How the Monsterverse Led to Godzilla vs Kong
3/4/2021 • 4 min read
One does not merely throw two giant monsters into a movie and expect things to turn out well. Setting up a big battle takes planning and patience. GODZILLA VS KONG is thrillingly straightforward — anyone who buys a ticket to see a titan-sized throwdown between the two monsters will get more than their money's worth — but that doesn't mean it was easy to get to this point. Three movies in the "Monsterverse," produced by Legendary Pictures and released by Warner Bros., paved the road to this new movie.
The good news is that the plot and action in GODZILLA VS KONG are so clear that you don't need to see any other movie to appreciate this new battle royale. But knowing the recent history certainly doesn't hurt — and the way that three other movies built up to this showdown is impressive. Here's how the Monsterverse built up to GODZILLA VS KONG.
The Monarch Connection
There are three movies in the so-called Monsterverse: 2014's GODZILLA, KONG: SKULL ISLAND from 2017, and the 2019 release GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. The most significant throughline that connects the movies is not a monster, but Monarch. That's the research organization which tracked Godzilla after he was awakened by a 1954 deep sea expedition (as recounted in GODZILLA) and which later tracked down Kong (as detailed in KONG: SKULL ISLAND).
A few Monarch figures have been important characters in the series so far, such as Ken Watanabe's Dr. Ishirō Serizawa. His father started Monarch, and Serizawa is a major player in GODZILLA and KING OF THE MONSTERS. We don't see him in GODZILLA VS KONG, but the character's son Ren, played by Shun Oguri, is a big player in the new movie.
KING OF THE MONSTERS also introduced Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), a Monarch director whose daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) has a real attachment to Godzilla. They both return for this new story.
In 2014, GODZILLA presented a new version of the history of the titanic lizard. The creature was accidentally awakened in the 1950s (in the same year in which the original Japanese movie was released) and that major nuclear tests were actually an attempt to kill him. When those tactics failed, Monarch was set up to monitor Godzilla and other creatures like him. Decades later, Godzilla re-emerged as a protector of sorts — or perhaps a titan with instincts towards balance.
In fact, King Kong had been encountered first, towards the end of World War II, when a stranded American pilot survived an encounter with the giant ape. In another era, at the end of the Vietnam War, Monarch found King Kong on the uncharted Skull Island. The island also held cave paintings depicting Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. We didn't know much about what happened to Kong after the movie ended, but GODZILLA VS KONG fills in that knowledge gap almost immediately.
All those kaiju mentioned just above showed up in KING OF THE MONSTERS. The most important one for the purposes of the new movie is King Ghidorah, seen just above, whose severed head was sold on the black market. What happened to that head? We're not quite sure. Is it important? Almost certainly! Meanwhile, Godzilla is crowned the true king of the monsters and seemingly swims off to heal some of the damage done to himself, and to the planet. So what's next?
The Big Rule: There Are No Rules
While the other three Monsterverse movies have done a lot to set up the action in GODZILLA VS KONG, perhaps this new movie's smartest move is to be less than fully faithful to the past. Kong was always King, but he was never big enough to go toe-to-toe with Godzilla. Now, he is. How? There's an explanation, but it doesn't really matter. We've already seen the this in the Monsterverse, when the MUTOs of 2014's GODZILLA — aka Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms — were given a much more evocative name: Titans.
Similarly, the previous two Godzilla movies released by Warner Bros. painted the big lizard is a mostly heroic figure. That isn't exactly different this time out, but just as Godzilla's role in movies changed a few times in the many Japanese movies, here he is portrayed as more of a dominant natural force than a "good guy" monster. Meanwhile, Kong gets to be just a little bit more "human," but make no mistake: In the end he is certainly his own monster, and he is magnificent.
GODZILLA VS KONG opens on March 31!
All images courtesy of Warner Bros.