Giant flaming ape, check. Hundreds of people scurrying in panic, check. Director getting bottled in a nightclub, check. The premiere of Kong: Skull Island in Ho Chi Minh City may not have gone to plan, but it was quite a spectacle none the less.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ action-pumped, massively over-the-top instalment in the King Kong franchise was a resounding hit in Vietnam, despite receiving mixed reviews elsewhere.
The feature was largely shot in the UNESCO heritage site, Halong Bay, as well as the mountainous area of Ninh Binh, and the mountains, rivers and caves of Phong Nha. Its promotion of these destinations led to director Vogt-Roberts being named a tourism ambassador for Vietnam.
With all the hype surrounding the film’s release, crowds flocked to the premiere outside a CGV cinema in Ho Chi Minh City, where they were greeted with a VND1 billion (US$40,000) stage complete with a 16-foot statue of King Kong himself, dinosaurs… and fire dancers.
During their opening performance one of the dancers accidentally set fire to the set, subsequently engulfing the entire stage in a blazing inferno. Crowds, including delegates from embassies and the local government were sent fleeing in panic as a 16-foot Kong turned into a 16-foot Balrog.
The situation was quickly brought under control by the local fire brigade.
Later, director Vogt-Roberts was attacked in a nightclub in District 1. His assailants smashed a bottle over his head and punched him in the face, hospitalizing him in what he described as “a brutal and malicious attack by several men.”
The incident was big news on social media, and highlighted the need for much tighter safety regulations in Vietnam, especially when famous people show their faces in public.
On a brighter note, having a major Hollywood production filmed and premiered in Vietnam shows that the country is edging closer to becoming an established spot on the map for entertainment and culture. Having exposure through entertainment, culture and tourism has a tendency to increase trust in a place, and Vietnam is seeing this boom on an increasing scale.
Still, there’s a way to go yet.
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