Godzilla vs. Kong is shaping up to be quite the showdown. These two icons haven’t clashed on the big screen since King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962 and given how fun the preceding Legendary films in the “MonsterVerse” have been – Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters – anticipation is rightly high. With Godzilla vs. Kong (GvK) finally about to debut – it’s hitting cinemas in Australia on March 25, is seeing a dual release on HBO Max and theatrical in the United States on March 31, and will be available on demand in the UK on April 1 – it’s time to reveal some of the key details about the film we learned way back in 2019 when we spent a day on the set.
Yes, in what feels like another life, IGN and a number of other outlets visited the production on Australia’s Gold Coast, and – among other things – had the opportunity to watch a scene being filmed on a soundstage in which the crew had built a full-size Ghidorah skull. This incredible structure had been fashioned out of literally two tonnes of foam and towered over anyone who came into the expansive warehouse space. Its exterior was incredibly detailed but, intriguingly, its inside had been retrofitted into a control room by Apex, a hi-tech corporation introduced in the film. What is it being used for? We’ll speculate a little further down, as we work our way through 12 things you need to know about Godzilla vs. Kong.
1) Godzilla Is No Longer the Good Guy
In the last two Godzilla films, the epic monster has very much been cast as a protector of humanity… or at least a protector of Earth’s ecological balance. This is no longer the case in GvK and, in fact, Godzilla is rampaging across the planet and generally behaving erratically. Why this sudden change? That’s what Millie Bobby Brown’s Madison Russell, who returns from King of the Monsters, wants to find out. “When we first meet Madison, she is actively trying to figure out why Godzilla is acting the way he’s acting,” says producer Alex Garcia. “We establish early on in the film that Godzilla’s on a hunt, he’s on a mission. We don’t quite know what it is, that continues during the film. And Madison tries to uncover what that is.”[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%E2%80%9CWe%20establish%20early%20on%20in%20the%20film%20that%20Godzilla’s%20on%20a%20hunt%2C%20he’s%20on%20a%20mission.%22%20-%20Alex%20Garcia”]
2) It Will Be Team Godzilla Versus Team Kong
Each of the titanic beasts has a human team in its corner. As mentioned, Madison is very much Team Godzilla in this film, and she’s joined by Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) and former Apex employee Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry). Is Godzilla being controlled or influenced in some way? And does the seemingly benevolent but hugely powerful Apex corporation have something to do with it? That’s what this crew suspect and during the film they’ll attempt to infiltrate Apex’s headquarters to uncover the conspiracy.
On the other side, we have two Monarch operatives – Alexander Skarsgård’s Nathan Lind and Rebecca Hall’s Ilene Andrews, alongside a young girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who as we saw in the trailer, has a special bond with Kong. These three are Team Kong, and will go on their own adventure alongside the great ape. We’ve already seen footage of Kong being taken off Skull Island, but whether that’s a good idea remains to be seen. “When they do,” says Alex Garcia of shipping Kong away from his home, “there’s a feeling of the upset of balance.”
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3) We’ll See a Lot More of the Hollow Earth
The subterranean Hollow Earth has played a significant role in all the MonsterVerse films to date. These are the tunnels and environments which Godzilla uses to get around, and from which humanity believes the Titans originated. A major thread in Godzilla vs. Kong is Monarch’s plan to draw the Titans back into the Hollow Earth in the hopes they can be sealed in. This eventually leads to a mission deep into the Hollow Earth utilising Apex tech and with the humans exploring alongside Kong.
What will the Hollow Earth be like? “There’s a line in the script that describes Skull Island as the Hollow Earth come to the surface,” says Alex Garcia. “So we ran with that. And if you think of… Skull Island, which in that film, it has a myriad of environments and of different creatures and of different possibilities, all within this one location, Hollow Earth is the OG of that. So you’re going to see a lot of different environments, several different creatures and some really massive – there’s also a line in the script that it’s as vast as any ocean, it’s a huge, huge ecosystem.”[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%E2%80%9CHollow%20Earth%20is%E2%80%A6%20as%20vast%20as%20any%20ocean%2C%20it’s%20a%20huge%2C%20huge%20ecosystem.%E2%80%9D%20%E2%80%93%20Alex%20Garcia”]
“And Adam and the concept artists,” executive producer Jay Ashenfelter adds, “did a lot of work with our mythology experts at Legendary, [to] talk about what these creatures would evolve like in an environment like the Hollow Earth.”
“I mean, it’s pop science obviously, or pseudoscience,” continues Garcia, “but… we haven’t just run with like, ‘Oh, that design would be really cool.’ We’ve tried to – given the creatures that we’ve seen in the universe to date – we’ve tried to extrapolate out a little bit. What could the things on Skull Island have evolved from? Or what could the things in Hollow Earth have evolved from? What could Godzilla and Kong have evolved from? So we’re trying to play with it all being in the same rough zone.”
