Synopsis: In 1973, Bill Randa of Monarch, a U.S. Government organization, assembled an expedition team with military escort to map out Skull Island, the last unchartered area on Earth within the South Pacific. He wanted visible proof that giant monsters exist there, based on the Hollow Earth Theory. Upon arrival, they must survive the surprise attack by King Kong, a 100-foot gorilla, and other fearsome creatures.
Warning: Spoilers Within Presentation
Welcome to "Conscious Movie Reviews." I'm your host Joy Davis and here to review the action and adventure drama, "Kong: Skull Island."
During World War II, two enemy pilots crashed on the beachfront of Skull Island to face off in hand-to-hand combat. As American Liieutenant Hank Marlow fought for his life against his Japanese foe on a cliff's edge, King Kong reared his ominous hand, then head, that shocked the men to attention.
Twenty nine years later in 1973, William "Bill" Randa of Monarch - a U.S. government organization, was intent on getting approval and funding for a ground expedition with military escort to map out Skull Island. He offered proof of its existence from recent satellite photos. A shroud of mystery surrounded the South Pacific island. Planes flying around the area were reported missing, just like the Bermuda Triangle phenomena. For Bill, it was more of a voyeuristic attempt to prove the existence of large monsters on the island after witnessing one in 1954 during a nuclear testing.
Historically, atomic bombs were detonated for years in the Pacific Ocean by both the United States and France. The U.S. alone conducted 105 atmospheric and underwater nuclear tests, from 1946 to 1962. Animals, like goats, were intentionally left on islands to study the effects of nuclear fallout on them.
Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard offered aerial transport by his squadron of helicopter pilots, known as the Sky Devils. The military men willingly volunteered for the special mission instead of heading back home as the Vietnam War came to an end.
Hired for the expedition was James Conrad, a former British Special Air Service Captain to be the hunter-tracker, and anti-war photojournalist, Mason Weaver. Other non-military personnel included three scientists: Geologist, Houston Brooks, San Lin, a Biologist, and Victor Nieves, a satellite image expert from Landsat.
Aboard the ship, named Athena, the crew were within 50-miles from the island. Their squadron of helicopters broke through the heavily thick clouds with lightning - part of the island's perpetual storm system that kept it undetected to make Skull Island the last unchartered area on Earth.
As many ships are named after women, calling it Athena was very telling of the military's aggressive intent, associated with the Greek Goddess of War. She is known for strategic warfare and heroic endeavor.
The tempestuous storm served as both a physical barrier for the island and symbolic of unexpressed rage. Accompanied by lightning, it can set off a spark to let your powerful, emotional energies loose.
They flew above the island's south side - a majestic landscape of water and rocky cliffs. Its rugged beauty was marred by the explosives that were dropped to test the geologist's wild theory. The seismic response proved his suspicions to be correct. The bedrock was practically hollow.
In relation to the Vietnam War, both U.S. Presidents Johnson and Nixon carpet-bombed rural areas of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos for several years through covert operations.
Suddenly, a helicopter was hit in mid-air by a spear-driven tree, thrown by a 100-foot gorilla. As the helicopters encircled the beast, each one was either violently smashed by him or scattered below.
The U.S. military during the Vietnam War introduced military technologies, that they assured to the American public, would make the dirty and nasty ground wars obsolete using jet aircraft, missiles, radar and nuclear bombs. Even their advanced airpower with helicopters was no match against the enemy's use of on-the-ground guerrilla warfare, just like an ambush by King Kong.
Reminiscent of scenes from "Apocalyse Now," helicopters flew in similar formation, silhouetted against the background of the sun. More references to the classic film will be made in this review.
On the ground with the remaining survivors, Colonel Packard threatened with a gun for Randa to fess up or else. He admitted that the mission was really to prove that ancient monsters still roam the Earth, based on the Hollow Earth Theory of passageways for them to surface. Randa was considered a crackpot by many who dismissed him for his beliefs.
Based on the exploratory findings by U.S. Admiral Richard E. Byrd in 1929, he discovered a range of mountain peaks in the polar region that hid a land of mountains, trees, rivers and a large animal that looked like a Woolly Mammoth. From above, satellite images captured holes at the Earth's poles. They are no-fly zones because flying over these regions can confuse a plane's navigation system.
Separated from each other, one team was under surprise attack by a giant spider towering above them. They managed to take it down by shooting it.
The other team discovered the islanders, who at first were on defensive guard. They were lead to Lieutenant Hank Marlow of Flight 46. He was happy to greet the newcomers after being stranded on Skull Island for the last 28 years and 11 months. His only companions were the Iwi tribe - a primitive and peaceful culture with no crime or personal property. They lived safely behind a heavy fortress and under the protection of their God, King Kong, from the Skullcrawlers - giant lizards that are mean as hell.
Lieutenant Marlow's last name is the same as the central character, Charles Marlow, in the book, "Heart of Darkness" that the movie, "Apocalypse Now" is based on.
And Marlow's life with a primitive tribe closely follows the American photojournalist in "Apocalyse Now" living with the indigenous Montagnards, who are the "mountain people" of Vietnam.
