‘All hail the King’
Kong: Skull Island is a 2017 American action-adventure 3D monster movie directed Jordan Vogt-Roberts from a screenplay written by Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatins and Dan Gilroy, loosely based on King Kong (1933) by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace.
The film is a reboot of the King Kong franchise and served as the second instalment in Legendary’s Godzilla–Kong film series.
In the 1970s, a diverse team of explorers is brought together to venture deep into an uncharted island in the Pacific—as beautiful as it is treacherous—unaware that they’re crossing into the domain of the mythic Kong…
“The surprise is that Skull Island isn’t just 10 times as good as Jurassic World; it’s a rousing and smartly crafted primordial-beastie spectacular. The entire film takes place on Kong’s jungle island home (he doesn’t scale any skyscrapers — in New York or Dubai), and you could say that it’s more action-based and less ambitious than either of the King Kong remakes…” Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“This fantastically muddled and exasperatingly dull quasi-update of the King Kong story looks like a zestless mashup of Jurassic Park, Apocalypse Now and a few exotic visual borrowings from Miss Saigon. It gets nowhere near the elemental power of the original King Kong or indeed Peter Jackson’s game remake…” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“Although the film starts out as a surprisingly intelligent commentary on war and the absurdity of invading and destroying foreign territory in the name of military triumph, it winds up delving into sillier territory about halfway through, creating a strange thematic rift in the project which hints at some confusion behind the curtain. It is pretty cool how big Kong is, though.” Kalyn Corrigan, Bloody Disgusting
” …a breathtaking and exhilarating monster movie that doesn’t hold back when it comes to the film’s titular hero, as well as his habitat, which is teeming with all sorts of creatures both good and bad. Skull Island’s story does feel like it’s often working from two very different scripts, but Vogt-Roberts manages to interweave his epic, old-school adventure with the story’s war movie swagger rather well…” Heather Wixson, Daily Dead
“The film doesn’t try to compare with the depth and resonance of any given King Kong, because it lacks the tragic last stand. But it holds its own in a weight category with pulp footnotes including The Son of Kong (1933), King Kong Lives! (1986) and Toho’s reuse of its shaggy shabby Kong suit in 1967’s King Kong Escapes.” Kim Newman, Sight & Sound
“The visual effects are obviously very explosive here, with the creatures getting tons of clear screen time and there being plenty of action sequences, explosions and firefights. Kong looks fantastic and it’s nice to see him moving around out in the open daylight, crushing giant monsters and just doing what Kong does […] Despite a lot of great special effects and awesomely framed shots though, there are a few sequences with awkward and choppy editing… Dale Raulerson, Addicted to Horror Movies
” …while the aesthetic of this new adventure may be very different, it ends up evoking the same feeling that made King Kong such an icon in the first place. Even if this time, it’s coming to you with roaring electric guitars and napalm rather than Empire State Buildings and damsels in distress.” Alex Welch, IGN
” …though Skull Island features some truly breathtaking moments that incorporate the elements that everyone loved in Godzilla […] it feels like a movie that was made in a focus group chemist lab and never solidifies an identity. Like Kong himself, this film is big and polished but it lacks a distinct personality.” Brian Formo, Collider
” …Kong: Skull Island is a fine addition to the newfound franchise, joining Godzilla as a big screen force of nature. It’s entertaining escapism with a giddy appreciation for creature violence and thickly sliced human motivation, delivering an idiosyncratic King Kong extravaganza that’s different in many ways, while still exploiting traditional monster mayhem.” Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com
“From the flat ending to endless needle drops of every popular 1970s song and one extremely lame death scene, what starts out as a potentially fun and cliche-less way to do an action movie turns into another watered-down origin story of a franchise.” Jason Guerrasio, Business Insider
“Along with the film’s vinyl turntables and slide carousels, it’s Exhibit A in Skull Island’s fetishy soft spot for analogue technology – which is also reflected in the film’s flat-out ravishing look, which mixes deep, swoony Ektachrome colours with electrifying up-to-the-moment action staging. In truth, the whole film is a kind of eccentric retro-artefact with fun at the forefront of its mind…” Robbie Collin, The Daily Telegraph
“Sharing more in common with Pacific Rim than Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island is a menagerie of monster mayhem. But the fantastical spectacle is not entirely mindless; the situations holds some gravitas. The modern monster movie hasn’t been perfected just yet, but the wildly entertaining Kong: Skull Island takes a Kong-sized step in the right direction.” Alex DiVincenzo, Broke Horror Fan
