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Film / Kong: Skull Island

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"Kong's a pretty good king. Keeps to himself, mostly. This is his home, we're just guests. But you don't go into someone's house and start dropping bombs, unless you're picking a fight."
Hank Marlow

Kong: Skull Island is a 2017 Kaiju Action Adventure movie by Legendary Pictures, written by Max Borenstein (who also wrote for Godzilla), and acting as an origin story to the Eighth Wonder of the World himself, King Kong, as well as his homeland, Skull Island. The movie is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Shea Whigham, Toby Kebbell and Corey Hawkins.

It is the year 1973, and the U.S. military's involvement in the Vietnam War is about to come to a close. At the same time however, unbeknownst to most people, a mythic, uncharted island in the Pacific known as "Skull Island" is found via satellite imagery. This catches the attention of scientist Bill Randa (Goodman) and his partner Houston Brooks (Hawkins) from the U.S. government agency Monarch, who take it upon themselves to arrange an expedition to the island as quickly as possible before the Russians catch on, planning to map out the island as well as chart and classify any new discoveries it might hold. For the job, Randa hires the former SAS Captain James Conrad (Hiddleston) to guide the expedition; a U.S. helicopter squadron, nicknamed "the Sky Devils", under the command of Lt. Colonel Preston Packard (Jackson) to work as a military escort and do all the grunt work; while the awarded "anti-war" photojournalist Mason Weaver (Larson) joins the expedition suspecting there is more to it than meets the eye. Upon arrival, the group discovers that their mission may be complicated by the rather dangerous wildlife which inhabits the island, most prominently a mighty behemoth ape, going by just the name of "Kong", who is at the very top of the island's food chain and doesn't take kindly to interlopers on his territory.

Initially a co-production with Universal (who own the rights to the King Kong character), the film was co-produced by Warner Bros. and is part of the MonsterVerse, a Kaiju-based Shared Universe with Legendary's Godzilla (with that film's Monarch organization serving as the link), with the two meeting in Godzilla vs. Kong in 2021 and again in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire in 2024.

A comic tie-in, Skull Island: The Birth of Kong has also been released. Set in the present day, it recalls a 1995 secret mission to Skull Island by Monarch agents headed by Brooks and San's son, Aaron, to uncover the secrets of Kong's past.

An animated series Spin-Off on Netflix entitled Skull Island premiered on June 22, 2023.

Previews: Official Trailer, Trailer 2, Trailer 3.

Characterization tropes for Humans and Kaijus go on the Characters Sheet.

Skull Island contains examples of these tropes:

