|“||All hail the King||„|
— Film's tagline
Kong: Skull Island is a 2017 film co-produced by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. that serves as an origin story for King Kong. It is the second entry in the MonsterVerse, following 2014's Godzilla. It was then followed by 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters and 2021's Godzilla vs. Kong.
In 1944, an American pilot falls out of his damaged P-51 Mustang. He encounters a Japanese pilot on the beach and fights him, but as they struggle, they are interrupted when the silhouette of a massive creature suddenly appears and looms over the two.
In 1973, as the Vietnam War dies down, former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad is hired by government agent Bill Randa to guide an expedition to map out a mysterious uncharted region in the Pacific dubbed "Skull Island", which has never been mapped due to perpetual storms surrounding it. Randa also recruits the Sky Devils, a helicopter squadron led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard and prominently made up of his right-hand, Major Jack Chapman and Captain Earl Cole to escort them to the island. The group is soon joined by "anti-war" photographer Mason Weaver, who is assigned to take pictures of the expedition, when in reality, she plans to expose it as the covert military operation she believes it to be.
Upon arriving on Skull Island, Packard's men begin dropping explosives developed by seismologist Houston Brooks to determine if the ground is hollow, despite Conrad's objections. Unfortunately, the group are interrupted when they suddenly find themselves attacked by a mountainous ape known as Kong, who hurls a palm tree into one of the helicopters before ripping them out of the sky and smashes them to pieces. During Kong's rampage, Packard stares up at him, interlocking eyes with the giant ape, filled with rage. Having downed all of the choppers, Kong leaves while the survivors are split into small groups. Their only hope for rescue is a resupply team that will meet them at the island's northern end in three days. When confronted by Packard at gunpoint, Randa reveals his affiliation to the secret government organization Monarch and the expedition's true purpose to acquire proof of the existence of forgotten monsters. Packard and his remaining men bury their dead comrades and begin searching for the missing sole surviving members of the expedition, including Chapman. Along the way, they encounter a Mother Longlegs, but are able to slice off its bamboo-like legs which causes it to topple over, allowing Packard to finish it off with gunfire. In a river nearby, Chapman is washing away his wounds and filling his water canteen, until Kong appears. Chapman hides and watches as Kong tends to his wounds and drinks after his battle with the helicopters. As Kong drinks, he suddenly senses the presence of a Mire Squid, who ambushes him from below and tries to strangle the giant ape, but Kong manages to break free and kill it before eating some of the creature's tentacles and leaving with its carcass.
Meanwhile, Conrad, Weaver, Brooks, biologist San Lin, soldier Reg Slivko, and Landsat employee Victor Nieves run into local Iwi natives and meet Hank Marlow, who is revealed to be the missing pilot who crash-landed on the island in 1944 with a Japanese pilot named Gunpei Ikari. He explains that Kong is the island's guardian and worshiped by the natives for protecting them from the Skullcrawlers, two-legged reptilian subterranean monsters who have slaughtered Kong's parents and his race, leaving him as the sole survivor. Marlow reveals Kong only attacked the helicopters to stop the bombs from awakening the largest and deadliest of the Skullcrawlers, dubbed by Marlow as "The Big One". He also reveals that "The Big One" will kill everything on the island if anything happens to Kong. After bonding with the natives, Weaver encounters a Sker Buffalo trapped underneath the wreckage of a fallen helicopter just outside the village. She struggles vainly to free the large beast, but Kong, having heard the creature's cries, comes and saves the animal by lifting up the chopper before exchanging glances with Weaver and departs. Marlow shows Conrad and the others the Grey Fox, a boat made from parts of his and Ikari's planes when they befriended before Ikari was killed by a Skullcrawler, and they spend the rest of the day fixing it. Meanwhile, while attempting to contact the other members of his team, Chapman encounters a Spore Mantis and fires at it, only for the creature to turn and walk away before Chapman finds himself killed and eaten by a Skullcrawler, which had been hiding behind him. That night, while trying to take a long-exposure photo of the aurora, Weaver is approached by Conrad, who lends Weaver his father's RAF lighter, telling her about his father going missing during World War II.
