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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Lieutenant Colonel Packard is clearly A Father to His Men who has inspired a great deal of personal loyalty from his troopers, something that doesn't just automatically come with rank. His introduction has him staring at all of his medals (which is quite a few, all of them valor awards) and talking to Major Chapman about his son, reflecting on everything he and his men have sacrificed over multiple tours in Vietnam. With politicians (who had already micromanaged the war effort) choosing to end American involvement based on public opinion turning against it (which was due in no small part to unfavorablenote  media coverage), he feels that everything they've done, and all the men that he's lost, is now meaningless. Right or wrong, this opinion is shared by many Vietnam veterans, especially in light of South Vietnam being overrun by the North less than three years later. Having his unit, on what is supposed to be a low-risk joyride of a mission on their way home, suddenly ambushed and slaughtered by a 100-foot-tall ape monster that the expedition's politically-connected leader not only knew about but deliberately didn't tell them, is practically guaranteed to send him over the edge.
    • Is Packard really A Father to His Men, or does he just play the part to foster loyalty that he can use to manipulate them into doing the job he thinks needs to be done? He seems to waffle a bit between very much caring about his soldiers and their futures, and prepared to throw their lives away at the drop of a hat if it accomplishes the objective. Or has he just been "in the shit" way too long?
      • That, right there, is the dilemma of the combat commander, though. No matter how much he cares for his men, he has to send them into situations that will likely get at least some of them killed or crippled. His job is to accomplish the mission with as few casualties as possible, which may very well come down to deciding who lives and who dies when you can’t save everyone. Unless you’re a total sociopath, this will take an emotional and psychological toll. Packard gets thrust into a situation that’s practically custom-made to trigger him the way few other things likely could.
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  • Angst? What Angst?: Even for a seasoned (anti)-war reporter who's probably seen a lot of horrors, Weaver takes what happens on Skull Island remarkably in stride. Her first encounters with Kong and various other titanic monsters appear to elicit barely more than a few seconds of alarm before she recovers and acts like she goes through something like that twice a day every day. It takes about two thirds of the movie until she finally begins to show fear and terror roughly comparable to what her companions have been experiencing from the get-go. In fact, a considerable portion of the civilians react similarly, contrary to the equally seasoned soldiers who freak out almost immediately when Kong shows up the first time. (it's even twice lampshaded how people are not reacting properly to giant killing monsters)
  • Author's Saving Throw:
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    • Some worried that this film's CGI Kong would look too similar to the Peter Jackson version and just end up being a retread. The reveal this Kong was primarily a biped, more brown than realistic gorilla-black, and has a different looking face helped calm these worries.
    • An interview with Jordan Vogt-Roberts stating that the movie won't be waiting forty minutes to an hour to reveal the monster was seen as a welcome change, given the complaints that King Kong (2005) and Godzilla (2014) got about taking too long to show the titular monster. And he wasn't lying, as Kong is seen within the first five minutes. It's only second behind Pacific Rim for fastest monster reveal.
    • The characters in Godzilla were widely criticized for giving a cast of talented actors little more to do than gape in awe at Godzilla smashing stuff. This film takes steps to ensure the characters have more memorable personalities, and sketches them out through both quiet moments and badass action scenes like Samuel L. Jackson trying to blow up King Kong with dynamite or John C. Reilly and Tom Hiddleston slashing through pterodactyls with a katana.
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    • For some, the fact that the film isn't yet another remake of the original, but a new story featuring Kong himself, even if it is a Continuity Reboot.
  • Awesome Art: The Japanese poster for the movie.note  The IMAX poster that like the movie is an Apocalypse Now homage also counts.
  • Awesome Music:
    • Henry Jackman is in charge of the film's score, so it's a given.
    • When Lt. Packard's men start the their flying mission to drop seismic bombs on the island, it is accompanied by Black Sabbath's hit song "Paranoid".
