Kaiju Profile: Kong (2017-2021)
Hey kaiju fans, I'm The Boy Who Cried Godzilla—along with Humble_Squid!—and it's time at last for an updated look at Legendary's King Kong!
Despite the overwhelming success of "King Kong vs. Godzilla" in 1962, the stars (and legal rights) never seemed to realign for a rematch. That changed during the production of Legendary Pictures' "Godzilla": CEO Thomas Tull pushed for a new King Kong movie, set in the same "MonsterVerse," that would pave the way for a titanic crossover.
Like many past versions of the character, Legendary's Kong lived on Skull Island with a group of humans who worshiped him as a god, but they had a much healthier relationship. Instead of demanding human sacrifices, he protected them from the island's many dangers, especially the Skullcrawlers who'd made him the last of his kind. In 1973, a group of outsiders came to the island in helicopters and started dropping seismic charges—and that was when his problems really began.
The first script Max Borenstein wrote for "Kong: Skull Island" took place during World War I and revolved around the search for a serum which could cure any disease. Borenstein and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts have both taken credit for the idea to move the setting to the Vietnam War era. To Vogt-Roberts, it symbolized "the split in time in which technology started to overpower the idea of myth and myth is how we've told stories for thousands of years." While the first remake of "King Kong" also took place in the Seventies, this time the U.S. military would bring the fight to Skull Island—and lose.
Vogt-Roberts aimed to make the new King Kong "a throwback to a classic movie monster, not just an ape." That meant less Peter Jackson, more Willis O'Brien. He felt a bipedal Kong would be more physically imposing and "reinforce that mythic and god-like quality." Crash McCreary provided the first piece of concept art: Kong facing a helicopter squadron at sunset. It would become one of the film's defining images. Now, Vogt-Roberts still wanted the Peter Jackson Kong in the movie—as a juvenile killed during a World War II skirmish, after which the "real" Kong would appear towering overhead. Legendary didn't go for that. The clash against general audiences' perception of the 8th Wonder was maintained in spirit though, through the "Flight of the Valkyries" sequence at the beginning of the film, wherein he curbstomps a fleet of Hueys. The artbook puts it succinctly: "It is a direct contrast to Kong as most know him: atop the Empire State Building, doomed, and futilely swatting at biplanes."
The lead visual effects company on "Kong: Skull Island" was Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). A team led by Carlos Huante designed Kong over the course of eight months; the company spent over a year and a half on the film in total. Huante took Vogt-Roberts's directive seriously, even drawing new Kongs over stills of the original 1933 design. As a consequence of his stature and how often he'd be seen up close, the character's 3D model was dense: over half a million polygons, with his face comprising around half of that. One of the most grueling tasks for the VFX artists was creating the 19 million hairs on Kong's CG model, a year-long endeavor. The complexity of these was impressive, with tools used to simulate the monster's hair at different stages of wetness, drying into clumps and getting glossier, and becoming singed and fusing after being burned. The damage would carry not just from shot to shot, but build throughout the film.
Motion-capture was a major component of Peter Jackson's 2005 "King Kong" remake, with Andy Serkis portraying the Eighth Wonder of the World. It was less practical to translate a human performance to a Kong who stood over 100 feet tall. Terry Notary - a key player in the recent "Planet of the Apes" movies - performed as Kong in several sessions. Of how he approached the role, Notary detailed: "He's just a kid! He's the last of his kind and simply an adolescent who has to take on this incredible responsibility. It was a lonely place. I had to make myself very vulnerable… I concentrated on those moments when he is alone, not having to fight. What is his idle behavior? What is his natural state? Those are the moments you can play in and see the real him." Toby Kebbell, who appeared in the film as Chapman, also provided facial capture for Kong. Ultimately, according to visual effects supervisor Jeff White, "There are some shots where that facial capture is used directly, but through the production process and the reworking of the scenes, a lot of what Kong needed to do changed so much that the capture was used a lot more as inspiration and moments to pull from. And then ultimately a lot of the animation was key-framed." During production, an augmented-reality app helped the filmmakers determine where Kong would be in each shot, aiding camera operators in figuring out what to do. For Kong's roar, sound designer Al Nelson drew from lions roars—just as Murray Spivak had done in 1933—and the sounds of gorillas and monkeys.
