King Kong is back once again to terrorize movie-goers and crush the box office. So, while “Logan” may be a critical darling with strong numbers, not even a Marvel property could stand up to the behemoth gorilla over the weekend. With 75 years of history and seven films released within that time, you know a Kong reboot is going to be jam-packed with easter eggs.
We have uncovered every egg we can in “Kong: Skull Island” and this list narrows it down to the 15 tributes, nods and wink-winks we think you need to know about (or will care about). So dig in with us as we breakdown the big-screen return of the Eighth Wonder of the World!
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for "Kong: Skull Island."
15 GODZILLA CONTINUITY
“Kong: Skull Island” is the second film of Legendary’s MonsterVerse and as such, it should share some DNA with “Godzilla.” Well, good news, fans, it most certainly does. While there are four different writers credited on “Kong: Skull Island,” screenwriter Max Borenstein (“Godzilla”) has made it clear in interviews that he was the first person to touch the script and the last, and it shows.
The opening credits in "Skull Island" show the passage of time with stock footage of major events, but there is also the top secret Project Monarch research spliced in. If you will recall, the “Godzilla” opening credits showed various redacted Project Monarch documents. Also, Monarch’s lead scientist, Bill Randa (John Goodman), talks about how the Castle Bravo Nuclear Test was a front, and that in actuality, the U.S. was trying to kill something big. We’re pretty sure this is the same nuclear explosion that concludes the “Godzilla” opening credits.
14 MONKEY BUSINESS
This film has some fun connections to the other top franchise that concerns dangerous monkeys, “Planet of the Apes.” First off, we have the actor who portrayed the villainous Koba in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Toby Kebbell, playing Major Jack Chapman here. He is Lt. Col. Packard’s (Samuel L. Jackson) second-in-command and a letter he's writing home to his young son becomes the emotional theme of the film. At first, his fellow soldiers rib him about the letter, but then as their situation worsens, they each take turns pretending they are writing to his son aloud to vocalize how crazy things have gotten. Kebbell also helped out with the motion-capture for Kong.
Next up, we have the man who plays Kong himself, Terry Notary. This thespian played Rocket in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011) “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (2014) and will reprise the roll in the upcoming “War of the Planet of the Apes.” So, not only does Notary have plenty of experience as a simian, but also he is handed the Kong torch from his “Planet of the Apes” co-star Andy Serkis, who played Kong in the last remake.
13 THE WANDERER
The voyage to Skull Island is an important part of the King Kong story, so an easy easter egg would have been to name the boat that takes the crew to the undiscovered island the same as in the original King Kong (1933), SS Venture. However, the filmmakers here seem to have dug a little deeper to appease hardcore fans.
The novelization of the original “"King Kong" screenplay was written by author Delos W. Lovelace and it included material that didn’t make it into the film. The book came out in 1932, a whole year before the movie hit theaters. Now, it’s unclear why it would have changed, but in the novel, the boat that transports them to Kong’s island is named the Wanderer rather than the SS Venture. Why is this relevant? Because in the scene in “Kong: Skull Island” where Marlow is showing the civilian survivors his makeshift boat, they pass by a shipwreck that bears the name the Wanderer.
12 JURASSIC PARK CONNECTION
They may not share a universe but “Kong: Skull Island” and “Jurassic Park” have some cool connections. First off, both were partially filmed at Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii. This working cattle ranch is a popular filming location and was even the site of Hawaii’s first annual rock festival in the mid ‘90s called the Big Mele.
Next up, hardcore “Jurassic Park” fans will have noticed Lt. Col. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) says “Hold on to your butts” as the helicopters are going down, which is the same line Jackson uttered in the 1993 dinosaur blockbuster, when his character Arnold shuts the power down at the compound. On a side note, since these franchises are both currently produced by Legendary Entertainment, we think it would be awesome if the studio made "Jurassic Park" the third franchise in their MonsterVerse. Imagine seeing the iconic scene from the original "King Kong" movie where Kong fights the T-Rex remade... only with a cloned T-Rex from the Jurassic World!
11 THE DYKSTRA EFFECT
Scriptwriter Max Borenstein isn’t the only Hollywood big name that worked on both “Godzilla” and “Kong: Skull Island.” While you have to look closely at the credits of both, if you do, you may be surprised to see cinema legend John Dykstra had a hand in the effects of both films. If you’re not familiar with the name, Dykstra was the lead special effects designer on “Star Wars,” one of the founders of Industrial Light And Magic, and is a three-time Academy Award winner. And since we are CBR, we will also point out that he is a veteran of the superhero genre, having worked on "Spider-Man," "Spider-Man 2," "X-Men: The First Class" and "X-Men: Apocalypse."
