BY BILLY SUTER
THE story of a diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers teaming up to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific – that is the tale at the heart of Kong – Skull Island, a new big-screen adventure that takes place before the discovery of the giant King Kong ape.
The film, originally titled only Skull Island, is from the producers of the 2014 remake of Gozilla, who now reimagine the origins of one the most powerful of monster myths.
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer), Kong – Skull Island opens globally on Friday (March 10).
It sees its protagonists cut off from everything they know, and venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong.
The film stars Tom Hiddleston (Thor: The Dark World), Oscar-nominee Samuel L Jackson (Pulp Fiction), Oscar-nominee John C Reilly (Chicago), John Goodman (Argo) and 2016 Oscar-winner for Room, Brie Larson.
The behind-scenes team includes director of photography Larry Fong (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), production designer Stefan Dechant (supervising art director on True Grit and Avatar) and Oscar-nominated editor Richard Pearson (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy).
Wikipedia reports that the film’s score was composed by Henry Jackman who, to fit the 1970’s period of the movie, blended ’70s psychedelic guitars into the score.
To fully immerse audiences in the mysterious Skull Island, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and his cast and filmmaking team filmed across three continents over six months.
According to the film’s production notes, the team captured its primordial landscapes on Oahu, Hawaii, on Australia’s Gold Coast, and finally in Vietnam, where filming took place across multiple locations, some of which have never before been seen on film.
“Kong represents all the mystery and wonder that still exists in the world,” says Vogt-Roberts. “That’s why he will never stop being relevant.”
For Thomas Tull, who produced the film with Mary Parent, Jon Jashni and Alex Garcia, it was a prospect both thrilling and incredibly daunting.
“We wanted to create a fresh, new experience for the audience,” Tull says in production notes.
“As fans ourselves, it was incredibly important to us that we honour the essential elements of this character that have connected with so many people around the world in a big, fun, epic adventure that delivers the pure entertainment and spectacle of an action-packed monster movie.”
Kong is the seminal big-screen badass, and continues to resonate as everything from a living tempest of nature’s fury to an avatar for our own primal selves, the production notes add.
Says actor Hiddleston: “Kong embodies the internal clash between our civilised selves and the place in our consciousness that still has a very real sense of something bigger than ourselves.
“How do you reconcile this massive creature who is both a terrifying force of nature and a sentient being, with an intelligence that is different from ours but no less sophisticated?”
King Kong was originally conjured by special effects wizard Willis H O’Brien and sculptor Marcel Delgado to be the enigmatic central figure and heart of Merian C Cooper and Ernest B Schoedsack’s groundbreaking 1933 classic, King Kong – a mash-up of Beauty and the Beast, high adventure and giant monsters that would shock and awe millions of moviegoers across the world.
It played to sold-out crowds at the height of the Great Depression and broke records through decades of re-releases and television airings.
It was the original effects-driven blockbuster and monster movie milestone, and has been remade, parodied and spun-off on every sized screen.
Kong has also become embedded in pop culture, inspiring everything from video games to hip-hop lyrics and college dissertations, and deploying armies of action figures, models, toys and games.
Kong’s defiant end from high atop the Empire State Building is among the most iconic of all time. But for fans – and Tull counts himself among them – his provocative beginning remains the Holy Grail of origin stories.
In fact, his long-held goal of a 21st century MonsterVerse wouldn’t be complete without it. The producers brought in writers Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly to craft the screenplay from a story by John Gatins.
Tull states: “One of the most fascinating elements of the Kong lore is Skull Island – a place with the most exotic, lethal food chain you can imagine, and Kong is the alpha predator keeping the rest at bay.
“That’s the mythology we wanted to crack open in this film. Our characters are not taking Kong off the island. They have to survive his domain.”