Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of the classic King Kong is as much a love letter to the ‘golden age’ of cinema as it is a monster movie. He maintained the 1930’s setting of the original and created a bold, visual spectacle which often strayed into melodrama. This pastiche approach worked for Jackson, and in rebooting the franchise with Kong: Skull Island, Jordan Vogt-Roberts has taken a similar approach to the 1976 version of King Kong.
Footage from the movie revealed so far promises something different to what audiences have seen before, but marketing for the movie has made similar use of iconic imagery and music from another renowned decade. It draws obvious parallels to the Vietnam War and makes use of a Cold War aesthetic to tease further connections to Legendary’s 2014 Godzilla reboot, hyping up the long-gestating monster mash-up.
A new video uploaded onto the Kong: Skull Island Twitter account has made these connections more explicit by revealing MONARCH surveillance documents pertaining to Tom Hiddleston’s character, Captain James Conrad.
A partially obscured section titled “career notes” describes Conrad as “Elite hunter-tracker. British SAS 1965-71. Began Vietnam…with Australia Special Forces. Securing mission-critical…outcomes. Ran successful covert operations: hunted and…enemy troops. Forcing Viet Cong withdrawal.” The document goes on to describe his “excellent physical health” despite showing “manifestations of shellshock“. An animation censors substantial sections of the text, leaving only the message: “hunter becomes hunted.”
While Tom Hiddleston’s role as a tracker has been known for some time, the video highlights his level of military expertise and ties him directly to the central connection between the two movies of the monster universe. MONARCH is the scientific organization introduced in Godzilla, which has been teased in further video clips released as part of Kong: Skull Island‘s online marketing campaign. The connection to Hiddleston’s character suggests that the shady organization has some part in the expedition to the titular island. Although, the redacted sections and his Special Forces background might suggest he isn’t aware of this involvement.
It’s just as feasible that this clip is meant to serve purely towards characterisation and world-building, fleshing out the character of James Conrad prior to the release of a third trailer. A similar clip was released on the Kong: Skull Island Twitter account prior to the release of the movie’s second trailer, and with an upcoming release date, it’s possible that fans will soon be treated to more footage.
It would be interesting if this tease were setting up more substantial connective threads between the movies of this shared universe. Considering that Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla are set roughly 40 years apart, James Conrad could return as a grizzled survivor of his time in both Vietnam, on the mythical island. It would be a fitting tribute to the era when there were many complaints about veterans of the Vietnam War being essentially abandoned by their country.