  • 1-Dimensional Thinking: Lampshaded — during the helicopter battle against Kong, a soldier screams at his comrade thusly;
    Soldier: Run to the side, you idiot!
  • Acrophobic Bird: Par for the course in a King Kong film, the helicopters spend most of the fight within Kong's melee range. And despite the fact that the Sky Devils are a bunch of Ace Pilots and war veterans, they're completely out of their depth with Kong, making it almost too easy for him to swat them out of the sky with his bare hands. Averted slightly, at the very start of the attack, by Kong's use of whole trees as thrown weapons.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: A significant number despite the below trope. Good examples include Cole talking with Randa about his gun that he took from a Vietnamese soldier, Marlow mourning at the grave of his fallen enemy-turned-brother, Conrad showing Weaver his father's RAF lighter, and the both of them having a peaceful moment with Kong.
  • Actionized Prequel: to Godzilla (2014), which had long scenes without any action or monsters. Not only does Kong fight the Skullcrawlers, but the humans get in on plenty of action as well. Also, instead of waiting half-way through the movie, Kong shows up extremely quickly, with a major action scene.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • John C. Reilly's character wears a bomber jacket with the ironic back patch "Good For Your Health", which seems to be a sly reference to Steve Brule.
    • As the Sky Devils take off towards Skull Island, Colonel Packard says, "Hold on to your butts" over the radio.
      • Possibly unintentional, but Samuel L. Jackson's character is a Colonel.
      • Additionally, Samuel L. Jackson says his Catchphrase of "motherfucker" in a film, but it gets cut short before he can finish it.
    • John Goodman in a film set during 'Nam.
    • Miyavi, who played WWII Japanese pilot Gunpei, was cast as the Big Bad (who was also an Imperial Japanese military member during World War II) of the 2014 film Unbroken.
    • Tom Hiddleston is the first person heard in the Stinger, Leaning on the Fourth Wall about the audience waiting for something. He has been in multiple movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is notorious for the amounts of Sequel Hook you have to wait through the credits for.
  • Adaptational Badass: While Kong has always been a badass, he was killed by biplanes in the original movie. In this one? He's not only freaking gigantic (currently about a third of the size of the Legendary Godzilla, who he's intended to fight in a sequel and there are indications that by the time it happens, there will be a significant decrease in the gap between their heights, as Kong is only a teenager here by his species' standards), but defeats a dozen gunship helicopters in a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • Adaptational Expansion: The novelization considerably expands on or deviates slightly from the film. A lot more of the main human characters' backstories are explained in much greater depth, like how Weaver had a strict father whose misguided parenting led her to become a photographer so she could just live in the background of the world, Conrad used to be a British Special Forces soldier until a mission in Indonesia in which his squad was set up to fail resulted in him losing faith in his country, and that Gunpei was killed when he was tricked by a Skullcrawler that was imitating the sound of an Iwi child in distress (an ability not mentioned in the film). The novel also adds in a giant snake which nearly kills and is killed by Conrad, a large carnivorous plant with a giant dead wasp inside, and it includes many more monsters depicted in the artwork within the Iwi shipwreck and the slideshow at the very end.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • The natives of Skull Island were antagonists out of desperation in the original 1933 film and horrifically degenerate troglodytes in the 2005 remake. In this movie, the Iwi are very territorial and taciturn but ultimately peaceful and helpful people.
    • Kong himself, already an Anti-Villain or Anti-Hero in many of the previous portrayals, is presented in an almost completely heroic light here.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The novelization completely removes mention of Rodan, Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah at the end, replacing them with original kaiju. Godzilla's existence is strongly downplayed (with Senator Willis brushing off the Castle Bravo incident as merely "a whale blown up by the blast"), Ghidorah has an earlier cameo among the Iwi artwork (one of which is said to depict a reptilian beast with three heads), while Rodan and Mothra aren't so lucky.
    • Dinosaurs and other surviving extinct creatures are noticeably absent in this film. In contrast to previous iterations of Skull Island, the eponymous place is now largely inhabited by Big Creepy-Crawlies and huge mammals. That being said, the Leafwings' larger cousins, the Psychovultures, are claimed to be the evolved descendants of pterosaurs in supplementary material of the film. While pterosaurs are not dinosaurs, they are nonetheless creatures from the Mesozoic. On the other hand, the presence of a Triceratops skeleton at the Valley of the Fallen Kings may suggest there may have been dinos at some point in Skull Island's history, or instead live on other unseen locations of the island. Word of God says their absence was to differentiate itself from King Kong (2005), as well as Jurassic World (which came out less than two years prior).
  • Advertised Extra: In China, San Lin was given her own character poster, even though her role in the film is pretty minor. The reason for this has to do with the fact that her actress is from mainland China, where local stars are given tremendous amounts of publicity regardless of their actual role. However, San Lin has a fairly larger role in the novelization, where she gets involved in an incident with a sacred Iwi well, and helps defeat a Mire Squid that attacks Slivko.
  • All There in the Manual: The novelization provides more character development and insight into them, as well as additional backstories for characters such as James Conrad, Mason Weaver, William Randa, San Lin, and Glenn Mills.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Chapman encounters a stick insect-like creature, which rears up as if to attack him. Chapman unloads a spray of gunfire into its face, and it turns and retreats, seemingly cowed by its injuries. Then Chapman turns around, and promptly gets eaten by a Skullcrawler.
  • Animal Nemesis: Col. Packard goes full Captain Ahab, with his grudge against Kong growing as more and more of his men die on Skull Island.
  • Anyone Can Die: Packard and Randa both die before the third act. Of special note is Chapman, who the film presents as someone who's eventually going to reunite with the group. Sadly for him, a Skullcrawler doesn't think so.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: When Senator Al Willis compares Monarch's interest in mythological creatures to the search for alien life, Randa dismisses belief in aliens as nuts. This is especially hilarious when you consider the origins of King Ghidorah in this universe.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Dear Billy...", in reference to the letters that one of the Sky Devils, Chapman, is writing to his young son back home. The theme of fathers getting killed/missing in action pops up throughout the film: Conrad lost his father to World War II, Marlow has a son he's never gotten to meet, and Chapman is eventually killed. Even Kong himself lost his parents to the feud between giant apes and Skullcrawlers. It's also noteworthy that what "Dear Billy" is referring to becomes more serious as the movie progresses, starting out as lighthearted teasing before the mission, to a coping mechanism via commentary on the horrors of Skull Island, and finally, mourning Chapman's death.
    • The word "King" is used regularly to describe who is the apex predator of the island: Kong, the humans, or the Skullcrawlers. The post-credits scene shows that Monarch is well aware that Kong isn't the only "king" and show pictures taken of other "kings," including Godzilla (the King of the Monsters) and Ghidorah.
  • An Arm and a Leg: This is how Nieves dies — getting torn apart by the pterosaur-like flyers mentioned above. We see him silhouetted against the sun while he struggles against the beasts until one of them divebombs into his arm with its sharp beak, severing it just as the scene cuts away.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • The Skullcrawlers walk on their forelimbs, carrying their body horizontally like a theropod dinosaur. Unfortunately, this means that their entire torso is nothing but ribcage, with no space for a digestive tract or internal organs.
      • Considering we later see Chapman's skull regurgitated, it's possible the Skullcrawlers both expel waste and eat through their mouths.
      • Though it's more likely the same as owls vomiting pellets: they simply can't digest bones.
    • The Leafwings are shown to have bright blue blood. This suggests copper-based physiology, which is unlikely as copper is highly toxic to most animal life — on Earth, it's found only in Mollusca and Arthropoda. The Skull Island creatures are explicitly Earth biology, as they are either pre-KT event Mesozoic animals or Cenozoic megafauna.
    • Kong is shown with chimp-like feet with splayed big toes, despite being an obligate upright biped. A human-like foot, with a non-opposable big toe, would be more fitting for an upright ape, as the big toe provides more leverage.
    • The Skullcrawlers are said in some promotional material to be "missing links between snakes and lizards". However, the ancestors of snakes lost the front legs first, as fossils have been found of primitive snakes with no forelimbs but stubby hindlimbs, and indeed some snake species retain vestigial rear limb stubs. The Godzilla vs. Kong novelization retcons their origin into pre-amniote reptiliomorphs, technically making them reptile-like amphibians (supported by the movie showing they lay translucent eggs) rather than true reptiles.
    • The creatures on Skull island are all giant sized even though normally animals on islands typically adapt to the less available space by becoming smaller over generations, a phenomenon called "Island Dwarfism". While there is an opposite phenomenon known as "Island Gigantism", it predominantly affects the native creatures of an island once larger creatures from the mainland relocate there, which doesn't appear to be the case for Skull Island.
