The project was announced in October 2015 when Legendary announced plans for a shared cinematic universe between Godzilla and King Kong. The film's writers room was assembled in March 2017, and Wingard was announced as the director in May 2017. Principal photography began in November 2018 in Hawaii, Australia and Hong Kong, and wrapped in April 2019. After being delayed from a November 2020 release date due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Godzilla vs. Kong was theatrically released internationally on March 24, 2021, and in the United States on March 31, where it was released in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for the visual effects and action sequences, but criticism towards the script and human characters. It broke several pandemic box office records, and has grossed $423 million worldwide against a production budget between $155–200 million, and a break-even point of $330 million, making it the third highest-grossing film of 2021. The film was also a streaming hit, becoming the most successful launch item in HBO Max's history at the time of its release.
Five years after Godzilla defeated King Ghidorah,[c]Kong is monitored by Monarch within a giant dome on Skull Island. Kong is visited by Jia, the last Iwi native and Kong expert Ilene Andrews' adopted daughter, who is deaf and communicates with Kong via sign language.
Bernie Hayes, an employee of Apex Cybernetics and host of a Titan conspiracy theory podcast, extracts data suggesting sinister activities at a Pensacola facility. However, Godzilla suddenly attacks the facility; during the rampage, Bernie stumbles on a massive device. Madison Russell, a fan of Bernie's podcast, enlists her friend Josh to investigate Godzilla's attacks.
Apex CEO Walter Simmons recruits Nathan Lind, former Monarch scientist and Hollow Earth theorist, to guide a search for a power source into the Hollow Earth, the homeworld of the Titans. Nathan is initially hesitant as his brother died in an expedition to the Hollow Earth due to a strong reverse-gravitational effect. He agrees after Walter reveals that Apex has developed HEAVs, specialized crafts able to withstand the pressure exerted by the gravity field.
Nathan meets with Ilene and convinces her to let Kong guide them through the Hollow Earth via an outpost in Antarctica. Nathan, Ilene, and an Apex team led by Walter's daughter Maia board a modified barge escorted by the U.S. Navy that carries a sedated and restrained Kong. Godzilla attacks the convoy and defeats Kong, but retreats after the ships disable their power and trick him into thinking they are destroyed. To avoid alerting Godzilla, Kong is airlifted to the Hollow Earth entrance, and Jia convinces him to enter the tunnel while the team follows him in the HEAVs.
Madison and Josh find Bernie, who joins their investigation. They sneak into the wrecked Apex base, discover a secret facility underground, and are inadvertently locked into an underground monorail transport to Apex headquarters in Hong Kong, where they unwittingly stumble on a test of Mechagodzilla. It is telepathically controlled by Ren Serizawa, the son of the late Ishirō Serizawa,[c] through the neural networks from the skull of a severed Ghidorah head,[c] but is hobbled by its power supply's limitations. Walter intends to harness the Hollow Earth's energy to overcome Mechagodzilla's limitations.
Inside the Hollow Earth, Kong and the team find an ecosystem similar to Skull Island. They discover his species' ancestral throne room, where they find remains of an ancient war with Godzilla's kind and a glowing axe made from another Godzilla's dorsal plates. As they identify the power source, the Apex team sends its signature back to their Hong Kong base despite Ilene's protests. Attracted by Mechagodzilla's activation, Godzilla arrives in Hong Kong, and sensing Kong, he directly drills a shaft to the throne room with his atomic breath. In the ensuing mayhem, Maia and the Apex team attempt to escape but their HEAV is crushed by Kong. Kong, Ilene, Jia, and Nathan ascend to Hong Kong, where Godzilla and Kong battle. Godzilla is initially overpowered by Kong, but Godzilla emerges victorious. Kong loses consciousness after being defeated by Godzilla.
Madison, Josh, and Bernie are caught by security and taken to Walter. Despite Ren's concerns over the power source's volatility, Walter orders him to activate Mechagodzilla. They lose control of Mechagodzilla, who kills Walter, electrocutes Ren and then attacks Hong Kong. Godzilla and Mechagodzilla battle, but Godzilla is overwhelmed. Nathan revives Kong by destroying the HEAV, and Jia convinces him to help Godzilla. As Mechagodzilla overpowers both Titans, Josh short-circuits Mechagodzilla's controls with Bernie's flask of liquor, momentarily interrupting the mech. Godzilla supercharges Kong's axe with his atomic breath, allowing Kong to destroy Mechagodzilla. Madison, Bernie, and Josh reunite with Mark Russell, while Godzilla and Kong acknowledge each other before the two go their separate ways.