The Iwi tribe's symbiotic relationship with King Kong demonstrates the interplay between the feminine, passive energies of Yin to the masculine, aggressive energies of Yang in harmonious balance with each other.
Many primitive societies of Southeast Asia are communal in a peaceful way, similar to how the Iwi tribe shared a sense of Oneness to have the same vision and direction to be sustainable. This was in stark contrast to how the expedition team were fractured, operating from competing agendas.
American soldiers who fought in Vietnam were grossly ignorant of the primitive cultures within the jungle. The tribes were hierarchical, practicing ancestor worship and animism to believe that objects in Nature possess a soul or spirit. Because of their simple ways, man American military men regarded them as racially inferior.
King Kong's attack on the helicopters was to stop the bombings. It only encouraged the Skullcrawlers to surface from large openings in the ground. His biggest concern was the return of the "Big One," an alpha Skullcrawler as King Kong is the lone survivor within his family from attacks by these giant lizards.
A hollow Earth can represent the subconscious mind that holds many unexamined beliefs that are primal, pre-birth and early childhood imprints. These subconscious beliefs are often out of alignment with our conscious beliefs, sabotaging our efforts to be successful and happy.
When photojournalist Mason Weaver ventured right outside the fortress wall, she noticed a giant Water Buffalo helplessly trapped by the weight of a plane. Trying to move it out of the way, King Kong does the work for her, then walks away. Each encounter with him proved that he was a gentle giant, protective of her and the villagers.
All alone to fend for himself, U.S. Army Major Jack Chapman sat down on a wooden log that was really a giant Walking Stick insect. He shot at it out of self-defense. His actions were like many American vets in Vietnam who could not tell who was the real enemy in the countryside. Guerilla fighters embedded themselves among the villagers to confuse the U.S. military men so they can't tell them apart. Just like the camouflaged walking stick, American soldiers fought an invisible enemy, calling the period in Vietnam, between 1968 to 1972, a "bad" war as many innocent civilians were mistakenly killed.
And just as unfortunate, a surprise attack on Major Chapman by a Skullcrawler took his life.
The expedition teams knew to rendezvous with the military's resupply team on the Northern end of the island that's coming in three days. Lieutenant Marlow, with the repair help of the expedition team, managed to get his makeshift boat that was made from the hull of a military plane, ready for use. They followed the river to head North.
Just like in the movie, "Apocalypse Now," American military men traveled on Navy patrol boats called PBRs. As they went further upriver, it came to symbolize their increasing desensitization and animalistic behavior for survival.
Meanwhile, Colonel Packard, waged revenge against the enemy, King Kong. His brave men did not die in vain.
When a flare was shot from the boat, both teams were able to locate each other.
Colonel Packard was stubbornly intent on not leaving until Major Chapman was rescued, forcing everyone to head East. Lieutenant Marlow outspokenly thought it was a really bad idea to go into the Forbidden Zone, but was ignored.
From above, they can see a field of large skeletons that was once a battlefield from a past war waged between King Kong's family and the Skullcrawlers.
"Can you smell that? That's death," explained Lieutenant Marlow. It was another nod to the film, "Apocalypse Now" using a similar quote by Lieutenant "Bill" Kilgore about the smell of napalm in the morning.
The Skullcrawlers came out to attack the group. One of the lizards vomited the dog tag of Major Chapman that was proof he had died. Everyone fought hard to get away. Colonel Packard insisted they head for the crash site, causing a rift within the group. His bigger agenda was to enact revenge on King Kong with his remaining team. The others just thought he was crazy and left.
Characteristically, the Skullcrawlers and military men were similar in behavior, operating more from their reptilian brain (known as the brainstem) to be instinctual in an animalistic way that's invasive, territorial, angry and destructive.
Colonel Packard had gone rogue as payback for the death of his men by the hands of King Kong. He imposed his strong will on others that was tyrannical. True, authentic leadership is really about humility that leads others to their own power and self-awareness.
The battle was on. King Kong showed up to find himself trapped in the fiery, napalm-filled water. When he fell, it was an opportunity to detonate explosives on him, but was foiled by Conrad, then squashed by King Kong.
Colonel defended his actions earlier to say, "We do the dirty work so our families and countrymen don't have to be afraid. They shouldn't know it exists." This is typical of American interventionist policies and actions to justify what must be done for national security.
The alpha Skullcrawler showed up to push down the gorilla and go after the men. Trying to escape, the Skullcrawler broke through the trees in a surprise attack. One of them urged the others to move on while he sacrificed himself with grenades, only to be batted away by the Skullcrawler that exploded his body in mid-air. This was similar to how the American public dismissed, like batting away, any heroic attempts by Vietnam vets. Many came to realize that there was no honor to be gained in a dishonorable war.
King Kong came to their rescue by taking on the alpha Skullcrawler in a big brawl. When Weaver joined the fight, she shot a flare right at the lizard. An explosion caused her to fall into the river. She was scooped up safely by King Kong with one hand while defeating another Skullcrawler with the other.
All of the survivors were able to leave the island, including Lieutenant Marlow who was no longer "Missing in Action."