Originally, the movie was over three hours long, however it was cut down to one hour and fifty-eight minutes in length. Elements of the movie's extended plot that didn't make it into the final cut can be found within the movie's novelization. They include James Conrad's (Tom Hiddleston's) encounter with a giant snake, and an extended fight sequence between Marlow (John C. Reilly) and Gunpei Ikari (Miyavi).
This movie features the tallest incarnation of Kong in an American movie, standing at approximately one hundred four feet (thirty-two 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 one hundred forty-seven feet (forty-five meters) tall. However, it is stated in the film that Kong is still growing, so this means he may be taller in future releases.
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.
"It sounds like a bird, but it's a fuckin' ant!" This entire scene was an outtake in which John C. Reilly was trying to get the cast and crew to laugh by throwing out the most bizarre, outlandish imaginary monster he could come up with. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts decided that it fit in with Skull Island's bizarre ecology and kept it. In a later interview, Vogt-Roberts said he wanted to include the giant ant in a scene, but couldn't, due to budget constraints.
The scenes with mountains, rivers, and grassy fields 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 copyrights of the Kong franchise are complicated. The novelization of King Kong (1933) 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 movie, 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.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts co-wrote and appeared in the Honest Trailers of his own movie, highlighting some legitimate flaws with the film, such as massive (in his own words) structural problems, lack of character arcs for most of the human cast, and the fact that there are too many human characters to begin with. However, he still stood by the film and attacked the video made on the film by CinemaSins shortly before Honest Trailers was released. He also spent some time on Twitter attacking CinemaSins for their video on the film, calling them trolls and countering some specific sins.
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.
At the premiere in Vietnam, the sixteen-foot-tall display model statue of Kong was engulfed in flames, caused by the model volcanoes surrounding the statue. The fire was extinguished in fifteen minutes, and no one was hurt.
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 King Kong (2005).
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. Director 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 Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995), and No-Face from Spirited Away (2001), and Cubone from Pokémon.
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 movies, including Godzilla vs. Kong (2020).
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.
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.
Kong seems to show a great deal of loneliness, as a result to him losing his parents to the Skullcrawlers at a young age. His eyes well up with tears when Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) gently touches him, and one of the cave paintings depicts him crouching and mourning over the remains of his deceased parents. The producers intentionally designed Kong to have a personality similar to a "teenager orphaned early and forced to assume adult responsibilities", being not yet fully grown, but left to fend for himself. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts wanted to give the audience insight into Kong's state of mind of him being a lonely and exhausted God lumbering around the island, being its protector but also killing time as he drags himself from place to place. Terry Notary played Kong as a lonely, burdened "fourteen-year-old that's trapped in the life of an adult" who's coming into himself and his role as a protector, driven to uphold his sense of duty by the burden of the loss of his family. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts also described Kong as an adolescent growing into his role as alpha as he faces the defining battle of his life to claim his rightful place as King of Skull Island.
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 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."
Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson admitted their reasons for joining the movie were basically this. Jackson even stated: "When they said 'King Kong, we want you', I was like 'Awesome!' Then I found out that I was the second choice and I still didn't care. I'll do it anyway. They had an Academy Award winner at first and he didn't want to be home away from home, away from his kids that long because we were gone forever in Hawaii, Australia, and Vietnam. So I was like 'My family didn't care, I'll go!'" Brie Larson accepted because her character was an action girl instead of a damsel in distress.
Various direct references to 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 recurring theme throughout several Kong films.
In an interview with Collider, co-Writer Dan Gilroy revealed that Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) was originally meant to be "a war-weary photographer who had been taking pictures for too long and didn't believe in anything, but would experience an awakening during her first encounter with Kong."
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 King Kong (1933).
In the novelization, it's revealed that Conrad's (Tom Hiddleston's) cynical demeanor stems from an incident where he failed to save a kidnapped seven-year-old girl named Jenny who was killed by a sniper along with two of the five men under his command.
