Legendary Pictures has recently announced some updates on their upcoming film revolving around the iconic character of King Kong. The studio has retitled the movie to Kong: Skull Island and pushed back its release from November 2016 to March 2017. The absence of a summer release date for such a film surprises me, but March isn’t a bad time to release a big budget film too. 84 years back, in March 1933, this character had after all come to life on the big screen.
For a character to have lived more than eight decades in popular culture is a testimony to its greatness. To amaze and enthrall generations after generations of audience members is a feat worthy of applause. What is it about King Kong that is so alluring? A gigantic monster, ferocious and scary, the appearance of King Kong on the big screen can easily bring out the “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience. But unlike many “animal” centric movies where the creature in the limelight is at times nothing more than a killing machine which needs to be brought down, King Kong was shown to have a heart which moved the audience. His love for a woman, whom he would protect from any adversity, against all odds. It was this neatly woven piece in an otherwise jungle expedition tale that gave the original King Kong film of 1933 such a different charm which would not be lost even decades later.
Directed be Merian Cooper along with Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933’s King Kong was a success, and its climactic finale atop the Empire State Building would go down in history as one of greatest scenes in cinema. The movie was immediately followed by The Son of Kong in the same year. The lesser known sequel was a modest success at the box-office, but never received the same kind of acclaim which its predecessor did. In 1962, Toho Studios of Japan produced a crossover film which pitted two mammoth characters (both in terms of size and popularity) against each other in the movie titled King Kong vs Godzilla. Godzilla was a relatively newer character to the world of movies having first emerged onscreen in 1954, though this giant creature’s legacy continues till date, and interestingly Legendary Pictures was again involved in the latest Hollywood film version based on Godzilla which released earlier this year. So going back in time, King Kong vs Godzilla showed both the creatures as ‘monsters’ in their own right, something the humans wanted to get rid of. It has quite an epic battle at the very end, a ferocious one for those times, and the movie went on to be a huge success at the box-office.
Toho Studios created yet another King Kong movie in 1967 called King Kong Escapes which had Kong falling in love with a human female all over again, an evil genius who wants Kong for his devious reasons, and a battle on top of Tokyo Tower rather than the Empire State Building towards the end. King Kong though came back to USA in the 1976 remake simply called King Kong this time and starred the likes of Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange. Directed by John Guillermin, King Kong of 1976 is basically a retelling of the 1933 film to a newer set of audience, and that is how the lore of Kong has stayed alive. In the same spirit, King Kong saw a remake again in 2005, this time by Peter Jackson with much more sophisticated CGI and visual grandeur. The story remains the same, King Kong falls for the girl each time, and falls to his death each time, but the aura continues to live. Both the 1976 and the 2005 remakes have been financially successful, reinstating the faith in the studios that there is something about this giant which attracts the audience back to the theatres. In between, there was a sequel to the 1976 film, titled King Kong Lives, released in 1986, which had a Lady Kong too (finally King Kong has a mate of his size!), though the movie was a disaster at the box-office, the only one in this ever-growing franchise.
2017 will witness the return of King Kong on the big screen again, 12 years since Peter Jackson’s narration of the story. Kong: Skull Island is being directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who has worked more in directing TV series than movies, though if you have heard of The Kings of Summer which released in 2013, then he is the man who directed that film. The movie’s script is being written by John Gatins (Flight) and Max Borenstein (Godzilla) and, as of now, the movie has actor Tom Hiddlestone attached to play a role. Our very own Loki in King Kong’s world! More actors should come on board with time. The studio has stated that the “story honors the foundations of existing King Kong lore, but places it in an entirely new, distinct timeline.” That gives away little on what kind of story the studio is aiming at, though I am hoping for a bit of deviation than what we already know. And now that Legendary Studios is entering into King Kong’s world after having successfully done so with Godzilla, could we possibly have a King Kong vs Godzilla once more? Eh, a kid can always hope!