Sometime later, Monarch has established an observation post in the Hollow Earth, where Kong now rules.
Millie Bobby Brown as Madison Russell: The daughter of Monarch scientists Mark and the late Emma Russell. Madison believes there is a reason for Godzilla's erratic behavior, suspecting a conspiracy formulated by the Apex Cybernetics. She proceeds to investigate with Josh Valentine and Bernie Hayes. Brown described the film as a coming of age story for Madison, noting that the character has "grown-up" and become more "independent" since the events of the previous film, stating, "Her storyline has definitely evolved greatly in the way she deals with things, her attitude towards life, how much more stronger of a person." Producer Alex Garcia described Madison as the "advocate for Godzilla in this film" who tries to "vindicate" Godzilla and his reasons.
Rebecca Hall as Dr. Ilene Andrews: A Monarch anthropological linguist, and Jia's adoptive mother. Hall described her participation as "overwhelming" due to the film being her first project after her pregnancy, but found the experience "thrilling." Hall described Ilene as "the Jane Goodall of Kong."
Brian Tyree Henry as Bernie Hayes: A former Apex Cybernetics technician turned conspiracy theorist aiding Madison and Josh to expose Apex. Henry described Bernie as a "crackpot" with a level of "heart" and "loyalty." Henry noted that the tragic death of Bernie's wife shaped him to become a conspiracy theorist with a podcast and further elaborated, "his goal is to use the tools at his disposal to bring the truth to the people. I always refer to Bernie as Anonymous. He can see the injustices, but no one really listens to him." Due to Bernie's protective nature of Madison and Josh, Henry jokingly likened Bernie to Brienne of Tarth.
Shun Oguri as Ren Serizawa: The son of the late Monarch scientist Ishirō Serizawa, and Apex’s chief technology officer, who is the telepathic pilot for Mechagodzilla. Oguri described Ren's goal as trying to "protect the Earth," however, the means to his goal differ from "everyone else, and his father." Oguri noted that Ren "sort of" followed in his father's footsteps but stated, "he doesn’t believe he was heard by his father." Wingard stated that the character was underwritten due to a lack of time to explore the character and felt it was interesting to leave him a mystery.
Eiza González as Maia Simmons: A top-tier Apex Cybernetics executive, and Walter Simmons' daughter. González described her role as a "very smart woman behind a company." She also described the film as "slightly comedic." González noted having enjoyed the fact that her character was a Latina woman with a high position within a company, and not forced into a stereotype.
Julian Dennison as Josh Valentine: A friend of Madison aiding her and Bernie to investigate the source of Godzilla's erratic behavior. Dennison described his character as a "nerd" and Madison as his "only friend." Dennison called Josh, Madison's "tech wingman," and the "realist in the duo," stating, "he kind of brings it, 'Oh, we shouldn’t do that because we’ll die.' And she’s, 'No, it will be fine.' So, I think they play very well. And they’re a very good mix of just craziness." Dennison screen-tested with Brown using scenes from Romeo and Juliet.
Lance Reddick as Guillermin: The director of Monarch. Reddick's role was originally larger, Wingard stated, "There was a scene earlier in the film, a big board room scene where they're setting up the mission. He had a larger role, but ultimately we didn't need that scene." He only appears in two brief scenes.
Kyle Chandler as Dr. Mark Russell: Madison's father, Monarch's deputy director of special projects, and an animal behavior and communication specialist.
Demián Bichir as Walter Simmons: Maia's father, CEO, and founder of Apex Cybernetics, a tech organization invested in trying to solve the Earth's "Titan problem," secretly creating Mechagodzilla to exterminate them. Walter is a visionary entrepreneur and billionaire who wants to help humanity and make the world a safer place, but clashes with Monarch over their differing ideals on what is best for humanity. Producer Alex Garcia said Walter "has risen to a place… in the seats of power, and is wanting to help to stem and stop the madness and the destruction." Garcia stated that Walter is not necessarily a villain or a Machiavellian character but is "a very complex character who believes he's doing the right thing. And he may be, but that's where the mystery at the core of the film comes into play."
