This isn’t a takedown of Kong: Skull Island. There’s no issue to be brought up about the plot or acting, the premise or casting, or any of the other big picture parts of the movie. On the whole, I found it super enjoyable and not what I was expecting in a pleasurable way.
There’s just one thing that never felt right to me: this Kong is just way too big.
Now, the whole point of King Kong is that it’s a big ole ape, making it a wonder of the world. The Kongs in the 1933 movie and the 2005 movie – the only ones I am familiar with and therefore the only ones that matter – were roughly 25 feet tall. The new Kong, who is apparently not King Kong but just a regular Kong, who also happens to be a lot more massive than the King, is 100 feet tall. That’s both massive and, to my eyes, a massive mistake.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts said of his new Kong: “If you stand in front of a 100-foot-tall bipedal ape with a sense of nobility to it, I want your brain to say, ‘The only way I reconcile this is to say that’s a god.” Which makes sense for the movie: it easily establishes, through Kong and the numerous other primordial, inhumane creatures I was not expecting to see, that as a human stepping onto Skull Island, you ain’t shit. It works.
But holy crap is Kong huge. And there’s a point of huge where huge stops becoming meaningful and gets distracting. I don’t know where that is, but I think it’s somewhere between 25 and 100 feet tall. An average gorilla is just 5.5 feet tall with 350 pounds of pure muscle that Arnold Schwarzenegger could only dream of. Harambe aside, nobody is messing with even normal sized primates.
So why did this new Kong have to get so comically large? Making it 20 times larger than a dang gorilla and 4 times larger than the old Kongs is overkill. I’ve been trying to think of the smallest “bipedal ape” I would see as a god. Surely the 25-foot ape of past Kongs that climbs the Empire State Building and shows critical thinking to protect a much smaller primate would lead me to believe that this thing above the natural order of my world. Even something half that size would be twice my size, and I’m a fairly tall human. Any creature that has the same basic anatomy as me but whose head pokes above a basketball rim is a god as far as I’m concerned. That extra 80 or 90 feet of ape in the new Kong is just wasted space.
The Neil deGrasse Tyson Argument
Ten feet is a good starting point for god status because there once was a 10-foot-tall primate walking this very Earth. This now-extinct creature is Exhibit A for the case against the new Kong because guess what: it’s extinct. At one-tenth the size of the new Kong, it required too much food to survive and couldn’t adapt to a changing climate. This new Kong doesn’t pass the eye test or scientific precedent.
If we are to believe John C. Reilly’s character, and I very much wish to, there used to be a whole pack of these beasts roaming around this relatively small island. Combine all those mouths to feed with every other gigantic creature shown and not shown in the short time the expedition in the film took place, there’s just no way there was enough vegetation or lower links in the food chain to sustain a robust population of prehistoric creatures.
The human stomach is roughly the size of a fist and can expand to about a half-gallon size to accommodate a large meal. To be blunt, Kong looks like he eats large meals. We can multiply up to assume his stomach fills up to at least 20 gallons. To fuel his apparently constant running and fighting, he’s going to need at least 50 gallons of food a day, and that’s after it’s broken down. Your average gorilla eats around 50 pounds per day; this Kong would need thousands. Think about how many plants that adds up to from just one Kong. Even if you send Joey Chestnut into a Ribfest, the supply only lasts so long.
Either the island would have been laid waste by scavenging or all the creatures would have fought each other to extinction in competition. It’s sad, but it makes more sense than the movie’s version.
(Author’s Note: No Coast Bias’s own Brian Hall and Forbes, both expert sources who carry equal weight, now tell me that the bones of even the smaller Kong likely couldn’t support its massive weight, much less that of the new MegaKong. And if they did there wouldn’t be enough muscle to get him to move around like he does anyway. More science to prove me right!)
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I didn’t enjoy being this critical because, again, I enjoyed Kong: Skull Island. It’s fun, and this new 100-foot-tall Kong is the most interesting yet. He seems like a cool, well-meaning dude and I’m sure he wouldn’t want to be judged by his size, but it can’t be avoided. He’s just ridiculously too big.