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • Kong eating one of the soldiers who falls from the helicopter.
    • The Mire Squid scene mostly comes off as a random slice-of-life scene of Kong having lunch.
    • And of course, the "giant ants".
      Marlow: Sounds like a bird, but it's a fuckin' ant.
  • Crazy Awesome: Marlow, particularly when he goes full Action Hero in the climactic battle. He's a Cloudcuckoolander Cool Old Guy Ace Pilot who lives alone in the middle of the South Pacific with a village of island natives, and gets his kicks by battling swarms of pterodactyls with a sword.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Marlow is rather popular for a human character in a monster movie, due to providing some much-needed levity, having a sympathetic backstory, and managing to be Mr. Exposition without getting too long-winded or boring. He also has a tendency to Lampshade his Ignored Expert status.
    Marlow: I've been on this island 28 years, what do I know?
    • Chapman is well-liked by many audiences thanks to being a competent, loyal, and friendly Number Two to Major Packard and surviving on his own for an impressively long time. Many people were genuinely saddened when he didn't make it.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: At the beginning of the film, Vietnam War protests are taking place in Washington. Randa observes that this is the worst political climate the U.S. will ever have. Uh, no... Director Vogt-Roberts noted this on Twitter, stating that the line got no audience response in test screenings until after the 2016 election.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • Even before release the movie generated a ton of buzz among Vietnamese citizens and those of Vietnamese descent worldwide due to being a rare mainstream movie filmed largely in Vietnam (Ha Long Bay, specifically) and set during the The Vietnam War.
    • In spite of the Internet Backdraft found on the Chinese portion of the internet (listed below), the film was enormously popular in China as well. By the time the movie ended its run over there, the movie's box office total just about matched what the film made in the United States, which is something that's pretty unheard of.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Terry Notary and Toby Kebbell previously worked on Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, with Notary providing motion capture work for Bright Eyes in the former and Rocket in the latter, and Kebbell playing Koba in the latter. Here... let's just say they're both playing a much bigger ape.
      • In Rise and Dawn, Notary's character becomes the most trusted second-in-command of Caesar, played by Serkis. This effectively means that the Notary Kong is the Number Two to the Serkis Kong.
    • In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Kebbell's character wanted to replace Andy Serkis' character in the position he held. A few years later, Kebbell is now partly playing Kong (a character previously played by Andy Serkis). Incidentally, Kong will go up against Godzilla in Godzilla Vs Kong, another role previously played by Serkis.
    • The last time Kong dealt with attack helicopters in the 1970's, it didn't exactly end well for him. If the first trailer is any indication, Kong is now big enough that helicopters will, if anything, be nothing more than a nuisance,
    • In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we see a regular-sized gorilla taking out a helicopter. Here, we see a much bigger one doing the same.
    • Warner Bros. finally making their own King Kong is this due to the fact that, while Universal may own the rights to character, the rights to the original movie and its sequel actually belong to Warner Bros. note 
    • A fan artist made the observation that Skull Island has Nick Fury meeting Carol Danvers ahead of Captain Marvel.
    • Meta Example- It's said that the reason Warner Bros. distributed this film instead of Universal is because Universal were not fans of a shared universe between Kong and Godzilla and believed the film would fail because of it. Yet Universal started and overhyped another monster shared universe known as the "Dark Universe," starting with The Mummy (2017) reboot; not only that, but The Mummy (2017) was such a critical and commercial flop that it killed the "Dark Universe."
    • Weaver, armed with a flare gun against Ramarak, decides to aim for the eye. Maybe Jing Tian taught her a thing about fighting monsters?
    • John Goodman saying that "monsters exist" is hilarious for those who remember that he himself has played a monster before.
    • In the infamous TV Edit of Snakes on a Plane, Samuel L. Jackson's character loudly shouts "I have had it with these monkey-fighting snakes!". The skullcrawlers aren't quite snakes and Kong isn't exactly a monkey, but they are close enough to label the former "Monkey-Fighting Snakes".