Kaylee Hottle as Jia: A young, deaf orphan Iwi native who forms a special bond with Kong, and is Ilene's adopted daughter.
In September 2015, Legendary moved Kong: Skull Island from Universal to Warner Bros., which sparked media speculation that Godzilla and King Kong would appear in a film together. In October 2015, Legendary confirmed that they would unite Godzilla and King Kong in Godzilla vs. Kong, at the time targeted for a May 29, 2020, release. Legendary plans to create a shared cinematic franchise "centered around Monarch" that "brings together Godzilla and Legendary’s King Kong in an ecosystem of other giant super-species, both classic and new." Producer Alex Garcia confirmed that the film would not be a remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla, stating, "the idea is not to remake that movie." In May 2017, Adam Wingard was announced as the director for Godzilla vs. Kong. Wingard had previously been considered by Peter Jackson to direct a sequel to his 2005 version of King Kong that was ultimately unproduced.
In July 2017, Wingard spoke about the outline created by the writers room, stating, "We're going in very great detail through all the characters, the arcs they have, how they relate to one another, and most importantly how they relate to the monsters, and how the monsters relate to them or reflect them." He also stated that he and his team are going "beat by beat" on the outline, stating, "So once again, it's a discussion, and about feeling out how to make it as strong as possible, so that when Terry [Rossio] goes to write the screenplay, he has a definitive breakdown of what to include." In August 2017, Wingard spoke about his approach for the monsters, stating:
"I really want you to take those characters seriously. I want you to be emotionally invested, not just in the human characters, but actually in the monsters. It’s a massive monster brawl movie. There’s lots of monsters going crazy on each other, but at the end of the day I want there to be an emotional drive to it. I want you to be emotionally invested in them. I think that’s what’s going to make it really cool."
Wingard expressed his desire for the film to have a definite winner, stating:
"I do want there to be a winner. The original film was very fun, but you feel a little let down that the movie doesn’t take a definitive stance. People are still debating now who won in that original movie, you know. So, I do want people to walk away from this film feeling like, Okay, there is a winner."
In March 2017, Legendary assembled a writers room to develop the story for Godzilla vs. Kong, with Terry Rossio (who co-wrote an early unproduced script for TriStar's Godzilla) leading a team consisting of Patrick McKay, J. D. Payne, Lindsey Beer, Cat Vasko, T.S. Nowlin, Jack Paglen, and J. Michael Straczynski. On his experience with the writers room, Rossio stated:
"Godzilla vs. Kong was my first experience running a writer's room, and it was fantastic. It was a blast reading samples, meeting different writers, and crafting a story in a group setting. It felt similar to animation, where the film is happening up on the walls, and the end result is better than any one person could accomplish on their own."
Michael Dougherty, who directed Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Zach Shields, who co-wrote the film with Dougherty, provided rewrites to ensure that certain themes from King of the Monsters were carried over and that some characters were properly developed. Dougherty revealed how he wrote for the title characters, and how the film would address their differing interactions with people. For Kong, Dougherty stated the film would feature "those very unique, and even warm, bonding moments" between Kong and humans since they have been a staple of the character since the original 1933 film. For Godzilla, his connection to humans would be "more implied" as his softer side is rarely shown.Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein received a Screenplay By credit, while Rossio, Dougherty, and Shields received a Story By credit. Wingard became "very involved" in developing the world-building behind the Hollow Earth plotline.
In June 2017, it was announced that Zhang Ziyi had joined Legendary's MonsterVerse, having a reportedly "pivotal" role in both Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Godzilla vs. Kong, though she ultimately starred only in the former. In June 2018, Julian Dennison was cast, while Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler were set to reprise their roles from Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Legendary also sent an offer to Frances McDormand for a role. In July 2018, it was revealed that Danai Gurira was in early talks to join the film.
In June 2020, Tom Holkenborg was announced as the film's composer. Wingard met with Holkenborg in 2018, where Holkenborg admitted to recreationally writing music for Godzilla years prior due to being a fan. Holkenborg subsequently began communicating with the director, tweaked the material, and played it for the director, stating that Wingard was "totally in love." Holkenborg requested a bass drum roughly ten feet in diameter, but the builder was only able to scale it down to eight feet. As with Legendary's previous Godzilla trailers, György Ligeti's "Requiem" was used, followed by "Here We Go" by Chris Classic. The song "The Air That I Breathe" by The Hollies was used in the credits scene. The soundtrack was released by WaterTower Music on March 26, 2021.
