These people live up on top of the trees, while we're down on the roots. Some of them don't even seem to age. There's no crime, no personal property. They're past all that.
The Iwi are a tribe of humans indigenous to Skull Island who first appear in the 2017 Legendary Pictures film Kong: Skull Island. They are also featured prominently in the film's tie-in comic Skull Island: The Birth of Kong, while a young member of the tribe, Jia, appears in in its sequel Godzilla vs. Kong.
The Iwi are normal humans, though they adorn their bodies with unique markings and hieroglyphs as well as decorative paint of varying colors. They all wear simple clothing which they fabricate and dye within their village. Iwi soldiers or guards typically seem to wear red garb with yellow body paint. Others, possibly clergy members, instead wear purple robes. Lastly, it appears that elders of the tribe wear blue robes and body paint. Despite the simple standards of their clothing, Iwi wear their clothes in a variety of manners and have a fair amount of individuality in how they dress. Some Iwi wear headdresses or scarves, while others wear no headwear. Most male Iwi are bald, while female Iwi have their hair styled in a variety of ways.
The Iwi are a peaceful people who unlike past incarnations of Skull Islanders are welcoming and hospitable to outsiders. According to Hank Marlow, the Iwi have no concept of personal property and virtually no conflict among each other, and have "moved past" petty concerns which cause conflict in most groups of humans. The Iwi took in both Marlow and Gunpei Ikari when the two crashed on Skull Island in 1944, and the two lived peacefully among them for nearly 30 years. While mostly non-violent, the Iwi do arm themselves with spears for defense, and initially surround and direct their spears at James Conrad and his party before Marlow convinces them to stand down. He also warns Conrad and the others while inside the Iwi temple within the wreckage of the Wanderer that the Iwi could become hostile if they touch anything within. Most of the Iwi's weapons and use of violence are reserved for the hostile creatures on the island which threaten them, especially the vicious Skullcrawlers. As such, the Iwi live in a village surrounded by a complex defensive wall designed to keep everything out unless they grant passage. However, the Iwi primarily rely on their mighty benevolent god, the Titan known as Kong, to defend them and keep peace on the island. The Iwi praise and worship Kong, who actively defends them whenever they are threatened.
The Iwi are a mostly nonverbal race, communicating primarily through facial expressions and body language, though they do understand spoken English and have a spoken language of their own. Ato, an Iwi boy encountered by Aaron Brooks in 1995, explains that his father learned to speak fluent English from Marlow, and passed this knowledge onto him.
After their choppers were all brought down by Kong, James Conrad and fellow expedition members Mason Weaver, Houston Brooks, Lin San, Reg Slivko, and Victor Nieves were separated from other survivors of the attack and were forced to navigate the wilderness of Skull Island to try and reach their extraction point. After encountering a peaceful Sker Buffalo, the group came upon what appeared to be abandoned ruins. However, they soon realized that there were people wearing body paint which camouflaged them among the ruins. The Iwi emerged from hiding and pointed their spears at Conrad and the others, who drew their guns in response. The standoff was broken by Hank Marlow, who came through the ruins and told everyone to set down their weapons. He convinced Conrad's group to follow him and the Iwi guards back to their village, as the island was especially dangerous at night. They were brought to the Iwi's village, encircled by a massive defensive wall. When the group explained their encounter with Kong and asked if the wall was to keep him out, Marlow replied that they were to keep something else out. Marlow led them to the wreck of the Wanderer, which he said washed ashore about a decade before he crashed on the island. Inside, the Iwi had converted the derelict ship into a sacred temple to their god: Kong. Marlow explained that Kong was god to the Iwi, as he and his ancestors fought to defend them from the "devils" of the island, vicious subterranean reptiles which he called "Skullcrawlers." Marlow said that one of the creatures killed his friend Gunpei Ikari, who had crashed on Skull Island along with him in 1944 and lived with him among the Iwi since then. He also stated that Kong was responsible for keeping the Skullcrawlers underground and prevent them from reaching full size. Kong was only defending his territory from the choppers dropping seismic charges on the island, Marlow explained, as they drew out the Skullcrawlers and once they were out the "Big One" might emerge, a giant Skullcrawler responsible for killing Kong's parents.
The Iwi were just as hospitable to Conrad's group as they were to Marlow and Gunpei, allowing them to stay within the safety of the village. While the Iwi rarely spoke, they interacted genially with the outsiders, even posing for photos taken by Weaver. While Weaver was photographing the Iwi, she heard a creature crying in pain from just outside the wall. The assembled Iwi watched as Weaver walked through a gap in the wall to find a Sker Buffalo trapped helplessly under a fallen chopper. She tried desperately to free it, only to witness Kong effortlessly lift it off with his hand, after which the Buffalo was able to walk away safely. Back in the village, Marlow showed the others the Grey Fox, a boat he and Gunpei had been building using parts from their airplanes. If they could finish it together, he said, they just might be able to travel upriver to the extraction point and get off the island. Through the combined efforts of everyone, the Grey Fox was completed in time to make the trip to the extraction point before their window closed. Before departing, Marlow looked to see the Iwi gathered in front of the boat. Marlow tearfully bid farewell to the Iwi and thanked them for all they had done, with two Iwi elders returning an understanding nod. The Grey Fox then departed, with the Iwi opening a gate over the river to let it through.