    • In one scene, Kong is shown eating a giant squid-like creature after it tries to attack him. In Real Life, virtually all ape species are primarily herbivores, and likely wouldn't be able to digest a cephalopod.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • Packard's unit is called an assault helicopter battalion, which in 1973 should consist mostly of AH-1 Cobra gunships and OH-6 Loach scout choppers. Instead, it is made up almost entirely of UH-1 Hueys, only a few of which are in gunship configuration. Once downed, the surviving pilots and door gunners simply operate as infantry and are even geared up accordingly. In a real-life Vietnam-era Air Cavalry battalion, the helicopter crews were just that, with the infantry they carried (who couldn't fly the choppers) to and from battle being a separate formation (at least company-size) within the same battalion.
    • Marlow says he was in the 15th Air Force and wears its Shoulder-Sleeve Insignia. The 15th operated in Italy during WWII. The 13th Air Force would be correct for the Southwest Pacific.
    • Marlow says the boat was built from salvaged parts of his P-51 Mustang, Gunpei's A6M Zero, and a B-29 Superfortress. However, the .50 BMG machine guns are mounted in a ball turret, which was only used on the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator.
    • Marlow's P-51 has invasion stripes painted on the wings and fuselage. These were only applied to Allied aircraft used in Western Europe during and after the Normandy Landings. In the Pacific, his aircraft would not have these.
    • The Shin Gunto Type 98 swords used by the Japanese military during World War II were, charitably speaking, pieces of junk. By the end of the war steel production was so thin that they sent anything that could pass as a sword, let alone function as one. And even if Ikari had a genuinely high-quality blade it wouldn't have lasted a few years, let alone a few decades, without the kind of maintenance equipment expected for Japanese swords.
    • Randa mentions being the Sole Survivor of a US Navy destroyer attacked by Godzilla during WWII. The photo he shows is... completely wrong. The "destroyer" looks like a South Dakota-class battleship —- which is not only much, much bigger than a destroyer but also has a completely different silhouette than any destroyer ever built —- with downsized guns. Also, it has the name "U.S.S. LAWTON" painted in 12-foot-tall letters on the bow. US Navy ships have their name painted on the stern in much smaller font. They also don't include the USS prefix with the name; "USS" is assumed for any warship flying an American flag. The only marking on the bow is the ship's hull number, which Randa's photo lacks.
    • Weaver was "embedded with MACV-SOG" during the Vietnam War, before joining the expedition. That unit was highly classified. It is very unlikely that any reporters even knew about them at the time.
  • Ascended Extra: The two-legged lizard from the 1933 film appears to be the basis of the "Skullcrawler" monster antagonists.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: While the soundtrack is filled to the brim with '70s rock, one blatant example of the trope is the deployment of the seismic charges as Black Sabbath plays.
  • Avengers Assemble: After his mission gets greenlighted we see Bill fetching James Conrad from a night club and Packard getting his call to join up with his men as well.
    • Funnily enough, there are at least three actors from the actual Avengers films in this movie (Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, and Samuel L. Jackson).
  • Bait-and-Switch: In one scene, a confused Weaver asks Marlow why he is so defensive of Kong, considering it was he who killed Gunpei. Marlow explains that it was 'them,' pointing to the Iwis ... before the camera pans to a different angle and it's revealed that he was aiming for the rock paintings of the Skullcrawlers all along.
  • Bare-Handed Blade Block: In the opening scene, Marlow catches Gunpei's shin-guntō with his hands. His hands get bloody and he screams in pain, but he manages to pull the sword out of Gunpei's hands.
  • Beast and Beauty: Averted. There are subtle hints to the Beauty and the Beast story during the scenes with Kong and Weaver, but neither of them falls in love with the other.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Leads Mason Weaver and James Conrad, and supporting character San Lin all go through the movie from beginning to end without suffering any blemishes worse than some minor bumps, cuts on their cheekbones, slightly disheveled hair and dirty clothing, so their actors' good looks are still emphasized. Bear in mind that Weaver in particular endures a helicopter crash, falling down a waterfall, and being held in Kong's gigantic fist which is briefly dragged down the Big One's oesophagus with her still in it before Kong drags said fist back out along with the Big One's entrails).
  • Behemoth Battle: Kong fights the Skullcrawlers, as well as a giant Mire Squid.
  • Berserk Button: Harming the more docile creatures of Skull Island, as well as doing anything destructive to the island itself, is a great way to royally piss Kong off.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Ramarak, the alpha Skullcrawler, and Col. Packard, who develops an insane obsession with killing Kong to the point of endangering his men.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Packard and his men encounter the Mother Longlegs, an enormous spider-like creature, and Chapman accidentally awakens a Spore Mantis, a beast that resembles a humongous stick bug. Marlow also explains that the bird-like sound heard from above is actually produced by giant tree-dwelling ants that he warns people to look out for, but none can explicitly be seen in the film.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Kong literally jumps in, giant boulder in hand, to save the humans from Ramarak during the climax. Brooks and San return the favor shortly afterwards, courtesy of riding in on Marlow's boat and distracting Ramarak from a pinned Kong by shooting at the former with the ship's mounted gun.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A bit more bitter than sweet. While Kong manages to defeat Ramarak, and Conrad and the few survivors manage to escape the island unharmed, the vast majority of the expedition team, including Randa, Packard, both Landsat scientists, and all but three of the Sky Devils are dead. And while Marlow is safely reunited with his family, Conrad and Weaver are recruited by Monarch, with Brooks and San informing them that there are other "Kings" yet to come...
  • Black Blood: Briefly seen by the Mire Squid Kong fights in the lake; there's a burst of black liquid when Kong crushes its head. Possibly a cloud of ink in an attempt to escape, instead of blood.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: The seismic charges are not "bombs", they're "scientific instruments". Slivko quips that makes the soldiers scientists.
  • Blipvert: The fast-changing footage in the opening credits.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Despite being Lighter and Softer with humor, the film is more graphic in its violence than Godzilla (2014). There are far more on-screen deaths, and most are pretty gruesome. Hell, compare the Female MUTO from Godzilla (2014) having her head cleanly to torn off to Ramarak having his eye blown out, getting slashed with a boat propeller, and dying when his guts are ripped out through his mouth.
  • Bloody Handprint: Kong leaves one on the side of a mountain.
  • Book Ends: If you don't count The Stinger, the film starts and ends with Hank Marlow.
  • Body Motifs: There's a lot of focus on eyes.
  • Breaking the Bonds: Kong finally manages to breaks the chains that hold him back during the climactic fight.
  • Bullying a Dragon: This is pretty much Packard's modus operandi with anyone and anything. Granted, the first time, no one was aware of Kong, so his rampage was justified, but even after learning the ape is pretty gentle when not angered or bothered, he apparently doesn't give a damn.
  • The Cameo:
    • Godzilla is alluded to as the monster that Monarch tried to nuke in 1954. At the end of the post-credits scene, his famous roar can be heard.
    • Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah are alluded to in the post-credits scene.
    • Miyavi plays the Imperial Japanese pilot Gunpei Ikari stranded with Marlow in the prologue.
  • Catchphrase Interruptus: A meta example. Kong squashes Packard before he can finish saying "motherfucker".
  • Central Theme: Cole's statement that "Sometimes, an enemy doesn't exist till you go looking for one" sums up the central theme of the film: Kong is merely defending his territory against hostile intruders and doesn't attack humans unless provoked, but is needlessly antagonized by Colonel Packard, who is shown to be extremely bitter about the US military's withdrawal from Vietnam and sees Kong as a new enemy to focus his anger and frustration on.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The RAF lighter Conrad inherited from his dad and lends to Weaver. During the fight in the boneyard, Weaver uses it like an improvised grenade to set fire to one of the Skullcrawlers with the latent flammable gas in the air, burning it alive. However, in the novelization, Conrad uses it instead.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Decades on Skull Island with very little human company have left Hank Marlow a little bit off his rocker, but he knows the island and its creatures far better than his fresh companions; exemplified when he responds to learning that the expedition's only way off the island is in the north and will depart in three days by bursting into a giggling fit and matter-of-factly stating it's impossible to get there in time. Amongst the Sky Devils, Captain Cole is a pretty crazy dude, taking their catastrophic first encounter with Kong and all the existential implications of it in complete stride, on top of being Hot-Blooded.
  • Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: When the group hides from the Skullcrawlers at the Kong family graveyard, it plays out just like that.
  • The Conspiracy: Weaver wants to join the expedition because, after hearing three different sources say the same thing word for word, she suspects the mission of having an ulterior motive, namely a secret military operation connected to Vietnam. During the briefing scene, Conrad questions the true nature of the mission when it's revealed that seismic charges will be used to map Skull Island's surface. After which, he sees the weapons being equipped onto the choppers, and checks out the crates containing the explosives, where he and Weaver meet and begin sizing each other up.
    Weaver: Why does a geological mapping mission need explosives?
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Randa discusses and shows film of the 1954 attempts to nuke Godzilla in one scene.
    • Just like the previous installment, small arms fire only serves to distract Kaiju and do absolutely nothing to harm them.
  • Continuity Reboot: The movie ignores all previous King Kong films in favor of re-establishing the character within Legendary Pictures' MonsterVerse.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Conrad is in just the right place at the right time to see the Skullcrawler that killed Chapman regurgitate his skull and dogtags.