    • One year after the release of this film, Samuel L. Jackson would star in another movie as a character who gets killed before he finishes saying "motherfucker" just like Packard.
    • John Goodman's character claims near the beginning that "there'll never be a more screwed up time in Washington." Yeah, just wait until King Ghidorah swoops in.
  • Internet Backdraft: Jing Tian's character, San Lin, caused significant backlash on the Chinese internet in spite of having a small role and being largely undiscussed on the English internet, triggering a one-star review brigade on China's most popular movie site all by herself. The situation is influenced by several factors: Legendary Pictures being bought out by Chinese Wanda Group, Jing Tian being cast in three of Legendary's films, and her previous performance in The Great Wall, one of the three films. Jing Tian's performance was never looked fondly upon by Chinese moviegoers, and her being cast in three Hollywood films raised suspicions. When Kong: Skull Island was released and people saw how small her role is, Chinese moviegoers immediately came to the conclusion that the character was shoehorned in by Executive Meddling, and said executives are the Wanda Group and other political connections Jing Tian had who wanted to push her star status despite her not having the skills to be worth so. This made Jing Tian a widely mocked target on the Chinese internet, and is in part a vent for a greater concern regarding capital and political meddling in artistic medias and how they dragged down the quality of the nation's media as a whole.
  • Just Here for Godzilla:
    • Some people obviously watch the movie just to see Kong fight monsters and the army.
    • People who don't care about Kong but watch the movie just to see any easter eggs hinting towards the greater MonsterVerse and the potential crossover with Godzilla (making it a literal example of the trope).
    • Then there people who don't care about either Godzilla or Kong but instead want to see Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, and Brie Larson sharing the screen together ahead of Avengers: Infinity War.
  • More Popular Spin Off: In some international regions, the film financially outperformed Godzilla — the most of which is China, in which its box office total surpassed Godzilla's box office run in just 5 days. The final box office total made the movie the most successful Warner Bros. film ever released in China.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: In The Stinger: Godzilla's roar.
  • Narm:
    • Some of the film's Contrived Coincidences break the willing suspension of disbelief at best, and are laughably absurd at worst. Probably the most glaring example is the Skullcrawler just happening to cough up Chapman's skull right in front of Conrad. Already pretty ridiculous, but the fact that the skull somehow had Chapman's dogtags wrapped around it? Hilariously absurd.
    • The design of the Skullcrawlers themselves. With their arms too long, their tails too short and skinny, and their heads disproportionately big, they look less like the "snake-lizard hybrids" they were described as in promotional material, and more like awkward, unbalanced dinosaurs that just look physically clumsy. More than a few people have compared them to the monkeys from Temple Run.
    • Kong eating the Mire Squid, then dragging its carcass back to his lair by one tentacle, like a little kid pulling on a toy wagon!
    • Conrad running in slow motion, slicing pterodactyls in half mid-flight with a sword.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: The trailer that introduced Marlow, while widely enjoyed, was met with criticism since the character appeared to walk in from a different, wackier movie, quickly making him a Base-Breaking Character among potential viewers. This was largely because the previous trailer portrayed the film as a grim affair like Godzilla (2014), but the movie as a whole establishes itself to have a more irreverent tone, from the very first shot of Marlow comically falling out of the sky. Once the actual film showed that Marlow had his own serious moments alongside his comedic lines gelling with the rest of the movie, he was much better received.
  • The Scrappy: San, Jing Tian's character. Between the fact that she is a wasted character personified, the Internet Backdraft in China to her casting, and the fact that Americans feel that she was shoehorned in to appeal to Chinese audiences meant that moviegoers in most regions had plenty of reason to dislike her.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: The film technically isn't based on any pre-existing material, but the idea of exploring Skull Island beyond Kong calls to mind the prequel book Kong: King of Skull Island.
