Why ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Has Fewer Human Scenes Than Previous Monsterverse Movies
King Kong and Godzilla are the stars of Godzilla vs. Kong. Sure, there’s an ensemble cast of A-list human actors, but none of them can upstage the creatures. Ever since the original 1954 Gojira, Godzilla movies have struggled to balance monster mayhem with the human cast. Everyone wants to see Godzilla and his enemies topple cities, but they couldn’t do 90 straight minutes of that, even when it was people in suits stepping on models.
Godzilla vs. Kong screenwriter Max Borenstein and director Adam Wingard spoke to Showbiz Cheat Sheet. They discussed their approach to the human storylines in the film. Godzilla vs. Kong opens March 31 in theaters and on HBO Max.
It took three movies to figure out the humans’ roles in ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’
Borenstein wrote on all three modern Monsterverse movies, with different writers contributing on each one. Borenstein said each of the movies taught him more about how to best play the humans in between Godzilla and King Kong.
“If you think about a movie with a movie star, like a conventional action movie let’s say, Mission: Impossible, Tom Cruise is the star of that movie,” Borenstein said. “Everybody else in that movie is a supporting character. And those movies are great, particularly that franchise, when the supporting characters are not trying to be leading men. They’re trying to be supporting of the star. So you’ve got Ving Rhames, you’ve got Simon Pegg and these characters who are quirky, interesting connection points. They’re characters that support the star and the star is Ethan Hunt.”
What ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ has in common with ‘Mission: Impossible’
It’s one thing to talk about an ensemble human cast like Mission: Impossible. What do you do with the humans in Godzilla vs. Kong? Borenstein cited characters like Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a deaf girl who communicates with King Kong via sign language.
“In this case, the star is Godzilla and the star is Kong,” Borenstein said. “The human characters are, in my opinion, the ones that work great or work best, are like Jia. Jia is a supporting character. She’s emotional. She has an agenda. She’s not carrying the weight of the plot. She’s an investment point, a touchpoint for us.”
Borenstein’s favorite Kong: Skull Island character also demonstrates a supporting human character to the big ape.
“Or for example, John C. Reilly’s character in Kong,” Borenstein said. “He’s not trying to be the leading man, he’s not trying to be the star of the film. He’s someone who has levity to inject, has pathos and warmth to inject. To me, those are the kinds of human characters that fit into the franchise best, because they’re not trying to make it their story. They live in the story of Godzilla and in the story of Kong.”
Don’t cut away from the main event
There are two schools of thought on what to do with the humans when the monsters start fighting. One is to intercut the Godzilla and King Kong fighting with humans reacting or trying to get away. Wingard chose the other way.
“I think back to the way I liked watching these movies when I was a kid, and all the classic Godzilla movies always have these long gaps where you’re just with the humans too long,” Wingard said. “So you get the feeling there’s the Godzilla plot and then there’s the human plot. I wanted to try to find ways to intertwine them but at the end of the day, when the fighting starts, it’s really not that important what the humans are doing because we want to see the monsters. We want to know what they’re doing. We want to watch the fight and we want to experience the fight.”
Wingard would apply the same rules to a human fighting movie. He compared Godzilla vs. Kong to the upcoming Mortal Kombat movie.
“It would be like if we were watching the new Mortal Kombat and throughout Scorpion and Sub-Zero’s fight, it just cuts over to some mice over in the corner watching,” Wingard said. “That would not be really that exciting. You just want to see Sub-Zero and Scorpion fight. Obviously, we try to keep that in mind. The technology is there. You can do it. It holds up so that’s what we did.”