The next day, Conrad's group sets off down the river in the now-functioning boat, where they are beset by Psychovultures, which carry off, dismember and devour Nieves. The survivors manage to regroup with Packard, who insists on searching for Chapman, who, unbeknownst to them, has already been killed. Marlow reluctantly leads both Conrad and Packard's team to the Boneyard, a forgotten battleground between Kong's species and the Skullcrawlers. The group are forced to hide when the same Skullcrawler that killed Chapman shows up and vomits his remains before leaving. After the group come out from hiding, the creature returns and devours Randa when he attempted to make his camera work before attacking the group, killing many of Packard's men while Conrad fights and kills a flock of Leafwings that were disturbed by the Skullcrawler using Marlow's katana. Eventually, Weaver was capable of killing the beast by using Conrad's lighter to ignite an explosive gas pocket. In the aftermath, upon learning of Chapman's death by Conrad, Packard reveals his plan to kill Kong and avenge his fallen men. Brooks attempts to explain that killing Kong would lead to the Skullcrawlers running amok, but Packard refuses to listen. Marlow tried to persuade him with Gunpei's katana, only for Packard to knock him aside, with the implication that he would kill him if he interfered, along with anyone else thinking along the same lines before insisting on going to the crash site nonetheless. Eventually, Packard and his men salvage heavy ordnance at the crash site to lure Kong into a trap and kill him, while Conrad resolves to lead the non-military personnel back to the Grey Fox so they can rendezvous with the resupply team.
Later that night, while scouting the path ahead atop a high ledge, Conrad and Weaver suddenly witness Kong approach them. Upon seeing that Kong is, in fact, a gentle and intelligent creature after he allowed Weaver to touch his face and seeing his true peaceful nature, they decide to protect him at all costs. Suddenly, explosions sound off in the distance and Kong, sensing danger, goes toward them to investigate. Knowing of Packard's vendetta, Conrad orders Brooks and San to return to the boat while he and Weaver resolve to save Kong with assistance from Marlow. At the same time, Kong finds Packard and his men at a lake and charges toward the colonel on the other side. Having previously dumped napalm into the lake, Packard sets it ablaze, setting Kong on fire and incapacitating him as his men could only watch in horror. Packard then orders his men to set explosives around the fallen creature, but before he can finish Kong off, he is confronted by Conrad, Weaver and Marlow, leading into a standoff. Conrad and Weaver convince the other soldiers to spare Kong's life, but Packard furiously refuses to yield since all he cares about is wanting to kill Kong and still seek vengeance for his fallen men. Unfortunately, their argument is interrupted when a massive Skullcrawler, identified as "The Big One" by Marlow, emerges from beneath the lake in the swamp near the fallen Kong. Terrified, the group, including Packard's men, flees except Packard, who tries to detonate the explosives with the intention of killing Kong, the Big One and himself in a suicide bombing, but fails as Kong regains consciousness and angrily crushes the colonel with his fist.
Injured, Kong is overpowered by the Big One, who turns its attention to the survivors and catches up to them as they race towards the shore just as dawn approaches. Cole decides to stay and sacrifice himself to ensure the survival of his comrades, strapping himself with grenades so that he can supposedly kill the Big One when it eats him. However, the creature notices this and swats him away with its tail, killing Cole as the grenades explode on the side of a mountain. Before the Big One can kill the survivors, it was revealed that Cole's sacrifice had given enough time for Kong to return and save the others, smashing a giant boulder against the Big One's head. Weaver climbs a tall cliff and fires a flare to guide Brooks and San to their location. Kong battles the Big One, at one point using a stripped tree as a baseball bat to swing it against its face. However, the Big One uses its tail to wrap around Kong and throw him into a sunken boat where he gets entangled in its chains itself. As the Big One closes in for the kill, Brooks and San arrive on the Grey Fox and open fire on the beast, causing it to turn its attention to the humans, buying Kong time to break free. Weaver fires a flare at one of the Big One's vulnerable eyes, blinding it and allowing Conrad to lure it away from the people on the boat. Using a boat propeller attached to a chain as a flail, Kong impales the Big One with it, uses the chain to drag the monster toward him, and rams the Big One into the side of the cliff Weaver is standing on, but the result of the impact knocks her off, causing her to fall into the river and sink. Kong then proceeds to use the propeller as a saw blade to slice open his adversary's throat, seemingly killing it. Weaver almost drowns, but she is rescued by Kong. After taking a brief second to admire the unconscious Weaver in his hand, Kong is suddenly ambushed by the Big One, who is revealed to be still alive and resumes its fight with Kong, who tries to keep Weaver away from its mouth. In an attempt to devour Weaver, the Big One wraps its tongue around Kong's arm and pulls it down its throat. Mustering all his strength, Kong violently tore out the Big One's tongue and its innards, finally killing it for good, thus avenging Kong's parents and his kind.
