Entertainment

What You Need to Know About This Epic Smackdown

In March 2019, a group of fellow journalists and I went down to Brisbane, Australia to visit the set of Godzilla vs. Kong. For me, this was my third time visiting the set of a Godzilla movie having previously done visits for 2014’s Godzilla and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. I obviously needed to know how my chonky son would fare when matched up against a very angry monkey, so I packed a bag, got on a 22-hour flight to Australia, and then the following day (or was it previous day; time loses all meaning on a flight that long) headed to Village Roadshow Studios.


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Our day began by talking with producer Alex Garcia, and he outlined most of the plot for us. I won’t do that here because they clearly want don’t want people knowing what happens by the time you get to the third act, but I’ll give you the broad outline:

  • The films takes place five years after the events of King of the Monsters.
  • Godzilla has been reinstated as the Apex Predator, but he’s been acting erratically, and Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) believes there’s a reason for his actions.
  • Monarch, reacting to global fears about the titans, has been creating access to the Hollow Earth, in an attempt to lure the monsters back beneath the surface and stem their rampage.
  • An attempt to take Kong away from Skull Island brings him into conflict with Godzilla.
  • While we still see the human side through Monarch, there’s now an evil human company called Apex that’s a megalithic organization doing some bad stuff.
  • Skull Island is what happens when the Hollow Earth comes to the surface, so in a way, Skull Island is like a prelude to the threat that could engulf the planet.
  • As usual with these movies, neither Kong nor Godzilla are inherently good or evil; they’re simply fighting for what motivates them.
  • Madison works to investigate with the help of Josh (Julian Dennison) as well as former Apex technician Bernie Hayes played by Brian Tyree Henry.

They told us more than that, but again, I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises. For those wondering how Kong could even take on a monster the size of Godzilla, we were told to keep in mind that Skull Island takes place 40 years prior to this film. In that interim, Kong has gotten bigger and more battle-scarred.

We were then taken to the set, and fans of the Godzilla franchise will probably be able to read between the lines of what I’m about to describe. You may recall that in the post-credits scene of King of the Monsters, Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) purchases Ghidorah’s severed head. We walked on to the set and there was a gigantic Ghidorah skull that had been wired up and made technological. It’s one of the cooler sets I’ve been on as it looks like they had taken the organic matter of Ghidorah and mechanized it into some new kind of mechanized creature.

In the scene we watched, Madison, Josh, and Bernie work to infiltrate the skull and find out what exactly Apex is up to. A take we watched repeatedly is where a sinister character played Shun Oguri comes in, talks to an unseen pilot, and says in disturbingly calm voice, “Thank you for your service.” It’s a bit uneasy, but obviously whatever this monster skull is doing is something big and important to the bad guys.

When we spoke to Henry, he told us about:

  • Bernie is a bit of a conspiracy theories and has his own podcast, but it’s kind of shaped by tragedy since he lost his wife. So he turned in on himself to expose Apex.
  • He feels like he saw this disaster coming, so he wants to help Madison and Josh bring down Apex, which is doing something to harm Godzilla, which in turn harms the planet.
  • “I feel like, it’s easy to call him a crackpot, it’s easy to call him a crazy guy – which he is, he is,” says Henry, “but at the same time there’s heart to him, there’s this loyalty he has. He just wants to make sure the world doesn’t get destroyed.”
  • He jokingly refers to himself as the Brienne of Tarth of this movie since he’s looking out for Madison and Josh on their mission.
  • He doesn’t see Bernie as “Team Kong” or “Team Godzilla” but “Team Truth”, although he came into contact with Godzilla first. But his goal is to use the tools at his disposal to bring the truth to the people. :I always refer to Bernie as “Anonymous” – Bernie’s like the head of “Anonymous”,” says Henry, referring to the hacktivist collective. “He can see the injustices, but no one really listens to him.”
  • With this being his first blockbuster to hit screens (he’s also a member of Marvel’s Eternals), he’s excited for people to see a new side of him. “What I like about Bernie is that there’s joy in him, and he’s going to make people feel joyous about going on this journey that is *incredibly* insane,” says Henry.
  • It was very weird for him to be asked to be part of the Godzilla franchise when he can still remember the 1998 Godzilla and Diddy’s “Come with Me”.
  • Personally, Henry is Team Godzilla, and even used to draw the character. “It’s a dream come true,” he says.

Come back later this week for more from our interview with Henry.

Director Adam Wingard with Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison on the Set of Godzilla vs. Kong

Image via Legendary and Warner Bros.

We also spoke with Brown and Dennison together, who told us about:

  • How they screen tested together using scenes from Romeo & Juliet, and they couldn’t stop laughing because it was so cringey.
  • How Madison has changed since the events of King of the Monsters. She’s now more independent, and that kind of sets her off on this journey to protect Godzilla.
  • How Brown kept blowing takes of a scene with an explosion because she was clearly bracing for the explosion.
  • That it’s so much fun to work with Kyle Chandler (even though he’s kind of intimidating) and Brian Tyree Henry.
  • Dennison and Henry playfully teased Brown about her British accent by constantly going, “Ullo, govna!”

Come back tomorrow for our full interview with the young cast members.

