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Kong: Skull Island is a 2017 American monster film directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, from a story by John Gatins. The film is a reboot of the King Kong franchise and serves as the second film in Legendary's MonsterVerse, following Godzilla. It stars an ensemble cast consisting of Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary and John C. Reilly. In Kong: Skull Island, the Monarch operative Dr. Bill Randa leads an expedition team ahead to the uncharted island Skull Island, where they reveal they must face against the dangerous Skullcrawlers with the help of the eccentric Hank Marlow and the mighty ape known as Kong.

Principal photography began on October 19, 2015, in Hawaii and various locations around Vietnam. Kong: Skull Island premiered on February 28, 2017, in London and was released in the United States on March 10, 2017, in 2D, 3D, IMAX 3D and in Dolby Cinemas. Upon release, the film garnered generally positive reviews from critics, with many praising the action sequences, effects (especially Kong's design), visual style, acting, humor, score and direction. Additionally, the film grossed $15 million so far against budget of $185 million.

Plot

In 1944, an American and a Japanese pilot crash on an island in the South Pacific during World War II. The two engage in hand-to-hand combat, with the latter gaining the upper hand, before they are surprised by a large, ferocious creature.

28 years later, in 1973, former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad is hired by government agent Bill Randa to guide an expedition to map out the island, known as "Skull Island". Randa also recruits the Sky Devils, a helicopter squadron led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard, to escort them to the island, and the group is soon joined by pacifist photojournalist Mason Weaver, who believes the scientific expedition to be a cover for a crooked military operation and plans to expose it.

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. The helicopters are suddenly attacked by a 100 foot-tall gorilla known as "Kong", and many are destroyed, with the survivors split into two groups. The survivors' only hope for rescue is a resupply team that will meet them at the island's northern end in 3 days time. Packard confronts and threatens Randa, who reveals his affiliation to the secret government organization Monarch and the expedition's true purpose: to acquire proof of the existence of monstrous creatures that have been forgotten by humanity in order to prepare for when these creatures return. Packard and his remaining men bury their dead comrades and begin searching for the missing members of the expedition, including Packard's right-hand man, Major Jack Chapman. While trekking through the jungle, the men are attacked by a giant spider, killing one of them before Packard and his men shoot it to death.

Meanwhile, Conrad, Weaver, Brooks, biologist San Lin, soldier Reg Slivko and Landsat employee Victor Nieves, among others, run into the local natives and meet Hank Marlow, who is revealed to be the missing pilot. Marlow explains that Kong is the island's guardian and is worshipped as a god by the natives for protecting them from the Skullcrawlers, reptilian monsters that live underground and have slaughtered Kong's ancestors, leaving him as the last of his kind. Marlow reveals Kong only attacked the helicopters to prevent the bombs from awakening the largest of the Skullcrawlers, the "Big One". When informed of the pending rendezvous, Marlow says there is no possible way to reach it in time on foot, but luckily for the expedition, he has cobbled together a boat from the wreckage of his plane and is able to get it working with help from Conrad's group.

Conrad's group sets off down the river, where they are beset by pterosaur-like creatures, killing Nieves. The survivors manage to connect with Packard's team, and while most wish to leave the island, Packard insists on searching for Chapman, who is still missing (unbeknownst to them, Chapman has already been ambushed and eaten by a Skullcrawler). Marlow reluctantly leads them to the Forbidden Zone, a forgotten battleground between Kong's ancestors and Skullcrawlers. The same Skullcrawler that ate Chapman attacks the group, devouring Randa and killing many soldiers before they finally manage to bring the beast down. The creature inadvertently vomits up Chapman's dog tags, allowing the team to deduce his fate. Packard blames Kong for the death of his men and retrieves explosives to lure Kong into a trap, while Conrad resolves to lead the non-military personnel back to the boat so they can rendezvous with the resupply team. While scouting the path ahead, Conrad and Weaver encounter Kong up-close and personal, and resolve to save him, a sentiment that Marlow shares. Packard's trap successfully incapacitates Kong, and he orders his men to set explosives around the fallen creature, but before he can finish the ape off, Conrad's group arrives and a standoff ensues. Conrad and Weaver convince the other soldiers to spare Kong, but Packard angrily refuses, and the group is suddenly attacked by the Big One, an Alpha Skullcrawler.

