Godzilla vs. Kong it’s almost here, and it’s a shock for all ages: two of the box office’s most beloved giant monsters, sticking to each other again like it’s 1962. But the film is not just a rematch between the titans, for director Adam Wingard, it is a step towards a truly titanic level of blockbuster film production.
Inheriting not just what he left behind Kong: Skull Island and two Godzilla films as part of Legendary’s fledgling “Monsterverse,” but the legacy of two of the greatest legends of cinemaliterally or otherwise, Wingard, best known for action horrors taught on a small scale like You are the next and Netflix’s Death Note adaptation“He’s been pushed onto a gigantic stage.”
To find out more about his approach to dealing with such a huge figures-from juggling a massive cast of humans to polishing the film just as the covid-19 pandemic took hold of it, sending studio employees to Work from home–io9 met the director on a video call. Check out the interview below!
James Whitbrook, io9: YYou are inheriting two very important movie franchises and you are breaking them into Godzilla vs Kong. What did you want to see in this movie that you felt we hadn’t seen in either of the two? Skull island or Godzilla Y King of monsters?
Adam Wingard: I think the main thing I wanted to see is … I wanted to get to the hearts of those characters. I wanted to feel the emotions of the monsters, you know? I think all the Monsterverse movies have done a great job of giving us all these different kinds of direction points. of sight“They’re kind of blockbuster auteur films, in a way.” Like, everyone can do their own specific shot. And for me, when tackling it, I really felt that it was the most important …I wanted to go back to what I think these movies originated, which is a feeling of true empathy for monsters.
I went back and looked at all the Godzilla Y King kong movies immediately when he was even in the early stages of movie negotiation. And one of the things that struck me was how emotional they could be, sometimes even Godzilla movies, you wouldn’t think. Godzilla vs Destoroyah, for instance. There is a moment when Junior, little Godzilla, dies, and Godzilla laments a bit about it, and there is some really sad music. That was a great awakening call me, because I thought, ‘HWe’re with guys in suits, you know? It shouldn’t be emotionally dazzling, but my eyes are watering here because of the power of cinema. The way they were juxtaposing the images with the music and stuff. And Kong has always had that, because he’s always been a more empathetic character in those older movies. So, that was probably the main thing. Besides the colors, the crazy 80s tonal stuff that I like to bring into my movies, music and everything. The heart was what he wanted to explore.
io9: Kong is very much the main perspective when we are introduced to the film. Can you talk more about the decision to frame this through his lens, and Godzilla as an external antagonistic force?
Wingard: Godzilla has always been this pendulum of character, traditionally. It has gone from bad, to good, to bad again and that is how we have always perceived it. And the Monsterverse version, he’s always been a good guy. So it’s always been just a matter of time before something happened and Godzilla was seen as a villain, or a ruffian I think is the most accurate term in this movie. So that naturally creates a bigger mystery around Godzilla: once you’re the villain, you can’t stay with them all the time.
It has to be a little more mysterious. You get a lot of screen time in the movie, but ultimately that forces us to print Kong as a bit more of the protagonist. Naturally, he also created this kind of underdog status for Kong. Because here is this thing that seems unstoppable and is destroying half the world. ‘What do we do?’, And here’s Kong as this very empathetic type of character. So history naturally lends itself to pushing him in that direction.
io9: Aside from the shadow of these two literally massive monsters, you have such a huge cast to deal with. New characters, villains, characters returning from King of monsters“What was the biggest challenge for you to find the impetus to unite these two universes?”
Wingard: I think anyone who watches my movies can see that I have an obsession with efficiency, pacing, and tone. Sometimes maybe I go through things too fast because maybe I have ADD or something, but I’m very impatient. I feel like Hollywood blockbusters, sometimes they get too relaxed. We’ve reached a point where it’s very casual to see a movie at two and a half hours, but boy, I feel like you have to do it for real. Really has something to do to make it more than two hours. And with Godzilla vs KongI just thought that the audience that’s going to want to see this doesn’t want to sit in a theater for two and a half hours. They want a dense and exciting experience that excites them. They want to run out of the theater with energy, not worn out.
So I would say the biggest challenge for me was the fact that, like, I have all of these characters and I’m also technically making a sequel, but I’m doing a sequel that has to stand alone. You should be able to see this movie without seeing the other movies. TThe biggest challenge is always the first half hour of the movie. It’s like, ‘HHow do we set up all these things but really enjoy it? ‘Because once the movie hits the half hour point, it’s nonstop action from there. The movie never slows down.
But it was always important that even when we’re getting things ready, the movie doesn’t have a stagnant feeling, and also, most importantly, that you’re never that far from monsters. It was always important to me that you could always catch a glimpse of a monster in every scene. Even if it’s just about setting them up and the exposure around them. All the actors contributed a lot, they knew the characters, they knew the personalities they brought; everyone has a very colorful design and it’s easy to keep track of them. And they can make a big impact very quickly and efficiently.
io9: You’ve done action movies before, but there was nothing on the scale of this. How was that experience for you as a director? Not just getting into this big box office hit, but we’ve been working for the past year in very strange times. You have dealt with this scale, but you have handled it in a unique way.
Wingard: Luckily for me, just to talk about the second half of it – the pandemic hit us directly at our post-production facility in March. That’s when we started having to work remotely, but we were in the final stages. I think we had about a month and a half, or maybe two months, of post-production. WWe hadn’t locked the image at the time, but we were pretty close to that. So working remotely wasn’t too bad. There were a lot of special effects reviews that had to go through. I don’t remember what program we were using, we had a special program where we were able to monitor online. And then once a week or every other week, I was able to go to Legendary just with me and Alex Garcia, the producer, and we could see it on the big screen when we gave our final go-ahead; we saw it on the big screen because it was important to do so.
Regarding the development of the film, I have done a lot of action, but never on this scale. In many ways, the action was the easiest part of this movie. As I mentioned before, preparing the film and overcoming all those narrative efficiencies was the hardest, but The great thing about when you’re working on a movie like this is that for the first time, here I am, this independent director used to develop scripts with budget in mind, where you can’t just say “A house explodes ‘during an action scene, you have to say,’ WEll, we know what we can and can’t afford, and how we have to write for that, ‘you know? And with is movie, you are asked to use unlimited imagination. That’s what’s exciting about it. I started making movies because of great science fiction shows like the Star Wars movies and the Alien movies and that kind of thing. So, I always wanted the opportunity to flex my imagination and create these new worlds, environments, and things.
It was actually a lot of fun and intuitive, honestly, because you’re working from a time-consuming process and there are a lot of steps to it. What You go, you touch up and touch up and touch up. It’s actually very intuitive, as a director. You start with a storyboard and then you go to a preview, and once you’ve locked that animation, there are just different phases of animation that get more and more detailed as you go. The hardest thing in the early stages is learning that once you get to a certain point, you are spending a lot of money and you can’t go back. You too Really you have to know that this is the right decision because if you don’t, it will cost you the same amount of money to go back and redo it. Like, for example, if you don’t like the angle you have chosen once you have seen it more developed …All of a sudden it’s like, ‘Well I’m sorry. We’ve already spent $ 18,000 on this injection, and we’re just getting started, so … make up your mind! ‘You have those kinds of moments that are kind of scary, but overall, that part was really fun for me. I would love to do another one of these great monster movies.
Godzilla vs. Kong hits theaters and begins airing on HBO Max starting March 31.
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