The Iwi do not possess particularly advanced technology, and rely on simple spears for defense. They are however quite skilled with architecture and engineering, building a highly sophisticated defensive wall around their village complete with a moving gate to allow water access into the village. The Iwi have constructed boats with sails for water travel, and converted the wreckage of the Wanderer into a temple complete with highly detailed petroglyphs. The Iwi manufacture and dye their own clothing, which can take a variety of styles despite its relative simplicity. They also are able to produce a medicinal brew, given the name "Monkey Juice" by Aaron Brooks, which can cause hallucinations which seem connected to Skull Island. The Iwi wisely have formed a symbiotic relationship with King Kong who defends their village from any threats they cannot handle.
- Kong: Skull Island - The Official Movie Novelization (2017)
- Kong and Me (2021)
- Godzilla vs. Kong: The Official Movie Novelization (2021)
After their Osprey was shot down by Psychovultures, Aaron Brooks and the other members of a covert 1995 Monarch return expedition to Skull Island found themselves under attack by a pack of Death Jackals. Kong soon arrived to save them and defeat the Death Jackals, and after his departure the expedition members were greeted by several Iwi. One of them, a young boy who spoke perfect English, introduced himself as Ato and welcomed the "people who came from the sky" to the island.
The Iwi brought the Monarch team into their village where they gave them shelter and tended to the wounds of Evgenij Medov, who had been mauled by the Death Jackals. They also offered a medicinal brew to Walter R. Riccio, which caused him to experience hallucinations of the island's ancient past. Ato informed the survivors that since their mission was to meet Kong face-to-face, he and some other adult Iwi would lead them on a pilgrimage to several holy sites on the island before granting them a communion with their god. Riccio enthusiastically accepted, consuming more of the medicinal brew and covering himself in sacred body paint, urging Aaron and Evelyn Matemavi to do the same. First on their pilgrimage, they came upon an old derelict Dutch ship among a ship graveyard, which the Iwi had converted into another temple. While inside, Riccio experienced a vision of Kong's species battling against the Skullcrawlers and of the first Iwi arriving on Skull Island to see the last two living members of the species. Before they could move on, the group was set upon by a massive Sirenjaw, only for the roar of Kong to make it turn its attention. Brooks scavenged munitions left behind by the 1973 Monarch expedition, and he and the others set out towards Kong.
By the time the group reached the Sirenjaw's location, the creature was already slain at the hands of Kong. Ato remarked that they had to return to the village now, as the carcass would attract a feeding frenzy of Skull Island's most aggressive creatures. This was true, as Death Jackals and Leafwings soon arrived to feed on the Sirenjaw's corpse. Rather than flee back to the village, to go after the downed Osprey where the pilot Cejudo had made contact with them and stated he could get the craft airborne again. As the group passed through the jungle, they were attacked by a Swamp Locust but barely escaped. They finally reached a massive boneyard, which Ato explained was called the "Valley of the Fallen Gods." This was the place where the Skullcrawlers still roamed, and as they crossed it they were forced to hide from a Skullcrawler in a cave. Riccio experienced another vision which depicted Kong's mother going into labor during a battle against countless Skullcrawlers. Kong's father fought to hold them back as his mate gave birth and hid the newborn inside a cave just before she and her mate were slaughtered by the monsters. When the infant Kong emerged from the cave to find his parents lying dead, he wept for them and devoted his life to seeking vengeance. According to Riccio, the cave in which they were hiding was the very same one in which Kong's mother sealed her son. With the Skullcrawler outside apparently gone, they all exited the cave and finally found the Osprey. Riccio was against leaving the island before meeting Kong, but Aaron told him he was welcome to stay behind. Just before Aaron and the others could board the Osprey, the crazed Riccio destroyed it and its pilot with a rocket launcher, then held everyone at gunpoint. Evelyn tried to stop him only to be shot dead.
While holding everyone at gunpoint, Riccio explained that the time had come to test the Iwi's worthiness of Kong's protection. To do this, he stated that the wall around the village must come down. Ato protested, saying that the "devils" would surely come if the wall was destroyed, but Riccio smacked the child in the face with his gun and said that if Kong came to save the Iwi, then they would know he is truly there to protect them. Otherwise, they were never worthy of Kong's protection to begin with. Suddenly a pack of Death Jackals emerged from the jungle, buying time for Aaron and the others to escape Riccio while he fired his gun at the creatures. The group made their way through the island despite the ongoing feeding frenzy and reached the village, but were too late to stop Riccio from setting off seismic charges that blew open the wall. Countless Mother Longlegs poured into the village and terrorized the Iwi, while Riccio chanted not to fear as Kong would soon be there to save them. Many Iwi were crushed, stabbed, or eaten by the huge arachnids before Kong finally arrived and destroyed all of the creatures. While surveying the damage to his worshipers' village, Kong saw Riccio calling out to Kong and praising his mercifulness. Kong knew Riccio was responsible and promptly crushed him to death under his fist. Kong then approached Ato and Aaron along with several other Iwi, and looked gently upon them as the Iwi prayed to Kong. Aaron was convinced of Kong's benevolence, and as the last survivor of the expedition chose to remain behind with the Iwi and help rebuild. He did however send an audio log of his experience out to sea, which was recovered and delivered to Houston Brooks his father in 2012.
Iwi Kong shrine concept art
- An early version of the Kong: Skull Island script called for an Iwi friend of Hank Marlow to accompany the characters aboard the Grey Fox. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts wanted him to be a "badass" portrayed by Iko Uwais.
- The Iwi village set in Kong: Skull Island was constructed in the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex outside Ninh Bình, Vietnam. The city rebuilt the set and the Grey Fox as a tourist attraction in April 2017, even hiring the extras who played the Iwi to interact with visitors. As Trang An is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the agency recommended striking the set to avoid damaging and misrepresenting the area. Ninh Bình agreed to do so in September 2019.
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