesses to that American soldier archetype: from the naivety of the young soldier to the brooding boss, Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) to the sentimental loner Jack Chapman, played by the capable Toby Kebbell. John Goodman (Trumbo) and Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) are our scientists Bill Randa and Houston Brooks. Jason Mitchell plays Mills, the life of a soldier isn’t eazy at all. Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained) plays the token antagonist soldier who just wants to kill things. And he didn’t say “motherfucker” once. Shame.

But it’s Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager) and Brie Larson (Room) who stole the show, as Captain James Conrad and photojournalist Mason Weaver. Every scene they had together was pure gold.“An uncharted island. Let me list all the ways you’re going to die. Rain, heat, disease-carrying flies, and we haven’t started on the things that want to eat you alive” says Conrad. And he’s not wrong in the slightest, as our character begin to get picked off by a great deal of things including, massive spiders which can skewer you with their legs. Jurassic World is beginning to look a lot more appealing isn’t it? Indominous Rex and all!

“Don’t go into someone’s house and start dropping bombs unless you’re picking a fight”
(Kong: Skull Island, Warner Bros.)

The film has good story and it’s fight sequences are out of this world, literally. Kong and the fantastic beasts are wonderful to watch, as they picked off the characters in style, whilst the camera was stained with blood. I don’t think Newt Scamander wants those in his Tardis-esque briefcase. With films of this nature, you can’t look at them like any other film. At the end of the day, monster movies are glorified B-movies… but not to the level of Sharknado. Kong achieves everything a monster movie should: philosophical messages, dead soldiers, action/disaster, people running for their lives, entertainment and have some sort underlying metaphor about humanity’s ugliness. But most notably, it should show us that humans can be just as savage as animals. Kong does all of this. I can’t complain.

Jurassic Park meets Fantastic Beasts!