Everyone flees except Packard, who is consumed with rage and his desire to avenge his dead comrades. He tries to detonate the explosives as a last act of revenge, but Kong recovers and kills him, crushing him to death with his fist. Injured, Kong is overpowered by the Alpha Skullcrawler, which then chases the survivors as they race towards the shore. Captain Earl Cole attempts to sacrifice himself to kill the pursuing Skullcrawler by arming grenades and allowing himself to be eaten, but the creature bats him away with its tail and corners the humans.

Kong returns to rescue them and, aided by the humans, he kills the Alpha Skullcrawler by ripping out its innards through the mouth. Weaver is violently thrown into a river by an explosion, but is then rescued by Kong. With the Skullcrawlers defeated, Kong allows the surviving humans to leave. Sometime afterward, Marlow returns home and is reunited with his wife and meets his son for the first time.

In a post-credits scene, Conrad and Weaver are detained by Monarch and informed by Brooks and Lin that Kong is not the only monster to roam the world. They are then shown archive footage of cave paintings depicting Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra, with the last prophesizing Godzilla's battle with King Ghidorah. As the scene fades, Godzilla's roar is heard.

Cast

  • Tom Hiddleston as James Conrad, a broken but noble former British Special Air Service Captain who served in the Vietnam War, hired as a hunter-tracker for the expedition by Randa.[1] Hiddleston described his character as man who holds "no political allegiance in the conflict" but "understands conflict", further stating, "He’s a former soldier who has been formed by an understanding of war, but his specific skill set is something that's attached to the power of nature; and I think that's something people haven’t seen in a long time".[2]
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Preston Packard, an United States Army Lieutenant Colonel and leader of the Sky Devils helicopter squadron, hired to chopper the group of explorers on the expedition. Jackson compares his character to Captain Ahab from Moby-Dick, stating, "He does have to exact some measure of revenge for the people he's lost. That's just the nature of how we operate—eye for an eye!".[2]
  • John Goodman as William "Bill" Randa, a senior official in the government organization Monarch who is in charge of the expedition.
  • Brie Larson as Mason Weaver, a feisty and altruistic photojournalist and peace activist. Larson stated that her character has her "own sort of motive" as to why she joined the expedition, stating, "That's the interesting thing about this movie. It's a group of misfits that are all coming from different angles looking at the same thing. You get to see how many different views in regards to nature and how we should handle it are dealt with from many different perspectives".[2] Larson further added that Weaver has an "interest and respect for nature" and "Through that she has a closer, more loving, and intimate relationship with Kong".[2]
  • Jing Tian as San Lin, a young biologist working for Monarch.
  • Toby Kebbell as Jack Chapman, an US Army Major and right hand man to Packard.[3]
  • John Ortiz as Victor Nieves, a senior Landsat official on the expedition.
  • Corey Hawkins as Houston Brooks, a young geologist and graduate of Yale University recruited for the expedition by Monarch for his groundbreaking theories on seismology.[3]
  • Jason Mitchell as Glenn Mills, a young loyal warrant officer and helicopter pilot of the Sky Devils.
  • Shea Whigham as Earl Cole, a seasoned Captain of the Sky Devils with a "unique" perspective on the mission.
  • Thomas Mann as Reg Slivko, a warrant officer of the Sky Devils known for carrying a portable record player.
  • Eugene Cordero as Reles, a warrant officer of the Sky Devils who is a door gunner.
  • Terry Notary as King Kong (motion capture performance), a 100 foot tall gorilla who is worshiped as the king and god on Skull Island by the Iwi natives.[4] Notary stated that this Kong is an adolescent and he tried to play Kong like a "14 year old that's trapped in the life of an adult" and revealed that it took three days to do the motion capture scenes.[5]
  • John C. Reilly as Hank Marlow, an eccentric lieutenant who spent 28 years stranded on Skull Island since World War II. He knows the creatures of the island, and he is a friend of the Iwi natives. Will Brittain portrays a young Hank Marlow and also he plays Marlow's son.

Additionally, Marc Evan Jackson portrays Steve Woodward, a Landsat employee on the expedition and Thomas Middleditch provides the voice of Jerry, Richard Jenkins appears as Senator Willis, Miyavi appears as Gunpei Ikari and Will Brittain portrays young Hank Marlow and Marlow's son.

