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Kong: Skull Island

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Directed by  Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Story by  John Gatins
Kong: Skull Island
Produced by  Thomas Tull Jon Jashni Mary Parent Alex Garcia
Screenplay by  Dan Gilroy Max Borenstein Derek Connolly
Based on  King Kong by Merian C. Cooper Edgar Wallace
Starring  Tom Hiddleston Samuel L Jackson John Goodman Brie Larson Jing Tian Toby Kebbell John Ortiz Corey Hawkins Jason Mitchell Shea Whigham Thomas Mann Terry Notary John C. Reilly

Kong: Skull Island is a 2017 American monster film directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, from a story by John Gatins. The film is a reboot of the King Kong franchise and serves as the second film in Legendary's MonsterVerse. It stars an ensemble cast consisting of Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary and John C. Reilly. The film follows a team of scientists and Vietnam War soldiers who travel to an uncharted island in the Pacific and encounter terrifying creatures and the mighty Kong.

Contents

Principal photography began on October 19, 2015, in Hawaii and various locations around Vietnam. Kong: Skull Island premiered on February 28, 2017, in London and was released in the United States on March 10, 2017, in 2D, 3D, IMAX 3D and in Dolby Cinemas. The film received generally positive reviews from critics and has grossed $162 million worldwide, against its $185 million budget.

Plot

In 1944, during World War II, two fighter pilots—Hank Marlow and Gunpei Ikari—parachute onto an island in the South Pacific after a dogfight. They both engage in close combat, with Ikari gaining the upper hand. A large behemoth monster suddenly interrupts the fight, causing both soldiers to stare in shock and flee.

In 1973, former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad is hired by U.S. government agent Bill Randa to guide an expedition to map out an island known as "Skull Island". Randa also recruits the Sky Devils, a Vietnam veteran helicopter squadron led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard and prominently made up of his right-hand, Major Jack Chapman and Captain Earl Cole to escort them to the island. The group is soon joined by pacifist photojournalist Mason Weaver, who plans to expose it, believing it's a secret military operation with dark purposes.

Arriving on Skull Island, Packard's men begin dropping explosives developed by seismologist Houston Brooks to determine if the ground is hollow, despite Conrad's objections. The helicopters are suddenly attacked by a 100 foot-tall bipedal ape known as "Kong", and many are destroyed, with the survivors split into two groups. The survivors' only hope for rescue is a resupply team that will meet them at the island's northern end in three days time. Randa reveals his affiliation to the secret government organization Monarch to Packard and the expedition's real purpose: to acquire proof of the existence of forgotten monsters, fearing that they may soon return to take back the world from humanity.

Packard and his remaining men bury their dead comrades and begin searching for the missing members of the expedition, including Chapman. On the way they encounter a giant spider that kills one man before Packard kills it. Meanwhile, Conrad, Weaver, Brooks, biologist San Lin, soldier Reg Slivko and Landsat employee Victor Nieves, among others, encounter the local Iwi natives and meet Marlow. Marlow reveals that Kong is the island's guardian and is worshiped as a god by the natives for protecting them from Skullcrawlers, reptilian underground monsters who have slaughtered Kong's ancestors, leaving him as the last of his kind. Marlow reveals Kong only attacked the helicopters to prevent the bombs from awakening the largest Skullcrawler, the "Big One", thus protecting the locals from it. Miles away from them, Chapman witnesses Kong wrestle and defeat a large octopus, causing him to flee into the woods, where he encounters a giant stick insect. Soon afterwards, he is eaten by a Skullcrawler.

Weaver encounters a giant skier buffalo, trapped under a fallen helicopter. She tries to rescue it until Kong comes and saves the creature, before leaving Weaver, who is awed by his compassion.

