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.
Hayao Miyazaki's 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.
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-degree spins toward the ground was inspired by a similar scene from a Resident Evil game.
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 Shin Seiki Evangerion (1995), and No-face from Spirited Away (2001), and Cubone from Pokémon.
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.
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.
The names of Marlow and Conrad are likely references to Joseph Conrad and the lead character, Marlow, from Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness. The novella, as well as the Vietnam War film it inspired, Apocalypse Now (1979), are thematic and visual inspirations for this movie. Heart of Darkness was also read by a character in an earlier King Kong (2005).
The magnificent scenes of mountains, rivers, and grass field were mostly shot in Vietnam (including Ninh Binh and Quang Binh). Jordan Vogt-Roberts and the cast members said they were the most beautiful places that they've ever been.
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.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in November 2016, when asked about his artistic vision with Kong and the process of bringing him to life, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts said: " With Kong, there's been obviously so many different versions of him in the past and ours needed to feel unique to our film. I had a mandate that I wanted a kid to be able to doodle him on the back of a piece of homework and for his shapes to be simple and hopefully iconic enough that, like, a third grader could draw that shape and you would know what it is. 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. We sort of went back to the 1933 version [King Kong (1933)] 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. Our Kong was intended to say, like, this isn't just a big gorilla or a big monkey. This is something that is its own species. It has its own set of rules, so we can do what we want and we really wanted to pay homage to what came before...and yet do something completely different. "
Marlow's mention of "really big ants that sound like birds" is undoubtedly a reference to Them! (1954), a science fiction film about giant ants. Clips of another 50's sci-fi movie about extra-large insects, The Beginning of the End (1957), are shown in the exposition. The latter movie features grasshoppers filmed walking across a photograph of a building, in an attempt to depict a plague of gigantic insects invading Chicago.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts is a fan of video games, anime 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 Ôtomo'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).
In January of 2016, the production was on location at the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. On January 15, 2016, filming took place at Mt. Tamborine, in the Gold Coast Hinterland. Local newspaper The Gold Coast Bulletin ran front page stories on January 12 and January 14 about the film's production.
Despite its name, the Spore Mantis does not resemble an actual mantis (lacking the trademark clasping forelimbs) and instead looks more like a stick insect. It is possible the name is a reference to Kamacuras.
Kong combines features of early hominids, the mythical Bigfoot, and perhaps some aspects of the Gargantuas and Gigantopithecus, as opposed to being a more realistic gorilla as seen in King Kong (2005).
Kong is similar to Godzilla from Godzilla (2014) in several ways: both are the last of their kind, both have a vendetta against their natural enemies (Skullcrawlers/MUTOs) who have killed the rest of their species, and both are portrayed as morally neutral alpha-predators who maintain order and have no personal quarrel with humans. However, while Godzilla ignores humans and pays them no heed (except when he sees Ford Brody and shows emotion when they make eye contact), Kong recognizes and forms relationships with individual humans either as friends (Conrad and Weaver) or as enemies (Packard). Also, while Godzilla is an adult, Kong is an adolescent, still growing and learning.
The scene where the Psychovultures carry off Nieves and devour him in mid-air is similar to a scene from the movie Pitch Black (2000) where the Bio-Raptors carry off a woman and tear her apart in flight.
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 King Kong (1933) in terms of plot. The others are sequels to the original, The Son of Kong (1933), the two Toho films, and King Kong (1976).
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).
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 was actually not generally used on that kind of aircraft except for rare testing models. 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 using a gunsight behind fishbowl observation windows (the gunner wasn't actually in the turret). A ball turret malfunction, combined with a landing gear malfunction, was featured in Amazing Stories: The Mission (1985).
When Marlow is showing off his makeshift boat, the Grey Fox, there is a baseball signed by Bill Nicholson of the Chicago Cubs, Marlow's favorite team. Nicholson played for the Cubs from 1939-1948 during WWII, the time period when Marlow's plane crashed on Skull Island.
There are subtle references to the movie Jeremiah Johnson (1972). 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?" This is a line that Robert Redford used in his movie as well.
Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson starred together in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Jackson playing the virtuous hero Nick Fury and Hiddleston playing the super-villain Loki of Asgard. In "Kong: Skull Island", Hiddleston plays honourable hero James Conrad, while Jackson plays Preston Packard, a villainous, Captain Ahab-like character.
The reason Kong is larger than any of his other incarnations is due to the fact that with the upcoming green lit King of the Monsters (aka Kong vs Godzilla), Kong would've been too small to fight Godzilla at his more traditional size. This is also why they included the line in the movie that "he's still growing".
The Skullcrawlers combine features of snakes, lizards and mosasaurs all of which are members of the reptile order Squamata (it is possible that the Skullcrawlers are ancient, highly specialized members of this taxon).
According to Hank Marlow,the Skullcrawlers are the "Devils" of Skull Island and are feared by the natives to the point where they won't mention their true name, this makes "Skullcrawlers" an alias or a nickname, as Marlow admitted he just "made up the name" To make them sound scarier.
Samuel L. Jackson's character makes multiple references to "Force 5" during the opening helicopter attack sequence. In Pulp Fiction (1994), the wife of Jackson's character's boss was in a TV pilot called "Fox Force 5".
On the FX Channel's bowdlerized version of the Samuel L. Jackson film Snakes on a Plane (2006), his 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 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 allowed the creative team to utilize a look similar to the classic Kong, while also 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 at approximately 104 feet (31.6 meters). Peter Jackson's Kong, by comparison, was only 25 feet (7.6 meters) tall. The tallest incarnation of Kong overall is the one featured in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), who stood approximately 147 feet (45 meters) tall. However, it is stated in the film that Kong is still growing, so this means he may be taller in future releases.
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.
The copyrights of the Kong franchise are complicated. The novelization of the original King Kong (1933) film is 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.
Various direct references to the original King Kong (1933) occur throughout the film, such as when Kong is seen fighting off helicopters like the original Kong battled planes in New York City, and Kong being briefly held back by chains is reminiscent of Kong being put on display for an audience. The lead female character comforting Kong is also a perpetual theme throughout several films.
Near the end of the credits 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).
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.
This is the first American King Kong film where Kong does not die at the end. In King Kong (1933) and King Kong (2005) he is shot by aircraft and falls to his death from the Empire State Building. In King Kong (1976) he fell from the World Trade Center, but was revealed to be in a comatose state in King Kong Lives (1986)in which he is given an artificial heart which eventually fails and he dies. Furthermore, in contrast to the 1933 and 2005 versions who met their ends trying to fight off attacking airplanes, this incarnation of Kong makes his first major appearance by successfully defeating a group of military aircraft.
Kong ripping apart and devouring the mire squid is a rare instance of a kaiju actively consuming another,while Godzilla was stated to be a "predator" of the MUTO, he does not consume their remains after they are killed. In a deleted script of Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) however, Godzilla devours Deutalios.
During the "Graveyard Attack" scene, after a Skull Crawler attacks and eats Bill Randa and is circling around the group in the fog, Hank Marlow comes forward with sword in hand and mumbles "Death before dishonor" in Japanese ("Fumeiyo no mae no shi"). The use of the phrase not only pinpoints Marlow's virtuous, never-backing-down personality, but indicates that Marlow picked up a bit of Japanese during his years on Skull island with a Japanese fighter pilot, and learned the tactics of his rival in order to survive the treacherous wilderness.