Vastatosaurus rex is a fictional species of carnivorous theropod dinosaur that appears in the 2005 film, King Kong. Three V-Rexes battle Kong in the film and the creatures serve as major antagonists in much of its related media.
Vastatosaurus rex was developed from the Tyrannosaurus rex and the Allosaurus from Peter Jackson's 1996 King Kong attempt. A conceptual statue featuring Tyrannosaurus created for the film also bears a resemblance to the finalized Vastatosaurus. Early concept art by Gus Hunter depicted the V-Rex as brown T-Rexes.
For reference in designing the Vastatosaurus, Weta Workshop used an osteological replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull and added an evolutionary twist to it. Weta artists Greg Broadmore and Christian Pearce were responsible for designing the V-Rex, with Broadmore commenting in The Making of King Kong: The Official Guide to the Motion Picture that he had probably done twenty to thirty designs for the fictional dinosaur. There was a difference between the designs of Broadmore and Pearce as the latter notes. Broadmore's designs put the weighting of the V-Rex further behind the hips whereas Pearce's designs were more "front-heavy," which Pearce felt looked "more aggressive and spookier." Early in the design process there were many discussions about making the V-Rex stand upright like the paintings of paleoartist Charles R. Knight.
Early designs of the V-Rex date to 2003. All of these designs featured two fingers instead of three. Director Peter Jackson's responses to the concept art gave the V-Rex designers a clear sense of directions to explore. The concept artists realized that Jackson wanted, in Broadmore's own words, "the most, evil, diabolical V-Rex you could imagine." Broadmore further explained, "It wasn't about making a real dinosaur. It was about making it the most terrifying thing that Kong could fight. We worked on making the eyes scary and making it nasty and smelly—which is a recurring theme in the movie!" The designers also played around with giving it scars to make it look battle-hardened. Jackson notably liked a concept with rotten meat hanging from its teeth and another with a poked out eye. Discoveries since Knight's paintings found that dinosaurs had very fine scales, unlike the crocodilian and lizard scales depicted in Knight's paintings, but Jackson wanted something archaic, so Greg Broadmore suggested to Jackson that the creature possess crocodile scales. Broadmore explained, "To put crocodile scales on a dinosaur is ludicrous, but it makes it look cooler and gives it an older-fashioned Ray Harryhausen-esque look."
When the V-Rex design was finalized, it received further changes in the sculpting period, particularly it was given a waist. Sculptor Bill Hunt explained the decision saying, "Our dinosaurs have been isolated, and they've had an extra sixty-five million years of evolution. Regular [Tyrannosaurus rexes] don't have a waist, but we kept thinking of them as serpentine, running through these dense jungles and being able to wind between them, and they would need to be able to turn in the middle to do that. So we've given them a waist." While the bull V-Rex was being sculpted, Peter Jackson felt the head needed to be ten percent bigger. Hunt recalls that Jackson modified the sculpture himself, slicing off the front of its face and being satisfied by the result afterward. Christian Pearce applauded the decisions made in the sculpting period saying "So much was resolved in the sculpt."
The name "Vastatosaurus rex" means "ravager lizard king," being derived from the Latin word vastato, which is a conjugation of the word vasto meaning to "devastate, ravage, or to lay waste." The word saurus is derived from the ancient Greek word sauros (σαυροσ), meaning "lizard," and finally, rex is a Latin word meaning "king."
In-universe the V-Rex is named by sailor Sam Kelley in the prequel novel King Kong: The Island of the Skull, where he initially mistook it for a Tyrannosaurus, but changed his mind after observing its size and ferocity.
Unlike its ancestor Tyrannosaurus rex, V-Rex has a more oval-shaped skull with a mouth full of thick, fully exposed, peg-shaped, asymmetrical teeth. V-Rex also has a few teeth that are located outside of its mouth on its lower jaw. Unlike Tyrannosaurus, V-Rex has three fingers instead of two and has a waist. Vastatosaurus rex has fully scaled skin with crocodilian scutes spanning its neck, back, and its hips. Its coloration is a dark blue that can be mistaken for whitish gray in certain lighting conditions with a yellowish underbelly while its eyes are orange with small black circular pupils.
The family that appears in the film each has their own unique appearance. The juvenile has bigger feet and less developed muscles and has a body that is more horizontal than the other two. The matriarch boasts heavy scarring on the muzzle and is the oldest of the three with wrinkly, sagging skin and her torso and tail hanging lower than her hips. The bull is the largest of the three, and is heavily muscled and fitter than the matriarch and sports a heavy-boned head with a crest.
