Let’s Take a Journey to The Magnificent, Monstrous Skull Island

By  · Published on July 29th, 2014

Universal Pictures

Given the kind of hindsight that comes with being forty-eight hours outside of something (you know, minimal, but still readily apparent), it seems safe to proclaim that Legendary Pictures won Comic-Con purely in terms of jaw-dropping announcements. This year’s San Diego Comic-Con was mostly free of big shockers (we’re looking at you, Marvel), but Legendary managed to sneak in a doozy while everyone else was busy processing their first (though still expected) announcement that they’re making Godzilla 2 and that they’re sticking with Gareth Edwards to do it.

It’s called Skull Island, and it’s the King Kong origin story that maybe we all forgot we wanted until we realized that, no, no, in fact, we would like it, especially one coming from the studio and screenwriter behind Godzilla (scribe Max Borenstein will pen the new film). The recent news that Legendary has also targeted filmmaker Joe Cornish to direct the film (as reported by Deadline this week) only adds fuel to this big, furry fire. But before we journey to Skull Island, perhaps we should familiarize ourselves with our destination.

What is Skull Island?

Traditionally speaking, it’s where King Kong comes from. As is the case with any fictional place that pops up throughout various iterations of a classic story, Skull Island as an actual “place” is kind of nebulous. It’s definitely an island. It’s probably where King Kong comes from. But there’s other bits about the island that float in and out of King Kong lore that are just as exciting – namely, the long-standing portrayal of the island as being a home to other crazy creatures, especially weird ones, ones that are thought to be extinct and insane twists on prehistorical monsters.

Why is it called Skull Island?

The island isn’t actually called “Skull Island” in the original 1933 King Kong, it’s just a creepy island that the gorilla guy comes from. As Wikipedia shares, “in King Kong, only ‘Skull Mountain’ is named, while in the sequel The Son of Kong, its simply referred to as ‘Kong’s Island.’ In the novelization of King Kong by Delos Lovelace, it’s called ‘Skull Mountain Island.’ But RKO referred to it as ‘Skull Island’ in some of their publicity materials.” Kong: The Animated Series called it “Kong Island,” which is simple and makes plenty of sense (hey, he’s King of Kong Island, thus King Kong, it’s cute!). In any case, it’s typically accepted as being called “Skull Island,” thanks to a giant rock outcropping that, yup, looks like a skull.

Where is Skull Island?

Wikipedia is on the case here, too, reminding us that in 1933’s King Kong, the island is noted as being located at “12°S 78°E – somewhere off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.” It’s a generally accepted location, even Peter Jackson’s recent-ish remake set Skull Island off of Sumatra.

Who else lives there?

Um, everyone? Everything? Jackson’s film delved pretty deeply into the origins of Skull Island, imagining it as a refuge for all sorts of creatures – especially prehistoric – who journeyed there in search of safe haven during a massive upheaval in their other environments. That should be enough to make it way weird, but Jackson’s film also folded in a storyline about an early Southeast Asian tribe migrating to the island (bad idea, guys), bringing with them not only humans, but also domesticated animals, including Kong’s ancestors. No matter how they got there, classic King Kong lore has consistently held that Skull Island isn’t just home to Kong, it’s also filled to the brim with other terrifying creatures.

Here’s just a sample of other creatures on the island, as they’ve appeared throughout cultural history: stegosaurus, tyrannosaurus, a water-loving reptile that’s similar to an elasmousaurus, triceratops, giant bugs, giant bears, giant snakes and that is just a sample. Kong is typically believed to be the only one of his kind, though Jackson’s film indicated that he was just the last one of a group (sad).

What does it look like?

It’s a jungle island, thickly covered in vegetation, surrounded by beach. Lovely, right? Not so much. There’s that skull thing, and also maybe some ruins (if you’re adhering to the “people lived here once” storyline) and a massive oil deposit (dead dinosaurs, naturally). Its few bits of flat land are often filled with monsters battling each other. When it’s not flat or straight-up jungle, it’s craggy and hard to maneuver. In Jackson’s film, Skull Island isn’t just marred by all its horrible inhabitants, it’s also unstable and sinking right into the sea. Seriously, was “island filled with monsters” not enough? The thing had to sink into the sea, too? It probably looks okay from the ocean.

Would I ever want to go there?


Skull Island is set to hit theaters on November 4, 2016. Pack your bags.