Marlow's mention of "really big ants that sound like birds" is undoubtedly a reference to Them! (1954), a science fiction movie about giant ants. Clips of another 1950s science fiction movie about extra large insects, Beginning of the End (1957), are shown in the exposition. The latter movie featured grasshoppers filmed walking across a photograph of a building, in an attempt to depict a plague of gigantic insects invading Chicago, Illinois.
One deleted kaiju was a species of giant tigers with antlers, while others have curved, elongated teeth. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts cites the video game Okami as an influence on its design. In a bio for the creature included in the Chinese marketing for "Kong: Skull Island", it is given the English species name Icarus tigris. Its Chinese name roughly translates to 'Holy tiger.' In the book "The Art and Making of Kong: Skull Island", writer John Gatins describes the planned scene involving the Icarus tigris: "The characters" had landed on the island and spent the night on the beach before they traveled inland. They sit around and drink beer by a fire and sign sailor shanties. I just loved it, but it was a bit kind of tangential to having to get to the meat of the matter. In the morning after this raucous night, two saber-toothed tigers come out of the jungle and sniff around the camp. Someone says, "Don't shoot and they'll go away," but the guy takes the shot and kills one. They were a pair, a male and a female, and the other one just goes nuts. It kills the guy who took the shot. It's like the inciting incident of a war, a kind of harbinger; you're in a place you don't know, and now you've awakened more than you know. It was the first indication that we're not in a normal place. There's no such thing as a saber-toothed tiger and it's enormous."
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 M.U.T.O., he does not consume their remains after they are killed. In a deleted script of Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) however, Godzilla devours Deutalios.
Director 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 Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) ("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").
Actor and stuntman Terry Notary motion-captures an ape in both this and the Planet of the Apes film franchise, where he played Rocket. Coincidentally, he also appeared in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), which also features a character named Rocket.
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.
Long before production on the film began, the filmmakers experimented with different techniques to create Kong's roar, which were overseen by Supervisor Sound Editor/Sound Designer Al Nelson. As the King Kong (1933) roar was made with a reversed tiger roar and a lion roar, Nelson visited the National Zooligical Park in Washington, D.C. and Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom and recorded lion roars as the starting point. He also mixed and matched gorilla and monkey sounds to create additional layers. To fully capture the desired "island-shaking" levels, the sound team set up speaker systems at Skywalker Sound and played Kong's bellows and roars through a 5.1 channel system.
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 April 2016, artist Joe DeVito sued the producers of this film for using elements of his Skull Island universe, which he claimed that he created, and the producers used without his permission or compensating him.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts fell in love with Vietnam while visiting the country during location scouting for the movie. He ended up moving to Saigon after completing the movie, which was going well until a night out last September. While visiting a nightclub called XOXO, Vogt-Roberts was viciously attacked: "This was not a fight", he tells QQ. "I was almost killed, as were others. This was a fucking assault by insane gangsters." The filmmaker sustained contusions, a fractured skull, a cerebral air pocket, and hemorrhaging, resulting in a ten-day hospital stay and the possibility of permanent brain damage. The article's description of the surveillance footage states that "a tall guy with an expensive-looking haircut walks up and grabs the bearded man's shoulder", with the bearded man being Vogt-Roberts. He turns around and about a dozen bodies swarm him, landing punches, flipping tables, throwing glasses, bludgeoning him while he curls on the ground. The scene, one continuous, unbearable ten-minute take, ends with as many as nine mauled clubgoers on the floor. "As a director, I love violent movies," Vogt-Roberts says. "And I love fight scenes. But after I watched that shit, I was just in fucking shock." "I remember I wasn't being an asshole, I wasn't instigating. I remember getting punched in the fucking side of the face. But you never fucking know. You're out at a fucking nightclub." Vogt-Roberts, who's been a Tourism Ambassador for Vietnam since his time making this movie began looking into who might be responsible for the assault, learning that they could indeed be powerful mobsters.
In the novelization, it is stated that the Skullcrawlers are amphibious, as Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) mentioned the one in the Boneyard had gills, and thus would pose a threat to the world if they ever left Skull Island. This is similar to Godzilla, who is also a reptile, but strangely possesses gills. The fact the Skullcrawlers eyesockets can be mistaken for their real eyes has a similar fact for Killer Whales, as their white markings make people believe those are its real eyes.