Conrad's group sets off down the river in a boat built by Marlow and the now-deceased Ikari, from parts scavenged from their downed planes, when they are beset by pterosaur-like creatures called leafwings, killing Nieves. The survivors manage to connect with Packard, who insists on searching for Chapman. Marlow reluctantly leads both Conrad and Packard's team to the Forbidden Zone, a forgotten battleground between Kong's ancestors and the Skullcrawlers. The same Skullcrawler that devoured Chapman attacks the group, devouring Randa and massacring many soldiers before Weaver kills it by triggering an explosion. A vengeful Packard blames Kong for the deaths of his men and retrieves seismic explosives to lure Kong into a trap and kill him, while Conrad resolves to lead the non-military personnel back to the boat so they can rendezvous with the resupply team.

While scouting the path ahead, Conrad and Weaver encounter Kong up-close and personal, and resolve to save him, a sentiment that Marlow shares. Packard's trap incapacitates Kong, and he orders his men to set explosives around the fallen creature. Before he can butcher the fallen simian, Conrad's group arrives and a standoff ensues. Conrad and Weaver convince the other soldiers to spare Kong, but Packard arrogantly refuses, his lust for revenge consuming him. The group is suddenly attacked by the Alpha Skullcrawler, known amongst the natives as Ramarak (though the latter name is never mentioned on-screen). The group flees, while Packard tries to detonate the explosives. An injured Kong recovers and crushes Packard before being overpowered by Ramarak, who then chases the survivors as they race towards the shore. Cole is killed when his suicide attempt on the Skullcrawler fails, cornering the humans in the process. Kong returns to rescue them and, aided by the humans, successfully kills Ramarak by ripping its guts out through its mouth. With the Skullcrawler defeated, Kong allows the surviving humans to leave. Sometime afterward, Marlow returns home, reunites with his wife, and meets his son.

In a post-credits scene, Conrad and Weaver are detained and interrogated by Monarch and Skull Island expedition survivors Brooks and Lin. Conrad and Weaver are informed that Kong is not the only monster to roam the world, and are shown archive footage of cave paintings depicting Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah. As the screen fades, Godzilla's roar is heard.

Cast

  • Tom Hiddleston as James Conrad, a broken but noble former British Special Air Service Captain who served in the Vietnam War with the Australian Special Air Service Regiment, hired as a hunter-tracker for the expedition by Randa. Hiddleston described his character as 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".
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Preston Packard, a United States Army Lieutenant Colonel and leader of the Sky Devils helicopter squadron, hired to chopper the group of explorers on the expedition. 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!".
  • John Goodman as William "Bill" Randa, a senior official in the government organization Monarch, who is in charge of the expedition.
  • Brie Larson as Mason Weaver, a feisty and altruistic photojournalist and peace activist. Larson stated that her character has her "own sort of motive" as to why she joined the expedition, stating, "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".
  • Jing Tian as San Lin, a young biologist working for Monarch.
  • Toby Kebbell as Jack Chapman, a United States Army major and Sea Stallion helicopter pilot who is Packard's right hand man.
  • John Ortiz as Victor Nieves, a senior Landsat official on the expedition.
  • Corey Hawkins as Houston Brooks, a young geologist and graduate of Yale University, recruited for the expedition by Monarch for his groundbreaking theories on seismology.
  • Jason Mitchell as Glenn Mills, a young loyal warrant officer and helicopter pilot of the Sky Devils.
  • Shea Whigham as Earl Cole, a seasoned Captain of the Sky Devils, with a "unique" perspective on the mission.
  • Thomas Mann as Reg Slivko, a young warrant officer of the Sky Devils, known for carrying a portable record player.
  • Terry Notary as King Kong (motion capture performance), a 100 foot tall gorilla who is worshiped as the king and god on Skull Island by the Iwi natives. Notary stated that this Kong is an adolescent and he tried to play Kong like a "14 year old that's trapped in the life of an adult", stating that it took three days to film the motion capture scenes.
  • John C. Reilly as Hank Marlow, an eccentric but wise and virtuous Chicagoan lieutenant of the 45th Pursuit Squadron who spent 28 years stranded on Skull Island since World War II. He knows the creatures of the island, and is a friend of the Iwi natives. Will Brittain portrays a young Hank Marlow, and also plays Marlow's son.
  • Eugene Cordero as Reles, a warrant officer of the Sky Devils, Packard's door gunner.
  • Marc Evan Jackson as Steve Woodward, a Landsat employee on the expedition.
  • Richard Jenkins as Senator Willis, a politician who reluctantly funds the expedition.
  • Miyavi as Gunpei Ikari, a Japanese World War II pilot who crash lands on Skull Island alongside Marlow.
  • Development