Wingard felt it was "insincere" to repurpose the themes by Akira Ifukube because he associated them with Toho's Godzilla. Instead, Wingard wished to go in a different direction to create themes that were unique to the MonsterVerse's Godzilla, while paying homage to its influences.
All music is composed by Tom Holkenborg.
Godzilla vs. Kong: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
"Pensacola, Florida (Godzilla Theme)"
"Skull Island (Kong Theme)"
"A New Language"
"The Royal Axe"
In May 2019, the first promotional one-sheet poster was revealed at the Licensing Expo. In June 2019, Warner Bros screened an early look to European exhibitors at CineEurope. In August 2019, it was announced that Disruptor Beam would develop a mobile game to tie-in for the film's release. In December 2019, a brief clip was revealed during a Warner Bros. reel at Comic Con Experience, and later leaked online. In January 2020, images from the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair displaying figures related to the film were leaked online. In February 2020, Toho and Legendary announced the Godzilla vs. Kong Publishing Program and licensees. Through the publishing program, Legendary planned to release two graphic novels, one following Godzilla and the other following Kong, an art book, novelizations, and a children's book. Amongst the licensees named were Playmates Toys, Bioworld, Rubies, Funko, 60Out, and the Virtual Reality Company.
In April 2020, images of toy figures were leaked online, revealing different forms for Godzilla and Kong, Mechagodzilla, and a new monster named Nozuki. In July 2020, images of Playmate figures and packaging with concept art were released online. In December 2020, brief clips from the film were shown during Comic Con Experience. In January 2021, more brief footage was included in a preview for HBO Max. That same month, the first teaser poster was released online, along with confirmation of the trailer's release date. The first full trailer was released on January 24, 2021. It became Warner Bros' biggest trailer debut, earning 25.6 million views in 24 hours on YouTube; 15.8 million from Warner's channel and an additional 9.8 million views from the studio's secondary channels.
Theatrical and streaming
Godzilla vs. Kong was theatrically released internationally, beginning on March 24, 2021, and was then released in the United States on March 31, where it was simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, where it will stream exclusively for a month. The film was scheduled to be released in Japan on May 14, 2021 by Toho, however, Toho announced on April 30, 2021 that the film's Japanese release had been postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19.Regal Cinemas began exhibiting the film with a limited release upon its reopening on April 2, 2021, following its closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film was delayed several times, and was previously scheduled to be released in 2020 on March 13, May 22, May 29, November 20, and later pushed to May 21, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In February 2020, Warner Bros. hosted an unannounced test screening which received a "mostly positive" response.
In November 2020, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that the film was being considered for a streaming release. Netflix had offered $200–250 million but WarnerMedia blocked the deal in favor of their own offer to release the film on HBO Max. However, Warner Bros. iterated that their theatrical release plans will proceed as scheduled. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar and Warner Bros. chairman Ann Sarnoff considered options that included a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release, a strategy that Warner Bros. had done for Wonder Woman 1984. In December 2020, Warner Bros. announced that the film, along with their other tentpoles scheduled for 2021, will be given same-day simultaneous releases in theaters and HBO Max, with a one-month access for its streaming release.
In December 2020, Variety and Deadline Hollywood reported that Legendary Entertainment, financiers, and talent with backend deals were not pleased with WarnerMedia's multi-release plans and non-transparent intentions. Legendary was not given advanced notice of the multi-release decision nor given a say in how Dune and Godzilla vs. Kong would be distributed. The studio planned to have discussions with Warner Bros. regarding a more "generous deal" however legal action was considered. A few weeks later, Deadline reported that the film could keep its HBO Max release but only if Warner Bros. matches Netflix's $250 million bid. In January 2021, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that a legal battle was averted due to Legendary and WarnerMedia nearing an agreement to keep the film's simultaneous release.
The film is scheduled to be released on digital platforms on May 21, 2021 and on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray on June 15, 2021.
Following its opening weekend, Warner Bros. said the film had a "larger viewing audience than any other film or show on HBO Max since launch."Samba TV reported that 3.6 million households watched at least the first five minutes of the film in the U.S., and 225,000 in the U.K.