There's a good chance that in their fight with Ramarak, Kong's parents very nearly killed it, or at the very least left it heavily wounded, before being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of Ramarak's offspring. The brilliance in this is two-fold, that Ramarak went underground for years to simply heal from its wounds (as opposed to ravaging the Island once it was unopposed), and that Kong was not only fighting the smaller Skullcrawlers for experience, but was culling the population. Effectively ensuring that when he would be large and strong enough to take Ramarak in a fight, Ramarak would be forced to fight alone. One may wonder why Ramarak doesn't try to eat Kong either of the times Kong is seemingly defeated by it, instead deciding to continue going after the humans. However, recall that Kong's parents bodies also seem to have been left largely intact (judging by the state of their skeletons). Kong, to them, is not prey, but a rival to be driven away or killed, much as many real world predators like lions will readily kill other large predators like leopards and hyenas, but rarely ever eat them.
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).
Co-Writer Dan Gilroy originally wrote Conrad to be "a guy whose unit was attacked by a monster in Vietnam, driving him to go in search of it, and instead of being approached at the bar and being given a job, Conrad would have wanted to be part of the mission."
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).
When Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) 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 World War II, the time period when Marlow's plane crashed on Skull Island.
Originally, the bad kaiju was going to be a giant dragon-like serpent with a saw-like jaw, but was scrapped and replaced by the Skullcrawlers. Several unused concepts for the Skullcrawlers included having a more snake-like body, being able to glide and climb trees, and having mantis-like raptorial arms.
Jackson compares his character to Captain Ahab from Moby-Dick, stating, "He does have to exact some measure of revenge for the people he's lost. That's just the nature of how we operate--eye for an eye!".
When Marlow (John C. Reilly) first notes that he is a Cubs fan, Slivko (Thomas Mann) makes fun of him, noting that he is a Tigers fan. Marlow then asks if the Tiger had won it all. In 1945, the year after Marlow was shot down and stranded on Skull Island, the Tigers defeated the Cubs in the World Series. The Cubs would not appear in another World Series until 2016, about seven months after principal photography ended.
The scene where Kong approaches James Conrad (Hiddleston) and Mason Weaver (Larson) at night in the fog and has glowing eyes lead to some behind the scenes disagreements. "Somebody actually quit production over this, 'I don't understand it! It just doesn't make sense to me!'"
Interestingly, Kong is shown with chimp-like feet with splayed big toes, despite being an obligate upright biped. A human-like foot, with a non-opposable big toe, would be more fitting for an upright ape as the big toe provides more leverage.
This movie 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 King Kong (1933), and fifty-five and fifty years after the Toho Kong movies: King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and King Kong Escapes (1967).
The natives of Skull Island were antagonists out of desperation in King Kong (1933) and horrifically degenerate troglodytes in King Kong (2005). In this movie, they are a very territorial and taciturn, yet ultimately friendly and helpful people.
Kong attempts to snap a Skullcrawler's jaws apart at one point in the climax, much like he did with the T. Rex in King Kong (1933) and the V. Rex in King Kong (2005). In general, the final fight between Kong and the Alpha Skullcrawler appear to take some cues from the King Kong (2005) fight between King Kong and the V. Rexes. Both fights have a very swampy setting, with Kong holding and protecting the female protagonist from the enemy who is trying to eat her. Kong also happened to use a rock in both fights, but while it was fatal to a V. Rex in King Kong (2005), it only did minimal damage to the Skullcrawler.
The Skullcrawlers are said in some promotional material to be "missing links between snakes and lizards". However, the ancestors of snakes lost the front legs first, as fossils have been found of primitive snakes with no forelimbs but stubby hindlimbs.
According to Vogt-Roberts and Borenstein, San-Lin role was originally larger but had been reduced. Alison de Souza of the Straits Times wrote that in the final film Jing Tian's role would be described in Chinese as a "hua ping", meaning a vase, which refers to insignificant roles, and that she "hardly does or says a thing."
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 production.