Dykstra is credited as the additional visual effects designer on “Godzilla,” while he is the additional visual effects supervisor on “Kong: Skull Island.” Both roles may seem minor, but considering the standard this C.G. pioneer has set over the decades, any involvement he had surely improved the visuals.
10 PROPS TO LEGENDARY
This movie starts with a scene that takes place in 1944 in which an American Air Force pilot and Japanese kamikaze pilot both crash land on Skull Island. They survive and continue their fight on the ground, only to run into Kong moments later. Midway through the film, we meet the American pilot, Hank Marlow, 32 years after he was marooned with his enemy. He still has his bomber jacket and it seems to have a number of easter eggs on it.
We will get into the back of the jacket in our #4 entry on the list, but for now we’ll focus on the front. On the upper left breast there is a round patch that has the words “Lizard Company” above a picture of what appears to be a T-Rex. This seems to be a reference to the studio behind this reboot, Legendary Entertainment, as they are also responsible for revitalizing the two biggest lizard franchises of all time, “Jurassic Park” and “Godzilla.” Marlow also mentions that he was part of the 45th Division, which signifies his military unit. We believe this too is a nod to Legendary, as “Kong: Skull Island” is the 45th picture from the company.
9 METAL GEAR CONNECTION
There have been many reasons to go Skull Island in the various King Kong films over the years. From finding an exotic filming location, to treasure hunting, to finding oil, something always leads man to this undisturbed island. In this movie, the Landsat team are going to map one of the last undiscovered land masses on Earth and Monarch is going to see if there are monsters on it. However, after their initial plan goes belly up, the main goal is just to survive and make it to the exfiltration site. The problem is that said site is on the other side of the island and they won’t make it in time on foot. Therefore, when they meet Marlow and he says he has a fixer-upper boat named the Gray Fox to take them up the river, they believe they’re saved.
Unlike the Wanderer that came in at our #13 spot, the Gray Fox is named after a character from the “Metal Gear” series of video games. Why, you may well ask, is there a “Metal Gear Solid” reference in a King Kong flick? It’s simple, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts is also directing an adaptation of the tremendously popular video game franchise.
8 THE GODZILLA POWER HOUR
While the writers don’t use the same names as the crew from the original “King Kong” (1933), they do use their archetypes. John Goodman’s Randa is their Carl Denham, Tom Hiddleston’s James Conrad is the Jack Driscoll, Brie Larson’s Mason Weaver (while not dainty) is this movie’s Ann Darrow, and Samuel L. Jackson’s Lt. Col. Packard is like Captain Englehorn. However, if we want to get specific, Packard seems like an amalgam of Englehorn and a character from “King Kong Lives” named Lt. Col. Archie Nevitt.
This brings us to the one major character that there isn't an equivalent for in the ’33 “King Kong,” Dr. Houston Brooks. We believe we have found where they pulled inspiration for this young scientist from. Since this film shares a universe with "Godzilla" and has the same scriptwriter, we looked into that franchise's history and found something interesting. There is a character in “The Godzilla Power Hour” (1978-79) animated series named Brock Borden whose name is similar, who closely resembles Brooks, and who is also an assistant to his team's lead scientist. If this is a coincidence, it's a crazy one.
Dr. William Randa (John Goodman) explains at one point in the film that Skull Island was referred to by ancient peoples as “The Land Where God Did Not Finish Creation." The scientific implication here is that evolution stopped on the South Pacific islet. It is a fitting title since dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals were still holding down the top of the food chain there. Randa then uses the term Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism to describe what he believes is out there. This is the full version of the M.U.T.O. acronym, which makes it yet another way this movie is tied to “Godzilla.”
Considering that Kong, the giant octopus, the giant spider and Skullcrawlers that show up in this film would all be considered M.U.T.O.s by Monarch Project, it will be interesting to see if the antagonists from “Godzilla” get their own name. Relatedly, this species was partially inspired by the creatures from "King Kong" (1933).
6 APOCALYPSE NOW/HEART OF DARKNESS
This movie was initially pitched to director Jordan Vogt-Roberts by scriptwriter Max Borenstein as an “Apocalypse Now” take on the King Kong tale. The director was not only receptive to the idea, but also he cut the conclusion that would have seen the film visit modern times as to keep it as close to Francis Ford Coppola’s piece de resistance as possible.
The influence is so apparent that you can even notice it in the trailers and in the IMAX poster. Obvious nods include the helicopters on the yellow and orange horizon, the music blasting from said choppers as they drop ordinance, the use of napalm, the face-painted natives and the dangerous journey upriver by boat, all just to name a few. However, the most evident homage has got to be Lt. Col. Packard (Sam L. Jackson) versus Kong, as it mirrors Captain Willard’s hunt for Colonel Kurtz. There even seems to be references to the book “Apocalypse Now” is based on, “Heart of Darkness.” The book’s author is Joseph Conrad and its main character is named Marlow, which sounds an awful lot like the names of two characters in "Kong: Skull Island," James Conrad and Hank Marlow.