  • Convenient Cranny: Weaver successfully evades a Skullcrawler attack by rushing inside a Ribcage Ridge in the boneyard where she can't be reached.
  • The Croc Is Ticking: An unusual non-comedic variant, played for suspense. As the Skullcrawler circles the surviving characters through the dense fog in the Boneyard, the only thing they have to track its location with is Randa's camera flash going off inside its belly.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right:
    • Bill Randa and Houston Brooks mention they've been called tinfoil-hat wearing loonies before for believing in the existence of monsters and the Hollow Earth theory.
    • Hank Marlow has gone a bit bonkers after 28 years on Skull Island, yet his knowledge of its fauna and survival skills are impeccable. Both prove to be very useful to the team when he joins the party.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • In his first encounter with the non-native humans, Kong completely tears apart a dozen helicopters and only takes some damage to his right arm and hand. And even then, it only bothers him as much as a papercut would bother a regular human.
    • Really, most of Kong's fights with everyone except Ramarak are this. He's not called the King of Skull Island for nothing.
  • Curse Cut Short: Col. Packard's last words are, "Die, you motherf-". An extremely pissed-off Kong smashes him into the ground before he can finish.
  • Dark Is Evil: The Stinger uses this trope when images of ancient cave paintings of the next movie's four main Kaiju are shown: whereas the benevolent Godzilla and Mothra's paintings are light-colored, Rodan and Ghidorah's paintings are black, foreshadowing the latter two Titans' malevolent nature (Ghidorah especially).
  • Deadly Dodging: At one point, when two helicopters attack him from each direction, Kong leaps out of the way, causing them to shoot each other down.
  • Deadly Gas: The Sky Devils' ammunitions include several canisters of toxic gas. Slivko has them on his person during the fight against a Skullcrawler in the boneyard, and fumes of Technicolor Toxin are released when the canisters ignite, forcing Conrad to don a military-gear gas mask to safely cross the cloud.
  • Death by Genre Savviness: Right before the climactic battle between Kong and the big Skullcrawler, Cole, who was carrying a "blooper" and plenty of 40mm grenades gets the idea to buy the other survivors some time by priming two hand grenades, and release the spoons once he gets eaten. The Skullcrawler charges, opens its mouth, and swats him with its tail, and he blows up when he impacts a nearby cliff, while the Skullcrawler continues its charge.
  • Death World: Skull Island. It's explicitly stated that if it were not for Kong protecting them, the humans living on the island would be massacred (as they were before his kind arrived).
  • Decoy Protagonist: Chapman is built up as a major supporting character, who survives for a good long while on his own and seems poised to rejoin the other protagonists, but gets killed by a Skullcrawler shortly before the third act.
  • Denser and Wackier: Even though the movie has no shortage of scary or violent moments, it includes massive Large Ham actors, tongue-in-cheek subversions of familiar tropes, Tarantinoesque dialogue, and many completely gonzo action scenes, including Tom Hiddleston slashing mini-pterosaurs with a shin-guntō sword while wearing a gas mask.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: The movie tries to subvert this by setting a record for how quickly we first see Kong (less than five minutes) in the prologue, and then rushing through the set-up of the main story to get back to Kong wreaking havoc. It ends up with the alternative, where most of the characters are barely known before the monster starts killing them.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Marlow was shipped out prior to his son's birth and shot down shortly after getting a letter about it, so they never got to meet before his rescue twenty-eight years later.
    • Conrad's father's plane went down in WWII, and he was never found after months of searching.
  • Dramatic Drop: In the epilogue, Marlow's wife drops a tray with glasses when she notices him at the door.
  • Draw Aggro: The humans manage to distract Ramarak from finishing Kong off.
  • Dwindling Party: By the end of the first act, most of the original expedition has already been killed. And the rest continually die until the end of the movie, with only about eight leaving the island alive.
  • Eaten Alive: Pretty much any time a Skullcrawler makes an appearance. Chapman and Randa both suffer this fate, from the same Skullcrawler no less. An unlucky soldier is also heavily implied to have dropped into Kong's gaping maw when the latter disassembles one of the helicopters. Slightly subverted with Weaver, who is unconscious whilst clenched within Kong's fist, which is yanked down Ramarak's throat by the tongue. Kong yanks his hand holding her out of Ramarak's throat, though, so she survives an otherwise squicky fate.
  • Eldritch Location: Skull Island is a very unusual place to say the least; for starters, it's an Isle of Giant Horrors surrounded by a massive Perpetual Storm that opens up into the Hollow Earth. Somehow, it also has auroras, suggesting a magnetic anomaly in the region (similar to the 2005 film), and it's mentioned that some of the natives of the island don't seem to age. It's also inhabited by all sorts of weird creatures; there are hybrid animals, plant-creatures, predators that eat each other, predators that eat themselves, gigantic arthropods, giant ants that chirp like birds, and of course a certain one-hundred-foot-tall gorilla which not even the natives are sure where he came from.
  • Elephant Graveyard: An important fight scene takes place in a graveyard of giant monster bones (most notably, Kong's parents) smothered in a yellow-colored Ominous Fog.
  • Elephant in the Living Room:
    • After they get downed by Kong, some of the characters discuss what they should do now, and one of the soldiers exclaims how they're not talking about what just happened to them.
    • Later in the movie, Nieves is plucked up and ripped to pieces in midair by a flock of Leafwings in an abrupt Mood Whiplash, and Brooks asks if everyone's just going to pretend that that didn't just happen. Marlow replies that he's as good as dead, and there would just be no point in lingering on the topic.
  • Epic Flail: During his fight against the alpha Skullcrawler, Kong improvises a ball-and-chain flail with a ship propeller attached to a chain.
  • Establishing Character Moment: While all his men are celebrating the end of the fighting in Vietnam and looking forward to going home, Packard is brooding in his office, contemplating all the medals he's won (of which there are many) and bitterly muttering to himself that the men who sacrificed their lives died All for Nothing. Then the call comes in from Monarch, and Packard immediately agrees to bring a group of his men along, without asking for any of their consent, after they just got done fighting a war.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: While trying to escape from the wrecked ship Ramarak knocked him into, Kong notices the ship propeller and the chain it's gotten tangled in. He promptly uses it to gain the upper-hand on Ramarak and weaken him enough to finish him off.
  • Every Helicopter Is a Huey: Played mostly straight. Why that is actually inaccurate is discussed under Artistic License – Military above. There are two exceptions, with one (the CH-53 Sea Stallion) being a plot point.
  • Eye Awaken: After the giant Skullcrawler appears and all the humans except Packard run away, the unconscious Kong opens his eyes.
  • Eye Scream: The Alpha Skullcrawler takes a flare to its right eye which promptly explodes and maims the creature, courtesy of Weaver.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: For a rather lighthearted and adventurous monster movie, people die in some seriously brutal ways:
    • The helicopter battle sees soldiers get squashed to bits, set on fire, thrown to their deaths, and eaten by Kong. The worst is probably the poor bastard who gets sucked into the jet intake of one helicopter and turned into a chunky red spray across the windshield.
    • One random soldier gets impaled through the mouth by the Mother Longlegs.
    • A soldier with a machine gun gets caught and swallowed whole by a Skullcrawler. We got an absolutely visceral close-up of its open mouth as he's dragged helplessly down its throat by the Skullcrawler's tongue.
    • Nieves gets dismembered by the Leafwings onscreen.
    • Kong kills Ramarak by reaching down its throat and ripping out a ball of its organs.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Several characters often mention that they have families back home and are eager to go back to them. This includes Mills, Chapman, and Marlow. Notably, Chapman has a note he's writing to his son Billy back home, which becomes a Running Gag for other soldiers to say "Dear Billy" whenever they encounter something strange on the island. He's also the only one who doesn't make it back.
  • Feed It a Bomb: Attempted by Cole, with the bombs attached to himself, but Ramarak is too smart for that.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Marlow and Gunpei. They put aside their differences upon seeing Kong and became friends, working together to escape the island until Gunpei's death.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing:
    • Major Chapman's final line is a whispered, despairing, "Dear Billy, sometimes life just up and kicks you in the balls for no good reason," moments before his fatal encounter with a Skullcrawler.
    • Doubles as Interface Spoiler, but the film's closing credits spoil The Stinger by crediting Toho as the owners of Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah.
  • Flamethrower Backfire: One of the soldiers uses a flamethrower against the Skullcrawlers during the fight in the graveyard. This works until he gets slammed back into one of the skeletons and his tank ruptures and he goes up in flames.
  • Foreshadowing: A few of Bill Randa's throwaway lines in the first act foreshadow King Ghidorah, the alien monster from an unknown world, tearing apart Washington DC.
  • Fourth Wall Psych: The post-credits scene, in which the voice of Conrad appears to berate the audience for sitting in the dark after the credits are finished. It's then revealed that he and Weaver are in an interrogation room together, and he was addressing whoever is keeping them in there (which, it turns out, is Brooks and San, who brief them on the other monsters Monarch has been researching).
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • In the opening credits, part of a document written by Harry S. Truman appears for a split-second, where he gives his support to Monarch in the use of nuclear weapons to eliminate a monstrous creature roaming the Pacific Ocean.