Tom Hiddelston, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, and Samuel L. Jackson all played characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hiddelston played Loki, Larson played Captain Marvel, Reilly played Corpsman Rhomann Dey, and Jackson played Nick Fury. Shea Whigham appeared as Roger Dooley in Marvel's Agent Carter, Corey Hawkins had a minor role as a Navy-OP in Iron Man 3, James M. Comer provided the voices for Cable and Stryker in the video-game Marvel Heroes, and Terry Notary was the on-set Groot and Cull Obsidian in Avengers Infinity War.
Almost every creature (or at least those that are shown onscreen) on Skull Island has the ability to camouflage themselves and blend in to their surroundings, from Mother Longlegs, Spore Mantis, Sker Buffalos, and Leafwings. This is to disguise themselves from the apex predators like the Skullcrawlers and Kong himself. Even the natives on the island also learned to blend into the environment to avoid detection.
This is the fifth 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 being The Son of Kong (1933), the two Toho films, and King Kong (1976).
The roar of the Skullcrawler is very high in tone, possessing a raspy quality with a hiss and growl mixed in-between. According to Supervisor Sound Designer/Editor Al Nelson, the Skullcrawler roar was inspired by the pained squeal of a dying rabbit as well as the sounds of sea lions and squirrels.
Marlow says the boat was built from salvaged parts of his P-51 Mustang, Gunpei's A6M Zero, and a B-29 Superfortress. However, the .50 BMG machine guns are mounted in a ball turret, which was only used on the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator.
The aspect ratio changes to a letterbox format at various times throughout the movie whenever it airs on television. Sometimes the changes occur within edits in a single scene or set piece, resulting in a very unusual viewing experience. It turns out HBO is airing the airplane edit for this movie instead of the theatrical cut. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts took to Twitter to ask HBO why they were not airing or streaming the original edit of this movie. Filmmakers often have to provide an airplane edit of a movie so that their films can properly be shown on such small screens. Vogt-Roberts says he switched to a letterbox format for some shots on the airplane edit so that it could maintain the same scope and size as the original, but on a smaller screen. Peter Atencio, the director of the Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key-starring comedy Keanu (2016), responded to Vogt-Roberts and revealed he faced a similar issue with HBO on his movie, one that has never been corrected. "HBO refuses to play anamorphic movies in the correct ratio unless they're contractually obligated to," he said. "Completely ridiculous that they don't do it, when even television commercials are letterboxed these days."
Packard's (Samuel L. Jackson's) unit is called an assault helicopter battalion, which, in 1973, should consist mostly of AH-1 Cobra gunships and OH-6 Loach scout choppers. Instead, it is made up almost entirely of UH-1 Hueys, only a few of which are in gunship configuration. Once downed, the surviving pilots and door gunners simply operate as infantry, and are even geared up accordingly. In a real-life Vietnam-era Air Cavalry battalion, the helicopter crews were just that, with the infantry they carried (who couldn't fly the choppers) to and from battle being a seperate formation (at least company-size) within the same battalion.
Marlow's P-51 has invasion stripes painted on the wings and fuselage. These were only applied to Allied aircraft used in Western Europe during and after the Normandy Landings. In the Pacific, his aircraft would not have these.
Packard carries what appears to be two Colt M1902 military pistols in a dual shoulder holster rig, the use of this pistol is an odd choice, since it was never adopted by the US military, and would be at least 45 years old by 1973, the time period for this film (although some M1911A1s, produced as early as 1924, and other designs such as the M1917 Revolver still in use were slightly older.) It is noteworthy, however, that officers often still carried their own 'unofficial' sidearms, even in the 70s.
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.
The name "Psychovulture" comes from a mix of "psycho", a state into which they go upon ingesting certain poisonous pufferfish, and "vulture", which is a reference to their avian form. For their subspecies, "Leafwing" comes from their wing design, which is both green, and shaped much like a leaf, which is multiplied by the veins running through their wings, which look like leaf veins.
Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) makes multiple references to "Force 5" during the opening helicopter attack sequence. In Pulp Fiction (1994) (which co-starred Jackson), Mia Wallace was in a television pilot called "Fox Force 5".
