‘Kong: Skull Island’ and the Vietnam War

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The trailer for 2017’s ‘Kong: Skull Island’ dropped yesterday at Comic-Con, and it’s turned out to be one of the most fascinating trailer I’ve ever seen. With visuals, themes and music so evocative of the Vietnam War, I want to delve into why that could make Kong: Skull Island a truly brilliant film.


Kong: Skull IslandThe Time Period

In contrast to the original King Kong and its 2005 reboot, Kong: Skull Island won’t be set in the 1930s. The official synopsis says that the story is set in the 1970s, which certainly matches with the technology (i.e. helicopters, small portable cameras) on display in the trailer.

The conservative film buff in me wants to think that moving away from the wonderful original story of King Kong is sacrilege, but I’m actually very eager to see where they take this updated version. If set in the early 1970s, the film will take place in the last years of the Vietnam War, when the US was struggling with its new policy of Vietnamisation, and the North was encroaching on the South.

So, it looks like this new updated time period is going to give a fascinating new spin on King Kong, portraying the humans who go to Skull Island to seek him out in a similar predicament to the USA in Vietnam: overconfident on arrival, but sure to get a monumental shock when faced up against the local population, whether it be natives or giant apes.


Kong: Skull IslandThe Setting

That leads us onto the geographical setting. Skull Island was largely filmed in the north of Vietnam, and shots like the above clearly show the film’s desire to evoke the Vietnam War.

The dense jungles and difficult terrain are sure to prove devastating for the team that arrives on Skull Island, which should contribute to a great feeling of loss and desperation.

This is where the film’s relation to Vietnam could make it a true classic. Vietnam War films of the 1980s (Full Metal Jacket, Platoon etc.) demonstrated the USA’s desperation in holding on against a mighty guerrilla force, and criticised those who directed the war.

Kong: Skull IslandThis teasing screenshot above shows the team on Skull Island going up against a one-man ‘gorilla’ army in similar fashion to Vietnam, but the ominous yellow glow behind Kong (reminiscent of some of Apocalypse Now‘s most devastating images) suggests that they’re unlikely to win out.

So, the setting is going to prove vital in Kong: Skull Island to make sure that this new story works out. Unlike the original, it’s not about conquering the beast and bringing him back to New York for display, it will simply be about desperately pummelling Kong with all the might of the military, and then hanging on for dear life as the war escalates into madness.

Kong: Skull IslandKong: Skull IslandKong: Skull Island


Kong: Skull IslandThe Main Theme

As shown above, and reiterated various times by John Goodman’s unnerving character, the main theme of Kong: Skull Island is going to be one of unwarranted invasion.

Therefore, much like the original story, we’re going to sympathise a lot with the plight of Kong and the natives of Skull Island as the humans arrogantly try to attack and bring down this entire civilisation for their own devices, again very reminiscent of the mistakes made by the USA during the Vietnam War.

Kong: Skull IslandThere is a lot of focus in the original film on the incompetency and arrogance of director Carl Denham in trying to bring down Kong for the sake of his own movie, but that is largely overshadowed by the moving romance between the giant ape and leading lady Ann Darrow.

In Skull Island, however, the focus is likely going to be entirely on the invading characters. Unless we see a romance blossom between Kong and Brie Larson’s character, something that would feel very out of left-field given the dark atmosphere of this trailer, the film will likely be deeply critical of the warmongering military that attacks Skull Island, which is likely to once again give us greater sympathy for Kong over the humans.


Kong: Skull IslandThe Visuals

The screenshot above looks like it’s just come straight out of Apocalypse Now, and that’s a running theme throughout the trailer.

The film already looks absolutely stunning (with just under a year to release), and it’s yellow and orange tinge of the cinematography set against the dense and dark jungles that will give the greatest sense of relation to Vietnam.

In conjunction with very atmospheric and unnerving music, it appears there are hundreds of shots that hark back to Vietnam, and emphasise how dangerous and likely devastating a mission this is likely to be for the team on Skull Island.

Kong: Skull IslandThe new approach to King Kong is a breath of fresh air in Hollywood, and it’s even better to see that this first trailer gives a clear view of what the film is going for.

With 8 months still to go before release, a film that has such clear themes from one trailer is bound to be good, and it’s looking like Kong: Skull Island could be the big hit of 2017.

Kong: Skull IslandKong: Skull Island is released March 10, 2017 in the UK & US (subject to change).

The film stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson and John Goodman.

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The Mad Movie Man, AKA Anthony Cullen, writes articles and reviews about movies and the world of cinema. Since January 1st, 2013, he has watched and reviewed a movie every day. This is the blog dedicated to the project: www.madmovieman.com

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