Spoilers follow for Godzilla vs Kong.
Godzilla vs Kong feels like the culmination of Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' MonsterVerse. The monster action movie, which is out now on HBO Max, doesn't confirm that this is the last entry in the series outright, but it's not hard to see why some viewers may think that's the case.
There are very few, if any, kaiju battles that could eclipse the iconic meeting between these two titans and, judging by the movie's ending, audiences may wonder if this is where the curtain falls on the MonsterVerse.
Calling time on Godzilla, Kong and their gigantic brethren now, though, would be to do a disservice to them and this universe. There are more stories to tell in the aftermath of Godzilla vs Kong, and there's plenty of evidence that shows how movie universes can exist long after any alleged apex moments.
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Godzilla vs Kong: Is this really the end?
To be clear from the outset, Warner Bros. and Legendary haven't specified if this is the end of the MonsterVerse or not. The film was only released on March 31 in the US and April 1 in the UK. It's too early to tell, then, how many people have watched Godzilla vs Kong and whether there's a big enough audience to future instalments.
So far, Adam Wingard, the movie's director, is the only individual to lift his head above the parapet and comment on the possibility of sequels. Speaking to DreadCentral ahead of Godzilla vs Kong's release, Wingard stated that the MonsterVerse was "at a crossroads", and its future would ultimately be determined by audiences.
“It’s really at the point where audiences have to kind of step forward and vote for more of these things," Wingard explained. "If this movie is a success obviously they will continue forward. Just because you have a [shared] universe it doesn’t mean you have to do all the things that Marvel does [with the Marvel Cinematic Universe]. And ultimately I think it’s better with sequels to not pigeonhole yourself."
Godzilla vs Kong could follow the MCU or DCEU's example
Spoilers for 2017's Godzilla: King of the Monsters follow.
Wingard's quotes offer an intriguing proposition about how the MonsterVerse could borrow from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
There isn't a more popular film franchise right now than the MCU, and Disney and Marvel Studios know this. It's why we're getting more content through its Disney Plus TV shows, such as WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as well as more movies beginning with Black Widow in July.
It's obvious, from monetary and business standpoints, why more MCU productions are on the way. Capitalizing on the success of previous MCU projects is part of Disney and Marvel Studios' blueprint, and that's in spite of the MCU arguably reaching its pinnacle in the form of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
Thanos' impending MCU arrival was the plot thread that joined the other MCU movies together for a decade. His eventual appearance in the third and fourth Avengers films, then, were clearly the apex moments in the MCU's history. It's a point forced home further with Marvel's 'changing of the superhero guard' with the culmination of those movies, which saw the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow pass the torch onto heroes already present in the MCU and those yet to come.
Why would the MCU need to continue now that its biggest moment has passed? Because, aside from the billions of dollars that Disney and Marvel Studios will continue to rake in through future projects, there are more stories to tell. We've only scratched the surface on Marvel's illustrious comic book history, so there are lots of other characters that audiences can be introduced to.
This is a model that the MonsterVerse can follow. Godzilla vs Kong was billed as these two beloved titans duking it out to be crowned Earth's top predator but, just because that bruising brawl is over, Warner Bros. and Legendary don't have to close the lid on this universe. There's a plethora of other monsters that we haven't been introduced to yet and, as Godzilla's and Kong's solo outings have shown, there are lots of titans present on Earth besides them. We saw plenty of them bow to Godzilla after he killed King Ghidorah in 2017's Godzilla: King of the Monsters. They haven't suddenly disappeared by Godzilla vs Kong, so who is to say we won't see them again in the future?
Alternatively, Godzilla vs Kong could chart a path that resembles another Warner Bros. universe property. The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is Warner Bros.' multiverse of DC superheroes. In following a less linear path than the MCU, the DCEU allows Warner Bros. to jump across various timelines, introduce different iterations of characters or even reboot superheroes, like Batman, as and when they see fit.
The MonsterVerse may be better suited to this formula. It wouldn't have to start exploring Godzilla or Kong in a different universe, per se, but it could follow a less linear path and introduce the backstories of this duo, or other kaiju, in the form of prequel movies.
How would this be achieved? A big plot thread from Godzilla vs Kong could hold the answers.
Godzilla vs Kong: the Hollow Earth holds the answers
Spoilers for Godzilla vs Kong follow from this point on. Turn back if you haven't watched it yet.
As Godzilla vs Kong shows, there's a subterranean world where titans are seemingly born. The Hollow Earth, which we first learned about in Kong: Skull Island and later expanded upon in King of the Monsters, is a series of passageways that allow Earth's monsters - and an extinct race of people who worshipped them - to travel from one side of the world to the other in double-quick time.
That's its basic explanation anyway. The movie doesn't do a brilliant job of expanding on the Hollow Earth's entry points and how to get there. There's some convoluted talk about 'gravitational inversion', and some viewers may take the Hollow Earth's light show/portal as a doorway to a parallel dimension.