  • Spiritual Successor: A lot of fans compare it favorably towards the first Jurassic Park movie, with some even calling it a worthy successor in terms of creature mayhem.
  • Squick: Ramarak's death, his tongue is yanked straight out of his mouth by Kong.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: A common criticism of the film is that while there are many characters with likable personalities and played by talented actors, most of them lack depth and interesting backstories.
    • The cast is large and nearly everyone gets a moment to stick out...except for Jing Tian's San Lin. Her character is a biologist and could have offered insight on some of the bizarre creatures. Instead she is simply the 'other girl' and could've been absent from the movie.
    • Also Gunpei, especially when played by musician-actor Miyavi, who already shown his acting chops in Unbroken, yet he does not have any dialogue in this film unlike his last Imperial Japanese military role in the said past film. But at least they had an excuse. The director added that he'd be willing to do a spin-off about him and Marlow earlier in the timeline if he were given the opportunity.
    • As this review points out, Weaver suffers no PTSD despite her experiences in Vietnam. War photographers have been known to suffer PTSD in real-life so it would have been interesting to see Weaver dealing with it probably via nightmares, especially given the amount of crap she and the others go through in the movie and would've explained why she's antagonistic to Packard and probably would result in her overcoming it to help her friends. Instead, not much is done with her and her trauma's only implied or reduced to "War is bad". Interestingly, writer Dan Gilroy originally scripted some scenes revealing how Weaver became worn down and world-weary only to be reinvigorated by meeting Kong. Shame especially given she's played by Brie Larson.
    • Chapman. They basically fleshed him out enough to make you like him, gave him a bit of heartfelt backstory, and then unceremoniously killed him off (in a very gruesome manner). He could have survived alone for a while like a badass and reunited with the rest of the crew instead.
    • Conrad. Outside of his missing father, much of his tragic backstory was glossed over in the film and relegated to the novelization. Most notably, the novel revealed how Conrad became a disillusioned cynic after a botched mission in Malaysia that led to the death of the SAS soldiers under his command. Had this subplot been in the film, it would've given him a more compelling character arc of regaining his faith in humanity after meeting Kong and Marlow.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: With Conrad having a long lost father who was a World War 2 pilot and Marlow missing his son, the film could've reworked Marlow into becoming a surrogate parental figure for Conrad. Alas, Marlow doesn't really bond with anyone besides Slivko over their midwestern roots and love of baseball.
  • Vanilla Protagonist:
    • Conrad. While he's certainly got some depth and time in the spotlight, his character is overshadowed by the likes of Packard and Marlow.
    • Weaver could be considered a Vanilla Deuteragonist, as she's got the exact same thing going on: she's got some great moments, but ends up similarly overshadowed by those two characters.
  • Too Cool to Live: As soon as he pulled out the photo of his wife, many people feared that Hank Marlowe was just too awesome to make it off the island. He survives and is happily reunited with his family.
  • The Woobie:
    • Chapman. The guy always seems to have every moment of hope a relief taken away. When he was about to head home to see his son and start a new career as a flight attendant, he gets pulled back into combat yet again. Later when stranded alone on the western side of Skull Island, he briefly fends off a Spore Mantis only to be gruesomely devoured by a Skullcrawler.
    • Marlow. Sure he seems carefree and jolly but is secretly homesick after being stuck on Skull Island for nearly 30 years and is guilt-stricken for failing to save Gunpei. He's also implied to have slightly Gone Mad From The Isolation, as he asks the new arrivals a few times if they're really real, and looks at his imaginary "beer and hot dog at Wrigley field" in his empty hands as if he can actually see (and taste) them.
    • Kong himself. He is literally just an orphaned teenager struggling to survive on his own, on an island populated by deadly monsters, and while he seems to have shouldered the responsibility of being the island's protector, the scene where he visibly cries when Weaver touches him hints that deep down, he is a lonely child who misses his family.

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