We are on the cusp of a brand new iteration of King Kong ('Kong: Skull Island') - and that of course means a brand new look for the mythical island which he comes from as well. From what we have been shown thus far, the new Skull Island looks to be something completely different from what we have ever seen before. The islands of the films are almost characters of their own and are extremely crucial to the lore of Kong universe. I just recently watched the 1976 'King Kong' in preparation for the next episode of our podcast, and I thought it might be fun to breakdown the differences between the three islands we have already seen and speculate about the little we have glimpsed of the new Skull Island. Keep in mind, this is not really a conversation about the creature Kong specifically - but more about the world he inhabits (including his competition in the food chain).
1933 - THE ISLAND WITH SKULL MOUNTAIN
Contrary to most people's beliefs, Skull Island was not named directly in the original film. The only reference to the island being skull related comes from the distinctive skull shaped mountain that occupies the center of the island. This is, of course, a place of prehistoric creatures that somehow survived their mass extinctions and live behind a massive wall that sections off a small piece of the island where the group of shipwrecked humans/natives are surviving. The island is said to be located off of the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia and has a very mythological feel to the design. It does not seem like a place that could have formed naturally, and that really adds to the creepiness factor once the rescue for Ann Darrow begins.
As I mentioned above, all of the fauna on the island is from a time long past. The crew of the USS Venture runs into your normal assortment of dinosaurs while on the island, and this being 1933, the dinosaurs all represent that time period's paleontological theories in beautiful stop motion. The Tyrannosaurus that Kong fights still has the third finger on his hands, and of course, is in the upright pose that all dinosaurs were thought to be in at the time.
There are some strange scientific inaccuracies (even for the time period) with the Brontosaurus that chases after the crew in the swamp. It seems that this normally docile plant eater has suddenly gotten a taste for human flesh, and would like nothing more than to chomp down on our hapless adventurers. For the most part though, all of the other creatures seem to be ripped straight out of the film 'The Lost World,' and provide worthy antagonists for the majority of the film.
The islanders are basically your generic pacific tribespeople seen in many films around this time - with painted faces and feathers stuck in the hair of the chief to boot. Just like in the other films, they seem to worship Kong and are the builders of the giant wall. Most of them are actually killed during Kong's final rampage on the island, and for the most part, they are actually kind of harmless. Sure they still kidnap Ann Darrow, but I get more of a scared feeling from these islanders. People just trying to survive who truly believe that Kong is their Protector/God.
1976 - BEACH/ISLAND OF THE SKULL
So here is a bit of a spoiler for the next podcast everyone... I hate this Skull Island. The location is the most generic island I have ever seen. In fact, I could not even find a picture from the film to use, but instead got a picture of the beach in Hawaii where they filmed the landing scene. You want the best description of this place? Hawaii with only a few residents and a single giant ape. Well, I guess there is one other creature on the island...
Yes, your eyes don't deceive you if you think that is a random giant snake. The only other living creature we see on this stupid island is a giant boa constrictor that shows up at the very end of the "adventure." As far as we can tell, this isn't an island where all of the creatures are huge or anything rational like that, just a giant ape and snake living in whatever the opposite of harmony is.
The villagers are kind of just there for the plot progression in the 76' film. In fact, I really don't perceive the fear aspect that we get from the original. Sure, they built a wall to keep out Kong, but it seems like they actually have a huge section of the island that they have carved out for themselves. Also, with the lack of crazy creatures on the other side of the wall, I feel like they have no need to worship Kong and sacrifice people to him for protection. To get my full thoughts on the film check out our next episode of the podcast that should drop sometime next week.
PART 2 - COMING SOON
In my next article, I'll talk in length about Peter Jackson's depiction of the famous island, and speculate on what the new film might be going for. Let me know which island is your favorite rendition, and what you hope they might do in the reboot.