Most monster movies are cautionary tales about the dangers of playing God, but so are war movies.
Like most people born in the 1980s, I grew up watching monster movies. From the classic Universal monsters all the way through the slasher era, there wasn’t many sub-genres I didn’t enjoy. One of my not so guilty pleasures would be Kaiju films. The general spectacle of seeing building sized monsters fight to the death, never fails to bring out the kid in me. Of course the special effects are terrible and they’re all pretty much the same movie over and over, but for me it’s part of the charm. Needless to say, I was extremely hyped with the announcement of the King Kong reboot, Kong: Skull Island.
Kong: Skull Island gives fans every single thing they’ve asked for in terms of monster carnage.
It’s not everyday you get exactly what you want in a film and remain satisfied. Sometimes fan-service can ruin a movie (*ahem* Rogue One). There was one thing I got from the film that I wasn’t expecting. Comfort. The movie had all the carnage I love, but it also had an amazing soundtrack. Without giving away plot details, Kong: Skull Island takes place in the early 1970s during the turbulent Vietnam war. If you’ve seen any Hollywood movie set during that particular time, it’s a given the filmmakers will remind the viewer with music at any and every chance. Kong: Skull Island is no different.
The usage of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” or CCR’s “Run Through The Jungle” in a war movie has become hilariously cliche. Yet instead of rolling our eyes, we find ourselves bobbing our heads to the beat. Those songs are fantastic but I think there’s something a bit more going on here, at least on a subconscious level. We’re inadvertently finding comfort in the predictable. We’ve heard these songs a million times, but there’s something about hearing them coming from a cinema’s sound system. It makes them seem larger than life, not much different from the Kaiju beasts on the screen.
Can we really have a film set during the Vietnam War, without hearing “Time Has Come Today”?
After hearing “Long Cool Woman (In Black Dress)” back to back with The Stooges’ “Down On The Street”, I began questioning just what source of nostalgia was making me enjoy the movie more. Is it the child-like wonder of battling monsters or the archaic comfort of hearing the classic rock songs I grew up with? This question was answered during a pivotal action sequence early on in the film where Kong takes down a fleet of military choppers with Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” as it’s backdrop. The glorious spectacle of a 200 foot tall gorilla monster smashing helicopters just fits perfectly!
Right then and there, I realized both sources of nostalgia are one of the same. During the turbulent times of the Vietnam War, music acted as the universal voice for the people against the war as well as the soldiers fighting it. Of course I wasn’t around back in those days, but the themes of frustration, hope, and honesty still ring true today. To me, the classic rock songs found in Skull Island represent an era when despite losing their innocence and facing uncertainty, people still believed they were capable of stepping up to the plate to do the right thing.
It seems weird to see a King Kong film using classic rock songs in such a way but it enhances the overall experience.
It makes me wonder, is this the same reason people still enjoy monster movies and Vietnam War era music? Am I alone in this fleeting sense of nostalgia? Action movies are meant to tickle the senses, and that particular era of rock music was nothing short of amazing, but is there more? There has to be. That war is long finished, but humanity can’t come out of it without eternal change. The universal themes in those songs remain just as potent as they were back then. People look can look back and forward with the same empowerment. It’s just like the comfort of feeling like a young again when you watch something you enjoyed as a kid, now as an adult.
At it’s core, Kong: Skull Island is a bombastic action movie and there’s nothing more enjoyable than seeing absolute destruction.
On a less superficial level, maybe our love of survival says more about our character than we realize? Whether it’s fighting fictional monsters or a very real war, I’ll take the empowerment in any way I can get it. Monster movies will always get my money and Vietnam War era music will always get my ear. Just as the vets will always get my respect and Kong will always be king.
I’ll always enjoy any scenario with Bowie, Iggy, or Sabbath… with or without carnage and explosions.
For more information on Kong: Skull Island, please visit KongSkullIslandMovie.com
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.