A new trailer for Kong: Skull Island, the first since San Diego Comic-Con in July, was released this month, featuring more action and finally giving us a better look at the new King Kong. The film is part of Legendary Pictures’ ambitious shared monster universe, meaning that Kong will meet Godzilla at some point.
Kong’s eventual meeting with Godzilla is a few years down the road though. Kong: Skull Island is first, giving audiences a look at the giant ape on the big screen for the first time since Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong remake. Aside from the monster, Skull Island boasts a great cast headlined by Oscar winner Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston.
Kong: Skull Island is set during the 1970s, with a group of humans traveling to the titular island only to find unexpected danger in the form of a giant ape and prehistoric creatures.
Here’s what you need to know about the movie, which opens on March 10, 2017.
1. ‘Skull Island’ Kicks off Legendary’s Monarch Universe, Which Began With 2014’s ‘Godzilla’
While audiences didn’t know it at the time, when Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla hit theaters in the summer of 2014, we were seeing the beginning of a new shared universe. The film introduced the shady company “Monarch,” which will also play a role in Skull Island. Godzilla earned good reviews, getting the awful taste of Roland Emmerch’s 1998 film out of our mouths, and took in $529 million at the worldwide box office.
At Comic-Con 2014, Edwards and Legendary announced Godzilla 2, which would feature Rodan, Mothra and Ghidorah, three other classic monsters from Toho’s original Godzilla films. “Conflict: Inevitable. Let them fight,” a title card teased.
Separately, Legendary’s Thomas Tull was also developing Kong: Skull Island at Universal, under the Legendary’s new deal with that studio. However, Universal ultimately decided against making Kong over budget concerns. (Also, even though Peter Jackson’s King Kong was made at Universal, the material is in the public domain. The original 1933 King Kong was made at RKO.)
Then in September 2015, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Kong was moving to Warner Bros. in an attempt to create a “shared universe” with both King Kong and Godzilla. The move resulted in a three-picture deal, which will ultimately end with Kong and Godzilla meeting again, just like they did in 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla.
2. Peter Jackson Once Suggested Guillermo Del Toro Should Direct Before Jordan Vogt-Roberts Got the Job
When Collider interviewed Jackson at Comic-Con 2014, he said he hadn’t heard about the film yet. However, he suggested that if anyone should make another King Kong movie, it should be Pacific Rim director Guillermo Del Toro.
I don’t know anything about it. I’m hearing it from you, for the first time. I would look forward to it. If Guillermo did King Kong, that would be great. That would be fantastic. I’ll be there on the first day, and will help him with anything he needs. I’ve always wondered, if in my lifetime, whether we’re going to see The Lord of the Rings film[s] remade, or The Hobbit remade. How long will it actually last or survive until someone remakes it? It will be interesting to see. But with Kong, we were the ones who remade it for the third time.
However, Legendary went in a different direction. They hired Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who has only directed one other film. In 2013, he made the indie coming-of-age drama The Kings of Summer. In 2014, he directed Nick Offerman’s Netflix special Nick Offerman: American Ham.
The first draft of Kong: Skull Island was written by Max Borenstein, who also worked with Edwards on Godzilla. Dan Gilroy, who earned an Oscar nomination for his script Nightcrawler (2014), also worked on the script. (Gilroy’s brother is Tony Gilroy, the filmmaker behind Michael Clayton and The Bourne Legacy.)
3. Tom Hiddleston Promises a ‘Spectacular and Epic’ Film That Takes Audiences to Exotic Locales
Tom Hiddleston is the lead star of the film, playing Captain James Conrad of the British Special Air Force. He’s only one part of a large ensemble cast that also includes Brie Larson as a photojournalist, Samuel L. Jackson as a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and John Goodman as the official in charge of the expedition to Skull Island. John C. Reill, Corey Hawkins and Robey Kebbell also star.
In his interviews for the film, Hiddleston (Thor) has repeatedly praised Vogt-Jordan for wanting to shoot the film on location to bring to life the terror of the natural world, even before a CGI ape enters the frame.
“…We traveled to these extraordinary locations to the ends of the Earth where nature is at its most beautiful and terrifying,” Hiddleston told Deadline in July. “And that was, I think, the genius of Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ pitch was an encouragement to shoot in real places and to make Skull Island out of parts of our planet that are absolutely breathtaking and remote. Where you could believe that Kong as a myth could originate.”
In another interview with Entertainment Weekly, Hiddleston said that filming took place in Hawaii, Australia and Vietnam. All the footage will make Skull Island look like no place on earth. That’s the magic of movies.
“What they find on the island is surprising, and then every character has a very different response to it,” Hiddleston said. “It’s going to be spectacular and epic, but also the human drama is kind of interesting as well.”
4. Vogt-Jordan Says Their King Kong Is a Throwback to the 1933 Version & Described as ‘Lonely God… a Morose Figure’
The first full trailer for Kong: Skull Island didn’t show much of the character, but the second trailer features plenty of scenes with King Kong. Before that trailer was released, Vogt-Jordan unveiled a photo of the monster at Entertainment Weekly. He explained that the new Kong is based on the original 1933 Kong, who was animated by Willis O’Brien.
“We sort of went back to the 1933 version in the sense that he’s a bipedal creature that walks in an upright position, as opposed to the anthropomorphic, anatomically correct silverback gorilla that walks on all fours,” the director explained, adding that he wanted the creature to look like its own species and not just a giant ape.
“A big part of our Kong was I wanted to make something that gave the impression that he was a lonely God, he was a morose figure, lumbering around this island,” Vogt-Jodan added.
Vogt-Jordan said that he doesn’t think there are many similarities to the 2005 Kong and they wanted their Kong to look like a “classic movie monster.”
When asked why he thinks Kong has remained a part of the pop culture zeitgeist, Vogt-Jordan said that it’s because he remains a character audiences an relate too.
“Kong is a very tragic and relatable figure, like Kong just goes to A) The idea of being misunderstood, which everyone can relate to, and B) That humans have a fascination with apes and where we came from and things that we don’t understand,” the director explained to EW.
5. The Next Films in the ‘Godzilla/King Kong’ Universe Will be Released in 2019 & 2020
Kong: Skull Island better be a big hit because Legendary has ambitious plans for two more movies in the “Monarch” universe.
The next will be Godzilla 2, which will hit theaters on March 22, 2019. It was originally supposed to hit theaters in June 2018, but was delayed in May.
Borenstein is working on the script. In October 2016, Variety confirmed that the team behind the horror movie Krampus – Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields – will write a new draft. Director Gareth Edwards will not be returning to the director’s chair.
Godzilla vs. Kong will hit theaters on May 29, 2020.
Again, all of these films will be collaborations between Legendary and Warner Bros., although Tull’s studio still has a deal with Universal.
During a conference in December 2015, Tull explained that he is still a juvenile at heart and he just wanted to see Kong and Godzilla fight. He does have a big problem though: Kong is much smaller than Godzilla was depicted in the 2014 film. A source told the Hollywood Reporter that Tull has a solution for this problem. It turns out that the Kong we will see in Skull Island is going to be an adolescent, so by the time he meets Godzilla, he should be as big as the lizard.