King Kong, also known as the Eighth Wonder of the World, first thundered onto the big screen in 1933, more than eight decades ago. Since then, the giant ape has been unleashed in various media—books, television, movies—captivating audiences with his larger than life presence and mysterious origins.
Now, with a fresh reimagining on the way, it’s time for audiences to find out why Kong is Hollywood’s greatest movie monster of them all.
“We wanted to create a fresh, new experience for the audience,” said Thomas Tull, who produced Kong: Skull Island and also produced 2014’s Godzilla. “As fans ourselves, it was incredibly important to us that we honor 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 the action-packed monster movie.”
It’s not just about creating a fresh experience for audiences, but showing them why King Kong is such an iconic figure in the first place. When the monster made his debut in 1933, he became a worldwide sensation, thanks in large part to the revolutionary special effects from Willis H. O’Brien and Marcel Delgado. Even if you haven’t seen the original film, chances are you’re familiar with his tragic end atop the Empire State Building.
While previous remakes and reboots have focused on Kong’s defiant end, the filmmakers of Skull Island wanted to explore his origins.
“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,” explained Tull. “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.”
In the midst of all the monster mayhem, there’s also a very human story, told by an ensemble cast that includes Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, and John C. Reilly. When they discover the frightening beast, the group’s initial reaction is to destroy what they don’t understand. But they soon realize that greater threats abound on Skull Island, and Kong is worth saving.
“These characters all encounter the same thing, but as they go on this journey, their reactions run on two completely different tracks, from wanting to dominate [Kong] to feeling a connection and empathy for [him],” said actor Brie Larson. “Kong is more than a force of nature—he is nature. We think we can dominate it, but no matter how hard we try, nature always wins.”
When the new Kong appears onscreen next month, he’ll be bigger and badder than any version we’ve seen before, standing 100-feet tall (he was just 25-feet tall in Peter Jackson’s King Kong). According to director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, he wanted the new Kong to feel like a throwback movie monster, “more of a lonely god.” But just because Kong’s exterior looks rough doesn’t mean he’s foul-natured.
“I wanted to slowly reveal that he has empathy and pathos and can connect with others on an emotional level,” Vogt-Roberts said. “Even though in our film he is god-like, there’s humanity to Kong—a heart that I think people will respond to.”
In order to give the beast human-like emotion, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) was picked to bring Kong to life. It took over a year and a half to create a full realized beast, said ILM senior visual effects supervisor Stephen Rosenbaum, eight of those months were dedicated solely to designing the creature. The result is a colossal ape who towers above the island’s other monsters.
Kong: Skull Island promises to be a throwback to monster movies of old Hollywood, a craze King Kong sparked over 80 years ago. Now, the mythical creature is back to delight a new generation of fans. Think of it as a teaser before we see him tackle Godzilla in an epic crossover movie planned for 2020.
To get you hyped for Kong: Skull Island’s release, check out the huge gallery of official photos above. They give us a great look at the group, Skull Island, and King Kong himself.
King: Skull Island is set for a March 10 release.