We also spoke to the production designers Tom Hammock and Owen Paterson, who told us about crafting the look for the climactic installment of the Monsterverse franchise. Some interesting points he revealed:

  • They wanted to delineate between Monarch and Apex by having Monarch be more of a government institution that’s more concrete with duller colors while Apex is futuristic and sleek.
  • The world isn’t post-apocalyptic since the rise of Godzilla, but he’s definitely been trampling some cities, and the film is about a mission to get him to stop doing that.
  • Creating the look of the Hollow Earth started with going back to Skull Island and then trying to pull influences from ancient human civilizations.
  • When it comes to Hong Kong, they really wanted to play up the neon city so that while Hong Kong is recognizable, it’s also slightly futuristic. They also wanted to make a bit more like a jungle to give Kong some advantages.
  • They watched all 30 Godzilla movies and all 7 Kong movies to makes sure they not only understood the visual language of these characters, but also so they could pop in fun easter eggs.
  • In terms of influential films, Godzilla vs. Mothra and Godzilla vs. Destoroyah were near the top of the list as well as Shin Godzilla. The main idea was to never lose sight of the scale of these monsters to the human world.
  • Other influences on the movie outside of the Godzilla and Kong franchises include Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds and even underwater kitchen scene from Alien: Resurrection.
  • Since the film goes to the Hollow Earth and they have to populate that world, they developed a lot of new creatures.
  • One of the words that Hammock hit multiple times was “Iconic”. He explained, “As far as the fighting, it’s just fun to pick those iconic images. Yeah, there’ll be both be on top of a sinking aircraft carrier going at each other. So, the goal is really that early on, just say one more thing for Adam was to identify places after watching all those films where you hadn’t seen Godzilla in a fight or where you hadn’t necessarily seen Kong in a fight. So trying to make the city completely different from how they’ve been photographed before trying to get them in the water. He couldn’t think of any great water battle in any of those movies, trying to get them into the jungle. So anyway, just trying to see what have we not seen before and have each of their interactions embody one of those environments.”

A set from Godzilla vs. Kong

Image via Legendary and Warner Bros.

We then moved on to talk to Costume Designer Ann Foley, who, like Hammock and Paterson, was all about trying to blend the ancient with the futuristic:

  • In this film we meet Gia, a child of Skull Island who has been adopted by Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall). Her look was based on the natives of Skull Island, the Iwi, while blending it with more contemporary pieces. So, for example, she’s got a necklace made out of skullcrawler teeth, but she also wears Converse shoes.
  • Everything for Gia was custom-made except for the shoes.
  • The mission suit for the Hollow Earth has its own kind of special fabric.
  • Also, as Monarch has now become more official, they have their own uniforms to give them an identity, and there are different levels of uniform within Monarch.
  • Apex, comparatively, is more in greys and blacks.
  • The color red is used sparingly in this film, and when it pops up, it’s used as a symbol for a connection to the monsters.
  • The coolest part of the Hollow Earth costumes is that they’re custom printed with copper over red that allows the red to come through when the copper.
  • The armored part is made out of urethane, which is what they use for stunt padding.
  • The jacket for Madison was taken out of her mom’s closet, and it’s her mission outfit.
  • Everything goes through the process of aging with the exception of Eiza Gonzalez’ character, who gets newer, dashing outfits.
  • There are also fun details like Base Camp One patches for Monarch using the profile of Kong because Base Camp One is on Skull Island
  • The female characters have practical footwear for their professions, not heels.

While our visit in Australia came to a close, we still weren’t quite finished. Director Adam Wingard wasn’t available on the day we visited, but thankfully he made some time for us last week on a Zoom call. During our conversation, he talked about:

  • How the film is his way to settle a second-grade argument had with a friend on the playground about who would win in a fight.
  • Making sure the human side, whether they’re “Team Godzilla” or “Team Kong” always punches up the monster side of the story.
  • He acknowledges that the directors who came before him in this franchise were able to put their unique stamp on their movies, and that’s what he wanted to do with Godzilla vs. Kong.
  • He sees the movie as a return to his roots where the sci-fi action of movies like Terminator 2 and Aliens was a gateway to horror and becoming a filmmaker.
  • He feels like his horror films helped prepare him because they’ve always had a bit of an action bent like when he showed Face/Off to his DP on You’re Next. Even Death Note helped him get acclimated to using VFX.
  • He feels like one of the strengths of this film is that audiences are now on board with both Godzilla and Kong as opposed to something like Batman v Superman where audiences didn’t really know Ben Affleck’s new Batman.
  • When it came to crafting the action scenes, he always wanted to keep the terrain in mind and how the monsters would use it.
  • He never felt like he had to “course-correct” Godzilla vs. Kong based on the reception to Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Check out our full interview with director Adam Wingard.

Now that we’ve reached the climactic battle of the Monsterverse, I’m not sure if there are any more Godzilla films in my future, although I certainly hope so. It’s been a joy seeing how different directors have tackled this iconic character while trying to hold a place for him in the Monsterverse franchise so that we could get to Godzilla vs. Kong. Based on everything I saw, fans of both characters will likely get a kick out of this film and what Wingard has in store. As for who wins, we’ll just have to find out next month.

Godzilla vs. Kong arrives on in theaters and on HBO Max on March 31st.


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