Legendary Pictures brought the King of the Monsters himself, Godzilla, back to the big screen in 2014 with its U.S. reboot of the Kaiju franchise, and in 2017 the studio will bring another iconic monster – namely King Kong a.k.a. The Eighth Wonder of the World – back to theaters, with Kong: Skull Island.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) is directing the film based on a script co-written by Godzilla writer Max Borenstein, as well as Derek Connolly (Jurassic World), John Gatins (Flight), and Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler). Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons was once slated to costar in Kong: Skull Island, but ended up dropping out ahead of the start of production – though, not before he mentioned that the film takes place in the 1970s, unlike the Great Depression-era setting of the 1933 King Kong movie and Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong remake.
We can now confirm that Vogt-Roberts’ film will, in fact, take place during the ’70s, as Skull Island costar Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) revealed as much in the preview for the movie that aired as part of the 2016 MTV Movie Awards ceremony. MTV‘s Kong: Skull Island featurette, which you can watch above, includes behind the scenes footage and interviews with a number of members of the Skull Island cast – a crew that includes Hawkins’ Straight Outta Compton costar Jason Mitchell, in addition to Tom Hiddleston (Thor: The Dark World), newly-minted Oscar-winner Brie Larson (Room), Samuel L. Jackson (Avengers: Age of Ultron), John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane), and Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), among others.
The video includes footage of the ongoing Skull Island production – which is filming heavily on location in Hawaii – as well as another one of the Kong-sized skeletons previously revealed in leaked photos from the set. Moreover, the video features brief cast interviews that reveal the following plot/character details for the film:
- Hiddleston is playing Captain James Conrad, a former British SAS officer who “understands nature and the ways of the jungle,” according to the actor himself, and leads an expedition to a mysterious island in the South Pacific – where he and his fellow explorers encounter “strange, new creatures, mythic beasts… and they have to get off the island alive.”
- Larson is playing a character named Weaver (last name, presumably), who is a “photojournalist, an activist [who] wants to work with these [Skull Island] creatures rather than fight against them.”
- Mitchell is playing a helicopter pilot who “has to build courage” over the course of the film.
Hawkins, in the MTV preview, reveals that Kong: Skull Island takes place in “the Vietnam era” (read: the 1970s) and examines what “that post-traumatic stress [does] to people” – adding a layer of meaning to the story of Kong in the process. The 1976 King Kong remake also takes place during the 1970s, but in that case the change in setting is used to explore themes about corporate greed specific to that decade (see how the expedition to Skull Island is organized by the Petrox Oil Company) and how it contributes to Kong’s demise. Both the original 1933 film and Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake take place in the 1930s, but are arguably more timeless with regard to their themes about humanity’s arrogance towards nature than the 1976 version, by comparison.
Hiddleston previously teased that Kong: Skull Island is a “re-conception” of the King Kong mythology, and it sounds like the idea is that Kong and his fellow Skull Island inhabitants in the film will present a welcome source of wonder for the film’s human characters (despite the danger they pose), during the period of widespread disillusionment that was the Vietnam era. It’s an intriguing twist on the themes of King Kong movies past, not least of all because it doesn’t sound as though there will be the traditional “love story” between the female lead (Larson’s Weaver, in this case) and Kong himself – something that should allow Skull Island to avoid the uncomfortable racial overtones that have hung around King Kong movies past, among other things.
Legendary Pictures has big plans for Kong: Skull Island too, as the studio has already announced its intention for King Kong to face off with Godzilla on the big screen in 2020, following the release of Skull Island in 2017 and Godzilla 2 in 2018, respectively. The King Kong/Godzilla franchise has technically been around since 1962 (when King Kong vs. Godzilla was released in theaters), but Legendary clearly intends to reboot the franchise using the model for a modern cinematic universe. Of course, whether or not Kong and Godzilla will clash on the big screen once again will depend on Skull Island performing well enough at the box office to justify crossing over the rebooted monster properties.
Kong: Skull Island opens in U.S. theaters on March 10th, 2017, followed by Godzilla 2 on June 8th, 2018. Godzilla vs. Kong releases sometime in 2020.