Marlow (John C. Reilly) and Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) are likely references to Joseph Conrad, and the lead character Marlow, from Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness. The novella, as well as the film it inspired, Apocalypse Now (1979), are thematic and visual inspirations for this movie.
Samuel L. Jackson stated on a talk show that throughout filming, he and his co-stars had no concrete idea of just how big Kong was supposed to be, since whenever they asked, they kept getting conflicting answers.
At the premiere in Vietnam, the sixteen foot tall display model statue of King Kong was engulfed in flames, which was caused by the models of smaller volcanoes surrounding the statue. The fire was extinguished in fifteen minutes, and no one was hurt.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts admitted that he was strongly influenced by video games from his childhood. That is why the movie contains many point-of-view shots of guns being fired (like in a first-person shooting game), and the shot of a helicopter making 360 degrees spins towards the ground was inspired by a similar scene from a Resident Evil game.
The Mother Longlegs spider could be an homage to the giant spider with crab claws, that was cut from King Kong (1933). Also, the Skull Crawlers could be an homage to the two-legged lizard, that climbs up the side of the mountain in the original Kong.
Marlow's allusion to (unseen) "really big ants" that "sound like birds" is undoubtedly a reference to Them! (1954) another 1950's science fiction movie, which, in addition to The Beginning of the End (1957) - a few clips of which are shown in the exposition - features insects "enlarged" by U.S. atomic tests. The latter film features grasshoppers - filmed walking across a photograph of a building in an attempt to depict a plague of gigantic insects invading Chicago.
The magnificent scenes of mountains, rivers, grass field were mostly being shot in Vietnam (Ninh Binh, Quang Binh, et cetera). Jordan Vogt-Roberts and the cast members, said that those places in Vietnam, are the most beautiful places that they've ever been.
According to Jordan Vogt-Roberts, the first draft of the screenplay had the action taking place in 1917, and was an entirely different film. Although he liked the script, he didn't think it was something he wanted to make. When asked what kind of monster movie he had in mind, he suggested to have it take place in the Vietnam war era, as a sort of "Apocalypse Now (1979) with monsters", since there had never been a monster movie set in that time. He also saw interesting parallels between the political turmoil and racial riots from the 1970s and the 2010s. Contrary to his expectation, the studio loved the idea, and the script was re-worked from there.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts is a fan of video games, animé and manga, and littered the movie with references to them. For example, the jacket worn by John C. Reilly's character ("Good for your health, bad for your education") is a spin on the one worn by Kaneda in Katsuhiro Otomo's manga "Akira" ("Good for health, bad for education").
In the intro credits, there is a sketch of a turtle with the words "M.U.T.O. - Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism" written beside it. This could be a reference to the Gamera movies, which involve a giant turtle attacking Japan, or the two giant turtles from Toho movies, the skeletal remains of one in Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), and Kamoebas from Space Amoeba (1970).
Jordan Vogt-Roberts stated that he wanted Kong to look simple and iconic enough that a third grader could easily draw him and the image would still be recognizable, Vogt-Roberts also wanted Kong to feel like a "lonely god, he was a morose figure lumbering around this island" and took the design back to the 1933 incarnation where Kong was presented as a "Bipedal creature that walks in an upright position" Vogt-Roberts additionally stated "If anything, our Kong is meant to be a throwback to the '33 version, some of those cartoonish and iconic qualities, and then make them their own, we created something, that to some degree, served as a throwback to the inspiration for what started all of this, but then also, it had to be a fully unique and different creature, that I would like to think is fully contained and identifiable as the 2017 version of King Kong, I think there are very modern elements to him, yet hopefully he feels very timeless at the same time.
This film features five actors and one actress who have appeared, or will appear, as characters in films based on Marvel comics: Samuel L. Jackson played S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury, Tom Hiddleston played Loki, John C. Reilly played Nova Corps Officer Rhomann Dey, Shea Wigham played Roger Dooley in Agent Carter, Toby Kebbel appeared in Fantastic Four, and Brie Larson will play the title character in Captain Marvel (2019). All, except Fantastic Four, are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The production was on-location January 2016, at the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. On January 15, 2016, filming was on location at Mt. Tamborine, in the Gold Coast Hinterland. Local newspaper The Gold Coast Bulletin ran headline front page stories about the film's production on January 12 and January 14, 2016.
This film was released twelve years after Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005), forty-one years after Dino De Laurentiis' King Kong (1976), eighty-four years after the original black and white 1933 version, and fifty-five and fifty years after the Toho Kong movies: King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and King Kong Escapes (1967).
In the credits, near the end is a line that says: Characters of "Godzilla", "King Ghidorah", "Mothra", and "Rodan" created and owned by Toho Co., Ltd. This ties in with the MonsterVerse, and could be a clue to Kaiju appearing in future films, including Godzilla vs. Kong (2020).
Princess Mononoke (1997) helped influence the design and approach of the monsters, Jordan Vogt-Roberts stated: "Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke was actually a big reference, in the way that the spirit creatures sort of have their own domains and fit within that, so a big thing was trying to design creatures that felt realistic and could exist in an ecosystem that feels sort of wild and out there, and then also design things that simultaneously felt beautiful at the same time". However, biophysical analysis of Kong and other creatures concludes that, although biophysically they are viable, the ecosystem of the island could not support them.
