Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’s director Adam Wingard on the humanity of monsters

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Godzilla x Kong is in cinemas on March 28.
Godzilla x Kong is in cinemas on March 28. Credit: Warner Bros.

The last creature you’d expect Godzilla to be likened to is a small house cat.

The fearsome cinematic monster tramples whole cities while cats just stamp over their owners’ hearts by reminding them they will never submit to a human.

But a cat is one of the more surprising links between two Godzilla movies, the upcoming visual extravaganza, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire and the recent Oscar-winning Japanese film, Godzilla Minus One.

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Adam Wingard, the American filmmaker who helmed Godzilla x Kong, told The Nightly he took direct inspiration from his cat, Mischief, for his rendering of the prehistoric kaiju monster.

“There’s a moment when Godzilla sleeps in the Coliseum and he curls up and hibernates in there. That was taken from me looking at my cat and her cat nest, curled up with her tail hanging off the side”.

Godzilla x Kong is in cinemas on March 28.
Adam Wingard took inspiration for Godzilla’s movements from his cat. Credit: Warner Bros.

Wingard noticed in Godzilla Minus One shots of the creature swimming that also reminded him of Mischief, and when he recently met Takashi Yamazaki, the director, the Japanese filmmaker confirmed he too drew inspiration from the never-humble housecat.

The two Godzilla movies couldn’t be further apart in terms of tone. The Japanese film was a sombre drama about grief, regret and survivor’s guilt in the fallout of World War II while Godzilla x Kong is the latest instalment in the rambunctious MonsterVerse franchise.

To call the MonsterVerse a quiet achiever with its combined almost $US2 billion box office, would be ironic. Its movies are loud, imposing and heavy metal. The previous chapter, Godzilla vs Kong, was released between COVID lockdowns and its promise of a sensorial assault outside of the intimate confines of at-home viewing led to a $US470 million haul.

Watching monsters pummel each other can be a bloody good time. Wingard also directed that film and it was his experience on it that gave him the jumping-off point for Godzilla x Kong.

Godzilla x Kong is in cinemas on March 28.
Adam Wingard on set with Dan Stevens and Rebecca Hall in Queensland, where Godzilla x Kong was filmed. Credit: Warner Bros.

“There are a couple of sequences in (Godzilla vs Kong) where we leave the human perspective and we’re just kind of there with Kong and we’re following him around,” he recalled. “I developed a real confidence in terms of being able to do a sequel in the way that I’ve always wanted to see since I was a little kid.

“Because my dream monster film when I was younger was the one that was driven from the monster’s point-of-view.”

Godzilla x Kong is the “ultimate” monster movie Wingard’s 10-year-old self would have loved, in a similar way that a seven-year-old Guillermo del Toro watched the Creature from the Black Lagoon and held onto that image until he made The Shape of Water. So many filmmakers spend their childhoods obsessed with monsters.

It’s that desire to understand them on a different level, a human level, that often drives these monster stories.

Godzilla x Kong is in cinemas on March 28.
Kong is humanised even further in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. Credit: Warner Bros.

For Wingard, Kong’s journey is an emotional one. While the film may have Godzilla’s name in front (“Godzilla has a really great lawyer,” Wingard joked), Godzilla x Kong, which was filmed in Queensland, is the giant ape’s movie, more than anyone else’s – more than Godzilla’s and more than any of the human characters played by Rebecca Hall, Dan Stevens, Brian Tyree Henry and Kaylee Hottle.

“When you’re doing a big monster movie, it’s kind of a given that you’re going to have all these major battle sequences that monsters are going to destroy iconic landmarks. But the thing that really excited me was seeing the monsters in between those battles, and experience them as characters.

“(Kong is) a lonely character at the beginning of this, and he’s searching for his place in the world. He’s always going to be much of a surrogate to the human story. We can place emotions and empathy on Kong, he’s always going to let us into more of his story.”

Godzilla may have feline movements but Kong gets to have human emotions.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is in cinemas on March 28.

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