King Kong: an examination by: GF Willmetts.

Whether he has feet of clay and fur covering a metal skeleton or just CGI, the giant gorilla referred to as King Kong, former resident of Skull Island has some serious problems. No one things of the Square-Cube Law, which means the mass or weight trebles as the cross-section increases in size. Ergo, even a 20 or 40 foot high gorilla is going to have a hard time walking let alone running after anyone. I discussed a similar problem with Marvel’s Giant/Ant Man.

Let’s give the numbers this time. I’ll use a lowland silverback gorilla. I’ll use imperial measurements as I suspect most of you will recognise numbers better than way than metric. I’ve rounded the numbers up but you really wouldn’t want to go above 18 feet.


feet                              tons

6                                   25

12                                   75

18                                227

24                                2042


Now, even at 18 feet tall, it’s like laden articulated lorry on two feet walking around. 6 feet taller, more like house walking around. Kong would sink into soft earth and struggle to raise his arms. Attempting to climb to the top of a certain skyscraper, his weight would knock the tower off and himself without the intervention of aircraft. He would certainly wipe out a city block when he fell to the ground. Mighty Joe Young has a similar problem at 12 feet tall.

However, there is a bigger problem. Even if such a creature was possible, without other gorillas of a similar size, he would be strictly one of a kind. It’s all in the breeding. You would need a colony of such gorillas to ensure there was little inbreeding and it would certainly bring a new meaning to ‘Did the earth move for you?’ if giant gorillas could speak.

The bigger problem is just what does he eat? A jungle wouldn’t last long and I doubt if the odd human sacrifice would give enough protein to feed all those muscles. The biggest saving is so little to eat, there would be little pooh to clean up. Let’s not even explore how Kong finds enough water to drink.

Of course, the size of Skull Island is never given and considering that it also has a league of dinosaurs snucked away which Kong frequently fights and kills, one can probably presume he does have a meat diet there. Even so, there would have to be a big herd of dinosaurs or Kong would be out of meat very quickly unless he has a taste for fish or whales.

Even though I’m not certain I’ve seen all of the various ‘King Kong’ or even ‘Mighty Joe Young’ movies, I do know none of these problems have ever been addressed. With film, it’s easy to gloss over details for the sake of the plot even if it’s pretty much the same all the time. Explorers go to a so-called undiscovered island and find natives who keep a giant gorilla happy by the occasional human sacrifice. They manage to capture the gorilla, take him alive as an exhibit to New York, where he escapes and gets killed. No one ever addresses how can they put this giant gorilla on a raft. Look at those weights again. You’d need massive construction cranes even to roll him over.

Somewhere in the mix, is a girl whom Kong might like and not hurt or eat, despite having had a career of doing so with other ladies. Some of the details might change a little but it comes over as a safety blanket expectation plot that catches every generation but glosses over the details of just what kind of animal husbandry do you apply to a giant gorilla where even the most powerful anaesthetic won’t be enough to keep him unconscious for long.

So, the only way you can accept a ‘King Kong’ story is forget any pretence of the story belonging to Science Fiction and firmly place it as a fantasy using our reality as a backdrop. When anything can go, anything is possible. There isn’t even any equivalent in the pulps as far as I know that equates with Kong. Granted that the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs had Pellucidar with its giant dinosaurs but so did Jules Verne in a couple books but none strayed to giant primates. Comicbooks might copy with the likes of DC’s Titano but any giant ape is going to be compared to King Kong.

There’s a common thing in fiction, be it prose or film, if it hasn’t been done, then do it before someone else does it. If you do it well, then you can make money from it as indeed did 1933 director Merian C. Cooper, who held reins on the copyright.




(c) GF Willmetts 2017


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.