    In July 2014 at the San Diego Comic-Con, Legendary Pictures announced a King Kong origin story, initially titled Skull Island, with a release date of November 4, 2016, and Universal Pictures distributing. Legendary offered Joe Cornish the job of directing the film, while previous King Kong helmer Peter Jackson suggested Guillermo del Toro. In September 2014, the studio announced that Jordan Vogt-Roberts would direct the film.

    On December 12, 2014, the studio announced they had re-titled the film Kong: Skull Island. On September 10, 2015, it was announced that Universal would let Legendary Pictures move Kong: Skull Island to another studio, Warner Bros., so they could later make a King Kong and Godzilla crossover film, since Legendary still had the rights to two Godzilla sequels with Warner Bros. Later, it was announced that the film's script had references to Monarch, the secret government entity in Godzilla (2014).

    The script saw a number of screenwriters attached before filming. Seeking the continuity between the King Kong and Godzilla worlds, Max Borenstein (writer of 2014's Godzilla) wrote the first draft, while John Gatins was hired to write the second draft. Borenstein's initial influence was Apocalypse Now, revealing, "What popped into my head for the paradigm of the movie was Apocalypse Now. That’s obviously a war movie, but I liked the idea of people moving upriver to face a misunderstood force that they think of as a villain, but ultimately they come to realize is much more complicated." In August 2015, it was revealed that Dan Gilroy had also collaborated on the script with Borenstein and Gatins. On August 18, 2015, it was confirmed that Derek Connolly was also doing script rewrites. Borenstein worked a final pass on the screenplay before shooting began, and credited the screenplay to all of the writers, saying, "It was definitely collaborative in terms of what’s on the screen, though none of us worked together. There are pieces of my work in there as well as the work of the other two writers and John Gatins, who was credited for story. Everybody had a really good hand in it."

    In April 2016, artist Joe DeVito sued producers of the film for using elements of his Skull Island universe, which he claimed that he created and the producers used without his permission.

    Creature design

    Director Vogt-Roberts stated that he wanted Kong to look simple and iconic enough that a third grader could draw him, and the image would still be recognizable. Vogt-Roberts also wanted Kong to feel like a "lonely God, he was a morose figure, lumbering around this island," and took the design back to the 1933 incarnation, where Kong was presented as a "bipedal creature that walks in an upright position." Vogt-Roberts additionally stated, "If anything, our Kong is meant to be a throwback to the ’33 version. [Kong] was a movie monster, so we worked really hard to take some of the elements of the ’33 version, some of those exaggerated features, some of those cartoonish and iconic qualities, and then make them their own…We created something that to some degree served as a throwback to the inspiration for what started all of this, but then also [had] it be a fully unique and different creature that — I would like to think — is fully contained and identifiable as the 2017 version of King Kong. I think there are very modern elements to him, yet hopefully he feels very timeless at the same time."

    Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke helped influence the design and approach of the monsters, 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 and horrifying 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.

    The two-armed pit lizard from the 1933 King Kong film was used as a reference for the Skullcrawlers. They were also inspired by a number of other cinematic creatures; Vogt-Roberts stated, "That creature, beyond being a reference to a creature from the 1933 film, is also this crazy fusion of all of the influences throughout my life – like the first angel from Evangelion, and No-Face from Spirited Away, and Cubone from Pokémon."