    • There is also a brief shot of a younger Randa's notes on Skull Island.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: In the Behemoth Battle between Kong and the Alpha Skullcrawler, Kong would be the favorite, but he is weakened by the burning he received earlier, which brings the two to eye level.
  • Gatling Good: The camera actually focuses on a dismounted M134 Minigun for a couple seconds during a hangar scene early in the movie, foreshadowing what several helis will carry into battle later on. Contrary to how previous films handled the confrontation between Kong and this type of weapon, they don't do squat against him here, though.
  • Genius Bruiser: Kong's use of trees, rocks, and a ship propeller against the Skullcrawlers, particularly the Alpha as improvised weapons, combined with his immense size and strength, make him this.
  • Genre Throwback: Vietnam War films. Crossed with monster ones, of course.
  • Giant Spider: One of the scenes has Packard's group being attacked by one spider-like creature with legs long enough to blend in with the trees walking right over the characters.
  • Gilligan Cut: Nieves' adamant refusal to board a helicopter bearing for the island is followed by him sighing in defeat as he reluctantly does just that in the very next scene.
  • Give Me a Sword: During the group's first battle against the Skullcrawlers, Conrad asks Marlow to toss him his shin-guntō. Marlow obliges and Conrad puts it to good use.
  • Glowing Eyes: Kong has these when he steps out of the fog toward Conrad and Weaver, and his eyes glow again as he goes back into the fog after his moment with them.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Randa wants to draw out Kong by going into his habitat and dropping bombs. They draw him out, alright.
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • A soldier falls from a helicopter Kong grabbed, into the giant ape's open mouth... and then, Smash Cut to a character crunching down on a sandwich. Not a stretch to imagine what happened to the guy.
    • Chapman's death, of the "cut to blood splatter" variety.
    • Subverted when Kong seemingly defeats Ramarak. He slices its neck with a ship propeller, and the framing makes it seem as though the lizard's neck was cut open, but Ramarak turns out to be Not Quite Dead and the wound is revealed to be shallow.
  • Greek Fire: The napalm trap Packard makes to kill Kong.
  • Helicopter Blender: Played with.
    • The soldier hurled at Conrad and Weaver's helicopter after his was destroyed by Kong was swept not into the rotor blades (which are pushing air downward), but rather into the intake of the turbine engine, which both turns him into fine red mist —- though there is no actual gore to be seen —- and destroys the engine, causing the chopper to crash.
    • Kong reveals that he's got numerous slices on his right palm from where he grabbed a helicopter's tail rotor.
  • Helicopter Flyswatter: Several helicopters fall prey to Kong.
  • Hellish Copter: If you've read this page from the top, you'll have realized by now that the helicopters featured in this movie are among the most dangerous places to be for the characters; arguably even more so than Skull Island proper. That all of them make it through the storm unscathed while en route to the island probably had exactly one reason: to leave more flying things with rotors for Kong to maim in spectacular fashion.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Of the "circling the terrified protagonists" variety, the only thing the characters have to track the Skullcrawler that's hunting them through the dense yellow fog is the flash of Randa's camera.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Marlow's Fire-Forged Friend Gunpei Ikari wielded a shin-guntō. Marlow inherited it as a Tragic Keepsake after Ikari died and uses it on the island to great effect. After Slivko is knocked unconscious in the Bone Graveyard, Conrad puts it to very good use by fighting his way towards the younger soldier.
  • Here We Go Again!: Subverted. At the end, when the survivors are picked up via helicopter, we get a shot of Kong, who looks furious, understandable considering his previous experiences with helicopters, and it looks like he is preparing to attack. But then during the credits, we see Marlow returning to his wife after years of being stuck on an island, so clearly they escaped alright.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted. Cole attempts to give the other survivors time to escape Ramarak by setting off grenades once he's eaten by him. Unfortunately, the giant Skullcrawler simply whips him into a cliff.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Most of Skull Island's native creatures are hidden or camouflaged among the terrain, helped by a lot of them being Planimals. For examples, the Mother Longlegs' impaling legs blend seamlessly into the bamboo forestry, the Sker Buffalo can submerge themselves to look like small islands in rivers or lakes, and at one point one of the soldiers discovers the log he's sitting on is actually itself such a camouflaged giant creature. There were more creatures like this which didn't make it into the film but were recycled as official creatures with Monarch profiles in Skull Island: The Birth of Kong. The Iwi themselves employ this, managing to get the drop on the expedition by camouflaging themselves with clay and mud.
  • Hollow World: Skull Island turns out to be located on a rip in the Earth that allows giant monsters to emerge. They may not be implying that the whole planet is hollow, only that there is enough space underground for a whole ecosystem of ancient monsters to survive in.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: According to Word of God, the film explores the theme of mankind trying to dominate the natural world instead of coexisting and working with it. Skull Island begins in relative peace until the expedition comes along with their weapons disturbing everything, and throwing everything into turmoil in a way that threatens not only the island, but the whole world as well. In the end, the alpha Skullcrawler is only defeated through the combined efforts of the humans and Kong, a force of nature. This trope can also be applied to the antagonism between Kong and Packard. Given how the humans are introduced to Kong, it would be easy to label him an evil (or too-aggressive-to-be-allowed-to-live) monster. However, after learning Kong's backstory, why he attacked them, and following Packard's descent into madness, it becomes clear that Packard is the real monster between the two, especially since he's the one who brought the war to Kong's doorstep when the latter was simply minding his own business and did nothing to warrant it.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • When Senator Willis compares Monarch's search for monsters to the equally abortive search for UFO's, Randa protests that those people are the ones who're nuts.
    • Randa chides Cole for lighting a cigarette in an area with highly flammable volcanic fumes, while Randa himself continues to use a camera with a visible, sparking flash.
  • Identical Grandson: Marlow's son is played by Will Brittain, who also played young Marlow in the prologue.
  • Ignored Expert: Packard could have avoided a lot of casualties if he'd thought to ask for a proper briefing on the dangers of the island once he met a man who'd been living there for 28 years.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: One soldier is stabbed through the mouth by a giant spider's leg.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills:
    • A flare gun is not an actual weapon, and it's most definitely not a precision tool. Weaver is an anti-war photographer and therefore unlikely to have any weapons training whatsoever. Combine the two of them and you get a precision shot into the raging Alpha Skullcrawler's tiny eye over a distance of several hundred yards. Even Hawkeye would be impressed.
    • Kong himself ain't too shabby either. He first makes his presence known to the military helicopters with an entire palm tree that lands directly in the cockpit of one, and he apparently threw it while he was far away enough that they hadn't even noticed him yet.
    • Averted when Nieves is grabbed; they clearly want to shoot him free, but can't hope to hit the relatively small, randomly moving targets without killing him in the process, though this probably would have been preferable given what happened to him soon afterward.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • Kong uses a rock as a weapon, turns trees into makeshift clubs or javelins, and even fights with a ship propeller on a chain.
    • Weaver is also a fan of these. She uses Conrad's lighter and the highly flammable air in the Bone Graveyard to set a Skullcrawler on fire, and later shoots Ramarak in the eye with a flare gun.
  • Insistent Terminology: Weaver wishes Conrad to know that she's an anti-war photographer, not a war photographer.
  • Interface Spoiler: The film's closing credits spoil The Stinger by crediting Toho as the owners of Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah.
  • Island of Mystery: Skull Island, of course.
  • Isle of Giant Horrors: The titular island. It's revealed that Skull Island is actually located on top of a rip in the Earth's crust where giant monsters (such as the reptilian "Skullcrawlers") are able to emerge from Beneath the Earth.
  • It Can Think: Ramarak, as shown when it tail-whips Cole into a wall instead of eating him when he's clearly about to pull a Heroic Sacrifice. Also Kong, when he sees the ship propeller attached to the chain he's holding and figures that he can use it as a weapon.
  • Jawbreaker: Subverted. In the final battle, Kong attempts this against Ramarak, but he's not strong enough to do it and gives up.
  • Jump Scare: Weaver uses her camera to zoom in on some of the island's ruins -— then the native that was hiding against the wall she's trying to take a picture of opens its eyes.
  • Just Plane Wrong: While the Merlin-powered P-51s were already in use during 1944, the D variant, distinguished by its bubble canopy, was only used in Europe during September 1944, the time the opening takes place in, and would not be used in the Pacific and CBI Theater until January 1945. A more appropriate choice of aircraft would have been the earlier "B" or "C" variants, which had a "razorback" cockpit, and were in use in the Pacific and CBI during the time.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: In this movie, a shin-guntō sword taken from an Imperial Japanese pilot is, most of the time, more effective against monsters than firearms are, despite the fact that the shin-guntō was a mediocre combat sword in real life. However, many shin-guntos were fitted with high quality blades to remedy this, often directly from the officer's family heirloom sword, so it's possible Gunpei did the same with his.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Packard never gets to finish his Pre-Mortem One-Liner before Kong turns him into paste.
