Kennedy London, Arts & Entertainment Editor
There are legendary figures throughout film history that are unmatched in their recognition. Having two legendary figures such as Godzilla and King Kong in the same film categorizes as a moment in time. Although Toho Studios’ 1962 film King Kong vs. Godzilla exists, 2020’s version of the colossal battle aims to remind audiences of the wonder and awe that a monster film can possess.
Directed by Adam Wingard, Godzilla vs. Kong is the fourth installment in the MonsterVerse franchise and the first time the titular creatures have met since the 1962 film. However, this is no remake as this film deals with its mythos, characters, and lore behind Godzilla and Kong’s history. Godzilla vs Kong is one of the first big blockbusters of 2021, and its success during the COVID-19 pandemic many give hope to others later in the year.
In a recent roundtable discussion with Brian Tyree Henry and Julian Dennison, it became clear through the conversation that Godzilla and Kong mean more to cinema than box office entertainment. These two titans represent a sense of history that will carry on generations after Godzilla vs. Kong releases.
Godzilla and Kong are not merely monsters, but they are characters. They are two different beings with their perspective that play roles in catastrophic events. While the sweeping battles and unforgettable set pieces are expected, the relationship between the two characters is as important as the battles they wage across land and sea.
The characterization of both titans is more about their towering mystic and storied history. In the real world, humanity flocks to the idea of God and the power he can possess. Godzilla and Kong are the gods that humanity can physically interact with.
Henry, who plays podcaster and conspiracy theorist Bernie Hayes, points to the reality of what these figures mean in the film. While Godzilla and Kong are fictional, their embodiment of nature and royalty are things audiences can identify.
“I think these monsters are a bit misunderstood. I think that they got the label of monsters when actually they’re kings, they’re titans,” Henry said. “I also think sometimes things can be misconstrued by the powers that be.”
Henry gives credit to Director Adam Wingard for the titans’ development by saying, “He actually made them both incredibly complex, and you actually kinda care about both of them.”
The history between Godzilla and Kong is something Henry also mentioned. The deeply rooted rivalry that has carried on for thousands, possibly millions, of years, is on full display when the titans start throwing each other around.
When humanity is looking up in shock and awe at the titans during these epic battles, it becomes easy for them to feel minuscule or powerless. In regards to the actors having to imagine looking at them, that was a task altogether.
“The sets were massive, they were huge, and sometimes you just had to get a chiropractor because you were looking up so much,” Dennison said. “It would just be like people holding a mic, or there would be giant green screens and laser pointers, and you would kind of lose it. So, I think it was taking a step back, going through the script, talking with the other cast, and Adam Wingard, who is an amazing visionary, and we discussed what it would look like.”
The different characters at play gazing up at these larger-than-life creatures all have a different perspective regarding the escalating events. Wingard mentioned several times before that he wanted audiences to care about the characters in Godzilla vs. Kong. Henry was particularly excited to play the role of Bernie Hayes.
“I remember when I was asked to play this part, I was like, ‘Wait, I get to be the crackpot scientist? They don’t ever have the black guys be the crackpot scientist,” Henry said. “I know stuff? Great.’ So, I was very happy to try to mesh the worlds of Doc Brown from Back to The Future, but actually add the crazy scientist from Independence Day. I wanted him to be the voice of reason, which he was.”
While the human characters have their place in the movie, the monster sequences are expected to be front and center. To experience the film on the big screen is, without question, the intended way of viewing. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, the hope is that movies like this one will get theaters back in stride.
“I think it’s so important right now. The world’s in an uncertain place, and everyone’s being able to safely go back to theaters, and I think right now this is what we need. We need to be able to get together,” said Dennison.
Godzilla vs. Kong releases on March 31 in theaters and on HBO Max.