With the creature finally dead, Kong gently sets Weaver down, where Conrad immediately checks to make sure she is okay. After Weaver regains consciousness, Kong turns around and briefly looks back at them before walking away, peacefully allowing the surviving humans to leave. As helicopters arrive to take the survivors home, Kong watches from afar. Seeing them leave, Kong beats his chest and roars in victory, proclaiming himself as the king of Skull Island. Some time afterward, Marlow returns home and is reunited with his wife before meeting his now grown-up son for the first time. He is then shown enjoying a beer and a hot dog as he watches his long-missed favorite sports on TV.
Later, Conrad and Weaver are held in a room by Monarch, where Brooks reveals they have been recruited by the organization. Brooks and San debrief them that Kong is not the only monster to roam the world and thus not the only king. They are then shown archive footage showing cave paintings, depicting silhouetted images, which appear to be a bipedal spiked lizard, a winged pterosaur, a gigantic moth, and a three-headed dragon, before showing one final painting of the lizard and three-headed dragon engaged in combat. A loud, familiar roar is then heard: none other than that of Godzilla himself.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
- Written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatins
- Produced by Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia, Thomas Tull, Mary Parent
- Co-producer Tom Peitzman
- Story by John Gatins and Dan Gilroy
- Screenplay by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein
- Executive Producers Eric McLeod and Edward Cheng
- Casting by Sarah Halley Finn
- Music by Henry Jackman
- Director of Photography Larry Fong
- Film Editor Richard Pearson
- Production Designer Stefan Dechant
- Special Effects by
- Special Effects Supervisor
- Costume Designer Mary Vogt
- Sound Designer
- Motion Capture Consultants
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
On July 28, at Comic-Con 2014, the film's release date was originally announced to be November 4, 2016, with Joe Cornish being offered to direct it. Pitched as a King Kong origin story, the film's original title was simply "Skull Island". 
For the script, Borenstein was inspired by Apocalypse Now. He sought not to repeat the "Beauty and the Beast" plotline from the previous King Kong films, and update the elements of the treatment of the Skull Island natives and the damsel-in-distress. Before Vogt-Roberts signed on, Borenstein's script had the film begin during the Vietnam War and jump forward to the present day. After it was rejected, the film took place before the original King Kong film in 1917 during World War I instead while keeping the initial Apocalypse Now concept. The story involved the brother of Tom Hiddleston's character being stranded on Skull Island while searching for a "Titan Serum" believed to cure all illnesses, after which Hiddleston's character would lead a rescue team to Skull Island. After this, the story was changed again to take place in the present day. During a meeting with Borenstein after joining the film, Vogt-Roberts pitched the film to Legendary with the Apocalypse Now concept and having it take place at the end of the Vietnam War, and the studio accepted it.
On December 12, the film's release date was later pushed back to March 6, 2017, and the movie was re-titled to Kong: Skull Island.
On December 15, J.K. Simmons was announced to star in the film.
On January 7, Michael Keaton joined the cast.
On January 15, J.K. Simmons told MTV that the film will take place in Detroit in 1971.
On July 1, it was announced J.K. Simmons and Michael Keaton left the film due to scheduling conflicts.
On August 5, Corey Hawkins joined the cast. It was also revealed Dan Gilroy was brought on to work on the screenplay.
On August 18, Jurassic World screenwriter Derek Connelly was announced to be helping with the script.
On September 10, it was reported that Legendary Pictures had moved production of the film from Universal Pictures, with whom it currently holds a distribution deal, to its former partner Warner Bros., with whom it had an agreement to distribute the sequels to 2014's Godzilla in the future, supposedly to keep both properties under the same distributor. This immediately spawned rumors that Legendary planned to eventually produce a remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla with Warner Bros., although neither studio provided a statement.
On September 16, multiple sources reported that Thomas Tull had wanted to set up a film featuring both Kong and Godzilla for years and planned to include references to Monarch, the monster-studying organization from Godzilla, in the script for Kong: Skull Island. However, Warner Bros. was reportedly uncomfortable with including references to one of their films in a Universal project, so Legendary moved the entire project to Warner Bros. None of these reports were confirmed by any of the studios, and no official statement was made about the possibility of a King Kong and Godzilla crossover film for nearly a month. Guillermo Del Toro made a statement the next day confirming that Pacific Rim 2, the sequel to Legendary and WB's 2013 kaiju film Pacific Rim, had been indefinitely delayed due to the shuffling of the King Kong and Godzilla properties, but was not at all canceled and was still being actively worked on.
|“||The story is about a man (Hiddleston) who travels to the mythical island after his brother is stranded there trying to retrieve the mythical serum Titan which is believed to be the cure for all illnesses and diseases. The man must lead a rescue team to save his brother while confronting the creatures that inhabit the island.||„|
— Early plot synopsis
On April 28, it was reported that artist Joe DeVito had sued Legendary for a breach of contract. He claimed both companies allegedly "stole" his pitch ideas and developed them into a feature film without his permission or any due credit. He was seeking $3.5 million general and punitive damages.