Production

Legendary Pictures announced in July 2014 at the San Diego Comic-Con a King Kong origin story—initially titled Skull Island—and listed a release date of November 4, 2016, with Universal Pictures distributing.[6] Legendary offered Joe Cornish the job of directing the film,[7] while previous King Kong helmer Peter Jackson suggested Guillermo del Toro.[8] In September 2014, the studio announced that Jordan Vogt-Roberts would direct the film.[9]

On December 12, 2014, the studio announced they had re-titled the film Kong: Skull Island. On September 10, 2015, it was announced that Universal would let Legendary Pictures move Kong: Skull Island to Warner Bros.,[10] so they could do a King Kong and Godzilla crossover film, since Legendary still had the rights to do the two Godzilla sequels with Warner Brothers.[11][12] Later, it was announced that the film's script had references to Monarch, the secret government entity in Godzilla (2014).[13]

The script saw a number of screenwriters attached before filming. Seeking the continuity between the King Kong and Godzilla worlds, Max Borenstein (writer of 2014's Godzilla) wrote the first draft while John Gatins was hired to write the second draft.[14] Borenstein's initial influence was Apocalypse Now, revealing, "What popped into my head for the paradigm of the movie was Apocalypse Now. That’s obviously a war movie, but I liked the idea of people moving upriver to face a misunderstood force that they think of as a villain, but ultimately they come to realize is much more complicated."[15] In August 2015, it was revealed that Dan Gilroy also collaborated on the script with Borenstein and Gatins.[16] On August 18, 2015, it was confirmed that Derek Connolly was also doing script rewrites.[17] Borenstein did a final pass on the screenplay before shooting began and credits the screenplay to all of the writers, saying, "It was definitely collaborative in terms of what’s on the screen, though none of us worked together. There are pieces of my work in there as well as the work of the other two writers and John Gatins, who was credited for story. Everybody had a really good hand in it."[18]

In April 2016, artist Joe DeVito sued producers of the film for using elements of his Skull Island universe, which he claimed that he created and the producers used without his permission.[19]

Director Vogt-Roberts stated that he wanted Kong to look simple and iconic enough that a third grader could draw him and it would still be recognizable.[20] Vogt-Roberts also wanted Kong to feel like a "lonely God, he was a morose figure, lumbering around this island" and took the design back to the 1933 incarnation where Kong was presented as a "bipedal creature that walks in an upright position."[20] Vogt-Roberts additionally stated, "If anything, our Kong is meant to be a throwback to the ’33 version. [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."[20]

Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke helped influence the design and approach of the monsters, Vogt-Roberts stated, "Miyazaki[‘s] Princess Mononoke was actually a big reference in the way that the spirit creatures sort of have their own domains and fit within that. So a big thing [was] trying to design creatures that felt realistic and could exist in an ecosystem that feels sort of wild and out there, and then also design things that simultaneously felt beautiful and horrifying at the same time."[2]However, biophysical analysis of Kong and other creatures concludes that although biophysically they are viable, the ecosystem of the island could not support them.[21]

The two-armed pit lizard from the 1933 King Kong film was used as a reference for the Skullcrawlers and were inspired by a number of other cinematic creatures, Vogt-Roberts stated, "That creature, beyond being a reference to a creature from the 1933 film, is also this crazy fusion of all of the influences throughout my life – like the first angel from Evangelion, and No-Face from Spirited Away, and Cubone from Pokémon."[22]

At the same time of the announcement of Vogt-Roberts as director, the studio also announced that Tom Hiddleston would play the lead role.[9] On December 15, 2014, it was announced that J.K. Simmons had been cast in the film.[23] In an interview with MTV, Simmons revealed that the film would be set in Detroit in 1971, and that they would shoot it in Detroit during baseball season.[24]

In January 2015, it was announced that Michael Keaton had joined the cast.[25] On July 1, 2015, Keaton and Simmons exited the film due to their scheduling conflicts.[26] Legendary did not want to delay more in start of production so the studio began the search of two actors to replace.[26] On July 23, 2015, Brie Larson was cast in the film to play the female lead.[27] On August 5, 2015, it was announced that Corey Hawkins was cast in the film to play a supporting role.[16] On August 6, 2015, Deadline.com reported that the studio was in early talks with Samuel L. Jackson to replace the role which Simmons vacated, while John C. Reilly was being eyed for Keaton's role but not offered yet. Tom Wilkinson was also offered a role in the film.[28]