Tom Hiddleston described his character as a man who holds "no political allegiance in the conflict" but "understands conflict", further stating, "He's a former soldier who has been formed by an understanding of war, but his specific skill set is something that's attached to the power of nature; and I think that's something people haven't seen in a long time".
For the facial performance, White explains, "one of the biggest worries that we had on the film was Kong's such a central character and he has a little bit of a story arc, but he can't talk. So how does he communicate how he feels? It came down to the facial work, in particular the eye animation. We spent a huge amount of time to get that right."
Kong also had to naturally inhabit 'Skull Island,' which was mostly shot in Vietnam by cinematographer Larry Fong. (The final film also includes some CG environments and some scenes combining live action and CG.) To make Kong a natural resident of the island, ILM put emphasis on the CG lighting. "We really tried to emulate the lighting that we were getting from location; Larry Fong did such a beautiful job," White says, adding, "we spent the most time on hair development. Our hair development had been pushed far along from where it was with Warcraft and The Revenant [to make the famous bear].
The mire squid was complicated in animating tentacle arms, Jeff White said. "There was interaction with Kong's fur and mouth and the water. At one point, he grabs it and realizes it's formidable, and we had to convey his exhaustion." Vogt-Roberts even sent ILM a reference from "Oldboy," the Korean thriller, to look at its disgusting eating scene in handling the way Kong crunches the tentacles in his mouth.
On set, the film crew had a couple of things -- particularly, a tool called CineView, which they developed at ILM. It runs on an Jeff White stated "It's a very simple augmented reality app where you can pick proper camera lenses so you get an idea of the right field of view. You can load in [CG] models, and then say, "Okay, this model is 100 feet away from me." You can see it out in the environment, and say, "Okay, if Kong's 100 feet away, I need to tilt up this high in order to get to his head. I think that was useful for the actors, and also for the camera operators."
Marlowe refers to the Ramarak Skullcrawler as the "Big One", a possible reference to Jurassic Park (1993) in which the leader of the velociraptors is referred to as the "Big One" which also starred Samuel L. Jackson who gets killed offscreen by one of the raptors.
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.
Larson stated that her character has her "own sort of motive" as to why she joined the expedition: "That's the interesting thing about this movie. It's a group of misfits that are all coming from different angles looking at the same thing. You get to see how many different views in regards to nature and how we should handle it are dealt with from many different perspectives". Larson further added that Weaver has an "interest and respect for nature" and "Through that she has a closer, more loving, and intimate relationship with Kong".
The psychovultures are shown to have bright blue blood. This suggests copper-based physiology, which is unlikely, as copper is highly toxic to most animal life. On Earth, it's found only in Mollusca and Arthropoda. The Skull Island creatures are explicitly Earth biology, as they are either pre-KT event Mesozoic animals or Cenozoic megafauna.
The Skullcrawlers, at least in their role in the story, are reminiscent of the Deathrunners and Gaw from the novel Kong: King of Skull Island. Like the Deathrunners, the Skullcrawlers are insatiable carnivores that force the natives of Skull Island to hide behind a wall, and are responsible for killing Kong's parents. Just like in the novel, Kong earns his status as the island's god by killing the Skullcrawlers and saving the island from their reign of terror.
Like the 1976 film, Skull Island is found by satellites but instead of a permanent cloud bank, it's hidden inside a perpetual storm system. , the humans go to Skull Island in search of oil. In an earlier draft of this film's script, they travel to Skull Island because of Conrad's search for his missing brother, after he's stranded on the island looking for a cure to all diseases known as the "Titan Serum."
The Royal Air Force lighter Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) inherited from his dad and lends to Weaver (Brie Larson). During the fight in the boneyard, Weaver uses it like an improvised grenade to set fire to one of the Skullcrawlers with the latent flammable gas in the air, burning it alive. However, in the novelization, Conrad uses it instead.
The scene where the Psychovultures carry off Nieves and devour him 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.
