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Team-up movies are one of the hardest concepts to crack when it comes to the world of cinematic universes. Godzilla vs. Kong director Adam Wingard absolutely understands that fact, particularly when it comes to introducing those two titular Titans in the showdown of the century. But when he was given the task to push the MonsterVerse forward in a major way, Wingard actually took an important lesson from Zack Snyder’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and it was something that even classic Godzilla franchise history had reinforced. In order to make a proper fight night, you need to have the proper stakes surrounding your combatants.
During a recent virtual roundtable I attended on behalf of CinemaBlend, Adam Wingard was on hand to talk all things Godzilla vs. Kong, and his approach to the film couldn’t have been clearer. A fan of sequels and their awesome power to expand a universe, Wingard threw out some of the most revered titles in progressing the stories of massive and iconic stories. But when it came to what Wingard wanted to avoid in Godzilla vs. Kong, he had a clear vision of how both Godzilla and Kong needed to be grounded in a particular way before they could ever believably fight. And thanks to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, this is how that thought process played out in Adam Wingard’s head:
I guess what I’m trying to get at is that part of the problem with King Kong vs. Godzilla, the original movie, is that we’d already established Godzilla, he looks basically like he did in the earlier films. But this was sort of a new King Kong, this was the first Toho version of King Kong. He looks a little weird, if I have to be honest; and he’s not stop motion either. He feels like a totally new character, it’s a totally new interpretation. So in a weird way, you don’t feel like this is really ‘King Kong versus Godzilla.’ You’re like ‘It’s Godzilla, but this other guy, he’s a different version of King Kong. It’s the best we’ve got.’ You flash forward in time, and I look at, for instance, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, to use it as an example. And this is just my opinion, but my issue with that movie is really that it’s a new Batman. It’s Ben Affleck as Batman, and up until then Christian Bale was the definitive Batman. And so it felt like, ‘Ok, now that we’re doing Batman v. Superman, we’re also restarting Batman. So this feels like a different universe, which it is; so this is a different Batman.’ It doesn’t have that kind of ‘this is the ultimate matchup’ of these characters. There’s something off about it.
Now, in all absolute fairness, and with great deference to Ben Affleck’s exemplary performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman, one of the problems that most people agree befell Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was the fact that it kind of rushed the DCEU into that big, blockbusting match-up. We were being introduced to Bruce Wayne later in his career, as well as Affleck’s interpretation of the character, in a film that was technically a sequel to Henry Cavill’s introduction as Superman in Man of Steel. No matter how you feel about Zack Snyder’s DC Comics output, it can at least be agreed upon that Batman v. Superman was putting the cart before the horse a bit.
What makes Adam Wingard’s approach to avoiding such problems in Godzilla vs. Kong is the fact that, if he really wanted to, he could have put more of his own signature on the film. Hearing him tell the next part of the story was rather surprising, as that gorgeous trailer for Mr. Wingard’s MonsterVerse follow-up seemed to already be coated in that colorfully gorgeous aesthetic that the director has used in the past; especially with his 2014 barn-burner The Guest. Continuing his discussion of having the proper stakes involved with these gigantic creatures fighting it out for dominance, Adam Wingard continued to outline his intent as follows:
So going into this movie, I didn’t want that feeling. Normally, Legendary would allow the directors to put their spin on Godzilla, and I could have changed him. I liked how [Michael] Dougherty kind of updated him with the classic maple leaves on his back. But for me, I wanted this to feel like the Godzilla we’ve been used to for the last couple movies, and I wanted Kong to feel like the Kong that we had in Skull Island. So that when they fought, it really felt like this was really them going at each other. That was one of the main things going into it. That would be one of my absolute sticking points is, even though I would like to have, for instance, made Godzilla’s head a little bit bigger, you know his head’s a little small. That complaint is not lost on me, but at the end of the day it’s like, ‘This is the Godzilla that we have here. This is the Legendary Godzilla, let’s see how he matches up with King Kong. Let’s not try to change it up, and do something different.’
When Godzilla vs. Kong was initially announced, people were already concerned with how the Kong we saw in director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island would measure up against the Godzilla we’d already seen in the big 2014 reboot. Their relative sizes were an issue that a lot of people worried would make this adventure hard to take seriously, even though the caveat that Kong was a young man when we first met him was already in place. So right there is all the justification you need for Adam Wingard to be as concerned as he was that, if he wasn’t careful, he’d make a Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice style misstep.
It all ties back into Adam Wingard’s love of sequels, which in itself is yet another Hollywood construct that fans already love to hate. While we all want more of what we love, getting what we want isn’t always the happiness we’d hoped for, as seen through the scores of subpar second acts we’ve seen throughout history. Perhaps the greatest asset that Adam Wingard had in his director’s toolbox, especially when tackling a movie like Godzilla vs. Kong, is the fact that he absolutely loves the medium of sequels, invoking two of the greatest examples to have ever existed in this final quote:
I really love sequels. I mean, [some] of my favorite films, like I said, [are] Terminator 2 and Aliens. So I love sequels where they can take something somebody else has done and then do their own spin on it and expand and all those kinds of things. When it came to my approach to [Godzilla vs. Kong,] coming directly after King of the Monsters, I guess there’s like a couple of ways I can approach that question. One is that this film is directly taking place after Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but it’s also … way in the future from Kong: Skull Island, which took place in the ‘70s. So for me, one of the most important things was that this felt like a legitimate sequel to those movies. That this felt a legitimate match-up between Godzilla versus Kong, that even though Kong is a little bit different in this film, it’s only because he’s aged from the time of the last movie. So he’s a little more grizzled, and all those kind of things.
As a sequel and a team-up movie, Godzilla vs. Kong already felt like it had two strikes against it from the start. Though, thanks to a trailer so impressive fans everywhere lost their minds over its contents, Adam Wingard’s film seems to have started its journey to crowd pleasing off on the right foot. March 31 will prove to be the big day of destiny for the massive undertaking, and if you don’t feel like heading to a theater near you, you’d better have an HBO Max subscription to enjoy the fun.