Since his first appearance in Merrian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s groundbreaking 1933 classic King Kong, the mighty ape has stamped his simian footprint into popular culture and been reimagined for subsequent generations, including two remakes and even a stage musical.

Now the King has returned in the action-adventure Kong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and produced by the team who resurrected another iconic monster in 2012 – Godzilla.

“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.”

The director also acknowledges that with reviving a great monster, comes great responsibility. “Kong is film history. Kong is where special effects came from and when genre went mainstream,” he says. “It’s an enormous responsibility and also an enormous honour to tell a new story within that mythology. We’ve seen the old story over and over again, the beauty and the beast angle, so it’s a huge responsibility.”

Kong: Skull Island is a different beast to the remakes by John Guillerman and Peter Jackson. There’s no Empire State Building or exploitation of the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ in this new take, which unfolds on Kong’s titular stomping ground and offers an exciting expansion of the mythology.

crew on Skull Island

“Kong is an adolescent when we meet him in the film; he’s still growing into his role as the alpha,” explains producer Mary Parent. “And this is an island teeming with far more vicious creatures including the Skullcrawlers, which killed his ancestors and made him the last of his kind. That’s what’s so exciting about exploring this piece of mythology. Kong is such a compelling figure anyway, but he’s facing the defining battle of his life in this film – the fight to claim his rightful place as King of Skull Island.”

It’s 1973 when Skull Island is discovered via a satellite image, leading a team – comprising scientist John Goodman, mercenary/tracker Tom Hiddleston, photojournalist Brie Larson, and battle-hardened soldier Samuel L. Jackman – to explore this primordial habitat. Backed by a strong military contingent, they quickly discover that all the firepower at their disposal is no match for the primal force that is Kong.

“I love the idea of taking a handful of characters that have come out of the Vietnam War, not believing in anything or quite knowing where they belong, and thrusting them into this mystical place,” says Vogt-Roberts.

Indeed, the 1970s setting was an important consideration in maintaining Kong’s status as a legendary beast.

Skull Island crew in trouble

“It’s the last time in the world where myth could still exist and you can have these unknown things,” explains Vogt-Roberts. “To [have them] stare up at Kong and say, ‘that’s a god’ – what does that do to people?

“Kong is not just a giant animal in our film. This isn’t a man versus nature story,” he continues. “That’s why our Kong will be the biggest in Hollywood history. I want audiences to feel what it’s like to look up and see something conscious and ferocious and 100-feet tall looking over you.”

Producer Thomas Tull promises Kong: Skull Island will deliver a fresh, new experience for audiences while remaining true to the established lore has made Kong a screen icon for almost a century.

“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.”

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