"That was the thing that kept us up the most going into this project. How do we arrive at a design that's unique and new and serves the story, and at the same time is different from the previous iteration that was executed really well for Peter Jackson's Kong?" admits VFX supervisor Jeff White of lead VFX house Industrial Light & Magic. "We took a lot of inspiration from the 1933 film," he says. "Jordan was really adamant about pushing the design back toward this 'movie monster.' He took that to every level. Kong's got gorilla proportions and walks upright, which we were a little worried about. We had to spend a lot of time so it didn't feel like a guy in a suit. And we changed his color to a reddish-brown rather than a black gorilla. It was about differentiating it from the past and yet paying nods to the 1933 Kong, particularly in the design of the face. It started from a gorilla face. And we pushed the anatomy, [giving] him a signature 1933 massive brow and wide eyes."
The body performance for the fully CG Kong was based on motion-capture sessions with actor Terry Notary, and facial capture work with Toby Kebbell (who plays Jack Chapman in the film), according to Jeff White, who had previously worked with both actors using performance capture on Warcraft: The Beginning. Those performances were critical, as was the work of the animators, he says, since, "translating any motion to a 100-foot tall character requires a lot of animation to make it look believable."
Another element that always challenges VFX teams: CG water. "We developed a system where the animators could do their work and then hand it off to water simulation," White explains. "Even if we slowed Kong down to account for his scale, his hand or foot would still be hitting the water at 40-50 mph. So the first pass would just be a massive wall of water. We would take measurement of where he had gone underwater and we had a simulation value: how wet is the hair. He could go from dry to having it plunging into water and getting darker, shiner and looser so that it looked like appropriately wet hair."
Jeff White revealed that Jordan vogt Roberts explained two things about Kong 'Number one: not a gorilla. Number two: not something we've necessarily seen in previous Kong iterations, but certainly looking for the most inspiration from the original '33 Kong'. "That was really interesting, because as we started talking about the project, we did what we naturally do, which is pull lots of gorilla-movement reference [footage]. But after we had that first meeting with Jordan, we definitely were changing tracks a little bit, where Kong was not going to be a quadruped, and he was going to stand upright. Those decisions really influenced so many things about this Kong. One thing we were very worried about with him walking upright was, "Is he going to look like a guy in a suit?" We wanted to make sure that he still felt like this creature. For Jordan, it was really about getting back to this sense of a movie monster, rather than just a giant gorilla. We had some really fun discussions and things to solve as far as what his anatomy is, his underlying sculpt. He really is this interesting hybrid of man and gorilla. Gorillas can't actually stand up very well. It's very uncomfortable for them, because their ribs end up resting right on their pelvic bone. So for this guy, we re-sculpted him, kept the shorter legs, very long arms, and added more separation between his torso and his rib cage, and made him his own thing. But I think when you get to the face, especially, we started with a pretty traditional gorilla. Looking more toward the western lowland gorillas than the silverbacks. Then we just started pushing the anatomy further and further away until we landed at this movie monster that Jordan was looking for, where it has massive brows. He loved the '33 Kong, how you could read the craziness in the eyes. A lot of that was because that gorilla had such bright eye-whites, and he looked googly-eyed a lot of the time. A huge challenge for us was, "How do we incorporate that look and feel, and still have it look realistic?"
"What's interesting is that Kong is intentionally not a gorilla in this film," said ILM's VFX supervisor Jeff White. "Jordan wanted to go back to the 1933 version where Kong was more of a new species -- a hybrid of man and gorilla. And we came back to the idea that he's a movie monster, so he doesn't walk on all fours. And being upright is a difficult thing for a normal gorilla to do, so we had to find the right cadence and the right movement style to make it work."
At 100 feet, this represents the biggest and most badass Kong. And although ILM used motion-facial-capture video reference (actor Terry Notary for the body, and actor Toby Kebbell, who has a co-starring role, for the face), the animation was entirely keyframed. ILM's facial-capture system, honored this year for the Academy's Sci-Tech Award, advanced the eye work in particular. "We knew from the beginning that the eyes were going to have to be tricked out to a [new] level," White said. "And gorillas have fascinating eyes with complex iris color and stained white, so we spent a lot of time getting the details right. In fact, for one of the first times ever, we added displacements, which gave 3D depth to the iris."