The Hollow Earth itself may hold some additional surprises. Jay Ashenfelter teased that Team Kong’s mission will have to contend with a “switch in gravity,” while producer Alex Garcia confirmed that they’ll have to deal with the forces within the Hollow Earth. “There’s some cool stuff we’re playing with gravity,” says Garcia. “And with some of the physical forces that they encounter.” Interesting…
4) It Will Build Out the MonsterVerse Mythology Further
While each of the four films of the MonsterVerse can theoretically stand on its own, when combined they’re all part of a concerted effort by Legendary to build out its own consistent world. “It’s been important to us,” says Garcia, “that there is a bedrock of mythology that is true to the films as the timelines of the films become more complicated, as we start to build Monarch out as an organization also, and ensure that it feels credible and grounded in the best ways, so that we can still have fun with it and have them be escapist pieces of entertainment. But we want them to also, to have it feel to an audience that if you’re going to truly escape into something, you want it to be grounded and real and to have real thought gone into it.”
5) The Human Journeys Are Integral
One of the strengths of the MonsterVerse up to this point has been the fact that the human drama has really effectively anchored each film. These have been characters that the audience can empathise with and invest in.
“We’re as excited as anybody to see the two characters collide,” says Alex Garcia of the showdown between the iconic Titans, “…but there is a very emotional thing at the centre of the film, both for Nathan, Alexander Skarsgård’s character and for Madison, Millie Bobby Brown’s character. They each have something that they are driving toward in the film that has a very emotional climax for them…” And these stories are intertwined with those of the creatures and ultimately “intersect and combine, as do the characters.”
“We have a distinctive group of actors who really bring these characters to life in a way where you actually can root in them emotionally,” Garcia continues. “They’re not just reacting wide-eyed to what’s going on, but they’re on their own emotional journeys in the film that you can hook into. So there’s the human emotional journey. There’s the creature emotional journey and the journey of the world that… links them all together.”
6) Kong’s Story May Punch You in the Gut
Godzilla vs. Kong’s director, Adam Wingard, believes that in addition to the importance of having an emotional attachment to the human characters “it’s the same for Kong as well. The most appealing thing to me,” he says, “is being able to empathise with these 300-foot monsters and have the characters do the same, because so much of what we’re going to feel about the monsters has to be related to what the characters are feeling and so we try to intermingle that as much as possible.”
Kong’s journey into the Hollow Earth is a good example. “Kong, who’s the last of his kind,” says Garcia, “is on a journey to hopefully find more. And that’s an incredibly emotional thing.” This helps keep the film grounded in something relatable. For Garcia, it’s important “that it has something to say, just beyond the monster mash.”[poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%E2%80%9CThe%20most%20appealing%20thing%20to%20me%20is%20being%20able%20to%20empathise%20with%20these%20300%20foot%20monsters%20and%20have%20the%20characters%20do%20the%20same…%22%20-%20Adam%20Wingard”]
7) The Setting Is Slightly Futuristic
Godzilla vs. Kong “is set slightly in the future,” Adam Wingard says. “It’s not really definitive of when it is, it’s obviously a different reality, an alternate reality that we’re in, but I kind of envision it as being slightly more futuristic.” This obviously helps unlock what’s possible in terms of advanced tech from one of the film’s major players, Apex.
It also ties into what Wingard wanted from the film’s showdown in Hong Kong. “Even when I was in the early stages of talking to Legendary about even potentially doing this film,” he says, “one of the main things I wanted to do is I knew that I wanted a big fight scene between Kong and Godzilla in a neon city, something that was very colourful…” Hong Kong was chosen because it was massive and “had a very futuristic look already as a baseline” which they could then push even further. “We’re adding all these crazy stylized elements,” says Wingard, “but we’re still trying to keep it as grounded as possible.”
The resulting look – from what we’ve seen – is certainly distinct from the films that have come before, and indeed, that was the goal. “A filmmaker like Adam,” says Garcia, has a “distinctive and dynamic way of looking at the film that gave it a lot of visual promise that also kept that grounding and emotion central.”
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8) The Past Meets the (Futuristic) Present Is a Major Theme
Godzilla vs. Kong takes the heightened reality of its near future setting and deliberately juxtaposes it with the primordial past, giving a sense of both where we’ve come from and where we’re going. The most obvious example of this is the twin story strands of Nathan Lind exploring the Hollow Earth – the planet’s mythological past – while Madison Russell is infiltrating Apex, a glimpse into extremely futuristic technology.
We’ve heard a lot about the Hollow Earth, but don’t know a great deal what Team Godzilla will find inside Apex yet, beyond “all of these incredible environments, [and a] massive Maglev train that runs through tunnels that span the globe,” says Alex Garcia.
9) Technology Will Be Fused With the Organic
Remember the Ghidorah skull set I mentioned in the intro? Well, inside the skull was what looked like a cockpit – a pilot’s seat with a headset connected by glowing wires to a luminous dome above, which itself was fed by neon wires from holes in the skull itself.
What is this control room? Is it a device to control Godzilla? Is it the cockpit for a mecha-Titan? And does it expand on the Orca technology from King of the Monsters, which in itself represented a technological fusion of natural bio-frequencies? We don’t know, but we do know that this is Apex technology.
