By Kevin Yu
Kong: Skull Island is a remake of the well known King Kong story. In this latest installment, Legendary Entertainment hopes to introduce the giant ape King Kong to other legendary monsters, such as Godzilla in the sequel, and form a “Monster Universe” to stand alongside with Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe. So, Kong: Skull Island is a monster movie, granted, but during the two hours’ watching, it struck me as something else, something more than a monster movie. Kong: Skull Island, in its deepest core, is a movie about the Vietnam War.
It is actually not that hard to tell, because the plot is directly related to Vietnam. This movie takes place at the end of Vietnam War, when the mad scientist Bill is in need of military escort to explore the Skull Island. The soldiers who are about to retreat from Vietnam are sent to go with him, barely knowing anything about what they are going to face. Vietnam is mentioned throughout the movie, including some good jokes. In short, Vietnam plays a magnificent part in the movie.
The visuals and cinematography of Kong is an obvious tribute to Apocalypse Now, a Vietnam War movie classic. Helicopters flying in the sunset, river gleaming from the last ray of sunshine, and the jungle standing alongside its banks, dark and silent, all of these are a visual throwback to the Vietnam feeling that Apocalypse Now demonstrated so successfully. And I didn’t even watch many Vietnam War movies, otherwise I’d probably find more.
More than just visuals, the sunset, the river, the jungle, this is Vietnam retold in a sci-fi background. Soldiers head into the jungle on Skull Island, not knowing what’s waiting, who they are fighting, or why they are even here, very much alike the soldiers heading into the jungle of Vietnam. The Colonel performed by Samuel Jackson has mixed feelings about the Vietnam War, saying that they didn’t lose it, they abandoned it. When facing Kong, however, he says that this is a war he will not lose, apparently regarding Vietnam as a lost war and the fight against Kong as another Vietnam.
The Vietnam motif in Kong: Skull Island is both apparent and subtle, and every well and cleverly done. Though overall a simple, Hollywood-ish, not so interesting monster movie, Kong has some great callbacks to Vietnam worth noting if you decide to see it.