On May 11, in an interview conducted with Entertainment Weekly, actor Toby Kebbell clarified his role in the film. Kebbell plays an Air Force major named Chapman, who spends most of his time in the film with Samuel L. Jackson's character. It had been widely speculated that Kebbell would have been portraying Kong through motion capture, due to his portrayal of the ape character Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes through motion capture alongside Andy Serkis, who had portrayed Kong in the 2005 film. Kebbell revealed that in Kong: Skull Island, Kong will be primarily portrayed by motion-capture actor Terry Notary, although Kebbell did assist Notary in the motion capture process and provided reference for some of the character's facial animations.
On July 15, an exclusive image of Hiddleston, Larson, John Goodman, and John C. Reilly in a boneyard was revealed by Entertainment Weekly. In an interview with EW, Jordan Vogt-Roberts said the film would take place in the '70s, during which Skull Island would be discovered by Landsat satellites, prompting the film's characters to investigate. The film would explore "the mythos of Kong's homeland", and would not retell the "Beauty and the Beast" story as the previous King Kong films had. It was also revealed that the film's iteration of Kong would be the largest to date, and Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson would play a British former SAS tracker and a war photographer respectfully.
On February 20, a large batch of high quality images from the cast on the set of Skull Island were revealed, alongside images of the movie's antagonistic Skullcrawlers, and of Kong himself, showing him in never before seen detail.
Two days later, it was revealed that Expedia had partnered with the film's production company to bring an "immersive experience for the film". A link provided on the corresponding Twitter post takes viewers to a test, where winners of said test would receive two tickets to Skull Island.
Four days later, a teaser for the film's final official trailer was shown, alongside a Twitter post reading:
|“||The story of Kong is too big to ignore. Tomorrow: Don't miss the new trailer for #kongskullisland. #KongIsKing||„|
— Twitter post
The video posted alongside the tweet depicted Kong battling Skullcrawlers in a two on one fight. February 27 opened up with the final official trailer for the film being released. It featured new footage, including that of a Skullcrawler preying on a Sker Buffalo, and an extended peek at the fight involving Kong and multiple Skullcrawlers.
On the same day, a VR Skull Island teaser was released. It offered some character dialogue with Preston Packard, and lead into an action segment where Kong takes down the helicopter the viewer's in, before picking it up, looking at them, and letting out a roar.
As of March 23, 2017, Kong: Skull Island has grossed $119.1 million in the United States and Canada and $189.8 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $308.9 million. The film was produced on a large budget of $185 million, with $136 million more being spent on the film's marketing expenses. The film will need approximately 450 to 500 million dollars worldwide to break even with its marketing and production budget.
With regards to the United States and Canada, Skull Island was initially projected to gross $40–50 million in its opening weekend. This was coupled with the prediction for a worldwide debut of $110 to 135 million dollars. The film defied it's projection, managing to make $61 million on its opening weekend, going over the initial prediction by 35%. On its opening day, it grossed a solid $20.2 million across 3,846 theaters, with an additional 3.7 million coming from previews on the previous Thursday. While its opening was higher than the 2005 film's 50.1 million opening gross, it was much lower in comparison to the 2014 film Godzilla, which opened with a $93 million debut. An additional $7.6 million was made across 382 IMAX viewings, which in the end accounted for 12.5% of the movie's opening weekend gross. The film grossed $27.8 million for its second weekend, having dropped 54.4%, and fell to second place behind the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast.
The film did well internationally, having debuted with another $85.1 million across 20,900 screens which was spread over 65 markets. The film garnered the fourth-biggest March release in IMAX, having gained $4.8 million from 672 theaters.
The film's biggest openings came from the United Kingdom and Ireland, South Korea, and Russia having earned $7.6 million, $7.4 million and $6.2 million, respectively. Mexico also opened up with a generous $5.7 million, with France and Taiwan following with $4.1 and $3.6 million, as well.
Australia followed suit with a solid $3.6 million debut, with Brazil having earned $3.4 million, and Germany coming in with $3.4 million.
Malaysia, India, Spain, and Italy held the weakest openings with regards to outright grosses, having only earned $2.65 million, $2.4 million, respectively, with Spain and Italy both grossing $1.6 million.
Interestingly, in Vietnam (where the film was primarily shot), it scored the biggest opening of all time, with a $2.5 million debut.