Vastatosaurus rex is the result of Tyrannosaurus rex evolving isolated on Skull Island over millions of years. Females laid their eggs in collected leaf litter in hidden areas of the jungle, and returned to urinate on the eggs periodically. The scent warded off most predators. Infant V-Rexes hatched ready to take care of themselves and began to stalk centipedes and lizards in the island's undergrowth. As they grew, the young V-Rexes began forming small herds with individuals of a similar age for protection. These groups worked together to take down large prey, but with little coordination. At puberty these herds began to disperse, as their burgeoning size made jungle hunting difficult. At that point they moved into more spacious forests and lowlands. Young V-Rexes bore striped camouflage, and remained this way until maturity, as until that point they were small enough to be prey to other species, however it also proved to be a useful feature to hide them as they hunted. The packs of juvenile V-Rexes would often attempt to bully other species away from kills, including the highly intelligent and coordinated Venatosaurus. Because the young V-Rexes had not yet learned to size up opponents, some of their number would sustain injuries or be killed in these contests. Other packs might try to attack a lone Venatosaurus protecting its pack’s chicks, only to be grossly overwhelmed when the Venatosaurus' alarm calls brought the rest of its pack in a voracious attack. Only the fast learners made it to adulthood.
Being fiercely territorial, V-Rexes were known to mark their territory with urine and by roaring in the mornings. Adult male Vastatosaurus preferred the most open spaces available, while adult females preferred to operate on the edge of thick forests to provide cover for nests. Bulls left their usually solitary lives during breeding season. If accepted by a female, the two would hunt in her territory for a few days before she grew tired of him and forced him out. During their hunting excursions, it was not uncommon for younger individuals to sharpen their hunting skills by following the adults and getting quick meals from leftover carcasses. Ambitious young V-Rexes, eager to stake their claims to Skull Island, would take advantage of the older bulls' absences to move into unprotected territory.
Due to their size, Vastatosaurus could easily prey on any of the prey species on the island, but V-Rexes were opportunistic feeders. They understood that it was safer to use their incredible size and strength to intimidate smaller predators off their kills than to hunt for themselves. This practice was made easier by their highly acidic stomach, capable of digesting even the most rancid of rotting meats, and their bone-crunching jaws that allowed them to crack skeletal remains and feed on the marrow. Mainly being ambush hunters, they often used the forests and brush around water to catch animals off guard. They mainly fed on the abundant Ligocristus, but if a young or injured Brontosaurus or Ferrucutus could be found, they would certainly take it. After hunting, their small arms, which grew at a slower speed than the rest of their bodies, were used to keep prey from swinging around by pinning it close to their chests. The greatest challenge facing the V-Rex during the hunt was staying hidden. Adults were dark in color, and were surprisingly stealthy for their size. They could hide in the shadows to mask their movement when stalking prey.
An additional advantage afforded to the Vastatosaurus by their black scale coloration was that they heated the reptiles up quickly in the mornings to give them an edge on the slow-warming species.
While wandering the jungle, a young Vastatosaurus came across a Foetodon crawling into a log, which it bit off the ground and tried to choke down as another of its kind fled into the brush. With its kill still in its jaws, the youth's attention was caught by Ann Darrow crawling out of the log's other end. It immediately began to pursue her as it carried the dead reptile in its maw. Unfortunately it lost sight of her when she flattened herself against another log which unbeknownst to her was being eyed by the saurian's mother. She snapped at the actress, and knocked her off the log but her screaming summoned Kong, who swung down and kicked the matriarch in the face before grabbing her neck to keep her from getting to Darrow. Just then, her son wandered out of the jungle swallowing the last of the Foetodon before seeing Darrow relatively unguarded in the ape’s free hand. It ran toward her, and Kong moved her out of the way to allow the beast to bite down on his forearm before using the grip to throw it off balance. The two then backed Kong up to a ledge, from the top of which the bull of the group attacked. The four creatures tussled for a bit before Kong smashed the youngest V-rex’s head with a rock, killing it before its mother bit Kong’s bicep, and he used this as leverage to flip her over his shoulder and off a cliff. He kicked her over the edge and bit the neck of the bull before tackling it into the crevice. He tried to hold on to the edge, but the matriarch’s powerful jaws grabbed his ankle and dragged him down where the monsters became entangled in vines. Kong fought the female while higher up, the bull tried to maneuver itself to bite Ann, but Kong pummeled the beast and killed him as Ann fell on top of the matriarch’s head. They fell to the valley floor and it tried to chase her down but Kong came to defend her. They roared at one another before she charged at him. He bit off the dinosaur’s tongue before wrestling her to the ground and climbing on her back. She tried to stand up but his weight was too great, and he pummeled her head until he could pry her jaws apart, breaking them and crushing her skull.