On August 20, 2015, Toby Kebbell joined the cast of the film, while Jackson and Reilly were confirmed for roles.[29] On August 25, 2015, Jason Mitchell joined the cast to play a pilot in the film.[30] On September 25, 2015, John Goodman was cast in the film to play Randa, a government official and leader of an expedition and Thomas Mann was also cast.[31][32] On October 1, 2015, John Ortiz and Shea Whigham were added to the cast for unspecified roles.[33] On October 13, 2015, Eugene Cordero joined the film for an unspecified role.[34] On November 2, 2015, it was announced Will Brittain had joined the cast of the film, portraying the role of a pilot, and grabbing one of the last key leads in the film.[35] In May 2016, Toby Kebbell revealed that Terry Notary would portray Kong through motion capture and that Kebbell provided some guidance for Kong's motion capture sequences.[3]

Principal photography on the film began on October 19, 2015, and concluded on March 18, 2016.[36] Filming took place in the northern portion of Vietnam including Tràng An, Vân Long and Tam Cốc (Ninh Bình Province), Hạ Long Bay (Quảng Ninh Province) and at the entrance of Tú Làn Caves System, (Tân Hoá, Trung Hoá Village, Minh Hoá District Quảng Bình Province), the island of Oahu in Hawaii, and Australia's Gold Coast. Locations included Honolulu's Chinatown and at the Kualoa Ranch and Waikane Valley (Ohulehule Forest Conservancy) on Oahu.[37][38] In mid-January 2016, filming started in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.[39][40]

Influences

Vogt-Roberts has cited a number of films that inspired Kong: Skull Island, stating, "If I were going to break it down for people, I’d say you obviously have Apocalypse Now and just the era of ‘70s filmmaking, with films like The Conversation, too. Also Platoon was an inspiration, and the South Korean film The Host as well. The entire Neon Genesis Evangelion series was a big influence."[22] Vogt-Roberts also cited Princess Mononoke as an influence on the approach and design of the monsters.[2] Vogt-Roberts also cited that Sachiel from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cubone from Pokémon, No-Face from Spirited Away, and a creature from the 1933 King Kong helped inspire the Skullcrawlers.[22]

Release

Kong: Skull Island was initially set for a November 4, 2016, release but in December 2014, the date was postponed to March 10, 2017. The new release date will coincide with the franchise's 84th anniversary. It is planned to be released in 3D and IMAX 3D; as well as in Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range and Dolby Atmos sound in Dolby Cinemas.[41][42] The film premiered at the Cineworld Empire Leicester Square in London on February 28, 2017.[43][44]

Box office

In the United States and Canada, Kong: Skull Island is projected gross $40–50 million from 3,846 theaters in its opening weekend, as well as a worldwide debut of $110–135 million.[45][46] It grossed $3.7 million from Thursday night previews.[47]

Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 78% based on 217 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Offering exhilarating eye candy, solid acting, and a fast-paced story, Kong: Skull Island earns its spot in the movie monster's mythos without ever matching up to the classic original."[48] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 63 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[49] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[50]

Mike Ryan of Uproxx gave the film a positive review, noting: "...Kong: Skull Island is still a hoot. It was a movie that was not at all on my radar as something I was dying to see and yet I had way too much fun watching it. I just wished it had embraced its craziness just a little bit more. (But, yes, there’s still plenty of crazy to go around.)"[51] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review as well stating: "...all the requisite elements are served up here in ideal proportion, and the time just flies by, which can rarely be said for films of this nature."[52] Kyle Anderson of Nerdist News found the film enjoyable and entertaining but flawed, saying: "It's certainly not a perfect movie, and a lot of the characters feel like sketches more than fully-fledged people, but it roars along enjoyably from start to finish."[53] And Timothy Rawles at iHorror.com said, "... if it’s Kong on a rampage, and a variety of abundant and truly intense scares you want, Kong: Skull Island is definitely a place you want to visit."[54]

Conversely, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian awarded the film one out of five stars. In his negative review, he described the movie as a "fantastically muddled and exasperatingly dull quasi-update of the King Kong story.".[55]

Sequels

Main article: MonsterVerse

In September 2015, Legendary moved Kong: Skull Island from Universal to Warner Bros., which sparked media speculation that Godzilla and King Kong will appear in a film together.[56][57] In October 2015, Legendary confirmed that they would unite Godzilla and King Kong in Godzilla vs. Kong, set for a May 29, 2020, release date. Legendary plans to create a shared cinematic franchise "centered around Monarch" and that "brings together Godzilla and Legendary’s King Kong in an ecosystem of other giant super-species, both classic and new". While Legendary will maintain its home at Universal Pictures, it will continue to collaborate with Warner Bros. for the franchise.[58]

Transcript

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References

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  46. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named preview
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  50. "CinemaScore"..
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  58. Script error

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