  • Kill It with Fire: Exaggerated, with several giant monsters killed or severely injured by flamethrowers, exploding methane, burning gasoline, flare guns, napalm, lighters etc.
  • Kill the God: Packard seeks to kill Kong, who is revered as a god by the Iwi natives.
  • Last-Second Chance: Conrad offers Packard a last chance to leave with him, but he denies and is subsequently smashed to pieces by Kong.
  • Lighter and Softer: Despite the Post-Vietnam War setting, the film is much lighter (even humorous) and more adventurous than Godzilla (2014). That said, there are far more on-screen deaths in this film.
  • Mammal Monsters Are More Heroic: Kong is presented as a benevolent protector of the island and the buffalo-like Sker Buffalo are Gentle Giants, whilst the reptillian Skullcrawlers serve as the main antagonists and insectoid kaiju are portrayed in a threatening light.
  • Man on Fire: Near the end of the helicopter battle, one of Packard's men can be seen on fire. Later, Kong splashes burning water from Packard's napalm trap at a soldier, causing him to catch fire.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The reactions of the team when they see a hundred foot tall gorilla ready to attack them.
  • Mauve Shirt: Amid all the expendable Red Shirts of the military team, five soldiers receive special attention: Chapman, Mills, Cole, Slivko, and Reles. The trio of Mills, Slivko, and Reles end up surviving, despite having less characterization than Chapman and Cole.
  • Meaningful Echo: A visual variant. Early on, just before he starts destroying the helicopters, extra emphasis is given on Kong's fist clenching. As Packard ignites a lake filled with napalm in the climax to try and kill Kong, there's extra emphasis on his fists clenching, to illustrate that Kong isn't the monster anymore, he is.
  • Meaningful Look: At the end, Kong shares one with Conrad and Weaver before he walks off back into the jungle. According to Jordan Vogt-Roberts, it's meant to symbolize the notion of gods and humans having to remain separate.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Although there are more male survivors (six) than female survivors (two), the two female survivors are also the only female characters who go to the island. The bulk of the expedition's numerous male members aren't as fortunate as the female members. The sole female death in the film is the Mother Longlegs monster.
  • Mercy Kill: Averted. It seems like Conrad is going to do this for Nieves when he's being torn apart in midair, but he's apparently trying to aim for the killer flyers that have him and can't draw a bead on them. Either way, he doesn't fire his weapon.
  • Mexican Standoff: There is a standoff between Conrad, Weaver, and Marlow versus Packard and his men as they quarrel over Kong's unconscious body. The situation gets resolved when Slivko changes sides.
  • Mission Briefing: The team gets a briefing before going onto the island which also serves to info dump details to the audience.
  • Mistaken for Imprisonment: In The Stinger, Conrad and Weaver look to be detained over their knowledge of the Skull Island Expedition, with the former promising to keep his mouth shut while the latter says she won't. Brooks and Lin soon enter the room and welcomes them to Monarch, explaining their group's goals and research.
  • Moby Schtick: Packard's obsessive enmity for Kong has a definite "Ahab" vibe. His fixation on Kong as the enemy becomes more obviously-monomaniacal once the island's Skullcrawlers and various other predators prove they pose a far greater danger, yet he continues to make killing Kong a priority over dealing with those threats.
  • Moe Greene Special: Weaver manages to score a shot at Ramarak by shooting it in the right eye with a Flare Gun.
  • Mood Whiplash: Happens pretty often.
    • First when the soldiers explore the island with helicopters to Henry Jackman's awesome soundtrack when a palm tree appears out of nowhere and flies at one of the helicopters, followed by Kong's attack.
    • The most jarring is everyone celebrating that they're getting near the pickup zone, only for Nieves to suddenly get picked up by the flying reptiles and pulled apart, reminding everyone that they're still on a dangerous island.
  • Mordor: The Skullcrawlers which threaten the island and the cast make their lair on the surface in a corner of the island which is a barren, gaseous boneyard where almost nothing else lives (in stark contrast to the rest of the island's lush if hostile tropical forestry and swamplands). It's a place which Marlow actively warns the rest of the cast they should steer clear of, not that they listen to him.
  • More Dakka: The expedition brings a lot of automatic firepower with them, ranging from 5.56mm assault rifles to 7.62mm M60s to crew-served .50 cal machine guns to chopper-mounted miniguns. All it does is piss the giant monsters off. Only the salvaged bomber machine guns on Marlow's jury-rigged boat show any effect at all, and even that's limited to getting the target's attention instead of actually dealing damage.
  • Mythology Gag: The film is full of callbacks to previous Kong films.
    • Kong fights a giant squid in one scene, much like the giant octopus in King Kong vs. Godzilla.
    • During the final battle, Kong grabs Ramarak by the tail and swings him around before throwing him, just like he did to Godzilla.
    • Kong kills Packard the same way as Kong killed Col. Nevitt in King Kong Lives. From the same movie, Kong is also heavily implied to eat one of the soldiers.
    • Kong is bipedal, much like he is in the Toho films and the 1976 remake.
    • Kong attempts to snap a Skullcrawler's jaws apart at one point in the climax, much like he did with the T-Rex in the original and the V-Rex in the 2005 remake. In general, the final fight between Kong and the Alpha Skullcrawler appear to take some cues from King Kong (2005)'s fight between Kong and the V-Rexes. Both fights have a very swampy setting with Kong holding and protecting the female protagonist from the enemy who is trying to eat her. Kong also happened to use a rock in both fights, but while it was fatal to a V-Rex in King Kong (2005); it only did minimal damage to the admittedly much larger Skullcrawler. Likewise, the fight with the Alpha Skullcrawler resembles '76 Kong's fight with a giant snake and by extension, '33 Kong's fight with an elasmosaur since all three heavily attempt to constrict him into submission.
    • Kong is the last of his kind like he was portrayed in the 2005 film, with his parents' remains visibly shown in the graveyard scene.
    • Kong flinging a tree at a chopper is similar to a scene in King Kong Escapes.
    • The freighter Wanderer, that apparently crashed ashore in 1933, shares a name with the ship from the 1932 novelization of King Kong.
    • Kong resides in the skull-featured cave atop the tallest mountain on the island, just like in the original.
    • The infamous wall from previous adaptations appears, with a much more plausible reason this time.
    • In the climax, Kong becomes accidentally ensnared in chains, a reference to the numerous times he has been held captive the same way by humans.
    • A fight with machine-gun armed helicopters calls to mind the climax of Kong '76, even if the outcome here is drastically different.
    • More superficially, the film is set in the 70s like the 1976 remake.
    • This Kong shares his 2005 counterpart's love of natural beauty, as he sits enraptured by the Aurora Australis.
    • As always, Kong is a sucker for blondes. In this case, Weaver is a brunette with golden-brown hair and Kong doesn't have to kidnap her to form a bond.
    • Like the 1976 film, Skull Island is found by satellites, but instead of a permanent cloud bank, it's hidden inside a perpetual storm system.
    • In the 1976 film, the humans go to Skull Island in search of oil. In an earlier draft of this film's script, they travel to Skull Island because of Conrad's search for his missing brother, after he's stranded on the island looking for a cure to all diseases known as the "Titan Serum."
    • The derelict steam ship in the Iwi village containing the artwork of Kong and the Skullcrawlers is the S.S. Wanderer, which is the name of the ship in the novelization of King Kong (1933). According to the director, this is meant to indicate that at some point in the past, something similar to the events of that film (minus the whole 'knock Kong out and haul him to New York' thing)actually took place.
    • Also according to the director, the design of the Skullcrawler is heavily inspired by the design of a lizard creature that appeared (or would have appeared, more accurately) in the 1933 film's infamous 'Spider Pit' scene.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Hank Marlow calls the huge reptilian creatures lurking on the island "Skullcrawlers", and the classified Monarch reports designate them as "hypervores" in the viral marketing. Both seem to indicate how insatiable and vicious they are. Also lampshaded by Marlow.
    Marlow: Look, I just made that name up. I'm trying to scare you.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Not only did the seismic charges enrage Kong and cause him to attack the expedition crew, Marlow reveals they also awakened a lot of the Skullcrawlers, which otherwise only come to the surface every so often. The only reason the Air Cav troopers were even dropping them in the first place (as far as they knew, anyway) was to prove Brooks' Hollow World theory. This convinced Kong that they were a threat, and he responded accordingly.
    • One of the massive buffalo beasts that Kong defends gets injured and pinned under the wreckage of a Huey that Kong himself brought down, although Kong lifts it off him later.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: The Skullcrawlers are puny next to Kong and the kaiju from other movies. But on Skull Island they are nigh unstoppable, with a smaller one shrugging off automatic weapons fire, a heavy machine gun, and even a flamethrower, before it's finally killed by a gas explosion.
  • No-Sell: The only human thing that deals any real damage to Kong and the other monsters are heli rotor blades and fire. Everything else, be it guns or toxic gas, just makes them angry. Well, angrier.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Several excellent examples:
    • Packard's soldiers are walking through a bamboo forest and the audience expects a sudden attack from behind a bush or something. One unlucky soldier looks up, we see his canteen fall from his hand, and the other soldiers suddenly realize that the bamboo stalks around them aren't bamboo stalks, they're legs. Say hello to the Mother Longlegs...
    • The Boneyard Battle. The Skullcrawler is totally invisible in the heavy smog surrounding them, with the only thing to alert the protagonists as to its location is the flash of Randa's camera, as it's circling around them and getting closer.
    • Soldiers are crossing a deep, marshy pond that comes up to waist height, and nobody bothers to check the water for monsters. Obviously, some kind of fish or crab or something's going to start pulling people underwater, right? Nothing happens.