The scene we saw on set featured Ren Serizawa (played by Shun Oguri) – the son of Ken Watanabe’s Monarch martyr Ishiro Serizawa – in the pilot’s seat, accompanied by the CEO and founder of Apex, Walter Simmons (played with gusto by Demián Bichir). We also know from the post-credits scene of King of the Monsters that it was that film’s antagonist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) who secures Ghidorah’s disembodied head, presumably on behalf of Apex.
“This scene…” says director Adam Wingard, “it almost epitomises the sort of thesis of the movie which would be the past meets the future, organics meet technology, and that’s one of the main themes of this movie where we’re constantly clashing the two worlds.”
10) Apex Aren’t Necessarily the Bad Guys
It may seem strange we didn’t hear about the Apex corporation in the previous films, but it sounds like the company’s rise has been both meteoric and tied to the emergence of the new Titan reality. “They’re a corporation that’s taken a huge leap since these creatures have become more prominent,” comments Ashenfelter. They’ve been rebuilding cities and “providing solutions and safeguards” adds Garcia; essentially helping life get back to some kind of normalcy amidst the turmoil.
As alluded to above, Apex is likely in business with Alan Jonah, one of the principal antagonists of King of the Monsters. We also know that at some point after Monarch’s Nathan Lind agrees to use Apex’s technology to enter the Hollow Earth he “realises that what Apex has sold him on is not everything that he thought it was,” as Alex Garcia puts it. Even so, Apex seems as though it will operate in more of a grey area.
“[Walter] Simmons has risen to a place… in the seats of power,” says Garcia of Apex’s CEO, “and is wanting to help to stem and stop the madness and the destruction. And… he’s not necessarily a Machiavellian character. He believes something, he’s not necessarily our villain, by the way, but he is a very complex character who believes he’s doing the right thing. And he may be, but that’s where the mystery at the core of the film comes into play.”
11) There Will Be at Least Two Showdowns Between Godzilla and Kong
We already know from the trailer that Godzilla will face Kong at least twice in the film. The scene on the aircraft carrier is likely to be early in the film, when Monarch are taking Kong off Skull Island and heading to a “second, but much more dangerous pathway into the Hollow Earth,” according to Alex Garcia.
The “huge set piece between Godzilla and Kong on the water,” says Garcia, “to us was a really exciting idea. The idea of Kong on an aircraft carrier with Godzilla, circling like Jaws and the two of them – Kong in as adverse an environment as you could find him – contending with this thing for the first time.”
Fighting on the deck of an aircraft carrier surrounded by ocean certainly puts Kong on the back foot in a major way, but at least he’s now comparable in size to Godzilla. “Kong can’t blast Atomic Breath,” says Garcia, “but there’s a line in Skull Island, that he’s still growing. And certainly we capitalize on that. He’s grown significantly. He is still not able to do some of the things Godzilla is able to do, but he does have a few tricks up his sleeve as well.”
For those that have seen the first showdown between these two from 1962, no, Kong will not have electrical powers. In fact, according to Alex Garcia “Kong does not have any powers beyond what you know. He may have, like I said… some tricks up his sleeves, but he doesn’t suddenly fly or breathe fire or anything like that.”
We’ll likely see some of these tricks play out in the other confrontation we know about – the fight in Hong Kong. “You can see that Adam’s playing with some cool ideas,” says Garcia, “like Godzilla just chasing Kong, who’s very agile and can move in a different way than Godzilla. He can almost parkour around the city.”
“It’s cool to be able to really put my mark on something that could be a classic movie,” says Adam Wingard, “because these characters [are] clashing for the first time since the ’60s.”
12) The Music May Not Be What You Expect
Another element that’s likely to set Godzilla vs. Kong apart from other MonsterVerse films will be its score. “A lot of my films have been known for using electronic scores and for me that was another one of the first things that when I was picturing this movie it was like, we’ve got to have Kong and Godzilla fighting while there’s really cool synthwave type of music playing in the background,” says director Adam Wingard.
“Whenever I’m doing a movie in general, the main inspiration that I pull from is from music, and being able to get excited about things based on ideas that are created from listening to songs and things,” he continues. “And so we have a really great composer on this film, Junkie XL… We had a big discussion early on about that I liked to have score made ahead of time so that we’re not just working in a vacuum, that we sort of have a baseline of inspiration going into it.
“And so he cooked up an entire hour’s worth of stuff and sent it to me about 20 days into the shoot, and so we worked on that. Actually we’ve been able to play it during some scenes, scenes where there are big epic moments where characters are supposed to take in epic spaces and things, and so we’ll blast music over the loudspeakers and it gets them in the right flow and it’s nice because it’s the real tempo of the stuff that is actually meant for the film.”
Godzilla vs. Kong will be in cinemas in Australia on March 25, will see a dual release on HBO Max and theatrical in the United States on March 31, and will be available on VOD in the UK on April 1.