"Kong: Skull Island" was nominated for an Oscar for "Best Visual Effects" during the 90th Academy Awards; the only MonsterVerse film to receive a nomination, and the third King Kong movie to make it past the shortlist.
"Godzilla vs. Kong" shows Kong as a grizzled adult, nearly matching Godzilla in height.
Scanline VFX used the 2017 Kong model as a starting point, but resculpting was necessary to show his age. Aside from bulking him up, their additions to this new "old man Kong" asset included a beard inspired by Wingard's own, and gray patches of fur. His eyes were rebuilt to improve his ability to emote. Once again, much effort was put into handling and rendering the ape's individually-sculpted strands of hair efficiently, though the number of them was reduced to 6.3 million. Thanks to MPC's Pier Lefebvre, we also know that - much like grass seed glued to dog hair - Kong has assorted rubbish stuck in his fur during the battles in Hong Kong, including bicycles. We don't know much about the motion-capture component of this film, but Scanline animation supervisor Eric Petey played Kong during his first battle against Godzilla. As usual, the animators tinkered with his performance from there with keyframe animation.
Kong has always used improvised weapons, but he acquires a crafted weapon in a massive Hollow Earth temple: an axe made out of a giant bone and a familiar-looking dorsal plate. Originally, it was just a bone, giving it the appearance of a scepter. The weapon both connects Kong with his ancestors and allows him to even the odds against Godzilla in their second bout. A couple of notes on the temple: it’s reminiscent of "Kong City," which appeared in a version of "Kong: Skull Island" with two distinct groups of islanders, and at one point Godzilla made a personal appearance to challenge Kong instead of just unleashing his atomic breath from afar.
The exact history of Kong's species depends on who's telling the story. In "Kong: Skull Island," Hank Marlow explains that the Iwi feared all of the island's monstrous inhabitants for thousands of years before Kong's ancestors started protecting them. He assigned the Skull Devil sole blame for killing Kong's parents. In "Skull Island: The Birth of Kong," mythographer Walter Riccio experienced a vision of the Skullcrawlers invading Skull Island millions of years ago, with the Kongs defending their territory. Over the following centuries, the reptiles whittled the apes down to one mated pair, who met the Iwi when they first arrived on the island's shores and became their protectors. Kong was born during their final stand against at least five gigantic Skullcrawlers, sealed away in a cave by his mother moments before she perished. "Godzilla vs. Kong" reveals that the Hollow Earth was the Kongs' original home, which they left after a Titan war early in humanity's history. The "GVK" novelization tries to resolve some of these inconsistencies, with some of the Iwi following the Kongs to the surface and others arriving on the island later.
Kong: Skull Island (2017): In 1944, U.S. fighter pilot Hank Marlow and Japanese fighter pilot Gunpei Ikari shot each other down over Skull Island in the South Pacific. Upon landing, the two continued trying to kill each other, their conflict taking them into the island's interior. Gunpei managed to pin Marlow down and prepared to stab him in the throat, but suddenly two colossal hands grabbed the edge of the cliff on which they were standing. Kong raised his head over the cliff and stared at the men. Needless to say, their conflict ceased immediately. In 1973, the struggling Monarch agency successfully convinced U.S. Senator Al Willis to let it join a Landsat mapping mission to the recently uncovered Skull Island. Escorted by the U.S. Army's Sky Devils helicopter squadron under the command of Colonel Preston Packard, the expedition pierced the perpetual storm cell surrounding the island, allowing it to drop seismic charges onto the island's surface in order to map its terrain. Unbeknownst to the expedition members, the explosions from these charges awakened countless Skullcrawlers dwelling beneath the island and drew them to the surface. This aroused the ire of Kong. Within minutes, the entire squadron was downed, and many of Packard's men were dead. When the smoke cleared, Kong wandered away, leaving the expedition members scattered and stranded. The survivors coalesced into two groups: one led by Ex-British SAS tracker James Conrad, and the other consisting primarily of Packard and his men. Receiving radio contact from one of his men - Jack Chapman - Packard decided to head to his position and salvage munitions from the downed Sea Stallion in order to take revenge on Kong. Meanwhile, Conrad led his party to several stone ruins, where they were surrounded by spear-wielding members of the