One year before the events of King Kong, a Vastatosaurus happened upon a pack of Venatosaurus in a clearing. It quickly defeated them and spent the day eating them until only their bones remained. The next day, it, or another of its species, came across a group of humans and chased them into a clearing where they found shelter in a cave. Not wanting to give up so easily, the Vastatosaurus waited in the cave entrance through the night and a bad rainstorm. In the morning, the humans began running from the cave. Some of them escaped because the Vastatosaurus had settled itself on the other side of the clearing for the time being, but he was able to eat a few of them before Kong arrived.
While in the jungle, a V-rex came upon two smaller carnivores, and grabbed one up off the ground in its jaws, crushing the struggling creature. However, it spotted Ann Darrow fleeing from the tree where she had been hiding and pursued her instead. Unfortunately, Kong arrived to protect her. He slammed the Vastatosaurus to the ground, but its screams brought out a second that bit down on Kong's arm. As he tore it free from the V-rex's jaws, a third one arrived, as the first got back on its feet, its snout dripping with blood. The dinosaurs attacked from all sides, but Kong kept moving her from arm to foot to keep her away from their hungry jaws. He eventually had to let her free, and continued the melee until he tore up a tree trunk and rammed it through a V-rex's jaws and out the back of its head. He then put the next dinosaur in a neck lock and swung it over his shoulder and slammed it down before sharply twisting to break its back. However, the last V-rex grabbed Ann in its jaws, and Kong fought to pry them open and free her. He eventually slammed its head to the ground and she escaped as Kong continued to pry until its jaws were broken, and the V-rex was dead.
While in the jungles of Skull Island, a Vastatosaurus came across the unattended Ann Darrow, who did her best to run away before Kong came and delivered a punch to its jaw just before it could bite down on her. Two more V-rexes then came from the jungle to aid their comrade. The three did their best to encircle Kong and to snap at Darrow, despite Kong's constantly moving her out of the way, until they backed him into a corner, where the ape uprooted a tree and drove it through the neck of one of the Vastatosaurus. He quickly pushed the next one over the cliff's edge, and the last dinosaur but Kong's arm. However, Kong rolled forward and grabbed the cliff in an attempt to get it to fall as well. When the piece of rock he was holding broke off, Kong fought through the vines to the rocky floor, where the previous V-rex was waiting. On seeing it, Kong jumped from the vines and crushed it with his body while the final V-rex fell from the vines ready to fight. Kong quickly lunged at its jaws and pried them apart, killing it.
The jaws of Vastatosaurus rex are the strongest of any terrestrial animal that had ever lived and are capable of exerting astonishing pressure to splinter bone and crush limbs. The V-Rex's peg-like teeth were specially adapted for piercing and mashing. The V-Rex is surprisingly flexible for an animal of its size, possessing a short, narrow rib cage and a large gap between its ribs and its hips. The Vastatosaurus is capable of running in short bursts of up to 25 miles per hour. V-Rex possesses broad feet, an adaptation that allows it to stalk through swampier terrain than what its bulk would otherwise support. The V-Rex would use its arms to help pin meat against its body and prevent the meat from swinging around.
V-rexes developed the shark-like ability to regrow lost teeth.
- Main article: Vastatosaurus rex/Gallery.
- Vastatosaurus rex is a tribute to the Tyrannosaurus rex from the original 1933 King Kong in that it not only is a descendant of T-Rex, but it also shares aspects of the T-Rex's design from the 1933 film such as having three fingers and pebbly skin. King Kong's fight with the last V-Rex is also a recreation of his fight with the T-Rex in the original film, ending with Kong breaking its jaw.
- The V-Rexes encountered by Kong in the film are confirmed to be a family, including a juvenile, a bull, and a matriarch. This Vastatosaurus family might be the result of inbreeding, as V-Rex designer Greg Broadmore says that the filmmakers thought of the family as "this group of ornery yokels, this inbred family of dinosaurs."
- The decision to give the Vastatosaurus rex scales cost production hundreds of man-hours when sculpting the scales on their maquettes. Richard Taylor told Cinefex in their January 2006 issue that the V-Rex sculptures were one of the most difficult Weta Workshop had ever created, commenting that the scales were "like a mathematical equation, requiring very careful analysis of the scales. There was no way to cheat it, we just couldn't scratch it in." One of the sculptors, Gary Hunt, commented on the sculpting process of the scales, saying "After six months of putting scales on a V-Rex—we've got scales printed on our retinas!" Designer Christian Pearce felt that though the crocodilian scales made sculpting the V-Rex maquettes very time-consuming, it was worth the effort overall as he felt it separated the V-Rex from the Jurassic Park Tyrannosaurus.
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