In remaking the 1933 black and white classic that is King Kong, director John Guillermin placed the Eighth Wonder of the World and his Skull Island home in the then modern-day setting of 1976 – whereas director Peter Jackson kept the story based in the 1930s, but with the sort of cheeky outlook towards the decade that one is afforded, looking back at history from the vantage point of 2005. Next year’s Kong: Skull Island, a reboot of the King Kong franchise that takes place in the same universe as Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla relaunch, takes the property back to the 1970s but in a much different way than Guillermin did.
Kong: Skull Island takes place shortly after the end of the Vietnam War in the ’70s and follows a group of human explorers to the eponymous island – including, a former SAS tracker (Tom Hiddleston), a wartime photographer (Brie Larson) and a world-weary lieutenant colonel (Samuel L. Jackson), among others. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) has spoken in the past about how the film explores what happens when characters from “a world of social and civil unrest” come into contact with the mythical creatures of Skull Island, and has now further spoken about how this premise is what attracted him to the Kong reboot in the first place.
Empire has debuted a new piece of Kong: Skull Island concept art that similarly pits Kong against the weapon of choice during the Vietnam era (Napalm), along with a quote from Vogt-Roberts about what happened when he first pitched the idea of a Vietnam-era King Kong movie to Legendary Entertainment:
“The script I first read took place in 1917. But when I started talking to the Legendary [Entertainment] guys, I was thinking, ‘What weird King Kong movie would I want to see?’ So I pitched them the Vietnam War connection, literally thinking they were gonna laugh me out of the room. And to Legendary’s credit, they said, ‘Cool. Let’s figure it out.’ The aesthetics of that time mixed with King Kong makes for an incredible genre mash-up.”
Legendary’s marketing for Kong: Skull Island has further played up the film’s monster movie-meets Vietnam war film aesthetic, with posters and trailer footage that emphasize imagery of soldiers making their way through the jungles of Skull Island and Kong himself frequently silhouetted by either napalm-born fire or equally fiery sunsets. Empire‘s report likewise describes Jackson’s character in the film as being “Captain Ahab crossed with Kilgore from Apocalypse Now,” while the film’s trailers show that the characters played by cast members Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) and John C. Reilly (Sing) are hardened military men who find themselves unexpectedly awestruck when they first cross paths with the mighty king that is Kong,
Kong: Skull Island was co-written by Godzilla (2014) screenwriter Max Borenstein and Dan Gilroy, the latter of whom also successfully tapped into the spirit of ’70s cinema with his work on the 2014 social drama/thriller, Nightcrawler. The disillusioned characters/backdrop of Skull Island could prove to be equally effective at giving this movie’s take on King Kong a sense of modern relevance as Nightcrawler‘s ’70s throwback approach was – at the same time, further building the shared monster universe that Legendary is working on, in the hopes of getting to Godzilla vs. Kong by 2020.
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