This article contains spoilers for GODZILLA VS. KONG
Now that Godzilla vs. Kong is out, many are asking themselves what’s next for Legendary’s MonsterVerse. Here’s the situation: the current license for Godzilla that the studio acquired from the character’s parent company, Toho, ended in 2020, and after the underperformance of Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 2019 a question mark has been placed on whether Legendary and Toho would strike a new deal for the big G and whether the MonsterVerse itself would continue past Godzilla vs. Kong – that responsibility ended up falling entirely on the crossover event film to settle.
Now that GVK is out and has earned the hearts of both hardcore fans and general audiences alike, receiving good reviews and great audience reception (an A on CinemaScore to illustrate it), fans are craving for more with the #ContinueTheMonsterVerse campaign. With the film shattering box office expectations, having already topped $300 million dollars globally and eyeing a possible $500mi final worldwide run for a by far pandemic best performance, continuing the MonsterVerse sounds like a no-brainer – the question is how? Some argue that with the end of Godzilla’s license, the universe could go on with Kong, but that wouldn’t really be a “MonsterVerse” – it would just be “Kong”. Because let’s face it, what else are they gonna do if they only have the rights to Kong? Films about their original monsters? A Warbat solo film? I don’t think so. The MonsterVerse needs other iconic kaiju, and I’ll argue that renewing Godzilla’s license – along with acquiring new licenses for new monsters – is still the way to go, as a third Godzilla would certainly be more successful than King of the Monsters. Why, you ask? Tag along as we look back at the history of Godzilla and shared universes.
Despite the original 1954 Godzilla, directed by Ishiro Honda, being an immortal classic and a huge success, its immediate 1955 sequel Godzilla Raids Again wasn’t so hot. Even producer Tomoyuki Tanaka admitted (as seen in Steve Ryfle’s unofficial biographical book of the big G) to hardly consider Raids Again a success, as the film failed to impress both critics and audiences anywhere near the way Honda’s original film did. Like so, the Godzilla franchise went into hibernation for 7 years until King Kong vs. Godzilla came along in 1962. That crossover film was a huge hit and remains the single most attended Godzilla movie in Japan to this date – but you have to remember, as evidenced by Godzilla Raids Again‘s disappointing performance, the big G wasn’t exactly the King of the Monsters just yet even in Japan, so the commercial success of King Kong vs. Godzilla is mostly attributed to the presence of King Kong who, like in the 2021 film, was sold as the hero. While at the time the audience was drawn to the film by Kong, in it they discovered a newfound interest in Godzilla, and that one movie reinvigorated the series to go on, eventually becoming a large international multimedia franchise that now spans through 36 feature films, multiple video games, animated series, etc.
Now, 59 years later, history repeats itself. After Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla was a well-reviewed box office hit in 2014 ($524mi worldwide on a $160mi budget), Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters went on to have a disappointing $386mi performance on a budget of $170mi. Despite audiences having enjoyed the film far more than critics did (a B+ on CinemaScore and a 83% verified audience score on Rotten Tomatoes), the numbers didn’t impress, especially due to the fact that up to that point the MonsterVerse had a relatively niche fanbase especially when it came down to Godzilla, who wasn’t quite that popular in the West – the success of the 2014 film can be mostly attributed to its brilliant marketing and of course its better reception. But everything started to change when the trailer for Godzilla vs. Kong came out; that trailer beating viewership records of powerhouses like The Batman, Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 showed that the MonsterVerse had started to capture the interest of a much larger audience and much like in 1962, that was mostly because of King Kong, who remains the more commercially successful monster in the United States – championing Kong extensively in that trailer was a particularly genius move.
With Godzilla vs. Kong out, the film is, as previously mentioned, proving itself an enormous success – if untainted by pandemic limitations, it certainly would’ve been the highest grossing entry of the MonsterVerse – and while so many people went in majorly for Kong, the movie gave Godzilla his due. Kong was the arguable protagonist, but the crossover was entirely modeled like a good old Toho Godzilla film, being centered on elements of Godzilla’s mythology – some introduced here to much of the general audience for the first time, like MechaGodzilla being the real main villain -, and of course with Godzilla himself winning the fight with Kong and retaining his title as King of the Monsters. The balance on the representation of both monsters was perfect so that even if Kong didn’t win the smack down, he got the respect that general Kong-centered American audiences expected, while also exposing that audience to the awesomeness of Godzilla. If the original King Kong vs. Godzilla stands to indicate anything, is that the success of this new crossover should amp up the interest on the Big G for an audience that might’ve not been all that interested in him before. That, however, is not even my only indicative to support that a post-GVK Godzilla movie would be much more successful than King of the Monsters…
The Marvel Cinematic Universe, which the MonsterVerse is loosely modeled after, is plain and simply the most successful cinematic franchise there is out there, with many of its latest films having grossed well over the $1 billion dollar mark and the $2.7bi dollar Avengers: Endgame even enjoying a brief phase as king of the hill before Avatar reclaimed its position as the highest-grossing film of all time this year. However it wasn’t always like this, and even the MCU had to find its way to the success it has today. So many of us think of Captain America as an icon and revere the smash critical and financial hits that were Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War that we forget that his first film, The First Avenger, underperformed. Back in 2011, Captain America wasn’t such a popular character even if he was widely known, and with a $370mi worldwide gross, The First Avenger had the second lowest box office of the MCU, above only 2008’s The Incredible Hulk despite its stellar critical and audience reception (an A- on CinemaScore). It grossed even lower than Godzilla: King of the Monsters – although it was also cheaper, at a $140mi price tag. Still, not an encouraging number after the likes of Iron Man and Thor had no problem breaking that $400mi milestone – in fact, pre-Avengers MCU movies performed a lot similarly to the MonsterVerse ones.
After 2012’s The Avengers smashed the box office with a whopping $1.5bi performance, interest in the MCU among general audience was amplified to a much larger scale – much like Godzilla vs. Kong did for the MonsterVerse -, as was the interest in each of its individual heroes, the most benefited of which was Captain America. His next solo outing, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, went on to be a huge financial hit with $714mi in the worldwide box office, and his third, special guests-filled entry Civil War joined the billion dollar club. The character himself became one of the most popular heroes of the MCU, standing toe-to-toe with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, and it all began with that underwhelming financial performance in 2011 only to be refueled by The Avengers.
So there you have it. Put together King Kong vs. Godzilla renewing the Godzilla franchise for its historically long-running legacy and the augmented interest that The Avengers brought to then-not-very-popular Captain America with the increase in popularity and discussion Godzilla vs. Kong has been bringing to the MonsterVerse and the Godzilla brand overall, and you have every reason to believe that renewing Godzilla’s license with Toho would be a home run for Legendary, for a new solo film for the Big G post-GVK would more than likely be a bigger success than King of the Monsters was, and potentially even a bigger one than 2014’s Godzilla too, now that this universe is becoming that much more popular. So here’s to hoping that Legendary continues the MonsterVerse, and keeps their one and only King of the Monsters in it.
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