5 MARLOW'S JACKET
Ever since the trailer dropped that showed John C. Reilly’s character Marlow wearing a jacket with the words “Good For Your Health” on the back, message boards have been going nuts. The reason being is that it seems to reference two different properties with cult followings. First off, “Good For Health” are the words above the pill on the Capsule gang’s jackets in "Akira" (1988). Even how the words arc over a logo is similar. It could be a coincidence, but director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has confirmed in interviews that "Akira" was an inspiration in his directing career.
The other possible tribute here is to the Adult Swim series “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" The comedy sketch show ran from 2007 to 2010 (before taking a hiatus and coming back in 2013) and features John C. Reilly as a character named Dr. Steve Brule. This oddball doctor has a segment called "Brule's Rules" where he gives bad medical advice and has the catchphrase “For Your Health.”
4 ANIME INFLUENCE
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ (“Kings of Summer”) affinity for anime is not limited to Akira. In fact, we think it would be safe to say he is a bit of fanatic. He has stated that Hayao Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke” was a big influence on the design of the Skull Island creatures and their sense of territory. In his own words, Vogt-Roberts said, “If Kong is the god of this island, we wanted each of the creatures to feel like individual gods of their own domain.” The beast that most looks like it stepped out of a Studio Ghibli movie, to us, is the giant water buffalo that has horns with antlers growing out of them.
Further, the director has also mentioned that while the Skullcrawlers are based on the two-armed pit lizard from the original “King Kong” (1933), he also borrowed elements from his favorite anime movies from childhood. Apparently, these nasty critters also include aspects of the first angel from “Evangelion” (note that these angels are giant monsters and not angelic whatsoever), No-Face from “Spirited Away” and Cubone from “Pokemon.”
3 THE CREATURES
While the scene most people remember from the original film is where King Kong is atop the Empire State Building holding the damsel in distress and swatting at planes, most of the film’s highlights were on Skull Island. In most incarnations, this undiscovered land mass and its extremely large fauna are a major part of Kong’s story. Therefore, almost every creature we see is a tribute or reference of some kind.
The giant spider is an homage to the fabled “lost” Spider Pit scene from the ’33 flick. The giant octopus appears to be a tribute to the Japanese production “King Kong vs. Godzilla” (1962) and its colossal cephalopod. The triceratops skull we see alongside the bones of Kong’s parents gives a nod to an un-filmed sequence from the ’33 script where Kong fights three of the herbivores at once. Lastly, in every North American version of "King Kong," there has been a scene that features the cast traversing a large log. Well, the filmmakers here even referenced that fact by giving us a log that comes alive.
2 KING KONG FRANCHISE
This movie shows plenty of love to the films that came before it, but not to the point of being derivative. First off, most of the main characters play roles very similar to those in the 1933 film, they just don’t have the same names. For example, John Goodman’s Bill Randa fulfills Carl Denham’s role from the original, and he even wears the same outfit (brimmed hat, vest, button-up shirt).
At least one or two of the touchstones from each of the North American King Kong film shows up here. There are the helicopters from King Kong’s 1976 big screen outing, as well as the scene where a projected presentation on Skull Island is done for the crew. Then there's the relationship between Kong and a damsel in distress that has been featured in all of the franchise's films. Brie Larson’s Mason Weaver is written as a strong woman who can hold her own, but her interaction with the mammoth ape is key to the audience feeling empathy for Kong. They even seem to tribute the much maligned "King Kong Lives" (1986) with the inclusion of an insane lieutenant colonel intent on stopping the gigantic gorilla.
1 MORE KAIJU
What is more satisfying than watching a fun and entertaining giant monster blockbuster? Being teased with even more gargantuan goodness in the near future. That’s right, Legendary’s MonsterVerse is getting in on the after-credits scene action and gave us something to whet our appetites with for the upcoming sequel to 2014’s “Godzilla.”
The scene opens with Mason Weaver and James Conrad in the standard interrogation room with double-sided mirrors. It seems they have been held there for a while and are getting agitated. Then Dr. Brooks comes out and explains that Monarch have now found other hollow spots, like on Skull Island, around the world. He shows them footage of cave hieroglyphics that depict Toho’s classic kaiju line-up: Mothra, Rodan, Godzilla and King Ghidorah. Only time will tell if we get all of them in the next "Godzilla" instalment or if Legendary plans to hold some inhabitants of Monster Island back for the "Godzilla vs. King Kong" crossover.
Did we miss any easter eggs from "Kong: Skull Island" or references to other movies? Be sure to let us know in the comments!