“One of my favorite reviews that someone wrote on a testing scorecard said that it was like if Jurassic Park had a baby with Aliens, and that baby was adopted by Planes, Trains & Automobiles. That’s such an insane fusion of things, but in a weird way I think it very much represents what this movie is.”
– Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts
On March 10, Kong: Skull Island roars to life on the big screen, presenting a brand new take on the King Kong mythology unlike any we’ve seen before. With advance tickets going on sale for Kong: Skull Island today, Fandango hopped on the phone with the film’s director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, to get a rundown on what to expect when this very different kind of monster movie is unleashed this March.
When we spoke to Vogt-Roberts, he was in the middle of a visit to Japan, where he was excited to be showing the finished film to audiences for the first time. “It’s been amazing,” he said of their reaction. “You never know what the response is going to be as you go from culture to culture, but the response here [in Japan] has been so incredible because so many of my influences are very Japanese and anime and [inspired by] video games, and everyone here very clearly picks up on that. They’re really embracing it as a kaiju movie, not just as a Kong movie.”
So if it’s not just another King Kong movie, then what kind of movie is Kong: Skull Island? Let’s find out…
Kong: Skull Island is not your typical blockbuster.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts: The thing that I am most psyched about is that this is a really insane movie, and I mean that in the best way. It’s crazy and it’s different, and hopefully audiences think it feels fresh and that there’s a soul to this film even though it happens to be this extreme blockbuster.
This version is nothing like the original script.
Vogt-Roberts: I wanted this crazy genre mash-up, and I pitched them this idea of Apocalypse Now meets King Kong. The original script had nothing to do with that, and the original script almost in no way reflects the movie that’s on-screen. The fact that the studio let me run with these really crazy ideas and let me build out this sort of wish fulfillment, most insane version of this movie is cool. This is the movie I’d want to see and the movie I think my friends would want to see, and hopefully audiences feel like it’s something they haven’t seen.
But why do we need another King Kong?
Vogt-Roberts: That was my first question, too. When they came to me about the movie, my first response was, awesome; I love King Kong, but why? So that’s when I went away and came up with this 1970s Vietnam War film mixed with monsters, and that became the entry point for me in terms of why this movie needs to exist.
Here’s what separates Kong: Skull Island from the other Kong movies.
Vogt-Roberts: For the first time it’s a new story within the mythology of Kong. It’s not the beauty-and-the-beast story – it’s not a remake of the 1933 film, which is essentially what the ‘70s King Kong was and what Peter Jackson’s King Kong was. I think people are going to be surprised with how many different tones the film plays with, and how it juggles all those tones. There’s a real heart, humanity and pathos that comes out of really funny, laugh-out-loud moments that are mixed with this crazy heightened genre stuff that you haven’t seen on-screen before.
It’s also freakishly relevant…
Vogt-Roberts: I think people will be surprised at how much of a mirror this film is and how relevant the sort of backbone of this story is. When you’re dealing with the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, you’re talking about political scandals, racial riots, the sexual revolution, distrust of the government, a divisive president – [the film] really is this insane black mirror for everything happening in the world today.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is clearly an inspiration, but it wasn’t the only influence on the film.
Vogt Roberts: 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. There’s a huge anime and video game influence in my DNA, and I think it very much bred itself into this film. I think people will be surprised at how the movie feels very much like a throwback and yet very modern at the same time. This movie is not Apocalypse Now, but it is the funhouse version of something like that.
Oh, and FYI… John C. Reilly’s character steals the movie.
Vogt-Roberts: He’s a character who on the page should break the film. He should completely shatter the reality of the movie, but instead he kind of becomes like Dobby in Harry Potter. He brings this human pathos and emotion, where he’s saying these crazy things but it somehow makes the movie more grounded, as opposed to more insane.
How much world-building is there in Kong: Skull Island in terms of connecting it to Godzilla?
Vogt-Roberts: There’s definitely groundwork being laid for sure, and there’s a larger mythology being built here, but I spent a long time trying to craft something that, unlike a lot of big movies trying to set up franchises and go on 10-minute tangents in the middle of the movie to set up a film that’s coming out years later, I’m really proud that Legendary and Warner Bros. let me build that stuff in the background a bit. To lay the groundwork, but first and foremost my job was to tell the single best version of this Kong story that I could. Obviously I’m servicing a lot of different things and there’s a much larger plan in play, and there are a lot of references – some subtle and some not, and even some Easter eggs – but for the most part it’s just trying to tell the best version of this story.
It’s a film that truly has the director’s mark on it.
Vogt-Roberts: I’m proud that when you watch the climactic battle, and when you watch many of these action sequences, they very much have my stamp on them. You can go, oh, so that’s what happens when we give Jordan Vogt-Roberts millions of dollars and geniuses at ILM to play with. All of the fights and kaiju sequences are things I designed from the ground up before even the script was in place. They’re all unique, have a reason for being, and they’re not sequences you see in other movies.
What about a sequel? Will Jordan Vogt-Roberts return?
Vogt-Roberts: Who knows! Right now I’m gonna sleep for two years, and probably crank out an experimental indie. Then who knows what the future brings…
The best creature in Kong: Skull Island is…
Vogt-Roberts: My favorite creature is probably the water buffalo because it’s the one that broke open our approach to what our creatures were going to feel like; what the vibe was going to feel like. Very spiritual in ways, and inspired by Hayao Miyazaki.
There’s also a monster inspired by a creature from the 1933 King Kong.
Vogt-Roberts: I’m also really proud of the Skull Crawler design because that’s my version of a giant monster. 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 Pokemon. It’s this crazy cross-section of what my original take on it would be. I’m proud of all the designs. Hopefully you feel like the creatures aren’t redundant.
Is there a postcredits scene?
Vogt-Roberts: I think people should stick around till after the credits. Why not? It’s only five minutes out of your life…
Kong: Skull Island, starring Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman and more, hits theaters on March 10.