King Kong is easily one of the most recognizable monsters in all of cinema. When the movie by the same title hit theaters in 1933, it was an instant classic. Naturally that led to numerous attempts to try and duplicate its success, with various other large apes. These all include (but aren’t limited to): Mighty Joe Young in 1948, King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962, an ill-advised King Kong sequel in 1976, a Mighty Joe Young remake in 1998, and a 3-hour long King Kong remake from Peter Jackson in 2005. Needless to say, we’ve had plenty of giant gorillas over the last century of film.
Soon we’ll be getting at least one more try at it, with the upcoming Kong: Skull Island. It’s set to star Russell Crowe, Tom Hiddleston, and Brie Larson, and will be an origin story for Kong, dating back to his earlier years on the island of terrifying natives, dinosaurs, and other assorted monsters. How that will integrate characters that likely will stumble upon the island via boat is unclear, but we imagine things won’t end well for at least some of our new cast members.
All gorillas aside, Skull Island is far from a good idea, yet not an entirely surprising one. Hollywood is currently in the process of running through all of their most iconic and well-known properties with a fine-toothed comb and asking: Can we make a sequel or remake? Nothing about the original King Kong screams “make a franchise out of this,” and yet here we are, about to learn the origins of a giant gorilla on a tropical island. It sends a clear message that any and everything is fair game when it comes to mining for franchises. The industry has made the decision to avoid pouring resources into developing new ideas, and to instead focus all their attention on digging up the bones of long since dead movies.
The mere existence of Kong: Skull Island is a good indicator that Hollywood is just getting started in their quest for the next big franchise. The world of superheroes is largely accounted for by every studio, while Godzilla already had its own recent reboot. That leaves mostly spare parts when it comes to finding a new universally-loved movie to bring back from the dead. And we all know, if Skull Island is a hit at the box office, that’s all it will take to launch plans for at least two more additional films in the King Kong universe.
If Jurassic World taught studios one thing, it’s that monsters are officially “in” now. The bottom line has and always will be the main concern of the people making films, and that means capitalizing on predominant trends to make a buck. Making a brand new monster movie with a huge budget, and risking a complete flop on an unknown commodity. For a whole host of reasons, Hollywood is far more comfortable taking the same risk on the monster they know. If it flops, they can put it to bed for a decade, and then attempt to bring it back again until it catches on. So it is in the film industry, and so it will always be.
Skull Island will have a long way to go if it wants to make itself the next billion-dollar franchise. The last remake of King Kong was luck to have made back its money on a $200,000 million budget, something the upcoming prequel will be smart to keep in mind. What we’re really left with is one simple question: Do we really need to see more Kong? Or is it finally time to put cinema’s favorite primate to bed once and for all?
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