Comic-Con 2014: What Do We Want from Skull Island?
Legendary Pictures clearly won Comic-Con. The snide side might say they won by default because no one else announced brand new properties, but Legendary can still puff out their chests this week. And so they are latching onto that. After announcing Skull Island at Comic-Con, they have put out a call to an interesting (but largely untested) director to plant a flag in Skull Island.
So, allow CraveOnline to give you a little tour of what Skull Island is, what the film could be, and, finally, what we’d like to see.
What is Skull Island?
It’s a combined location term. King Kong was discovered in the 1933 film on an island at Skull Mountain. So, even though the location “Skull Island” wasn’t mentioned in beginning Kong-lore, it has become the term for the whole rock. It was called Skull Mountain because, from afar, the two caverns looked like the empty eye sockets of a skull. But while the top of the mountain is largely barren, the entire island is very lush. Both RKO’s 1933 film and Peter Jackson’s 2005 film placed the island off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.
What Else Lives There?
Peter Jackson’s King Kong was pretty thorough with establishing some of the lore and allure of the island that time forgot. Yes, there are dinosaurs there. Even the earliest Kong films (King Kong and Son of Kong) had T-Rexes, a stegosaurus and a Komodo-dragon-like Megalania. The island was a refuge to prehistoric creatures. But how’d they get there?
Although it’s difficult to think of a stegosaurus or tyrannosaurus swimming, supposedly all creatures on the island made it there by swimming and survived that big meteoric blast. But, in Jackson’s (and, again, Legendary’s) film, the island is also starting to sink. This has changed the creatures on the island. They all harken back to prehistoric (extinct) creatures, but they aren’t the purest of species. They’ve had to adapt to the sinking of island, the local tribes of people who’ve also lived there and to the other evolving predators.
There’s a great field guide for Jackson’s film, published by WETA, that we assume Legendary has some of the rights to and can incorporate. It’s called The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island. There’s 200 pages, many of which have two creatures per page. It includes giant bugs, giant bears, giant snakes, giant tapeworms and, due to the sinking island, many reptiles, insects and parasites that are adapting to being able to submerge for long periods of time, into water. Which, of course, is ripe for lots of gross, creepy cinematic traps.
By the time explorers arrive at Skull Island in all the films, it’s believed that Kong is the last of the giant gorillas (Jackson’s Kong gives us some giant gorilla skeletal remains; but how exactly did they make Son of Kong? We think we’re only now in a crisis of sequelitis — the monster movie has always been victim to a cigar-chomping, eh, just make it! mentality). But this is a prequel! So perhaps Kong will witness and overcome an island slaughter of his species? A coup-de-reptiles perhaps?
Who’s On Board?
Borenstein received some grief from fans for his human characters being less interesting than the giant reptile that we tried to bomb into submission at Bikini Island, 1946. But even though Borenstein changed the Japanese origin story (most likely to save some American face), Godzilla has always had some original link to humans and our nuclear bombs. Here, there is no origin story linking him in any way to human creation. Legendary, Borenstein and Cornish could get as adventurous as they want.
But Is This All a Set-Up?
Skull Island was announced just after Legendary had already announced that Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidhora will all feature in the Godzilla sequel. Those are three of Godzilla’s most established foes. Another one? King Kong. Yes, they’ve fought before. Even though it doesn’t make any sense, because Godzilla is as tall as a skyscraper and King Kong took his time climbing one. But Kong is the last of his species, so he’s at least got that fire burning within him.
Skull Island has been given a release date – November 4, 2016 – and Godzilla 2 has no release date (Legendary/Universal will wait for director Gareth Edwards to complete his Star Wars spinoff film first). But when Godzilla returns Kong will have gotten his intro film, and the lizard god will, seemingly, dispatch of all or most of its biggest foes in one epic film. Is Legendary setting up the heaviest of heavyweight matches? Will Kong’s origins have to include some new original angle of size and strength to make that fight plausible?
Take a Step Back. What Does CraveOnline Want from Skull Island?
Is it too much to ask for an approach akin to one-half Jean-Jacques Annaud’s The Bear (which followed a bear on his own after his mother was killed, with minimal dialogue from the campsites of hunters) and a rollicking action piece that would rival Peter Jackson’s dinosaurs vs. Kong fight? (Hey, Warner Brothers, notice our correct use of “versus”? The dinosaurs fought King Kong, they didn’t take him to court.)
What would that look like? Well, we’d be introduced to Kong as he interacts with his jungle surroundings, learns from another big gorilla, learns his own strength, watches his mentor get down with a lady, escapes capture from humans and trips his balls off on the local mushrooms. But he’d still have to be worshipped by the locals (if there are still locals) and become the undisputed king of the island by defeating the jungle challengers. And, as mentioned above, Jackson really gave them a lot to work with on the creature front. The evolving prehistoric animals mixed with how Kong ended up the only huge gorilla left standing definitely makes for an exciting beast origin story.
There would, of course, have to be some human characters. But if Borenstein and Cornish could place them on the perimeter, observing and recording the various species, and perhaps introduce their presence later, they could sidestep the complaints that there are too many people and not enough monster-on-monster fighting that Legendary might have listened to after their first Godzilla film.
That’s what our mash-up noggins came up with. What’s your desire from Cornish-Borenstein? Frankly, “mash-up” is a good term because Cornish — although he’s only directed one film, he’s also scripted a few with Edgar Wright — is a bit of a re-mixologist.
What’s potentially the most fascinating about a Skull Island film series is that everything has to pre-date Ann Darrow’s arrival, which — if done properly — can only make re-watching classic and/or Jackson Kong more rewarding. And maybe even more heartbreaking.