    Casting

    At the same time of the announcement of Vogt-Roberts as director, the studio also announced that Tom Hiddleston would play the lead role. On December 15, 2014, it was announced that J.K. Simmons had been cast in the film. In an interview with MTV, Simmons revealed that the film would be set in Detroit in 1971, and that they would shoot it in Detroit during baseball season.

    In January 2015, it was announced that Michael Keaton had joined the cast. On July 1, 2015, Keaton and Simmons exited the film due to scheduling conflicts. Legendary did not want to delay more in start of production so the studio began the search of two actors to replace. On July 23, 2015, Brie Larson was cast in the film to play the female lead. On August 5, 2015, it was announced that Corey Hawkins was cast in the film to play a supporting role. On August 6, 2015, Deadline.com reported that the studio was in early talks with Samuel L. Jackson to replace the role which Simmons vacated, while John C. Reilly was being eyed for Keaton's role, but not offered it yet. Tom Wilkinson was also offered a role in the film.

    On August 20, 2015, Toby Kebbell joined the cast of the film, while Jackson and Reilly were confirmed for roles. On August 25, 2015, Jason Mitchell joined the cast, to play a pilot. On September 25, 2015, John Goodman was cast to play Randa, a government official and leader of an expedition, and Thomas Mann was also cast. On October 1, 2015, John Ortiz and Shea Whigham were added to the cast in unspecified roles. On October 13, 2015, Eugene Cordero joined the film, and on November 2, 2015, it was announced Will Brittain had joined the cast, portraying a pilot, in one of the last key leads in the film. In May 2016, Toby Kebbell revealed that Terry Notary would portray Kong through motion capture, and that Kebbell provided some guidance for Kong's motion capture sequences.

    Filming

    Principal photography on the film began on October 19, 2015, and concluded on March 18, 2016. Filming took place in the northern portion of Vietnam, including Tràng An, Vân Long and Tam Cốc (Ninh Bình Province), Hạ Long Bay (Quảng Ninh Province), and at the entrance of Tú Làn Caves System (Tân Hoá, Trung Hoá Village, Minh Hoá District Quảng Bình Province), the island of Oahu in Hawaii, and Australia's Gold Coast. Locations included Honolulu's Chinatown, and at the Kualoa Ranch and Waikane Valley (Ohulehule Forest Conservancy) on Oahu. In mid-January 2016, filming started in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

    Influences

    Vogt-Roberts has cited a number of films that inspired Kong: Skull Island, stating, "If I were going to break it down for people, I’d say you obviously have Apocalypse Now and just the era of ‘70s filmmaking, with films like The Conversation, too. Also Platoon was an inspiration, and the South Korean film The Host as well. The entire Neon Genesis Evangelion series was a big influence." Vogt-Roberts also cited Princess Mononoke as an influence on the approach and design of the monsters. He cited Sachiel from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cubone from Pokémon, No-Face from Spirited Away, and a creature from the 1933 King Kong as inspirations for the Skullcrawlers.

    Music

    The film's score was composed by Henry Jackman. To fit the '70s period of the film, Jackman blended ‘70s psychedelic guitars into the score. Regarding the music used in the film, Vogt-Roberts stated, "I wanted to use songs from the Vietnam era and a myriad of hits from the ‘70s... this provides a striking dichotomy, sets the tone and gives us great moments of fun."

    Release

    Kong: Skull Island was initially set for a November 4, 2016, release, but in December 2014, the date was postponed to March 10, 2017. The new release date coincides with the franchise's 84th anniversary. It is released in 3D and IMAX 3D, as well as in Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range, and Dolby Atmos sound in Dolby Cinemas. The film premiered at the Cineworld Empire Leicester Square in London on February 28, 2017.

    Box office

    As of March 15, 2017, Kong: Skull Island has grossed $77.4 million in the United States and Canada and $85.1 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $162.5 million. The film was made on a production budget of $185 million, with about $136 million more spent on global marketing costs. According to box office experts, the film needs to make at least $450–500 million worldwide in order to break even.