Kong: Skull Island received generally positive reviews from critics.
Mike Ryan of Uproxx was one to give a positive review, but was initially apprehensive as well, questioning the need for the 2017 film when the 2005 film, despite gaining good reviews, was considered a disappointment at the box office. He went on to praise John C. Reilly's performance, noting that he "adds a dash of madcap lunacy to the already fairly insane proceedings". Mike's biggest complaint about the film laid with its surprising restraint, adding that he wished it was more ridiculous, while also saying that the statements about the atrocities of war seemed noble, but out of place.
Kyle Anderson of Nerdist News gave the film a 3.5 out of 5, stating that the film's cinematography alongside its action stood out to him, "as it begins to feel like a ’70s comic book, in the best way". He also noted how the film felt like a breath of fresh air in how things occurred "for the sake of badass-ness", unlike most tentpole films that seemed to take themselves more seriously.
He was also one to praise John C Reilly's character of Marlow, noting him as the best and most sympathetic character in the mix, while also stating that there were some terrific performances from the film's military characters, specifically noting Shea Whigham and Jason Mitchell. On a final note, he said that Toby Kebbell's role "seems woefully under-served".
Conversely, he noted how the film had a large cast, which resulted in hindering their individual narrative progress, and resulted in supremely simple characters and a lack of narrative payoff, with the biggest distinction in most being "some of them want to kill Kong, some of them don’t".
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian was one to give a negative review, stating that the film blew its suspense by revealing the main creature as early as it did. He also criticized the film's narrative focus, saying it was "all over the place" while criticizing the performance of the film's star Tom Hiddleston, stating he seemed stiff and unrelaxed, with a "panicked" line delivery, likening him to Michael Caine of The Swam.
Additionally, Wendy Ide of The Guardian was more lenient, granting the film a three out of five stars, while describing it as "enjoyable enough, if a little overblown". She also stated that, despite the quality of the cast, many of the film's characters weren't as nuanced as one would hope.
Critics have spoken about Larson's role within the film additionally, as she won an Oscar for the 2015 film Room, before moving onto this project. Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal was one to state that "a starring role in a popcorn movie on the heels of a passion project can open up an actor to ridicule."
Home media releases
On May 25, 2017, home media releases for Skull Island were announced for release on July 18.
|Warner Bros. Home Entertainment||July 18, 2017||Region A||English
|Warner Bros. Home Entertainment||July 18, 2017||Region A||English
Resolution: 4K (2160p)
Dolby Atmos soundtrack
A four-issue graphic novel series titled, Skull Island: The Birth of Kong, acts as the prequel and sequel to the film. Framed by the event of Houston Brooks' oncoming retirement from Monarch in 2012, it depicts a Monarch team led by Aaron, the son of Brooks and San, on a secret mission to Skull Island in the mid-90s during which they uncover the secrets of Kong's past. It was written by Arvid Nelson and illustrated by Mohammad "Zid" Yazid.
- Originally, Kong: Skull Island was over 3 hours long, however, it was cut down to 2 hours in length. Elements of the film's extended plot that didn't make it into the final film can be found within the film's novelization. They include James Conrad's encounter with a giant snake, an extended fight sequence between Marlow and Gunpei Ikari, an expanded role for San Lin, and the backstories of several characters like Conrad and Mason Weaver.
- Jordan Vogt-Roberts told in an interview with The Playlist that there have been multiple films and anime and videogames that inspired Kong: Skull Island, such as several Korean films (The Host by Bong Joon-Ho, The Good The Band & The Weird by Kim Jee-woon, Oldboy) by Park Chan-wook), Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki, Aliens series, Apocalypse Now, Legend Of Zelda series, AShadow Of The Colossus, and so on.
- The Skullcrawlers design was heavily inspired by the Two-Legged Lizard from the original 1933 classic, the Pokemon Cubone, Sachiel from Neon Genesis Evangelion, No face from Spirited Away and the creature from Temple Run, as director Jordan Vogt-Roberts stated in an interview.
- Samuel L. Jackson's character, Preston Packard, utters the line, "Hold on to your butts," a direct line from the character he played in 1993 blockbuster, Jurassic Park.
- Despite being the second movie released in the MonsterVerse, the events take place around the end of the Vietnam War, thus making this chronologically the first entry in the MonsterVerse's timeline (as Godzilla battles the MUTOs in the year 2014).
- Monarch's diminished reputation in the film was inspired by Project Blue Book, the series of systematic UFO studies done by the U.S. Air Force from 1952 to 1970.
- This is the first King Kong film in which Kong is never referred to as "King Kong".
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|Kong: Skull Island|