native Iwi tribe. The tense moment was broken by Marlow, who convinced everyone to stand down. Kong arrived at a lake to drink, but noticed a Mire Squid lurking below the surface. The creature seized Kong with its tentacles, but Kong managed to stomp on its head and crush it. Kong feasted on the fallen Mire Squid's tentacles, and began dragging the carcass back to his lair. Marlow brought the group into the Iwi village, which was defended from the threats outside by a massive wall. Marlow showed them the wreckage of a ship called the Wanderer, which the Iwi had converted into a sacred temple. He explained the history of the relationship between Kong's kind, the Iwi, and the Skullcrawlers, who were responsible for killing Kong's family as well as Gunpei, who had become Marlow's closest friend. The survivors began working on completing the Grey Fox, a makeshift boat Marlow and Gunpei had built, in order to reach the extraction point on the island within three days. During this time, photographer Mason Weaver discovered a Sker Buffalo trapped under a downed helicopter just outside the village. She tried to free the creature before Kong himself arrived and effortlessly lifted the chopper.
The Grey Fox was completed, and after an emotional farewell between Marlow and the Iwi, the craft set off along a river. The group made contact with Packard's, and they rendezvoused in the jungle. Packard informed Conrad that they needed to rescue Chapman before taking the boat to the extraction site, and asked him to lead the way. Marlow warned that they would be passing through the Skullcrawlers' territory, but his warnings did not change Packard's mind. The group passed through the Valley of the Fallen Gods, the mass grave created by the Skullcrawlers which held the skeletal remains of Kong's parents. As the party passed through, they were ambushed by a Skullcrawler. It killed several people before Weaver killed it by throwing a lighter into a gas vent next to the creature that exploded. In the aftermath of the attack, it became clear that Chapman was dead, but Packard was resolute in obtaining the munitions to kill Kong. This escalated into a standoff between the party members, which Conrad defused by saying he would take the civilians back to the boat and wait there for Packard. While returning to the boat, Conrad and Weaver made their way to a cliff to locate the river. There, they were approached by Kong, who gently stood still and allowed Weaver to place her hand on his face. Explosions in the distance drew Kong's attention, and he quickly began making his way there. Conrad and Weaver told the others to go back to the boat while they saved Kong from Packard's trap, but Marlow insisted on accompanying them. Once Kong was lured to a lake that had been filled with napalm, Packard ignited it - consuming Kong in flames. The ape emerged from the burning water and killed several of the men before passing out. Packard prepared to set off a seismic charge next to the fallen Kong before he was interrupted by Conrad and the others. The standoff continued until the nearby lake erupted and the Skull Devil, the largest of the Skullcrawlers, emerged. Everyone fled but Packard, who remained behind and prepared to detonate the charge as this new menace approached. Kong awoke and smashed Packard with his fist before he could do so, but was jumped on and knocked out by the beast.
The survivors reached the edge of the island, pursued by the Skull Devil. Weaver climbed a nearby cliff to signal the boat with a flare. Kong soon leaped into action and slammed a boulder into the Skull Devil's face before it could kill the survivors - and the two behemoths did battle. The Skull Devil proved more than a match for the weakened Kong, sending him crashing into an old shipwreck where he became entangled in its anchor chain. Soon, the Grey Fox opened fire with its machine guns. As the beast turned and went after the humans, Kong freed himself from the chain, and wielded a makeshift flail formed from the chain tied around the boat's propeller. He threw it at the Skull Devil and it embedded itself in its shoulder. He wrapped the chain around the monster's neck and slammed it into the cliff on which Weaver was standing, causing her to fall into the water below. Kong grabbed the end of the flail in his hand and slit the Skull Devil's throat with an uppercut, seemingly killing it. He grabbed Weaver and rescued her from the water, but the Skull Devil returned with a vengeance, using its prehensile tongue to pull Kong's hand with Weaver in it down its throat. Mustering all of his strength, Kong yanked his arm free, disemboweling the Skull Devil in the process. He set Weaver down, and walked away. When a rescue team arrived to extract the survivors, Kong stood in the distance, triumphantly pounding his chest and roaring.
