Warning: Here there be monsters… as well as many, many Kong: Skull Island spoilers too!
Well that escalated quickly, didn’t it? A simple post-war survey mission in 1973 turned into Samuel L. Jackson as a cross between Marlon Brando’s Col. Kurtz and a kaiju variation on Captain Ahab chasing his white whale. And then there were the monsters, glorious, glorious monsters fighting for supremacy on a riverbank like every eight-year-old boy’s skewed imagination of what Darwinism is supposed to look like.
On the one side you have King Kong, Lord of Skull Island and all-around goodhearted ape with a special affinity for distressed blondes, and on the other you had the paterfamilias Skullcrawler, or as John C. Reilly’s Hank Marlow so succinctly puts it: The Big One. They do battle, the reptile is defeated, Brie Larson’s Mason Weaver is saved (and without screaming once in plot twist for the Kong franchise), and the big guy goes on his merry way while the survivors pack up and load out. All in all, this is a pretty straightforward ending up to this point that needs about as much an explanation as the joy on Reilly’s face while he woofs down a hot dog during a Cubbies game.
Still, that wasn’t the actual ending. Not really. For in the age of modern blockbuster cinema, even King Kong—who arguably originated the first big screen blockbuster—now needs a post-credits stinger and this one is a doozy for those who are not read up on Warner Bros./Legendary release schedules: deep in the bowels of some nondescript government facility, Larson’s Weaver and Tom Hiddleston’s James Conrad (great nod to Heart of Darkness, by the way) languish before a two-way mirror where nobody is even daring to talk to them. Conrad tosses pencils at the glass as folks on the other side sit in the dark.
Things appear dire for the two leads of the movie since the need for government secrecy was so extreme that James and Mason were not even given the chance to change out of their action figure clothes before the long interrogation. It would seem that the Powers-at-Be do not wish for either to speak to the press or anyone else about the horrible marvels they witnessed on Skull Island. This in itself is a bit confusing since it is revealed moments later that they’re being held by Project Monarch—of whom John Goodman’s Bill Randa was a devout member. Since the late Randa wanted to go to Skull Island to discover proof that monsters exist, it’s a bit strange that they now want to put the kibosh on it getting any further. It’s also muddied since Randa was treated like a crackpot by the government, but we (re)discover that the U.S. government of this universe has known about monsters for some time.
Indeed, Corey Hawkins’ Houston Brooks and Tian Jing’s San enter the room refreshed and chipper, ready to welcome Conrad and Weaver to Monarch. As they say, Kong and the creatures of Skull Island are not the beginning… there are many monsters in this world, and he has photographic evidence that heavily suggests they’re gearing up for an epic smackdown battle royale in Godzilla: King of Monsters!
For those who have not seen 2014’s Godzilla (or perhaps understandably do not recall it), that previous WB/Legendary giant monster movie also heavily featured Project Monarch. The organization was set up between global governments to monitor the threat posed by any MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). They had been founded in 1954 after the creature known as Godzilla was first discovered. Godzilla was set in modern times, and Monarch has been monitoring the scalier big guy for 60 years at that point.
This is reconfirmed when Houston begins passing photographs to the acquiescent James/Mason combo (fun non-sequitur: the actor James Mason fought giant monsters in 1960’s Journey to the Center of the Earth movie). The first image the duo sees is what appears to be a pretty nice profile shot of Godzilla in a cave. This is actually a better image of the beast from the sea than anything Monarch showed in the 2014 film, funnily enough.
However, what should get kaiju and audience fans really excited were the three other monsters. All of these creatures were from cave paintings discovered by Monarch. As Houston explains, “There are others” and they are obviously going to fight. If you couldn’t make out what those silhouettes were, they represented primitive, ancient sketches of:
Rodan. This big creature is loosely supposed to be a variation of Pteranodon, albeit larger and standing more upright. Rodan first appeared in 1956’s Rodan, a Toho film about a flying beast that can breathe poisonous gas from its mouth and has been slumbering beneath the mines of the earth for hundreds of millions of years until a nuclear blast wakes him. He flies, he bites, and he’s all around a tough customer.
The second creature we saw an etched outline of is Mothra, who also is arguably the most popular Toho monster after Godzilla himself. Mothra is generally depicted as a force for good in Japanese films, first appearing in 1961’s Mothra. She hails from a magical Japanese island where she is worshipped by priestesses and is often accompanied by two fairies, twin young women, who speak on Mothra’s behalf. She’s also a giant moth with peacock markings. But that part’s pretty obvious…
The third creature goes by the name of King Ghidorah. This dude first appeared in 1964’s Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. The creature has had multiple origins, including being an alien and a genetic freak from the future, but either way he is a three-headed dragon and he means business. His history with Godzilla and Mothra is too long and bloody to get into right here. Suffice to say, they are not friends.
The final drawing suggests a glimpse into the past and perhaps a prophecy for the future. These creatures exist and they will do battle. Specifically in 2019’s Godzilla: King of Monsters to be exact.
We of course hear Godzilla’s roar at the end as well. But this is also important because it is a promise that even further down the road, we will see the big ape and the big lizard fight as well in 2020’s already slated Godzilla vs. Kong. Godzilla has the size, but Kong has the better American movies (thus far). Who will win? Fans of epic CG destruction, we imagine.