As of May 13, 2021[update], Godzilla vs. Kong has grossed $93.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $329.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $423.3 million.Variety reported the film needed to gross at least $330 million in order to break-even, with Deadline Hollywood estimating it would turn a net profit of $96.4 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenue.
A week prior to its United States release, the film was released in 38 overseas countries and was projected to gross around $70 million over its first five days. In China, where it was projected to debut to around $50 million, the film made $21.5 million (RMB 140 million) on its first day. The film exceeded predictions and debuted to $123.1 million worldwide, the biggest worldwide opening of the pandemic. Its largest markets were China ($69.2 million; RMB 450.5 million), Mexico ($6.5 million), Australia ($6.3 million), Russia ($5.9 million), Taiwan ($5.3 million), India ($4.9 million), Thailand ($3.3 million), South Korea ($2.8 million), Vietnam ($2.5 million), Malaysia ($2.1 million), and Spain ($1.7 million). In Indonesia, the film earned $850,000 (Rp.
In the United States and Canada, Godzilla vs. Kong was initially projected to gross around $23 million over its five-day opening weekend, compared to debuting to around $68 million in a pre-COVID marketplace. It made $9.6 million from 2,409 theaters in its first day, the best opening day figure of the pandemic. After grossing $6.7 million on its second day, five-day projections were increased to $30–40 million. Playing in 3,064 theaters by Friday, the film went on to debut to $32.2 million ($48.5 million over the five days), the best opening weekend of the pandemic.Collider attributed the film's box office results to "positive word-of-mouth." The film grossed $13.3 million in its second weekend, remaining in first and becoming the highest-grossing domestic release of the pandemic (passing Tenet's $58.5 million).
Godzilla vs. Kong received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, 75% of 354 critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Delivering squarely on its title, Godzilla vs. Kong swats away character development and human drama to deliver all the spectacle you'd expect from giant monsters slugging it out." According to Metacritic, which assigned a weighted average score of 59 out of 100 based on 57 critics, the film received "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale (the highest of the MonsterVerse), while PostTrak reported 86% of audience members gave it a positive score, with 74% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, writing: "Godzilla vs. Kong is the kind of movie you can pretty much forget about almost instantly after you've seen it — but it's also the kind of movie that makes you forget about everything else in your life while you're watching it." Jamie Graham of Total Film gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, writing: "Watching these famous monsters share the screen for the first time since 1963's King Kong vs. Godzilla, in a series of expertly choreographed battles, packs real wallop, even if you can't help wishing that screen was 30ft high at your local cinema."
Alonso Duralde of the TheWrap said that the franchise had "given up on everything but the monster fights" and wrote: "Yes, obviously, no one goes to these movies for the deep human characters or for plot machinations or even for the metaphors about the environment and industrialization. Here's the thing, though — they come in handy to fill in the gaps between the monster battles, and you miss them when they're not there. And since even those battles are somewhat perfunctory, what are we even doing here?" John Nugent of Empire gave the film 2 out of 5 stars, writing: "Godzilla vs. Kong mostly delivers on its promise of a big monster fighting another big monster. It just depends whether you're willing to sit through the toe-curlingly bad set-up that surrounds it." Reviewing for The Age, Jake Wilson gave the film 2.5 out of 5 stars, saying: "Overseeing the mayhem is director Adam Wingard, who started out making wittily brutal low-budget horror films before becoming a studio gun for hire. Absolutely no sign of his old personality is evident here."
In March 2019, producer Alex Garcia stated that Legendary hoped to produce more MonsterVerse films if they became successful. In February 2021, Wingard commented on the future of the MonsterVerse, "I know where we could go potentially with future films". However, he noted that the MonsterVerse was created "to a certain degree" to lead towards Godzilla vs. Kong. He added that the MonsterVerse is at a "crossroads", stating, "It’s really at the point where audiences have to kind of step forward and vote for more of these things. If this movie is a success obviously they will continue forward."
On April 4, 2021, Legendary's CEO Josh Grode commented on potential sequels, "we have a number of ideas for more movies." That same month, the hashtag #ContinueTheMonsterVerse began trending on Twitter, which garnered support from Jordan Vogt-Roberts (director of Kong: Skull Island) and was acknowledged by Legendary. On April 27, 2021, The Hollywood Reporter stated that Legendary was "quietly taking steps to stretch the series into one or more installments," while negotiating with Wingard to potentially return to direct. Various ideas are being considered, with Son of Kong being one potential title.