Either way, humanity's expedition to the Hollow Earth in Godzilla vs Kong isn't important in this discussions. What is, though, is that we see a whole other world exists through its subterranean tunnels. This new biome is only briefly explored in the film, and doesn't account for much of the movie's 113-minute runtime.
However, we get enough of a glimpse into the Hollow Earth's realm that it could form the base for future MonsterVerse movies. There are all manner of weird and deadly monsters here, including those winged serpents that attack the humans' H.E.A.V machines upon entering the Hollow Earth and some vulture-bat hybrid creatures in the are where Kong finds his trusty axe.
As Godzilla vs Kong's ending shows, too, Kong ends up residing in the Hollow Earth alongside humans including Jia, Dr. Andrews and Dr. Lind. Kong serves as our entry point into the Hollow Earth's environment and other monsters in this movie, so setting future instalments in the MonsterVerse here seems like the best course of action to take. Truth be told, Warner Bros. and Legendary have done enough of the 'kaiju battling on the surface world' movies for now, so taking things underground and expanding on the Hollow Earth's fauna, flora and history would be the next logical step to take.
That isn't to say that Godzilla's story is over either. We see the lizard titan recuperating in the Hollow Earth after its initial defeat to Ghidorah in King of the Monsters, so Godzilla could conceivably have another film or two that's set in the Hollow Earth. Godzilla vs Kong's ending is quite abrupt - disappointingly so, in fact - and Godzilla's exit from the film is far more brief than we'd have expected. After the duo finish off Mechagodzilla, Kong and Godzilla silently pay respect to each other before the latter slinks off into the ocean.
You'd hope that Godzilla would have received a better send-off than that if this was to be their final MonsterVerse appearance, so we suspect that there will be more films starring the legendary kaiju down the line.
Godzilla vs Kong: the MonsterVerse may find its home on HBO Max
Warner Bros. drew plenty of criticism, including some from Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve, for its decision to simultaneously release its biggest blockbusters on HBO Max and in theaters. With the Covid-19 pandemic decimating the movie industry last year, the studio decided to launch Godzilla vs Kong - and its upcoming movie slate - on its streaming platform in 2021.
This is why the latest MonsterVerse movie arrived on HBO Max on March 31, and it wouldn't surprise us if Godzilla, Kong and company found a permanent home on the streamer in the future. Yes, that may be a strange prediction to make, but hear us out.
We should preface this by saying that Warner Bros. would be silly to release potential future MonsterVerse instalments on HBO Max only. Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters have grossed $1.48 billion at the global box office combined, while Godzilla vs Kong has already made $123.1 million since its initial international launch on March 24. With box office hauls of that scale, Warner Bros. wouldn't want to miss out on this kind of revenue from possible MonsterVerse sequels.
However, as Wingard has said, audiences will dictate whether we will see more Godzilla and Kong movies. At the time of writing, the film has a 95% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so it seems likely that more monster movies will come. If, for whatever reason, Warner Bros. decide that they're done bringing Godzilla et al. to the big screen, though, they could look to produce MonsterVerse films for direct-to-HBO Max release instead.
Netflix has shown that you don't need to release top-quality movies on the big screen. With a big enough fanbase, Netflix has still created critically-acclaimed films for direct release on its streaming platform. If there's an audience for a production, it will be watched, especially by those who have been established subscribers for a while.
According to Deadline, HBO Max had 41.5 million subscribers by the end of 2020, and Warner Bros. expects that number to rise to at least 120 million by 2025. The studio, then, could certainly increase its subscriber base by making its MonsterVerse an HBO Max exclusive. It's likely that Godzilla vs Kong's viewing figures will be big enough for at least one more movie but, if it isn't, Warner Bros. may decide that it's only worth making them for direct-to-streamer release.
If that becomes the case, however, the studio could really lean into the wackier side of Godzilla and Kong's worlds, particularly from an enemy monster standpoint. There wouldn't be the fear of alienating your typical cinema goer with abstract monsters such as Hedorah or King Caesar, so why wouldn't an HBO Max MonsterVerse be the way forward?
Whatever direction Warner Bros. and Legendary want to go in, Godzilla vs Kong doesn't have to be the end of the MonsterVerse. There's so much more that the studios can do with this franchise, and it would be a crying shame to see it brought to an end just because the two titans have finally met.
I'm hopeful that Godzilla vs Kong isn't the last we'll see of these beloved monsters or the universe that they share. We shouldn't be treating their encounter as the cap on a MonsterVerse quadrilogy, but rather as an entry point to the wider universe. We've been given glimpses of it and the kaiju that inhabit this version of Earth, but I'd like to see a deeper dive into its history, those monsters that came before and where the likes of Kong and Godzilla can go from here.
Inevitably, it's up to viewers and Warner Bros. to decide. If it was up to me, though, I'd be viewing Godzilla vs Kong as the true beginning of the MonsterVerse, and not its end.
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