Back in 1954, Japanese studio Toho unleashed radioactive beast Godzilla onto the world. But before that, in 1933, Hollywood defined the monster movie with giant ape King Kong, who ascended the Empire State Building with tragic results.
There have been many big-screen iterations of both monsters in the decades since. However, they’ve never clashed in a big-budget American movie until now. Enter 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong, which continues the ‘MonsterVerse’ franchise and brings us a titanic clash to end them all.
Scroll down to discover everything we know about the movie so far.
1. It continues the MonsterVerse franchise
The Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures ‘MonsterVerse’ kicked off with 2014’s Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards. Not only presenting us with a revised take on Toho’s towering lizard, the film also introduced the government agency known as Monarch.
This shadowy organisation, one with a keen interest in Godzilla and other extraordinary phenomena, then played a central role in 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts. The seventies-set tale acted as our introduction to the ‘MonsterVerse’ interpretation of giant ape King Kong, before ending with a Monarch-flavoured, post-credits stinger. In the scene, the two central characters played by Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson are made aware that Kong “isn’t the only one”. Cue an image of Godzilla, followed by a cut to black and his signature screech.
In 2019’s box office flop Godzilla: King of the Monsters reinstated the titular beastie as the star of the show. Directed by Michael Dougherty, the movie pitted Godzilla against several of his most famous nemeses, Rhodan, Mothra and Ghidorah among them. At this point, Godzilla and his fellow monsters are re-dubbed ‘titans’, and the film culminates with the creatures bowing to Godzilla following the defeat of Ghidorah.
Once again, the post-credits sequences left us with a lot of questions. King of the Monsters established a new normal whereby humans would have to live side by side with Godzilla and his fellow titans. The end of the movie points towards a pivotal battle on Skull Island, on which the Titans are converging, while a second egg belonging to Mothra is discovered. And renegade eco-terrorist Jonah (Charles Dance) is seen reclaiming Ghidorah’s head, which surely spells trouble.
2. It’s directed by Adam Wingard
Don’t know the name? What if we said he’s the man behind You’re Next and The Guest? Wingard has carved out a niche as a talented genre filmmaker, assimilating the stylistics of John Carpenter and mixing them with a dash of hardcore, 1980s-riffing gore to craft enjoyable cinematic experiences.
You’re Next was the morbidly amusing, and just plain morbid, story of a family reunion disrupted by a group of masked serial killers. And The Guest worked wonders with Dan Stevens’ star image, casting him as the mystery war veteran who violently implodes the workings of an ordinary American family.
Of course, we can’t expect too much gore when it comes to Godzilla vs. Kong. After all, this is much more in the audience-friendly, monsters-beat-the-hell-out-of-each-other mold. Nevertheless, we can surely expect the wry humour, visual style and enthusiastic love of genre conventions that have earmarked Wingard’s previous films.
"I really want you to take those characters seriously,” Wingard told Screencrush back in 2017. “I want you to be emotionally invested, not just in the human characters, but actually in the monsters. It’s a massive monster brawl movie. There’s lots of monsters going crazy on each other, but at the end of the day I want there to be an emotional drive to it. I want you to be emotionally invested in them. I think that’s what’s going to make it really cool."
3. It’s the first Hollywood movie to pit these two icons against each other
Back in 1962, when the Toho Godzilla franchise was in its early stages, the giant lizard fought King Kong in the none-too-imaginatively titled King Kong vs. Godzilla. Memorable set-pieces include a battle between the two beasts on the slopes of Japan’s Mt. Fuji, with the director of the original 1954 Godzilla movie, Ishiro Honda, at the helm.
The making of the movie may, in fact, be more interesting than the film itself. Stop-motion effects wizard and King Kong designer Willis H. O’Brien wrote a script treatment in which Kong would battle Frankenstein’s monster. Upon handing the outline to producer John Beck, things took an unpleasant turn when Beck replaced Frankenstein’s monster with Godzilla. Regardless of the circumstances behind its creation, King Kong vs. Godzilla emerged as a box office hit in Japan. A later version was released to the American market in 1963.
In 1967, the Toho-distributed King Kong escapes, again directed by Ishiro Honda, placed the giant ape front and centre for the last time. Fast-forward to 2021, and we’re getting the first Hollywood clash between Godzilla and Kong. The script for the latest movie has retained the influence of Godzilla: King of the Monsters director Michael Dougherty, and he explained the essential difference between the title characters.
"We expect those very unique, and even warm, bonding moments between Kong and human beings,” Dougherty told Screenrant. “That goes back to the 1933 film, where he was never strictly a monster; there was always a very human side to him in the ways that he interacts with us." As for Godzilla, Dougherty explained that the connection between lizard and human is “more implied”, adding it’s rare that we “get to see Godzilla’s softer side”. Will Godzilla vs. Kong address these concerns? We’ll find out in due course.
4. It’s got an all-star cast
Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown reprises her role from Godzilla: King of the Monsters as Madison Russell. In that movie, Madison became aware that her mother Emma (Vera Farmiga) was attempting to establish a new world order in which the titans and humans could learn to co-exist. No doubt the events of Godzilla vs. Kong will deal with the continued fall-out from her actions.
Also returning from the earlier movie is Kyle Chandler (also seen in the likes of The Wolf of Wall Street) as Madison’s father Mark. Ziyi Zhang is also back from King of the Monsters as Dr. Ling Chen, and then we move onto the new cast members. Big Little Lies’ Alexander Skarsgard portrays a Kong-worshipping geologist who, in his words, is absolutely not a “bad-ass”. Skarsgard is joined by The Gift’s Rebecca Hall, who describes the experience of making the film as “overwhelming”, plus Widows’ Brian Tyree Henry, Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison and John Wick’s Lance Reddick (who also turned up in The Guest).
How many of these big names with survive the monster brawl to end them all? We’re thinking, not that many…
5. Wingard wants there to be a clear winner
Both Godzilla and King Kong inspire passionate devotion from their respective fanbases. So how can a movie possibly decide on the ultimate victor? It’s a difficult decision but one that Wingard is keen to address.
"I do want there to be a winner,” he told Indiewire back in 2017. “The original film was very fun, but you feel a little let down that the movie doesn’t take a definitive stance. People are still debating now who won in that original movie, you know. So, I do want people to walk away from this film feeling like, Okay, there is a winner.”