Technically, hair was the greatest challenge. ILM has been perfecting the hair pipeline with "Warcraft" and "The Revenant," but Kong required a dedicated two-person team for thicker and more-realistic grooming, which also demanded a battle-weary look. ILM worked with a 7-foot gorilla model and then scaled it up to 100 feet or more and filled in the surface area with 19 million hairs. This was complicated by water interaction on the fur, which meant close collaboration with the water simulation team on a variety of looks.
Scale was also important. "Because he's in natural environments, we needed to scale him up and down," said White. "We'd drop him into a plate and he'd look too small for what we wanted to communicate, so we'd scale him up bigger to sometimes 200 feet-tall." And it all came down to two battles with a 200-foot-long squid and a similarly sized but more menacing Skullcrawler lizard.
The Skullcrawler (described as a black-and-white snake with arms and a skull head) was inspired by the look of the creature in the Korean horror fave, "The Host." "It was designed to defeat Kong," White said. "As we were adjusting its size, we posed it so it could wrap its tail significantly around him because it needed to have some ability to take down this giant gorilla in a convincing way.
Kong spends a lot of the movie in the water, or on fire. Jeff White stated "We wanted to make sure it felt like the hair reacted to that. We never knew when the animators were going to get him wet, and in which way. So we would essentially have animation complete the scene. Let's say Kong reaches down and grabs a squid out of the water. Then we would run the effects simulation to get all the water splashing, and the big surface volume of the water. That was particularly challenging on the show, because even slowed down, Kong hits the water at 40 or 50 miles an hour. So first take of every effect scene was just a wave that covered him completely. Especially at the end, when he's fighting the Skullcrawler [creature]. That was just displacing massive amounts of water. There was a lot of artful carving of the water to get it to move aside. Once the water simulation's finished, then we can simulate the hair. [The system] would actually be able to measure how submerged the hair was within the water surface. So if it was fully under the water surface, like at the end, when Kong's rescuing Brie, it would measure the saturation value of the hair and know it was fully saturated. So it needed to change the style of the hair and the looseness of the dynamic, so it really flows in that underwater feel that we typically get. But then as he pulls his arms out, they could dry over time, and then re-clump the way hair naturally would. We spent a lot of time looking at gorillas getting in and out of water to figure out what the methodology needed to be there. But what was great about the system was that even in later shots where he wasn't necessarily submerged, we had a fully dry version of Kong, and a fully wet version, and then we could simply paint areas of him where we wanted him more wet. It took a long time to get the system set up, but it was incredibly useful. In fact, it also let us, if we needed a bloody area, like around his arm wound, we could paint that as wet, then say, "Okay, this is also bloody, so it's gonna take on a red tint to the fur." But it would handle everything all the way through shading, darkening the fur, making it shinier, everything to help it feel wet.
Skullcrawlers share some resemblances with the naga of Southern and Southeastern Asian mythologies, for they are both creatures that live underground with serpentine bodies and possess only one pair of limbs.
Another challenge was the scale of Kong. It took much more hair to cover a character that large; IILM supervisor Jeff Whiteestimated about 19 million hairs covered Kong's body, he continues. "Also we couldn't get away with the hair being long and simple because then we'd loose some of the scale cues. We had two people working on just the hair for about a year on making the curls change direction, and everything that would make it feel natural and organic. We developed new technology that allowed us to put leaves and sticks and caked-on mud in his hair l, we'd assume he'd pick that up in this environment. And we had a swarm of flies around him any creature this tall would have a little ecosystem. Those little details really helped a CG creature fit in the environment."
In King Kong (1976), the humans go to Skull Island in search of oil. In an earlier draft of this movie's script, they travel to Skull Island because of Conrad's search for his missing brother, after he's stranded on the island looking for a cure to all diseases known as the "Titan Serum".
When the group finds one of Kong's fresh bloody handprints on the side of a mountain, Packard proudly remarks that they were the ones to injure him, and how they'll soon have enough munitions to "finish the job" -- all but saying outright that if it bleeds, they can kill it. referencing Predator (1987).