      • Averted with Chapman's scene at the lake. As he refills his canteen, Kong comes lumbering into view, causing him to run out of the water and behind a giant rock. Afterwards, Kong roars in Chapman's direction ... and pulls the Mire Squid out of the water — in the exact same spot Chapman had been standing in less than a few minutes ago. The "oh, shit, that was there this whole time?" look on his face says it all.
    • We never see the ants that Marlow warns about.
  • Not Quite Dead: Thought dead, the Alpha Skullcrawler comes back for a final attack during the climax when it attempts to swallow Mason whilst she's still clutched in Kong's hand. Then Kong kills it for good by ripping its organs out.
  • Object-Shaped Landmass: The Monsterverse incarnation of Skull Island takes the name far more literally than previous iterations (which merely had skull-shaped mountains), making the landmass itself shaped like a human skull seen from above.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Kong makes this face when he sees Weaver fall off a cliff during the battle with Ramarak, because in hindsight, it's his fault that Weaver falls.
    • Randa realises he's about to be eaten by the large Skullcrawler standing behind him.
  • Ominous Fog: The Boneyard with the remains of Kong's parents is covered in yellow-colored smoke. At night, as Conrad and Weaver look for Marlow's boat from atop a high cliff, a thick fog rolls in and they see Kong approach them with Glowing Eyes.
  • Origins Episode: Ultimately serves as one for Kong himself.
  • Out of the Frying Pan: Packard is stopped from killing Kong, but his use of the seismic charges to lure Kong in awakens Ramarak.
  • Out of the Inferno: An epic moment when Kong emerges from the sea of napalm flames. However, he doesn't make it far before passing out due to the severe burns inflicted.
  • Perpetual Storm: One of these surrounds Skull Island, which is why it has remained uncharted for so long.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • From Marlow, describing one of the island's local species:
      Marlow: Sounds like a bird, but it's a fuckin' ant.
    • Kong gallantly intervenes to save the film's PG-13 rating by crushing Packard in the middle of an epithet.
  • Prequel: This 2017 film occurs in the same world as Godzilla (2014), but is set in the '70s, whereas Godzilla was set in the present day. May also double as an Interquel for Monarch's in-universe timeline of events in general, since they appear to have been formed in the 1950s in the flashbacks shown in Godzilla, while here they are a fully formed and practically autonomous organization that seems answerable to next to nobody.
  • Previews Pulse: Can be heard in this trailer.
  • Raptor Attack: Subverted with the so-called "Death Jackals" in the comic book. They look like sparsely feathered raptors at first glance but are actually canine mammals that have evolved to occupy a niche similar to that of dromaeosaurs.
  • Red Shirt Army:
    • A majority of the military escort that goes on the expedition are mainly used as cannon fodder to give the Big Bad monsters something to attack and kill. A good portion of soldiers die within minutes of arriving, while the survivors spend the remainder of the film being brutally massacred in some horrific manner by the Island's predatory creatures.
    • Likewise with the Landsat team, who at the most are minor comic relief characters whose only purpose is to be food.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Packard becomes obsessed with getting revenge on Kong, to the point that he puts the survivors in much more danger.
  • Ribcage Ridge: A major battle against the Skullcrawlers takes place amid the bones of Kong's family.
  • Running Gag: The soldiers saying "Dear Billy..." when coming across something unusual, which is taken from the letters that Chapman was planning to send to his son. The joke sours later on when their numbers start dwindling and the soldiers start to use it as a coping mechanism instead.
  • Running Gagged: The "Dear Billy..." Running Gag meets its heart-breaking end when the crew discovers the location where Chapman was killed and take the notebook with the letters to his son that was left behind.
    Chapman: (as his last words before being eaten) Dear Billy, life sometimes just punches you in the balls.
    Some time later, Mills: Dear Billy. Your dad was one of the best to ever do it. (takes the notebook so he'll give it to Billy later)
  • Sanity Ball: A number of characters display moments of rationality either through snarking or straightforward exposition.
  • "Save the World" Climax: What starts as the standard King Kong plot – "a bunch of explorers on a hostile, uncharted island are fighting for their own lives against the hostile indigenous monsters and trying to get off the island alive" – ends up overlapping with backing Kong up in the hope that he can stop the Skullcrawlers from overrunning all of Skull Island and possibly threatening the civilized world; especially after Packard's actions wake the Big One up.
  • Scenery Dissonance: Almost all of the really horrifying scenes (like the Mother Longlegs, the Boneyard Skullcrawler hunt, and Nieves' death) take place in broad daylight, against gorgeous tropical scenery to boot!
  • Scenery Porn: Considering that it's mostly set on a tropical island, this film has some of the best cinematography in a "giant monsters smashing things" movie ever.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Near the end of the movie, Cole tries to blow himself up to slow the alpha Skullcrawler down to allow his friends to escape. However, the Skullcrawler simply tail-whips him into a cliff wall as the explosives detonated without harming the monster.
  • Serkis Folk: Much like the 2005 remake, Kong is portrayed via motion capture, specifically by Terry Notary (who previously did mocap work on many various movies, including the Planet of the Apes rebooted films) with some assistance from Toby Kebbell (who is also part of the human cast as the character Chapman).
  • Setting Update: From The '30s to The '70s — specifically, near the end of the Vietnam War. Strangely, this means Kong has still only appeared in two time periods, the '30s and the '70s.
  • Shared Universe: With the Legendary Godzilla films, with the two being intended to crossover.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • The film is set during The Vietnam War and a number of the characters, such as Cole, have PTSD. After their encounter with the giant spider, Packard's men look incredibly shell-shocked while resting.
    • Lt Col. Packard is explicitly shown in the beginning to be a highly decorated veteran who feels that the withdrawal of American forces from South Vietnam without destroying the North Vietnamese has made everything he's been through and the men he's lost All for Nothing.
  • Ship Tease: There's lots of moments throughout the film that seem to imply Weaver and Conrad getting together by the end of the film. They don't. Examples include:
    • While boarding the helicopters, Weaver wordlessly orders Conrad to scooch over and he does so with a tiny smile on his face.
    • She grips his hand tightly when they meet Kong face-to-face.
    • Conrad is immensely worried when she falls into the deep marsh and even saves her camera for her. When she regains consciousness, he cradles her head gently and she hugs him after the trauma of almost drowning catches up to her.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: As Weaver attempts a Kirk Summation on Col. Packard, he reacts, just after the first sentence, with a loud BITCH, PLEASE!
  • So Much for Stealth: After the party narrowly avoids being seen by a Skullcrawler in the bone yard, they try sneaking their way through the mist. Within seconds, Randa's camera flash malfunctions and the light draws the Skullcrawler to them almost instantly, leading to a firefight and a rise in the body count.
  • Space Whale Aesop: One of the arguments against killing Kong made by the main characters is that his existence is the only thing that's keeping the Skullcrawlers from running rampant on the island (and possibly beyond). It's essentially an environmental message about the need to protect keystone species whose extinction would have devastating consequences for the entire ecosystem, which would be perfectly applicable to real life — except in this case, said consequences would be giant monsters emerging from the earth and eating everybody.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: This is the first American King Kong film where Kong does not die at the end. Given that Kong is slated to return in 2021's Godzilla vs Kong, it was pretty much a Foregone Conclusion that he survived this film.
  • Square-Cube Law: As with most Kaiju-type creatures, at his size, Kong would be incapable of doing anything besides lying there with his skeleton being crushed by the weight of his musculature, and the flying creatures would be incapable of doing so.
  • Stargazing Scene: Conrad and Weaver watch the nighttime aurora in Skull Island's sky from Marlow's den, bonding as Conrad offers Weaver a makeshift replacement for her camera's flash and he opens up to her about the death of his father in WWII. Two short scenes later, Kong is shown sitting outside a mountain cave, gazing peacefully at the aurora himself in awe, further proving that he has a peaceful side and isn't the monster that Packard believes him to be.
  • Stealthy Colossus: None of the human characters seem to hear the approach of these giant creatures, nor does the ground shake when they move.
  • Stealth Pun: An unusually dramatic example. Colonel Packard is a Shell-Shocked Veteran of the Vietnam War who's still dealing with the shame of being pulled out of the country before getting the chance to finish his battle with the NVA, and it gradually becomes clear that he sees his mission on Skull Island as a chance to make up for his unfinished business in Vietnam. So in other words, he wants to defeat Kong because he never got a chance to defeat "The Cong".
  • Stealth Sequel: Downplayed, but it's implied that the events of King Kong (1933) (excluding the part where they returned to New York with Kong) occurred to some extent in this universe, as we see the ship in the Iwi village is the S.S. Wanderer, the tramp steamer used in the film. This is made more explicit in the novelization, which mentions "a movie crew disappearing here in thirty-three".
  • Steel Ear Drums: None of the civilians and only a few soldiers wear any ear protection during the helicopter ride to Skull Island, and while flying with the cabin doors open no less. That's definitely not something that'll do wonders to your hearing in Real Life. Doing so while diving head-on into a Perpetual Storm makes it even dumber —- most people have no true idea of how freaking loud thunderclaps are at their source.