Skull Island: The Birth of Kong (2017): By 1995, Kong continued to defend the Iwi and do battle with the most hostile Skull Island megafauna. When a renegade team of Monarch scientists crash landed on the island and were menaced by a pack of Death Jackals, he swiftly crushed them under fist and foot before lumbering away. A few days later, as the operatives went on a pilgrimage to the Valley of the Fallen Gods, they woke up a massive Sirenjaw. Kong soon intervened, tearing off half of its face. Within days, mad Monarch member Walter Riccio blew a hole in the Iwi wall with leftover explosives from the 1973 expedition, allowing several Mother Longlegs to enter the village. Kong made short work of the arachnids before smashing the worshipful interloper under his massive fist.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): A map on the Argo showed Kong leaving Skull Island after Ghidorah called all the world's Titans to arms against Godzilla. As we'll discuss in Trivia, this was an error by the filmmakers—their intent was for Kong to ignore the call.
Kingdom Kong (2021): By 2021, a storm cell generated by King Ghidorah over the Pacific was approaching Skull Island and threatening to combine with the perpetual storm cell surrounding it. Monarch Chief Officer Houston Brooks was organizing an expedition into the Hollow Earth on the island through an underground passageway called the Vile Vortex. Kong, having grown to at least 90 meters in height, appeared one day to rescue an operative from an attacking Spirit Tiger, easily snapping its neck. Brooks later observed Kong from a chopper as he ate a Mire Squid. Kong seemed to know he was being observed, but for some reason he didn't care. Kong proceeded to rescue a Sker Buffalo trapped under a fallen tree, only to be attacked by a swarm of Psychovultures. Kong dispatched the swarm, but couldn't stop the buffalo from being killed in the attack.
Kong later entered a large cave on the island, where he discovered a painting of another member of his species locked in battle with something obscured by vines. As Kong prepared to pull the vines away, he overheard the sound of dynamite being detonated near the drilling site into the Hollow Earth. Kong approached the area while the storm systems combined and plunged the island into darkness. Kong stopped in his tracks as the giant bat Titan Camazotz erupted from the ground in front of him. Accompanied by his hell swarm, Camazotz proved to have the advantage over Kong in combat, using his aerial superiority to lift Kong into the air and drop him twice. A squadron of Monarch fighter pilots under the command of Audrey Burns set out to assist Kong, but Camazotz was still too much for them. As Camazotz chased after her plane, Audrey set off a sonic boom right in front of the Titan's face, disorienting him and allowing Kong to gain the upper hand. Kong pummeled Camazotz before punching him back into the Hollow Earth from whence he came. Audrey ejected from her jet and parachuted onto Kong's hand. She told him that she wanted him to know they had his back, and he snorted in response. With the storm now having fully overtaken Skull Island, the Hollow Earth expedition was called off and moved to Antarctica, while Dr. Ilene Andrews took over as Monarch's lead scientist on the island. The native Iwi were evacuated by Ospreys, as Kong returned to the cave where he had been earlier. He pulled away the vines obscuring the rest of the painting, and scowled at its depiction: his ancestor locked in combat with Godzilla.
Regarding the Iwi evacuation… yes, we're aware "GVK" conflictingly states that Jia is the last of them. Wouldn't be the MonsterVerse without contradicting events.
