Like James Bond, Batman and Spider-Man, Godzilla is one of those characters that cinema can’t ever let rest in peace – and to be perfectly honest, we don’t want it to. Over the decades, the gargantuan lizard has probably wreaked more havoc than the Death Star on a good day. He first smashed through theater screens way back in 1954, a movie that to this day continues to spawn more sequels than 1998’s Godzilla laid eggs in the ruins of Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden.
Now, Legendary Pictures' MonsterVerse is the only really mainstream film series that features the King himself, which includes 2014’s Godzilla, 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, 2018’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and 2021’s Godzilla V Kong. Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot – which got the ball rolling on the shared monster universe – was very much a grounded reboot of that original 1954 film, continuing its anti-nuclear themes. In fact, it even acknowledges the 1954 film, through both an opening montage and when Monarch reveals that Godzilla was a problem back then too.
Kong: Skull Island, on the other hand, didn’t feel like a reboot of any previous Kong movies at all, instead of forging its own path by foregoing the traditional idea of King Kong, in exchange for one that would better serve the inevitable showdown – while also being slightly pretentious in the process. Where Gareth Edwards’ film lacked in screentime for the titular lizard, Godzilla: King of the Monsters took this feedback a little too far, offering up more Titans than perhaps our eyeballs could process, by recalling all of Godzilla’s enemies – and allies – of old.
Then we arrive at the fourth movie in the franchise – Godzilla vs. Kong. While the rematch of the century certainly justified the existence of popcorn, it was, without question, unforgivably low on the IQ scale. Nevertheless, courtside seat tickets for the royal rumble sold like hotcakes and were even a hit on streaming services too. So does that mean we’ll be getting another installment in the MonsterVerse? Or has this series burned out, having prematurely reached the highly anticipated crossover event at just four films? Well, that all depends on what we define as a sequel.
If it’s a Godzilla movie you’re after, then let’s use some echolocation technology and find out where the prehistoric god is headed next…
Godzilla vs. Kong is the fourth installment in the MonsterVerse, and as you can guess from the title, requires very little in the way of an explanation. Nevertheless, monster-hunting organization Monarch has built a giant dome around Skull Island so that they can protect Kong from Godzilla, who, now seemingly rogue, can ‘sense’ other Titans and hunt them down. Building upon the ‘Hollow Earth Theory’ set up in Kong: Skull Island, Monarch decides to take Kong into the center of the earth aboard a ‘Hollow Earth Aviation Vehicle’, so that he can lead them to a power source, with which they hope to defeat Godzilla.
The film was originally delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was eventually released in both theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously. Surprisingly, critics were generally impressed by the film, as it does deliver exactly what it says on the tin. However, they were also quick to point out its paper-thin characters - a problem that tends to plague big monster movies in general, with no film in this series being an exception to the rule. Godzilla vs. Kong grossed over $467.8 million worldwide, which made it the highest-grossing film of that year. So, is there a sequel on the cards?
The producers have made no mystery about the fact that the success of each film in the MonsterVerse will determine whether a subsequent one will happen. “Each piece has to be as good as it can be,” Legendary Pictures producer Alex Garcia said. Kong: Skull Island director Adam Wingard also said, “I know where we could go potentially with future films,” but later added, “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.” Well, we vote Godzilla.
Writer Max Borenstein has also said that there are “interesting installments” on the horizon, following the success of Godzilla vs. Kong. He alluded to the possibility of future projects having no human characters, which would involve the complete anthropomorphizing of the Titans. They may as well go the distance, though, seeing as Godzilla actually laughs in the latest installment. So, the writing might be on the wall, but the only confirmed future MonsterVerse project is a canonical anime series that will focus on Skull Island, while Son of Kong is the rumored live-action Kong: Skull Island follow-up.
Will there be another Godzilla movie, though? Whether it’s a MonsterVerse installment or an entirely fresh reboot, will the beloved – but mostly feared – prehistoric Titan comes smashing through our theater screens once again (but not literally, like he does in Jamiroquai's "Deeper Underground" music video)? Well, it’s hard to tell at this stage, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some movement happening in the background. After all, given the fact the films are heavy with VFX, if one is in production, then we likely won’t hear about it for a while, as it takes time to create those incredible computer-animated special effects we so often accuse of being “easy”, “lazy” and “cheap”.
What about the original Toho franchise? Believe it or not, but those films are actually ongoing, with the latest installment, Shin Godzilla, having only been released in 2016. Even after that live-action film, Toho released a trilogy of Godzilla anime movies: Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle, and Godzilla: The Planet Eater. As for a sequel to Shin Godzilla, this has been ruled out by Toho, as they’re now focusing on creating their own version of the MonsterVerse.
With all this Godzilla talk, it just wouldn't feel right not talking about Godzilla (1998). Roland Emmerich’s New York-set disaster flick gets a really bad rap from critics and fans alike, largely because the titular beastie is not the 'traditional' Godzilla (as it’s a radioactively enhanced marine iguana and not a prehistoric remnant). But one can’t deny that Godzilla’s tyrannosaur-like design in the movie rocks, and its ability to lay hundreds of offspring at a hidden location in the city, each of which will, like Godzilla, will be born pregnant, really lends to the film's time-critical plot.
The film also continues those anti-nuclear themes, while delivering plenty of action and wielding that lightning-in-a-bottle '90s charm, even if it is very cheesy at times. So what happened to any sequels? Well, it was revealed way back that a whole trilogy was planned, but once the numbers were crunched on the 1998 flick, it never came to be. Instead, a canonical animated series continued the story, picking up where the film left off - the 'last egg' beneath Madison Square Garden. However, this new Godzilla went on to become a hero, defending New York against iconic - and some entirely original - radioactive monsters.
With all of that said, it’s obvious that the entire MonsterVerse was set up primarily to build towards the climactic Godzilla vs. Kong – and it definitely delivered, even if it does neglect all logic in doing so. But then is there any other way you can pull off such a crossover event? Probably not. However, looking back at Gareth Edwards’ 2014 film, while full of its own problems – largely characterization and pacing – it’s a shame to see that the franchise has already turned into Fast & Furious by the fourth film. Come to think of it, that would make a pretty good crossover movie itself.