Kong: Skull Island Marked A Return To The Series' Monster Movie Roots

When originally approached by Warner Bros. to helm a new King Kong movie, Jordan Vogt-Roberts initially balked, "I don't know if I'm your guy for this." The story that the studio had in mind took place in 1917, he told /Film back in 2017. But when he came up with a concept of the movie as an "Apocalypse Now" riff — what the "Kings of Summer" director calls, "a Vietnam War movie with monsters" — he wasn't laughed out of the room. The studio ran with Vogt-Roberts' idea, and "Kong: Skull Island" was off to the races. As he pointed out in our interview, Peter Jackson's "King Kong" picture had only come out a little over a decade prior. What more could be done with the story and the beast?

According to Pop Inquirer, Jordan Vogt-Roberts simply sought to restore the giant ape-like kaiju to the movie monster throne, where he's belonged since 1933. He told the outlet:

"In our film, Kong is a throwback to a classic movie monster, not just an ape. I wanted our Kong to be more of a lonely god than ever before. Then I wanted to slowly reveal that he has empathy and pathos and can connect with others on an emotional level. Even though in our film he is god-like, there's humanity to Kong — a heart that I think people will respond to."

From Vogt-Roberts's conceptualization of the main character branched out the details and nuances, across an array of influences, to bring the creature to life.

Hail to the King

"Kong: Skull Island" displays Vogt-Roberts' resistance to the creature feature template. Not only did he want to humanize the monstrous biped in a complicated way that hadn't quite been explored before, but he bristled at the rules insisting that he occlude Kong like some tentacled cosmic beast. Citing Bong Joon-ho's emotional powerhouse "The Host" as precedent, he tells Culture Calling that not only will he reveal his creature quickly, he'll right the wrongs of representation for Kong himself.

I wanted to, first and foremost, turn him back into a movie monster. Not an anatomically correct gorilla, but a movie monster. The reason that Kong has endured for so long is because he's misrepresented. Everybody in their life struggles with the fact that we're all misunderstood by somebody.
So I love the idea of taking this monster who takes out an entire squad of people, and then slowly pulling back layers and empathizing with him. For me, the new take on that was seeing him as a god – a lonely god, a lonely protector, and someone who carries himself with nobility and has this thankless job.

The approach worked; audiences went over the moon for the powerful return of Kong, and "Kong: Skull Island," along with Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi's 2016 effort "Shin Godzilla" (the thirty-first film in the Godzilla franchise!) marked a high point in adventurous creature pictures of the decade. This version of Kong would also go on to fight another familiar kaiju in "Godzilla vs. Kong," giving us another monster movie tribute.