    In the United States and Canada, Kong: Skull Island was projected to gross $40–50 million in its opening weekend, as well as a worldwide debut of $110–135 million. The film made $20.2 million on its first day from 3,846 theaters, including $3.7 million it made from Thursday night previews. In total, the film earned a better-than-expected $61 million on its opening weekend, defying the film's initial projection by 35%. Its opening is higher than the $50.1 million opening posted by Peter Jackson's King Kong (2005), but considerably lower than the $93 million debut of Godzilla (2014). In IMAX, it made $7.6 million from 382 theaters, repping 12.5% of the film's total opening weekend.

    Internationally, the film debuted with $85.1 million from 20,900 screens in 65 markets. It opened in every markets sans Japan and China. In IMAX, the film scored the fourth-biggest March release with $4.8 million from 672 theaters (the second biggest without China in it).

    The biggest openings came from the United Kingdom and Ireland ($7.6 million) and South Korea ($7.4 million, Russia ($6.2 million) and Mexico ($5.7 million), France ($4.1 million) Taiwan ($3.6 million), Australia ($3.6 million), Brazil ($3.4 million), Germany ($3.4 million), Malaysia ($2.65 million), India?($2.4 million), Spain ($1.6 million) and Italy ($1.6 million), while in Vietnam (where the film was primarily shot and centered on), it scored the biggest opening of all time there with $2.5 million. This was a week following a huge model of the primate outside the theater caught on fire at the film's premiere.

    Critical response

    Kong: Skull Island received generally positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 79% based on 253 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Offering exhilarating eye candy, solid acting, and a fast-paced story, Kong: Skull Island earns its spot in the movie monster's mythos without ever matching up to the classic original." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 62 out of 100, based on 49 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.

    Mike Ryan of Uproxx gave the film a positive review, noting, "Kong: Skull Island is still a hoot. It was a movie that was not at all on my radar as something I was dying to see and yet I had way too much fun watching it. I just wished it had embraced its craziness just a little bit more. (But, yes, there’s still plenty of crazy to go around.)" Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review as well, stating that "all the requisite elements are served up here in ideal proportion, and the time just flies by, which can rarely be said for films of this nature." Kyle Anderson of Nerdist News found the film entertaining but flawed, saying, "It's certainly not a perfect movie, and a lot of the characters feel like sketches more than fully-fledged people, but it roars along enjoyably from start to finish."

    Conversely, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian awarded the film one out of five stars. In his negative review, he described the movie as a "fantastically muddled and exasperatingly dull quasi-update of the King Kong story."

    Several critics have commented on Larson's role in the movie, having recently won an Oscar for Room,, with Michael Salfino of The Wall Street Journal remarking that "a starring role in a popcorn movie on the heels of a passion project can open up an actor to ridicule."

    Sequels

    In September 2015, Legendary moved Kong: Skull Island from Universal to Warner Bros., which sparked media speculation that Godzilla and King Kong will appear in a film together. In October 2015, Legendary confirmed that they would unite Godzilla and King Kong in Godzilla vs. Kong, set for a May 29, 2020, release date. Legendary plans to create a shared cinematic franchise "centered around Monarch," that "brings together Godzilla and Legendary’s King Kong in an ecosystem of other giant super-species, both classic and new." While Legendary will maintain its home at Universal Pictures, it will continue to collaborate with Warner Bros. for the franchise.

    Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts had expressed interest in doing a film about Marlow and Gunpei's time on the island, stating, "I keep joking that personally I'm more interested in doing a $30 million version of young John C. Reilly on the island. Just some weird, the odd-ball monster comedy with him and Gunpei."

    In May 2016, Warner Bros. announced that Godzilla vs. Kong would be released on May 29, 2020. In March 2017, Legendary assembled its "writers' room" to develop the MonsterVerse and story for Godzilla vs. Kong.

    References

    Kong: Skull Island Wikipedia


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