While the story of a curious man battling a giant ape has been told some eight times since King Kong's inception in 1933, Warner Bros.'s Kong: Skull Island once again presses the reset button on cinema's most memorable monkey.
Serving as more of an origin story, Skull Island tracks the mysterious government agency Monarch, who fly in a crack team of experts to explore this lost paradise and see if #Kong himself is ripe for the exploiting. With an all-star cast of Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman, expect not everyone to make it off the titular island.
Set during the close of the Vietnam War, it didn't take audiences too long to draw comparisons between Jordan Vogt-Roberts's film and the likes of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now and Oliver Stone's Platoon — both of which were cited as influences for Skull Island. But away from your typical army romp, where else does Skull Island seem familiar? Here are six more films to watch once you have finished your tour of Skull Island and are back on safe soil — I love the smell of gorillas in the morning!
1. 'The Island Of Dr. Moreau'
While the film itself was notoriously plagued with problems, the premise of 1996's The Island of Dr. Moreau was actually an interesting one. Based off the 1896 novel by H.G. Wells, there had already been two adaptations of the story, but the third in 1996 is the most notorious (for all the wrong reasons). John Frankenheimer's maligned film followed a US Negotiator stranded on an island inhabited by animal-human hybrids. Where Skull Island doesn't have any centaurs knocking around, the imagination that went into its beats is reminiscent of Frankenheimer's film.
It also has a group of savages leading an uprising against the power above, and a justice for all where the wicked are punished — cue the impending death of Samuel L. Jackson's platoon. Just like Val Kilmer's sinister vet, John Goodman's Bill Randa appears to have ulterior motives for being on the island, where clearly not everyone is there for the good of the animals. Although the majority of Skull Island was filmed in Vietnam, both films picked Queensland in Australia for some of their scenery. Part animal activism film and part adventure, Skull Island and Moreau are more similar than you might first think, you just have to struggle through watching Moreau to agree.
2. 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park'
With all of Universal's Jurassic films featuring a dino-damaged island, it is hard to pick which is most similar to Skull Island. However, with the rag-tag band of scientists and mercenaries, the Kong gong has to go to 1997's sequel to the original. Free from the confines of the park, the dinosaurs of The Lost World were free to roam in their own ecosystem like Kong and co. While Skull Island doesn't feature our titular gorilla running amok in NYC, The Lost World did have that T-Rex in San Diego scene (for better or for worse).
The nefarious InGen is drafted in take control of the creatures on the island, replicating Monarch's covert scheme in Skull Island, while the iconic image of the car-carrying helicopters being drafted in over Isla Sorna is replicated in the shots of Kong's flying army and Jackson's helicopter brigade. Upping the action to include the infamous "trailer" scene and watching the cast being picked off one by one were highlights of an otherwise pretty average film from The Lost World, but the action sequences in both are matched for their epic scale.
3. 'The Mysterious Island'
As the oldest entry on the list, Roberts has had 56 years to pull influence from Cy Endfield's classic. Endfield actually took influence from Jules Verne's 1874 novel L'Île Mystérieuse, but he brought the world to life on our screens. While a bunch of civil war prisoners escaping in a balloon is a million miles away from Monarch's helicopters flying to Skull Island, both are huge creature features. Sadly, the Mysterious Island also became the influence for Dwayne Johnson's appallingly led "Journey" films.
The Mysterious Island starts a bit like The Wizard of Oz, after a freak storm blows the balloon onto the primordial island stocked with strange beasts. Similar to Skull Island, the land is populated by erupting volcanoes, harsh plains, and deep jungles. In a similar vein to having giant versions of animals we already know, the crew of The Mysterious Island also battled against a hive of giant bees, while Skull Island's other beasts include the water buffalo we saw in the trailer, and The Mysterious Island most famously featured a giant crab. The men also find two shipwrecked English ladies, similar to John C. Reilly's Hank Marlow, who serves as the island's resident inhabitants. Ending in a similar fashion, both films become a survival race to see if anyone can get off their respective island and back to civilization.
4. 'Tropic Thunder'
Skull Island is already being dubbed the Vietnam film we never knew we needed, which is an eerie echo of 2008's Tropic Thunder. If you take away the toilet humor and Robert Downey Jr.'s black face, Tropic Thunder was actually much better than first thought. The satire comedy follows a group of prima donna actors who've landed in the jungle to film their own fictional Vietnam War movie; while making a movie may sound more like the original premise of King Kong, you can still find similarities between Skull Island.
Apart from the obvious Vietnam reference, Tropic Thunder and Skull Island has the whole ensemble theme. Brie Larson has spoken about Skull Island being a collective film about unlikely allies and foes, which is kind of what Tropic Thunder was about:
"That’s the interesting thing about this movie. It’s a group of misfits that are all coming from different angles looking at the same thing. You get to see how many different views in regards to nature and how we should handle it are dealt with from many different perspectives."
Thunder may have been about a bunch of actors looking to boost their careers, but it became much more than that, emulating Skull Island's Unlikely Lads scenario. Not to mention, Downey Jr.'s performance seems to be a macho rip-off of just about every Samuel L. Jackson performance out there, with Skull Island being no exception.
5. 'Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes'
It isn't just the threat of big monkeys that draws comparison between 2014's second Apes film and Skull Island. Both are a battle between the human race and a species that we thought we could outsmart. The monkey menace in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes may be a lot smaller, but it is all about bringing the humans into their world and threatening them.
Dawn pits the remnants of the human race against some kind-hearted apes, while it soon becomes apparent that the two species can't live in harmony. Similar to Skull Island, in theory everyone could get along, but there is always someone who wants humanity at the top of the food chain with a bigger gun. Both films contain particularly angry simians and both put their CGI skills to the test, crafting sympathetic apes and gorillas that it is easy to forget aren't real.
6. 'Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest'
You have to hand it to the Pirates franchise, they sure explore some weird and wonderful worlds. It wouldn't be too off the mark to imagine Capt. Jack and his motley crew exploring some sort of Skull Island backdrop, but who knows, maybe it will be Pirates of the Caribbean 6: The Search For Kong.
You may remember that the second film, Dead Man's Chest, visited Isla de Pelegostos, a.k.a. the Island of Cannibals. Skull Island has its very own unexplored tribe, while Reilly's Marlow becomes their unofficial leader. Hop back to 2006 and guess who was leading the Pelegosto tribe — Jack Sparrow. The island itself shares a similar topography to Skull Island, with rickety rope bridges, rolling mountains, and cavernous ravines full of creatures.
So, have you booked your flights to Skull Island yet? I hear it is lovely this time of year, just watch out for the natives and the vicious Skull Crawler monsters. However, I hear that if you are a fan of gorillas, they have the world's largest. With decades worth of Kong material, Skull Island aims to create a new chapter in the legacy of one of cinema's greatest creations.
You may notice the link between the government agency Monarch that appears in Skull Island and 2014's Godzilla. With Skull Island linking directly into the #Godzilla universe as an unofficial prequel, Legendary Pictures is queuing up their very own Godzilla vs. Kong in 2020. Get ready for the battle of the century, and if GvK can live up to the precedent set by Godzilla and Skull Island, we are all in for a monstrous monster movie!