In this era of cinematic universes, branding is key. The goal is for audiences to recognize and become invested in the world being built, not necessarily the individual movies. Think about it this way: a big movie leads to two or three successful sequels while universes like Marvel already have over a dozen films, Harry Potter’s coming out with its ninth, and Star Wars is on its eighth (ninth if you count Clone Wars). Universes are financial behemoths with unparalleled staying power, so studios either have to build them or acquire them to keep pace with each other.
That’s why it’s so important to point out that the trailer for Kong: Skull Island is incredibly similar to the trailers we saw for Godzilla. It’s a master stroke not only because they are so awe-inspiringly thrilling, but because they are recognizably of the same world. The military is everywhere, monsters lurk just out of sight, and men give barely contained warnings about the disasters laying ahead. Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. are trying to make a Godzilla-Kong universe, and they’re pulling out all the stops to make it happen.
Sure, lots of these things can be read as commonalities among monster flicks, but there’s little things that give away how minutely defined this marketing is. Some of those Inception-inspired clashes of noise in the Kong trailer feel eerily similar to a Godzilla roar, and you really can’t ignore that John Goodman’s character says that monsters (plural) exist. Oh, and Kong’s been beefed up to Godzilla-level stature.
Whatever pop culture decides to call this shared universe, it’s clearly one that’s shrouded in smoke and fire, preserving its titular beasts for a few well-placed money shots, but no matter how hair-raisingly splendid those moments are, the time in between must be filled with something substantial. Many felt, myself included, that Godzilla failed to do this. It’s tough to tease your monster without feeling like, well, a tease, and continuously placing that obstacle in front of relatively new directors may not be the studios’ best decision.
Optimism is still high for Kong, though, largely because the cast is such a significant upgrade. Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Jason Mitchell, Toby Kebbell, and Corey Hawkins are all somehow in this movie, which should leave two or three interesting characters on-screen at all times. Add in the gorgeous cinematography from the trailer, and I think everyone’s ready to give this monster-filled universe another go.
Kong: Skull Island is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and Samuel L. Jackson. It will be released in the U.S. and the U.K. on March 10th, 2017. For international release dates, click here.
Do you think Kong: Skull Island will successfully build a shared universe with Godzilla? Let us know in the comments!
Does content like this matter to you?
Become a Member and support film journalism. Unlock access to all of Film Inquiry`s great articles. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about cinema – get access to our private members Network, give back to independent filmmakers, and more.