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021): By 2024, Kong lived inside a gigantic dome on Skull Island which simulated its original environment. He uprooted a nearby tree, as the orphaned Iwi girl whom he had rescued from the storm, Jia, presented him with a doll she had made in his likeness. Kong observed Jia and her doll before throwing the tree into the ceiling of the dome, then roared angrily. Dr. Ilene Andrews was aware Kong had grown too large for the dome; the problem was that Godzilla would attack him as soon as he left the island. In the meantime, Godzilla raided an Apex Cybernetics facility in Pensacola, Florida, prompting humanity to declare him an enemy. Apex approached former Monarch scientist Dr. Nathan Lind and proposed an expedition into the Hollow Earth in order to obtain an energy source there that would allow them to construct a weapon capable of competing with Godzilla. Lind was convinced, suggesting that a Titan could use its genetic memory to help show the way to the energy source. He traveled to Skull Island and convinced Andrews to bring Kong along on the mission, so long as she had full authority when it came to him. Kong was sedated and loaded onto a ship, escorted by a naval fleet headed for a Hollow Earth entrance point in Antarctica. Maia Simmons, daughter of CEO Walter Simmons, represented Apex on the mission. One night, Kong became restless and pulled at his chains. Jia wandered onto the ship's deck and held out her finger to Kong, who calmed down and responded by touching his own finger to hers. Andrews ran after Jia, who explained that Kong told her he didn't believe Monarch really wanted to help him. Kong then lifted his hand and signed the word "home" twice, much to Andrews' shock. The next day, Andrews met with Lind, who raised the prospect of Jia giving commands to Kong. Andrews dismissed the notion, feeling that Kong was beyond human control and Jia was too young to have the responsibility. As an alarm sounded on the ship, Jia ran to Andrews and signed to her that Godzilla was coming.
Godzilla plowed through the fleet as he made his way directly to the ship holding Kong. He roared into the water below just before Godzilla burst from the sea and capsized the ship. Kong struggled to free himself from his chains as the ship filled with water. Lind managed to release the chains holding Kong, allowing him to fight back and get back onto the deck of the ship as it righted itself. Seeing his foe circling around, Kong leapt onto one ship and then onto an aircraft carrier. Godzilla climbed onto it, and the two traded blows. After being tackled off the ship, the Big G destroyed it from below with his atomic breath; Kong leapt off just in time, and proceeded to be dragged into the depths. The detonation of depth charges to disorient Godzilla allowed the ape to escape with his life. The humans attempted to stop Godzilla's attack by turning off what remained of the fleet’s power, essentially "playing dead." Surprisingly, this actually worked; the King of the Monsters ended his attack and left.
Helicopters and Ospreys airlifted Kong the rest of the way to Outpost 32 in Antarctica, depositing him near the carved-out entrance to the Hollow Earth. Jia approached Kong from an overlook and signed to him that his home was through that passage, but he did not respond. With Lind's encouragement, she added that there might be others like him through there, and he immediately charged through the entrance. They gave chase in Apex's Hollow Earth Aerial Vehicles, or HEAVs. Kong swung himself across pipes on the ceiling of the entrance tunnel before falling into a pit at the end of the cavern. The APEX aircraft followed after, passing through the ancient superhighway Monarch researchers dubbed the "Vile Vortex," bringing them to the Hollow Earth. Kong ran through the vast underground world with the HEAVs in pursuit, until one of them was abruptly destroyed by a Warbat. A second Warbat flew directly toward the HEAV containing the main characters, but Kong grabbed it by the tail and slammed it onto the ground, with a pointed rock impaling it straight through the skull. The other one circled back and constricted Kong, suffocating him with its wings until fire from the HEAV forced it to release him. Kong promptly grabbed it and slammed it onto the ground, pummeling it to death and tearing off its head before drinking the contents of its skull. Kong continued making his way through the Hollow Earth until reaching a cliff which marked the point in the Hollow Earth where gravity reversed. He jumped across to a cliff on the other side, and there came across a huge temple-like structure. He found a handprint almost identical to his own on the door to the structure and promptly pushed it open, leading him into a massive chamber. Kong vocalized his presence, to no response. Inside, he picked up a giant axe embedded in the skull of a fallen Titan, triumphantly beating his chest and roaring as he wielded it. He then sat down on a massive throne as the HEAVs landed and their occupants disembarked. Kong noticed the blade of his axe glowing blue, then saw the same glow emanating from the ground nearby. He set the axe into a depression, causing a chain of other axes to begin glowing and form a depiction of Godzilla. Kong had found the energy source. Apex released a drone to harvest the energy and transmit its signature to headquarters, to Andrews' protest. Maia and her guards trained their guns on the Monarch members, causing Kong to roar at them. Suddenly, the temple began to quake and the Hellhawks roosting on the ceiling swooped down and attacked. Maia and some of her guards escaped in a HEAV, while Andrews, Lind, and Jia made their way to the other. Godzilla's atomic breath soon burst into the chamber, opening a huge crater at the center. Godzilla roared down into the chamber, with Kong answering his call. Maia's HEAV opened fire on Kong as it tried to escape, but he caught it and crushed it in his hand. As the chamber collapsed, Kong grabbed his new axe and jumped into the crater, climbing to Hong Kong.
