For the past 84 years, a colossal ape has rampaged in the psyche of moviegoers.
The 1933 classic “King Kong” played to sold-out crowds at the height of the Great Depression and broke records through decades of re-releases and television airings.
Needless to say, this original effects-driven blockbuster and monster movie milestone has been remade, parodied and spun-off on every sized screen.
And Kong has become embedded in pop culture, the stuff of video games, hip hop lyrics, college dissertations, reproduced over and over in armies of action figures, models, toys, games, you name it.
But his 2017 version – the helicopter-smashing, giant lizard-wrangling, adolescent Kong, of Skull Island, is the biggest in Hollywood history—all 100-feet of him.
Here, he is a most terrifying alpha predator and yet, a lonely god and a fierce protector of his domain and its people.
“I’m sure you won’t find a gigantic ape-like creature punching a Huey helicopter in another movie,” says director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. “But that’s the movie I wanted to see. I want to take people out of their comfort zone and thrust them into a balls-to-the-wall adventure that’s visceral, intense and like nothing they’ve ever seen before.”
However, “A lot of things define Kong—his size, his power, his animal nature, but also his heart and huge depth of soul,” observes producer Mary Parent.
“He keys into our natural affinity for other primates, and his gestures and expressions are much more humanlike than even natural primates—which is what has always set Kong apart from other monsters. Even though he’s a terrifying predator, it’s impossible not to root for him. In some ways, he’s been more like the classic romantic hero than a villain.”
“Kong embodies the internal clash between our civilized selves and the place in our consciousness that still has a very real sense of something bigger than ourselves,” maintained Tom Hiddleston who played a former SAS black ops officer turned tracker, Captain James Conrad.
Now, this film opens in 1973, when times are changing, wars are being lost, and old beliefs are going down in a burst of gunfire, napalm and rock n’ roll. Mankind has claimed and tamed every inch of the known world, and NASA has launched a lone satellite into space to hunt down whatever’s left of the “Great Unknown”
Moving the story from the 1930s to a more modern, but not modern-day, setting folded into the themes the filmmakers wanted to depict – “a world before the tyranny of global satellites, near total surveillance and information overload”, in the words of Tom.
“We didn’t have the illusion—as we do today, with the internet and cell phones and GPS—that we knew everything about the world we live in. The period setting also gave us an extraordinary prism to explore what Kong might represent in a conversation about war and the tendency of mankind to destroy what he doesn’t understand.”