Book Review: The Art and Making of Kong: Skull Island by Simon Ward

Recommended for the impressive art it showcases.
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Author Simon Ward takes viewers to and behind the scenes of Kong: Skull Island in his book that looks at the “The Art and Making” of the movie, which is now known to be the second installment in Legendary Entertainment's MonsterVerse franchise following Godzilla (2014).

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts wrote the book's Foreword, In it, he tells about pitching his idea for the movie when he “learned they wanted to revive King Kong” and reveals two key principles in the crew's approach to designing the movie in the current media-consuming landscape. They were “strive to elevate beyond expectations” and make “everything...feel unique to this film.”

After Kong's first appearance in the landmark 1933 film, the great ape character would appear in two Toho productions, including King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), a premise the MonsterVerse will be revisit in 2020. There were two remakes, one in 1976 by producer Dino De Laurentiis and one in 2005 by writer/producer/ director Peter Jackson. There were also numerous appearances in a variety of media.

I enjoyed Vogt-Roberts' take on Kong, is set in 1973 when the American government discovers the island. They send an exploratory team with the protection of a U.S. Army helicopter squadron to learn what they can before any other country does. What they quickly discover is Kong, the largest iteration of the character at over a hundred feet tall, who knocks them out of the sky. The remainder of Kong: Skull Island finds the majority of the characters trying to stay alive, which isn't easy with all the indigenous fauna, and get off the island. Almost all of the characters are rather bland and forgettable, except for Air Force pilot Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who has been there since WWII, but humans aren't why I watch monster movies. The movie delivered very good monster action/destruction, so I was satisfied.

But after a brief introduction covering the origin of the movie that includes a few pieces of concept art, Ward begins dealing with the human characters, which includes interviews from the cast. Then readers get an in-depth look at the creation of Kong from some of those responsible with some great artwork from pencil drawing of Kong fighting a giant squid to a clay sculpture Kong versus a Skull Crawler and finished images from the movie.

The book layout has two instances where it goes behind the two-page layout that makes up the majority of the book. In the “Pacific Ocean, 1944” chapter, the pages fold-out to create a four-page spread. In the “Kong” chapter, there's a page that unfolds twice where one side features Kong standing in front of a lone soldier demonstrating the creature's scale. It would make a great poster and is its removal is tempting. As a bonus, like a DVD extra, the book concludes with a look at the work done on a few “Unused Scenes”, which teases what could have been.

For fans of the movie and for those who appreciate the work that goes into making a movie, The Art and Making of Kong: Skull Island is recommended for the impressive art it showcases.

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