‘Godzilla vs. Kong’: How the Filmmakers Created the Title Bout

You’ll have to watch Godzilla vs. Kong to find out who wins the title battle. Legendary monsters King Kong and Godzilla battle it out after the events of 2014’s Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. A lot more goes into making King Kong fight Godzilla than just letting the behemoths slam into each other. The filmmakers crafted the fights blow by blow early in the production.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Godzilla vs. Kong.]

Godzilla vs. Kong in Hong Kong
Godzilla vs. Kong | Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Screenwriter Max Borenstein spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet by phone on March 24, and director Adam Wingard by Zoom interview on March 18. Godzilla vs. Kong is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ fights had to be planned in advance

Of course, any movie fight is planned in advance. Human stuntmen will choreograph a fight and execute it on set. When you’re dealing with monsters like Godzilla and King Kong, you have to plan the visual effects out even earlier.

King Kong vs. Godzilla in Hong Kong
Godzilla and King Kong battle in Hong Kong | Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

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”Most of the writing of Godzilla was the macro of trying to connect the dots between the sequences and create some emotional throughline. Then there’s the execution of the scenes and the most important scenes are the action scenes. Those are written. In our conceptual ideas that Adam has and that the concept team has and that the VFX team has, it continually evolves, but the moment to moment of it is scripted in detail. Again, it all evolves. Not all of it stayed in, but in terms of what does stay in, more of that makes it in, believe it or not, than the lines of dialogue.”

Max Borenstein, Interview with Showbiz Cheat Sheet, 3/24/21

The Godzilla and King Kong fights were scripted

Some of the exciting battles in Godzilla vs. Kong involve fights in the midst of battleships at sea, or in the city of Hong Kong. Borenstein said each of the moments in those fights stuck to the script.

Godzilla vs. Kong: Eiza Gonzalez, Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle look out the window
L-R: Eiza Gonzalez, Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle | Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

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“Those scenes tend to evolve more than the fundamentals of set pieces in terms of what are these moments of out of the frying pan, into the fire escalation,” Borenstein said. “Oh, the ship gets inverted and capsized. Now it’s flooding and they have to somehow help Kong free Kong from Godzilla’s clutches and then he can help them flip the ship back over.”

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ kept adding more and more to the fights

The advantage of having entirely visual effects characters fight is that the filmmakers can keep adding more until it’s done. Wingard said he would go back and forth with Godzilla vs. Kong effects artists to add details to each fight scene.

“There are so many different avenues that you go through to get to the final image,” Wingard said. “You start with the storyboard up through the previs and then you get more and more details. There’s just so many elements that you have to get to to get to that final effect. So each step along the way, you’re just constantly giving notes and tweaking. It’s never just like OK, here’s an idea and let’s see it. You go through so many steps that by the time you actually get to the end, you probably don’t even remember how it started.”

Godzilla vs. Kong on the water
Godzilla vs. Kong | Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

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For example, one of the fun moments in King Kong’s first confrontation with Godzilla is that Kong grabs a plane to use as a weapon. The pilot of the plane ejects to safety, and all of that was developed in visual effects.

“All the shots of the jet pilots in that sequence, during the ocean battle, it’s like oh, it’s really cool that we were able to integrate some jet pilots in that,” Wingard said. “But, even those jet pilots are actually all CGI. They just look totally real. So there’s all these things that you wouldn’t think would be CGI but you can actually get away with nowadays. It allows you a lot of flexibility in terms of how you shoot it and all those kinds of things.”