Kong pulled himself through the crater and into the city, where he was met by Godzilla. The two alpha Titans bellowed, and charged into the title match. Bout by bout, Kong successfully parried each of Goji's moves - until at one point he blocked an atomic blast with the blade of his axe. Forcefully tackled to the ground thereafter, Kong wedged his axe in G's leg, who lobbed the axe at a skyscraper. The duel raged on - climbing to the skyline. Eventually, the surviving HEAV - with Lind, Andrews, and Jia in tow - flew through the tunnel from the Hollow Earth and narrowly avoided crashing into Kong and then Godzilla's atomic breath. Closing the distance, Kong grabbed his axe, used it to absorb the atomic blast like earlier, and brought it down on Godzilla, creating a massive shockwave that blew both monsters back. Its charge expended, the axe ceased glowing. Back up in no time at all, the Titans exchanged blows again. Godzilla pulled Kong off his back and threw him into a building, dislocating his shoulder. The atomic kaiju aggressively pursued Kong - jumping onto and clawing into the ape's chest repeatedly before pinning him down at last. Godzilla screamed in Kong's face, who responded with a roar of his own. Finally taking his foot off of Kong, the King of Monsters walked away. Refusing to give up, Kong weakly got back to his feet, only to fall backward and pass out.
In the meantime, the energy Apex copied from the Hollow Earth caused its ultimate weapon, Mechagodzilla, to go haywire and kill its creators before freeing itself from Apex's headquarters in the city. The robot clashed with Godzilla and dominated. The surviving HEAV landed next to the fallen Kong, where Jia signed that she could feel his fading heartbeat. Lind commandeered the HEAV once again and landed it onto Kong's chest, then set it to self-destruct. The surge of energy revived Kong, who saw Jia standing nearby. She signed to him that Godzilla was not his true enemy. Kong ultimately accepted her word. He got back to his feet and slammed his shoulder into a building, snapping his arm back into place. Just as the mech prepared to finish Godzilla off, Kong jumped onto its back and interrupted the attack. After knocking him off its back, the mech got tag-teamed by the two monsters. It regained its footing after a bit, knocking both away. Kong saw his axe and ran to get it, soon reentering the battle swinging his axe into Mechagodzilla repeatedly… but it was not enough. The robot pinned Kong against a building and began spinning the blades on its tail, trying to shove them into Kong's face. When Josh Valentine, Madison Russell, and Bernie Hayes failed to stop Mechagodzilla from its control room, Bernie decided to have one last drink before they died. This gave Josh an idea, as he grabbed Bernie's flask and poured its contents all over Mechagodzilla's control monitor. This made the mech stall briefly, allowing Goji to fire his atomic breath at the axe to charge it. Kong immediately hacked off Mechagodzilla's tail with the axe, then cut off both of its arms and one of its legs - forcing it to the ground. Facing the mech charging one last proton scream in defiance, he brought down the axe to its neck, subsequently grabbing its head and tearing it off. Kong held Mechagodzilla's head in the air - crying out triumphantly, before slumping down from exhaustion. He didn't get much time to rest, as he got back on his feet and picked up his axe again when he heard Godzilla and saw him approach. The two stared each other down … until Kong finally dropped his axe. The King of the Monsters bellowed in acknowledgment and turned. Kong and the gathered humans watched, as Godzilla dove beneath the waves.
Sometime later, Andrews, Lind, and Jia watched from a monitoring station inside the Hollow Earth as Kong passed by on his morning walk. Kong signed "home" to Jia, who smiled back. He swung from vines onto a cliff, overlooking his newfound kingdom.