Kong's size was a key factor in the director's decision for keyframe animation, led by ILM animation supervisor Scott Benza, to be used in making most of Kong's performance. This enabled the director to work closely with the animators to get the desired performance for Kong.
The opening title sequence featuring WB and Legendary logos was originally meant to feature "throwbacks to 70s vector-based and illustrated company logos," but not only could they not get them right but the companies were also "very protective of their logos."
Vogt Roberts says Vietnam is ready for their version of The Raid, suggesting their film industry is growing and ready to bust out, but he's discounting the political climate. The filmmakers behind the excellent Clash followed it up with another action film called Chinatown which was immediately banned by authorities from being shown anywhere inside or out of the country without severe consequences.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The reason Kong is larger than any of his other incarnations is due to the fact that with the upcoming greenlit Godzilla vs. Kong (2020), 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".
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).
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, Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts vetoed the idea because this would violate the notion from Godzilla (2014) 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 scene where Kong fights a giant octopus is an homage to King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), in which Kong's first fight is against a giant octopus. After the fight, Kong eats the octopus, a possible homage to Ishiro Honda taking and eating the octopus after filming King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
The Skullcrawlers' history on Skull Island is revealed in Walter R. Riccio's visions. Riccio says that the Skullcrawlers attempted to invade Skull Island and waged war against Kong's ancestors. When the Iwi first arrived on Skull Island, the Skullcrawlers had wiped out all but the two strongest apes, which turned out to be Kong's parents. After the 1973 Monarch expedition, Skullcrawlers still inhabit Skull Island, but their population is controlled by Kong, and none of them has grown to the size of Skull Devil. In another vision, Riccio explained that the Skullcrawlers continued their fight against Kong's parents. One day, the Skullcrawlers attempted to kill Kong's mother who is in labor, but Kong's father kept them at bay. After Kong was born, his mother hid him in a cave and sealed it with rocks before she rushed to aid her mate. Kong then watched as the Skullcrawlers slaughtered his parents.
Bill Randa (John Goodman) 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 movie during the after-credits scene.
The novelization states that Skullcrawlers can mimic human cries, and that was the cause of Gunpei Ikari's death as he and Marlow mistook one for an Iwi child crying, the book also suggests that the Skull Devil appeared when it did because it somehow sensed that Kong was down.
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.
In the movie, Weaver (Brie Larson) makes it off of Skull Island with her film intact, while in the novelization, her film is ruined when she falls into the marsh. The book also explains that Weaver's camera acts as a barrier between her and the events going on around her.
Part of the reason for the film going to Warner Brothers. Legendary Pictures wanted the film to be a prelude to a potential crossover with Godzilla (2014), but Universal Pictures (holders of the Kong rights, and Legendary Pictures' current partner) refused to allow it, as they wanted nothing to do with Godzilla.
The film's marketing emulates that of Godzilla (2014), teasing and showing as little of the title monster as possible until the release date gets much closer. Justified due to being made by the same production companies and even being set in the same universe.
Randa's (John Goodman's) camera continue to flash after he was eaten by a Skullcrawler, similar to how Nash's (Bruce A. Young's) satellite phone kept ringing in the Spinosaurus after he was eaten in Jurassic Park III (2001).
In the novelization, Kong's injuries from Packard's napalm trap are more severe as his fur is left smoldering here and there, and some patches are completely burnt off, exposing skin underneath. There are more instances of Kong's intelligence shown such as him using dirt to put out the fires made by the helicopter battle, and Packard seeing Kong trigger a rockslide to bury a Skullcrawler.
Bill Randa (John Goodman) is somewhat similar to Quint (Robert Shaw) from Jaws (1975). Both are the survivors of Word War II shipwrecks. Both survived dangerous hazards while being stranded at sea; sharks for Quint and Godzilla for Randa. Both began an obsession of hunting and learning about the creatures that tried to kill them; Quint became a shark hunter and Randa became a monster hunter. Both die in an ironic way; Quint is killed by a Great White shark, and Randa is killed by a Skullcrawler.