This is the fifth King Kong film, in which characters such as Ann Darrow, Carl Denham, and Jack Driscoll do not appear. It is also the second film that is different from the 1933 version in terms of the plot. The others being the sequel to the original, "Son of Kong", the two Toho films, and the 1976 version.
The two-armed pit lizard from King Kong (1933) was used as a reference for the Skullcrawlers. They were also inspired by several other cinematic creatures. Jordan Vogt-Roberts stated, "That creature, beyond being a reference to a creature from the 1933 version, is also this crazy fusion of all the influences throughout my life, like the first angel from Evangelion, and No-face from Spirited Away (2001), and Cubone from Pokémon.
There are subtle references to the movie "Jeremiah Johnson." At one point, the characters must decide if they should walk through a sacred graveyard with many skeletons, or go around, and thus take a longer route. The other reference is when Marlow asks about the outcome of the war: "Who won?" A line that Robert Redford used in his movie as well.
While it seems that most of the boat is made from the forward fuselage, cockpit, and components of a B-29 Superfortress, the forward twin machine gun emplacement is actually not from that kind of aircraft. Instead, it is a modified ventral "belly" or "ball" turret of a B-17 Flying Fortress, or B-24 Liberator bomber, made by Sperry. All three aircraft were used in the Pacific theater (although by 1943, all B-17 units were converted to B-24s). Ball turrets were not well-liked, because the gunner (a small man) was crammed entirely into the turret, sitting in a fetal position between the two .50 caliber machine guns, aiming between his legs. Entry or exit into the ball turret could only happen when the turret and fuselage hatches were properly aligned. If turret damage prevented this for any reason, the gunner was trapped, and had better hope that the landing gear was okay, because there wasn't room for a normal parachute. Instead of this system, the B-29 had an advanced system of two upper, and two lower quad (four-gun) turrets that were aimed remotely (the gunner wasn't actually in the turret). A ball turret malfunction, combined with a landing gear malfunction, was featured in Amazing Stories (1985) season one, episode five, "The Mission", featuring Kevin Costner and Casey Siemaszko.
Bill Randa (John Goodman) doesn't believe in aliens. He had previously played the alien robot Hound in the "Transformers" films. His co-star Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) had previously voiced Kong in King Kong (1976).
On the FX Channel's version of the Samuel L. Jackson film Snakes on a Plane (2006), the often quoted line is changed to "I have had it with these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane!" Jackson later ended up fighting monkey-type creatures in The Legend of Tarzan (2016) and this movie.
The names Conrad and Marlow are a reference to the novel "Heart of Darkness" , written by Joseph Conrad, featuring a main character named Marlow. The novel was also the inspiration for the movie Apocalypse Now (1979).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
There is an after credits scene which sets up the MonsterVerse by establishing that Kong isn't the only king, or monster, out there. This leads to pictures of Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah, followed by Godzilla's roar that can be heard when the scene ends.
Kong's design is inspired by a combination of King Kong (1933) and the Japanese adaptation in the 1960s. This allows the creative team to both utilize a look similar to the classic Kong, while drawing upon the exaggerated "kaiju" aspects, and powers, displayed by the Japanese adaptation, such as greatly exaggerated height, build, strength, and supernatural abilities. This will allow a more "even" confrontation with Godzilla, in the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong (2020).
Kong: Skull Island features the tallest incarnation of Kong in an American film, standing approximately 104 feet (31.6 meters) tall, while Peter Jackson's Kong was only 25 feet (7.6 meters) tall by comparison. The tallest incarnation of Kong overall is the one featured in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), which stood approximately 147 feet (45 meters) tall. However, it is stated in the film that Kong isn't yet fully grown, so this could mean he may be taller in future releases.
The copyrights of the Kong franchise are complicated. The novelization of the original 1933 film are now in the public domain. One small difference between the movie and the novelization, is the name of Captain Englehorn's ship. In the film, it is the Venture, in the novel it is the Wanderer. The rusted-out hull of the Wanderer, in this movie, is a nod to the novel.
Just as Godzilla featured characters that worked for Project Monarch, and used the term M.U.T.O., so too does this movie, tying both together for the MonsterVerse, which includes Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), and Godzilla vs. Kong (2020).
Many ideas were suggested for the post-credit scene in order to tie the film to Godzilla (2014) and the future movies in the MonsterVerse. One idea was to have the characters see Godzilla surface in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. However, Jordan Vogt-Roberts vetoed the idea because this would violate the notion from the 2014 movie, that Godzilla was hardly ever seen before that time. It would also have required an inordinate amount of the budget that he preferred to spend on the rest of the movie. So he pitched the idea of the conference room with the projector, as it appears in the end of the movie.
Various references to the original King Kong (1933) are subtly planted through the film. Brie Larson's character comforting Kong is a perpetual theme throughout Kong films. Kong is seen fighting off helicopters, an obvious reference to the original Kong fighting planes in New York City, and in the climax, Kong is briefly held back by chains, much like previous Kongs, while on display.
Hank addresses Kong's size as him actually not being fully grown yet, while the film takes place in 1973 and Godzilla (2014) in 1999, we may actually see Kong has grown ten times larger then what we saw in this film, for when he battles Godzilla.
John Goodman's character says he is the sole survivor of a ship accident involving a monster. This is likely a reference to Godzilla, who we learn is connected to this film during the after-credits scene.