A great ape, Kong naturally possesses immense physical strength - delivering a crushing force with his punches, and hoisting or heaving objects ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of metric tons. He effortlessly manhandles smaller beasts like the Skullcrawlers and Warbats; he tore off Mechagodzilla's head, spinal cord and all; and while the Skull Devil proved a physical match for the adolescent Kong, he managed to yank his arm out of the beast's gullet, tearing out its innards in the process. As an adult, his strength was almost on par with the more massive Godzilla.
For "Kong: Skull Island," the animators set out to make the monsters' fight choreography feel animalistic and "not too human-like," hence Kong never threw any kicks in the movie (he only stepped on things). By 2024 it seems he finally learned how to kick though, using his legs to propel himself away from Godzilla underwater; delivering a big drop-kick during the Hong Kong battle; and kicking Mecha G in the face.
Kong's impressive agility allows him to quickly react to attacks to avoid them, outmaneuver his foes, and deliver counterattacks of his own. Let's run down some of his feats. As a youngster… he jumped into the air to smash UH-1 Iroquois choppers out of the sky; leaped onto the Skull Devil from above and smashed a boulder into it in a surprise attack; and grabbed two Skullcrawlers as they lunged at him, promptly killing them right after. During his battle with Godzilla at sea, Kong leapt from a cargo ship, to a destroyer, to an aircraft carrier. His agility also helps him navigate any terrain in which he finds himself; he scaled the cliffs of Skull Island daily; swung along the pipes at the Hollow Earth access point in Antarctica; and rapidly advanced across the plains of the Hollow Earth with both large bounds and running on all fours. In Hong Kong, he compensated for Godzilla's physical advantage by leaping to, swinging across and weaving through the urban topography.
Being an ape, Kong is highly intelligent. He's capable of communicating with Jia using sign language, and outsmarting his foes in combat when brute strength isn't enough. He outsmarted Godzilla in their Hong Kong battle by moving between structures, misdirecting him, and even ambushing him. Kong's intelligence and dexterity grant him the ability to use improvised weapons in combat. He has a particular knack for using trees as javelin-like projectiles which he can throw with remarkable accuracy, or as makeshift clubs. He also knocked a chopper out of the sky using another, downed one. He later turned the tide in his battle with the Skull Devil by creating a makeshift flail from an anchor chain and ship propeller. He kept Godzilla at a distance in both of their battles and threw environmental objects at him. He also used part of a building as a shield to block Godzilla's atomic breath. Kong's most powerful melee weapon is not one thrown together from nearby objects, but a battle axe created by his species. He wields this axe with great proficiency, managing to stab it into Godzilla's leg and even shove the handle into his throat to stop him from firing his atomic breath in close range. The axe's most useful feature is its ability to absorb Godzilla's atomic breath. Kong used this ability first for defense, then to deliver a powerful charged blow to Godzilla's head. During their teamup, Kong recognized when Godzilla had charged the axe with his atomic breath and used it to hack Mechagodzilla apart.
While not quite as durable as Godzilla, Kong is still quite resistant to damage. As an adolescent, he was bulletproof - only irritated by machine gun fire from attacking copters. He withstood the brutal attacks from the Skull Devil and triumphed in battle against it even after sustaining major injury from both it and Packard's napalm trap. As an adult, Kong is even more resilient, and stood up to attacks from the larger and stronger Godzilla without being mortally injured - to a point. Once revived by the HEAV explosion, Kong managed to reset his shoulder and instantly rejoined the fight at apparent full strength despite the brutal beating he'd just endured.
But, yeah, he's not without weaknesses. As an adolescent, he had the palm of his hand sliced into by the tail rotor blades of a helicopter he grabbed. He was also injured when set ablaze in a lake filled with napalm, rendering him unconscious. He was nearly defeated by the Skull Devil in their ensuing battle before the humans intervened. As an adult, and despite his best efforts, Kong was thoroughly outclassed by Godzilla in their underwater clashes, barely escaping with his life - and only after human intervention. In their Hong Kong battle, he still proved physically weaker than Godzilla, his foe's attacks dealing more damage whenever they connected. An atomic breath merely grazing his back burned him and forced him out of the sky. He couldn't hold up to a frenzied series of attacks from Godzilla which resulted in his arm being dislocated and his chest sliced into and crushed. The severity of his injuries caused Kong to pass out and his heartbeat to fade before he was revived by the HEAV. He's also inferior in strength to Mechagodzilla, which easily tossed him aside and nearly killed him by driving its drill tipped tail into his face. At least he got in the finishing blow.
