In a literal and figurative sense, one of the biggest genre films to arrive in 2021 is Godzilla vs. Kong, and we just got the first trailer. The fourth installment in the Monsterverse, like its predecessors, looks visually splashy as all hell. The fate of studios, or at least their decision making, is at stake with this blockbuster. Legendary, Warner Brothers, and HBO Max are all hoping for big things out of this effort.
I just finished a trailer announcement for a little independent horror film called Hideout. It’s a very small picture, featuring an aspiring director and a group of young actors looking for their big break. For them, it’s huge, but for the industry, the world isn’t actually paying much mind to the little indie flick that might.
The opposite is true for Godzilla vs. Kong. If you haven’t been paying attention to the streaming media wars, Warner Brothers took a massive gamble by releasing all of their 2021 slate onto the HBO Max streaming platform. While this is potentially awesome for fans, it’s a bummer for the production houses like Legendary pictures, who got hit hard twice by this decision because their movies are mega-buget blockbusters. The fate of the studio, and of HBO Max rests on the very broad shoulders of the titanic protagonists of this movie.
Already, WB has managed to infuriate both Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Dune) and Christopher Nolan (the Dark Knight, Inception, Tenet), and leaving the future relationships between the directors and the studio that had supported them at risk. It’s a brave new streaming world, and the implications with both the nature of streaming and the COVID environment has changed the world of cinema in a monumental way.
Godzilla vs. Kong director Adam Wingard, a horror movie veteran (You’re Next, A Horrible Way to Die, V/H/S) so far seems to be playing ball with HBO Max and Warner Brothers. He is an unabashed fan of the franchises, and stylistically, there is a good bit of visual similarity to the previous film in the Legendary Monsterverse Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a spectacular looking if narratively clumsy film. Kong: Skull Island (2017) was solid and fun blockbuster fare, but was not quite the magical film as the Peter Jackson or Merien B. Cooper productions.
Both movies were modestly successful at the box office, and were a mixed bag critically. So, putting the two behemoths together could be just the thing to spice up the Monsterverse. Kong is now a bigger mega-gorilla than his 1933 or 2005 variants… done with the understanding that he would eventually go toe to toe with the Godzilla at some point soon.
Once again, the Monsterverse is blessed with an excellent cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Ferguson, Bryan Tyree Henry, and Kyle Chandler. Thankfully, the character of Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) is not returning, as she deserves to rot in jail for the deaths of untold millions. Just saying. Also, none of the cast from Kong Skull Island returns, as that was a 1970’s period piece. All I ask for this outing is to have decent writing for the human characters since the superb cast is there to support a good script and keep the focus of the titans. It seems like a minor request, but so far it’s proved elusive.
This time there is a new little girl, Jia (Kaylee Hottle) with a special relationship with Kong. A touching finger touching moment strongly resembles the Mothra and Madison (Brown) encounter. This firmly puts Kong in the good guy camp. But who put Godzilla in the bad guy side of the ledger? Isn’t he a hero too?
This is not the first time the two giants have clashed, as the Toho Studio production King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963) treated us to a royal rumble that was some of the best Kaiju action ever made by two guys in rubber suits. The ending, however, was ambiguous, with both combatants falling into the sea. Rumor had it that the studio had two versions made, one with Kong winning and another with Godzilla winning, but this rumor has since been debunked.
Can there be only one, in the end, this time? Entertainment Weekly interviewed Wingard and coaxed this gem from him:
“I do want there to be a winner, The original film (1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla) 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.”Adam WIngard to Entertainment Weekly
However… rumor has it that there may be a third Kaiju in the mix. There has been some buzz that MechaGodzilla may be showing up in this film, allowing both of the heroic monsters to turn their attention to a truly dastardly being. Given that the Monsterverse has been trying to make a more grounded (if you can) version of these monsters, that MechaGodzilla is a bit on the silly/fantastic side… but he is still iconic.
As goofy as the premise of the 1963 King Kong vs. Godzilla was, along with an absolutely embarrassingly bad Kong costume, the movie is supremely entertaining. Haruo Nakajima in the Godzilla costume, and Soichi Irosi in the Kong costume gave everything they had, and provided some of the best fight scenes ever between two giant monsters.
But, as we’ve seen with the recent Legendary fare, the CG visuals make the fights truly epic, and less like a WWE cage match. (Undeniably fun, but also patently silly at times.) Still, you have to suspect that as mighty a vehicle as an aircraft carrier is, it would be not able to support the weight of both of these big boys. For them, it looks like fighting on a floating log.
The Warner Brothers released storyline:
“Legends collide as Godzilla and Kong, the two most powerful forces of nature, clash on the big screen in a spectacular battle for the ages. As a squadron embarks on a perilous mission into fantastic uncharted terrain, unearthing clues to the Titans’ very origins and mankind’s survival, a conspiracy threatens to wipe the creatures, both good and bad, from the face of the earth forever.”Warner Brothers
Godzilla vs. Kong has a day and date release in theaters and HBO Max on March 26, 2021, and the film is rated PG-13. No big deal right? Hudreds of millions of dollars, and the fate of two historically important movie monsters is at stake. Let’s get ready to RUMBLE! (queue Michael Buffer)