[SPOILERS ahead for Kong: Skull Island.]
Kong: Skull Island isn’t merely yet another reboot of King Kong or just a grand monster mashup in the vein of King Kong meets Apocalypse Now; it opens the door to the wider MonsterVerse by Legendary Films. Just as the Marvel Cinematic Universe dawned our current age of superheroes living in an interconnected, shared movie universe, with the DC Extended Universe and Fox’s combined X-Men and Deadpool franchises following suit, Legendary Films has dived right into the shared universe bandwagon.
Legendary’s opening volley was Godzilla in 2014, the first of the MonsterVerse films. Soon, Godzilla will be joined in new movies by his fellow Japanese kaiju monsters: Godzilla will return in 2019 in Godzilla: King of the Monsters directed by Michael Dougherty (Trick r Treat). But for now, Kong: Skull Island takes center stage as the current prime destination of the MonsterVerse, providing plenty of tantalizing clues about the rules of this shared universe and what incredible sights are still to come.
Ever since Nick Fury told Tony Stark about the Avengers Initiative in a tag at the end of Iron Man‘s credits, audiences are now accustomed to staying through the end credits of movies in hopes of catching a morsel of what’s to come in future installments of a given franchise. When watching Kong: Skull Island, stay all the way to end of the credits. While there are scenes that play during the first portion of the end credits concluding the story of John C. Reilly’s character, those are not the scenes you’re really waiting for.
When the real button at the end of the credits happens, it drops a monster of a bomb, which we’ll fill you in on below. And it all starts with Monarch.
WHAT IS MONARCH?
In Marvel Comics parlance, Monarch is basically the S.H.I.E.L.D of the MonsterVerse. In Kong Skull Island, Monarch member William Randa (John Goodman), who led the 1973 expedition to Skull Island, said that President Harry Truman founded Monarch in 1946. A joint organization of Americans, Japanese, and other nations, Monarch’s objective is to investigate and, if possible, neutralize the onslaught of M.U.T.O.s around the world. “M.U.T.O.” is Monarch’s term meaning Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism. These include Godzilla, the two giant creatures Godzilla destroyed in his 2014 film, and also now King Kong and the various monsters that live on Skull Island.
We first encountered Monarch in 2014’s Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards. The most prominent members of Monarch in the present day are Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (played by Ken Watanabe) and his assistant Dr. Vivienne Graham (played by Sally Hawkins). They oversaw the U.S. Military’s mission to help Godzilla defeat two giant monsters attempting to mate in Hawaii and San Francisco. Godzilla was originally named “Gojira” by Ishiro’s father, who was one of the original members of Monarch.
One of Monarch’s mantras is that “This world doesn’t belong to us.” There are ancient beings that walked the Earth long before Man, and if Man isn’t careful, those monsters will rise up and take the world back. Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), a seismologist who was recruited by William Randa into Monarch and was part of the 1973 Skull Island expedition, postulated the “Hollow Earth” theory: that there are massive sections of the planet beneath the surface where M.U.T.O.s have survived for millions of years. Skull Island was proven to be one of the gateways for M.U.T.O.s to escape to the surface, and Kong is one of the guardians of those gateways who killed M.U.T.O.s (like Skull Island’s Skull Crawlers) that come through.
The backstory for Monarch was established in the comic book Godzilla: Awakening. Monarch’s first mission was to investigate the appearance of a M.U.T.O. called Shinomura, a winged, dragon-like monster over 250 million years old. Thought dead since a meteor struck the Earth at the end of the Triassic period, Shinomura was awakened by the bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. Godzilla emerged from his slumber and battled the Shinomura.
Then in 1946, a part of Shinomura was discovered in the Philippines. Monarch exposed it to radiation, and it grew into a full-grown Shinomura that began searching for the original. Godzilla returned to battle both Shinomuras, destroying one. Monarch arranged a trap under the guise of a nuclear “test.” Luring Godzilla and Shinomura to the Bikini Atoll, Monarch detonated a nuclear weapon, killing Shinomura. This event was survived by William Randa, and the experience drove him to join Monarch and the quest to prove that “he wasn’t crazy,” that these giant monsters did exist, consumed the rest of his life.
After 1946, Godzilla disappeared and wouldn’t return until 2014 (as far as we know… more below). In 1981, the elder Dr. Serizawa told his son Ishiro that he believed Godzilla was still alive. Upon his father’s death, Monarch recruited Ishiro Serizawa into its ranks.
THE SKULL ISLAND END CREDITS TAG
When the credits of Kong: Skull Island conclude, we find James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), two of the survivors of the expedition, locked in an interrogation room facing a one-way glass window. Conrad promises he “won’t tell the Russians” about Kong or anything they encountered on Skull Island (while Weaver says the exact opposite). Houston Brooks and San Lin (Jing Tian), the two Monarch scientists who survived Skull Island, then enter the room and welcome their friends Conrad and Weaver to Monarch.
“Kong is King on Skull Island, but there are other kings” in other places in the world, Brooks announces. And with that, Brooks and Lin show Conrad and Weaver (and the audience) a series of photographs: Mostly these are photos of caves in undisclosed locations, but they all contain drawings in the shapes of giant monsters – monsters we recognize as Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Rodan. One photo even shows Godzilla fighting King Ghidorah. The MonsterVerse is now real!
Of course, Godzilla has battled alongside and against the gigantic caterpillar/moth beast Mothra, the Pteranodon-like Rodan, and the three-headed dragon King Ghidorah several times in Japanese kaiju movies produced by Toho Co. Ltd. However, the monster wars to come being teased will be the first time these cult-favorite creatures will be in American films produced by Legendary Films and Warner Bros. for their MonsterVerse – with King Kong expected to join in.
It’s interesting that Conrad and Weaver are recruited into Monarch and shown these photos. That seems to indicate that Hiddleston and Larson will be onboard for the future MonsterVerse films. The next scheduled MonsterVerse film is Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 2019, which has Kyle Chandler (from the 2005 Peter Jackson King Kong), Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel), and Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) already cast.
Will King of the Monsters also take place in the 1970s like Kong: Skull Island – making it a prequel to the 2014 Godzilla? Otherwise, why tease Hiddleston and Larson will be a part of Monarch moving forward? To set King of the Monsters in the present day as a sequel to Godzilla would mean Hiddleston and Larson would have to be recast if they’re in the movie, as their characters would be in their 60s and 70s by that point.
As for whether Kong will meet Godzilla in King of the Monsters, Skull Island established that Kong was still relatively young and was “still growing.” A fully-grown Kong would likely be much bigger than the 104 feet he stands in Skull Island, so he would size up competitively against the much larger Godzilla. Whether it happens in King of the Monsters or in another future MonsterVerse film, Godzilla and Kong are destined to clash in movie theaters once more. To echo the most famous line, uttered by Ken Watanabe, in Godzilla: Let them fight!