Growing Pains: King Kong's scale changing between shots to awe audiences wasn't just done by Cooper and O'Brien for the original '33 version… the teams behind the MonsterVerse did it as well! The hundred foot ape was scaled up to 200 feet for certain shots in "Kong: Skull Island", and from 300 feet to over 500 for some parts of the Hong Kong sequence in "Godzilla vs. Kong." As for how the King of Skull Island went from thirty meters to ninety between 1973 and 2024, yet none of the other Kongs we see in MonsterVerse media do so outside of cave paintings… the only explanation we get is Houston Brooks pondering in "Kingdom Kong" if the other members of his species never survived long enough to reach such titanic statures - or if the species isn’t truly native to Skull Island.
The King in novelizations: Kong shows off a few additional tricks in the "Kong: Skull Island" novelization by Tim Lebbon. After his first fight with the Sky Devils, he puts out the fires caused by one of the seismic charges by throwing dirt on them, and Packard later watches him trigger a rockslide to seal a Skullcrawler hole. He kills the Skull Devil by throwing a punch so far into its throat that it crushes its innards. The book also calls him "King Kong" several times - a title which seems to be forbidden in the rest of the MonsterVerse. The "King of the Monsters" novelization by Greg Keyes includes a segment on Skull Island told from Kong's perspective as he hears Ghidorah's alpha call to "hunt together" and ignores it. However, the call awakens numerous Skullcrawlers, who Kong prepares to battle. According to Michael Dougherty, this part of the novelization is meant to be canon to the films. Keyes's "Godzilla vs. Kong" novelization is notable for showing us the stormy night when Kong rescued Jia instead of Ilene just talking about it. Jia also provides a more detailed backstory for the title characters' rivalry. After one Titan strongly implied to be Godzilla "ate a star" in the Hollow Earth that turned him wicked, the Iwi and Kong's species tried to expel him and his kind, but ultimately decided to leave the underground realm themselves.
Stints in games: "Kong: Skull Island" missed out on the 'glory days' of movie tie-in games, so this version of Kong has only appeared in the Empire DCX slot machine "MonsterVerse" in 2020, six mobile game collaborations in 2021, and "Godzilla Battle Line." The "World of Warships" promos deliver the incredible visual of Godzilla and Kong astride two dueling battleships, but this doesn't happen in the game itself. Players were not happy; the comments on the videos made the demands for a "Godzilla vs. Kong" trailer last year look tame in comparison! In addition to the costumes and cosmetics expected of modern day tie-ins, "PUBG Mobile" let its players obtain adorable pet-sized versions of the two monsters, though they were also quite pricey. "GvK" was also headlining for the soft launch of casual action mobile game "Go Big!". In "Godzilla Battle Line," Kong is a leader who can hit multiple targets at once by swinging his fists. This was the first-ever officially licensed Godzilla game to include any version of King Kong, if you don't count that slot machine.
Kong's gentler side: For the kaiju fans too young to watch Kong slurp Warbat brains, he's also starred in two picture books: "Kong & Me" and "Godzilla vs. Kong: Sometimes Friends Fight (But They Always Make Up)." "Kong & Me" is told from Jia's perspective, and chronicles a day in their lives on Skull Island. In "Sometimes Friends Fight," Godzilla and Kong travel the world demonstrating the key tenets of friendship, and even make nice with Mechagodzilla!
"GVK" ends on a high note for the Eighth Wonder, but his trials are likely to continue. Netflix announced an animated "Skull Island" series in January 2021, and it seems Kong will appear in the fifth MonsterVerse movie as well. Last year we learned that Legendary is trying to get Adam Wingard to direct the next MonsterVerse movie, with "Son of Kong" as one of the proposed titles. Almost 90 years since the first movie came out, the King's as in-demand as ever. Thanks for watching.