“If the film belongs to anyone, it’s creature designer Carlos Huante. Kong is expressive and impressive, both in hair and full-body movement, and his interaction – with water, humans, other animals – is consistently fluid from a technological perspective, with actor Terry Notary also convincing as the beast.” Fionnuala Halligan, Screen Daily
“The action and the way it’s shot are really what stood out to me, as it begins to feel like a ’70s comic book, in the best way. Stuff happens for the sake of badass-ness and certain camera moves feel totally in service of a damn cool shot, which following the impressive but often po-faced Godzilla feels like a breath of fresh air.” Kyle Anderson, Nerdist
“Kong: Skull Island is ultimately unsure what it wants to be. It is a creature feature and yet Kong feels like a background player, it is a war film, complete with the madness of that time, and yet the war is over. There are jump scares, more than a handful, and yet the horror is so bloodless but so cynical. The sublime, uncanny nature of this island is treated mundanely and disposed of quickly.” Kwenton Bellette, Screen Anarchy
“All the requisite elements are served up here in ideal proportion, and the time just flies by, which can rarely be said for films of this nature, which, in a trend arguably started by Peter Jackson, have for years now tended to be heavy, lumbering and overlong. […] Whoever undertakes any follow-ups will have a high bar to clear.” Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
“Kong: Skull Island gets what so many monster movies before it get wrong: There is humanity in the creatures, even if they can seem gigantic and monstrous at first. Vogt-Roberts understands what type of movie he’s trying to create, and succeeds in pulling that off. Despite Skull Island being riddled with flaws, it’s pretty hard not to have a smile on your face when Kong is on screen.” Julia Alexander, Polygon
“Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts additionally treats the audience as ringside VIPs for every single showdown. Monster melees are dominantly set in daytime. The camera goes wide and stays in one place. Kong: Skull Island captures the sense of scale so you can see and feel each cracking blow in every confrontation.” Ian Sedensky, Culture Crypt
“Money shots like watching Kong wrestle and eat a squid monster are reason alone to watch this film. Not something that might have been possible twenty or even ten years ago. MoCap performances are the way of the future. They are getting to be so perfect, recreating the detail of every last one of Kong’s nose hairs, if they want to. And the other monsters present in the film also deserve a mention. They’re all so great and perfectly repulsive.” Voices from the Balcony
Tom Hiddleston (Only Lovers Left Alive; High-Rise), Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane; Deep Blue Sea), Brie Larson, John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane; Arachnophobia; C.H.U.D.), Terry Notary, J.K. Simmons, John C. Reilly (Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant), Jason Speer, Tom Wilkinson, Toby Kebbell, Shea Whigham, Russell Crowe, Raj K. Bose, Jerald M.S. Pang, David James Sikkink, Paul S.W. Lee, John Huser, John Ortiz, Thomas Mann, Marc Evan Jackson, James Edward Flynn, John A Weaver, Corey Hawkins, Michael C Hollandsworth, Eugene Cordero, John West Jr., Jason Mitchell, Tian Jing, Will Brittain.
Principal photography began on October 19, 2015 in Oahu, Hawaii. Other locations were:
Los Angeles, California
Ha Long Bay, Quang Ninh, Vietnam
Village Roadshow Studios, Oxenford, Mount Tamborine and Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia
There’s subtle nods. [The ’33 film] was black and white, so it’s really easy to assume that the fur on the monkey is black, but there’s actually a lot of forums and things that you read and there’s some real poster artwork where Kong’s fur skews more brownish, so we actually pushed his fur in more of a brown as opposed to the traditional black. It really was trying to create this feeling so that when these humans look up at him, they hopefully have a visceral response, saying to themselves, ‘That’s a God, I’m looking at a God.’
If anything, our Kong is meant to be a throwback to the ’33 version. I don’t think there’s much similarity at all between our version and Peter [Jackson]’s Kong. That version is very much a scaled-up silverback gorilla, and ours is something that is slightly more exaggerated. A big mandate for us was, How do we make this feel like a classic movie monster?
[Kong] was a movie monster, so we worked really hard to take some of the elements of the ’33 version, some of those exaggerated features, some of those cartoonish and iconic qualities, and then make them their own…We created something that to some degree served as a throwback to the inspiration for what started all of this, but then also [had] it be a fully unique and different creature that — I would like to think — is fully contained and identifiable as the 2017 version of King Kong. I think there are very modern elements to him, yet hopefully he feels very timeless at the same time.
Kong: Skull Island was released by Warner Bros. around the world in March 2017. As of December 3, 2017, it had taken $566.7 million worldwide against a reported budget of $185 million.
The film was initially known as Skull Island.
Image credits: Warner Bros