Kong: Skull Island is opening in theaters today, but Legendary Entertainment is setting its sights on a bigger prize: the eventual clash of King Kong and Godzilla. To that end, the studio has announced the assemblage of a writers room that will author the story beats of Kong vs. Godzilla, under the direction of Pirates of the Caribbean screenwriter Terry Rossio. But this news isn’t really about one flashy mash-up.
Legendary intends to get into the “Cinematic Universe” game — like the Marvel films — with its collection of movie monsters. Gareth Edwards’ 2014 film Godzilla kicked off the series, and this weekend’s Kong: Skull Island builds upon it. The two will be followed by Godzilla: King of the Monsters, slated for release in 2019, with Godzilla vs. Kong coming a year later.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the writer’s room that will break the story of the inevitable monster fight will include Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne (Star Trek Beyond and Star Trek 4), Lindsey Beer (The Kingkiller Chronicles), Cat Vasko (Queen of the Air), T.S. Nowlin (Maze Runner film, Pacific Rim: Uprising), Jack Paglen (Transcendence, Alien: Covenant), and J. Michael Straczynski, (Babylon 5, World War Z, Sense8). The team won’t collectively write the screenplay. Rather, as THR describes, “once [Rossio] and his cohorts work out the best ideas and beats for the story, a writer will be chosen to write the script.”
The process is one that studios are increasingly turning to to help brainstorm their massive franchises. Lucasfilm famously uses its Star Wars Story Group to maintain continuity between its films, television series, and novels straight, while Paramount assembled a group in 2015 for its rejuvenated Transformers franchise. The process is similar to the method that television shows have used for decades: teams meet on a regular schedule to figure out the larger storyline before handing off the individual episodes to individual writers. As the line between TV and films blur — television becoming more cinematic with few episodes, film becoming more connected across bigger franchises — this sort of shift seems inevitable.
The technique allows for a variety of voices and ideas, while also accommodating for speed. One person imagining multiple detailed stories would take years, but as a team, the logic goes, it can be done in a fraction of the time.
It makes sense in this interconnected, everything-must-have-a-cinematic-universe attached-to-it world. With the successes of huge franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars, big production companies are looking to lock their audiences in for decades at a time by interconnecting not just individual series but entire ecosystems of content. Given the long-term nature of these franchises, planning out the larger story is a good idea. Hiring a team vs. a singular talent is the new normal in an industry that has traded singular movies for never-ending franchises.