This March, we're getting a new King Kong movie in the form of Kong: Skull Island. It's a period piece that takes place mostly on this fantastical island of giant creatures, discovered sometime in the 1970s. And one thing is clear, this ain't your Grandfather's Kong. Nor is it your older sister's Kong, as it has nothing to do with Peter Jackson's 2005 remake. This Kong is bigger, badder and more ferocious.
While we've seen Kong hiding in the shadows of his own first trailer, today we get the first full image of the giant ape courtesy of Entertainment Weekly. And he is certainly a sight to behold. Majestic might be the wrong word to use.
The guy is gargantuan. And so is his supporting cast. Kong: Skull Island boasts an ensemble of Academy Award Winners and nominees lead by Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman. Hiddleston stars as a British Special Forces vet, with Larson playing the war photographer. The pair unwittingly stumble into Kong's home turf of Skull Island, and what they find their certainly isn't for the faint of heart.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts caught up with EW to talk about Skull Island and the ape at the center of all the madness, King Kong. He reveals for the first time what went into creating this new version of King Kong. And how he's a little bit different from what we've seen before.
"With Kong, there's been obviously so many different versions of him in the past and ours needed to feel unique to our film. I had a mandate that I wanted a kid to be able to doodle him on the back of a piece of homework and for his shapes to be simple and hopefully iconic enough that, like, a third grader could draw that shape and you would know what it is. A big part of our Kong was I wanted to make something that gave the impression that he was a lonely God, he was a morose figure, lumbering around this island. We sort of went back to the 1933 version in the sense that he's a bipedal creature that walks in an upright position, as opposed to the anthropomorphic, anatomically correct silverback gorilla that walks on all fours. Our Kong was intended to say, like, this isn't just a big gorilla or a big monkey. This is something that is its own species. It has its own set of rules, so we can do what we want and we really wanted to pay homage to what came before...and yet do something completely different."
Jordan Vogt-Roberts hasn't completely abandoned all that has come before, in terms of Kong mythology. The movie will pay subtle homage to the original 1933 film, but here, Kong is not black. Instead, his fur is more brownish in color. The goal is that when people look up at this beast, all they can think is, 'That's a god!' This Kong will be presented as a tragic and lonely figure. He will be the protector of his Island, and it brings a certain exhaustion to his character. He obviously has huge power, at the same time, the guy is pretty tired. Here's how he will differ from previous big screen Kong's.
"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."
The filmmaker goes onto say that Kong's eyes are one very important element to bringing the creature to life. They are literally a window to his soul. He goes into talk about what is being shown in this first look image. He has this to say about the first full reveal of Kong.
"That sequence comes from a point in the movie where you're not quite sure who Kong is, what his purpose is, how people should be perceiving him. Through the folly of man, where our initial instinct is to attack anything that is not a known quantity, both sides jump the gun, Kong and the humans, and it kicks off a relatively messy engagement. At first, of course you're going to perceive something like that as a terrible threat and monster - the physicality of him alone. A huge part of the movie was designing him and creating the creature so that when you did see him it sort of short circuited your brain and was divisive to people, where certain people immediately say 'That's a threat,' certain people immediately say, 'That's a God,' certain people immediately say, 'That's a savior.' Visually and instantly, what happens when you see this thing towering over you and what is your sort of emotional and intellectual response?"
How King Kong is revealed is something that will be saved for the movie itself, so don't expect to see that in any of the upcoming trailers before the March release. From the sounds of it, King Kong is not a monster that will show up late in the game, like Godzilla. Kong will make his presence known fairly early on in the movie. It definitely won't be a slow burn leading up to his big screen unveiling. About why this particular story will continue to resonate with modern audiences, the director answers.
"Kong is a very tragic and relatable figure, like Kong just goes to A) The idea of being misunderstood, which everyone can relate to, and B) That humans have a fascination with apes and where we came from and things that we don't understand. The reason that I was particularly interested in taking on this story is not only those elements of Kong and the fact that he is film history, but in particular in this instance, in our time period which is 1973, I was really interested in exploring the idea of the need for myths - why we need myths, why myths exist in our life. Right now, in our modern society, we are destroying myths through all of our technology and we have access to everything with our cell phones, which is amazing and it's also taken away some of the wonder of the world. I wanted to tell a movie about what happens when people are re-confronted with myths and put back into the food chain and how that makes them react and behave and I think that Kong is a myth that we have been telling now, so if you're going to re-engage with that myth I think it's important on a larger scale, but also on a franchise scale that you make it [a new myth]. Every other Kong movie for the most part has essentially been - yeah, there's been Son of Kong and King Kong Lives and things like that - but the main sort of Kong stories throughout time have been remakes of the same beauty and the beast story, and this movie is not the beauty and the beast story. It's sort of fundamentally a new telling within some of the mythos of this world and some of the imagery and ideas within this world. In the same way, I think that we as people need new stories throughout time. If you're going to engage with Kong, you need to do the same thing - you can't keep telling the same story. As someone who grew up loving early creature features and movie monsters and things like that, one of the things that attracted me to it beyond telling a story that's also about people and how a place makes them react to the otherworldly and around God-like creatures it's, What happens when they're presented with things that should not exist? What does that do to people? How does it make them behave? Who breaks? Who becomes stronger because of it? Who rallies together? What individual journeys do each people go on?"
Jordan Vogt-Roberts goes onto talk about how lengthy the production process on Skull Island was. The first aspect tackled was the look of King Kong himself, which has remained one of the most important elements of the movie to get right. It was a very long process, but here's the final finished product. Is it something that will resonate with audiences? Or will fans respond the same way they did to Peter Jackson's King Kong? We'll have to wait and see if King Kong reclaims his crown at the box office.