  • The Stinger: Conrad and Weaver are shown images of an ancient mural MONARCH found showing a pterosaur, a moth, a three headed dragon; and a dinosaur with large dorsal spines. Brooks says that Kong isn't the only king that exists in this world, as the scene focuses on a mural of the dinosaur and dragon facing off before the screen slam cuts to black. Then, we hear one last thing: Godzilla's iconic roar. This sets the stage for Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019).
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Things turn into fireballs several times onscreen: from the seismic charges' deployment into the jungle, to Kong retaliating by making mince meat out of the Sky Devils' choppers, to the flamethrower explosion at the boneyard, to the napalm-filled river trap.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Most of them, but especially Randa, Nieves, and that poor thirsty soldier who got impaled by the Mother Longlegs.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • The mysterious Skull Island is hidden from the world at large for thousands of years. But as soon as Landsat starts mapping the Earth's surface in the early 70's, the island's existence is made very clear.
    • Jack Chapman has the unfortunate luck of being the sole survivor of his helicopter crash after Kong attacked, and the area he's in also happened to be the most dangerous part of the island as revealed by Marlow later. Chances are his survival rate is going to be very low. He would have been devoured by the Mire Squid had Kong not been around as well, and while he did survive that by pure luck, his luck ran out when he encounters the Spore Mantis and a Skullcrawler, and he is ultimately eaten. There's simply no way he can navigate back to the rest of the survivors alone on an uncharted island full of monsters.
    • Twice a character is grabbed by island predators and lifted into the air, and despite clearly wanting to shoot them free, the soldiers are unable to due to the difficulty of hitting the moving target while not inadvertently shooting the person they want to save. They find a way around the issue the first time, the second not so much.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: When Packard leads his men to pick up the munitions to fight Kong, the downed Helicopter's music system is still going, albeit broken and wonky sounding, as the camera lingers on Packard with a clear Sanity Slippage look on his face.
  • Swallowed Whole:
    • Every time the Skullcrawlers show up.
    • Implied with the luckless soldier falling into Kong's mouth during the helicopter battle.
  • Take That!: There's a direct reference to Prometheus's infamous outrun-the-wheel moment, recreated with two soldiers and Kong, shot identically — and a soldier tells the other to "RUN TO THE SIDE, YOU IDIOT!", one of the criticisms of the film. When he keeps running straight, Kong promptly stomps on him.
  • Technicolor Toxin: The military-grade deadly gas fumes which Conrad can only traverse while wearing a gas mask are a thick, dark green color. MonsterVerse expanded materials further imply that the lighter greenish-yellow hue of the Skullcrawler-occupied boneyard in this movie is caused by much less deadly but still-poisonous gases emited by volcanic vents in the area.
  • Terror-dactyl: The Leafwings and their larger cousins, the Psychovultures, are said to be evolved descendants of pterosaurs in supplementary material. Both species are very aggressive, with a flock of Leafwings attacking the Monarch crew in the movie.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The killing of the Mother Longlegs. First Mills slices off the tendrils that are dragging him into its mouth, then the others slice off its legs, then once Mills is out of the way, the entire squad unloads their entire clips into its exposed underside, and after it's fallen to the ground, Packard shoots it five more times at point-blank range, just to be sure.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: After reluctantly agreeing to go look for Chapman, this exchange between Conrad and Weaver occurs:
    Conrad: Don't forget to tell me this is a bad idea.
    Weaver: This is a bad idea.
  • Those Two Guys: Mills and Cole, who are depicted as especially close, yet every other line out of their mouths is to insult one another. Despite this, Cole completely freaks out when Mills gets grabbed by the Mother Longlegs, and Mills absolutely loses it when Cole gets killed in a Senseless Sacrifice.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Kong makes his existence known to the group because they come onto the island and start dropping bombs. Now, you could make the argument that they didn't know they were dropping explosives in the domain of a one-hundred foot tall ape, but at least one member of the group did.
    • Even worse, at one point, Randa is shown taking pictures with a camera that flashes, right in the middle of the most dangerous area on the island. Not surprisingly, he gets eaten almost immediately afterwards. Specifically, he uses a flash that sparks visibly, mere seconds after one of the soldiers accidentally caused a gas explosion by dropping a lit cigarette into volcanic fumes. And was called an idiot by Randa for doing so.
    • Attacking the provoked Kong in the first encounter instead of ordering a strategic retreat.
  • Trampled Underfoot: A handful of characters get crushed, stepped on, or pounded into the ground by Kong and the other monsters on the island. Notably, this is Col. Packard's final fate, as he doesn't get to finish his Pre-Mortem One-Liner and detonate his explosives to kill Kong before Kong slams him with his fist.
  • Tuckerization: Senators Willis and Secretary O'Brien take their last names from Willis O’Brien, the special effects pioneer who animated Kong in the 1933 film.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Weaver and San are the only female members of the expedition. While not interacting with each other much, they also form a Tomboy and Girly Girl dynamic —- and ironically, girly-girl San carries and uses an M16A1, while tomboy Weaver sticks to her camera and a flare gun.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Once Kong attacks, the civilians and military are split up until the former (with PVT Slivko) finds the natives and Marlow.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
    • Chapman's first reaction to seeing a giant gorilla on the horizon is just to flatly ask "Is that a monkey?"
    • After the attack on the helicopters, what's the first thing that Cole does? Eat a can of beans. This type of reaction wouldn't look out-of-place in an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Mills even starts berating him for doing so.
    • Twice it's questioned if anyone is gonna address how the squad has been attacked by a monster —- first, a giant gorilla, and then, a swarm of pterodactyls.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Both the soldiers and the LANDSAT scientists. Only Randa (and, to a lesser extent, Brooks and possibly San) had any idea what they were walking into, and he deliberately withholds that information until all of Packard's helicopters have been swatted out of the sky and most of their crews and the LANDSAT team are dead. The airdropped seismic charges were intended to flush Kong out (which worked out just great), and also awoke the skullcrawlers. Brooks even protests before takeoff that they should warn Packard of what's really going on, only to be brushed off by Randa.
  • Vertigo Effect: The jungle in the background changes proportions in the scene where Conrad and Weaver reach the bay with the shipwrecks.
  • The Voiceless: The natives of the Island aren't seen speaking at all, and much of their language seems to be non-verbal. It's implied they can speak, but seeing as they live on an island filled with creatures that want to eat them, they've learned to keep quiet as much as possible.
  • Wait Here: Conrad intends to leave his team and scout the environment alone, but Weaver protests and demands to tag along, which he gruntingly accepts.
  • The War Has Just Begun: In The Stinger, Brooks tells Conrad and Weaver of the existence of other "kings" out there besides Kong, and that someday soon, they will return to reclaim the Earth.
  • War Is Hell: The dehumanizing nature of war is a major theme in the movie, discussed at length by many different characters.
    Marlow: And what happened with the war? Did we win?
    Slivko: Which one?
    Marlow: That makes sense.
    Cole: Sometimes, an enemy doesn't exist till you go looking for one.
    Conrad: I guess no man comes home from war. Not really.
    Packard: We are soldiers! We do the dirty work, so our families and our countrymen don't have to be afraid! They shouldn't even know a thing like this exists!
  • Weapon Tombstone:
    • Packard makes a grave marker for the men killed in the initial encounter with Kong with the fallen soldiers' dog tags wrapped around an M16A1 planted in the dirt and two of the pilots' helmets placed near the rifle.
    • Gunpei's grave is marked with his sword, and Marlow retrieves it before leaving the village.
  • Worf Effect: A meta example: in the first remake, Kong was killed by helicopters. The first thing we see him fight in this version? He completely curbstomps an entire squadron of them without breaking a sweat, establishing how much more powerful he is than that Kong.
  • World of Badass: Not only the setting is a Death World, but even the civilians of the mission hold up in it pretty well.
  • World of Ham: With the presence of John C. Reilly, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman, this is very much a given.
  • Worthy Opponent: Marlow treats the Japanese pilot that crashed together with him on Skull Island during WWII with utmost reverence. Their shared ordeal surviving the island's wildlife eventually turned them into Fire-Forged Friends.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: Marlow warns Conrad and Weaver that a bunch of Skullcrawlers waking up is a problem, but everyone's going to be in deep shit if the Skullcrawlers' Big One wakes up too, since it's a legitimate rival to Kong in power, and if it succeeds in killing Kong then the Skullcrawlers will destroy everything on the island including the humans. The Big One emerges towards the film's end thanks to Packard, leading to a final battle between Kong and the gigantic Skullcrawler.
  • You Will Not Evade Me: Kong uses a ship propeller and anchor chain by throwing the propeller into Ramarak's back, then dragging him back to him with the chain.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Skull Island


"Sounds like a bird..."

We never see the ants that Marlow warns about or figure out what they're capable of. All we know is that they're big enough to make bird-like sounds and, judging by the island's other fauna, what they're capable of is not pretty. It's all left up to the imagination.

How well does it match the trope?

4.88 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / NothingIsScarier

Media sources: