Welcome to Pitch Meeting, a monthly column in which we suggest an IP ripe for adaptation, then assign the cast and crew of our dreams. In this entry, we’re pitching ‘Kongzilla,’ the perfect ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ sequel based on the forgotten collectible sculpture from Bowen Designs.
Sequels are beasts. Forever tasked with upping the ante, sooner or later, a follow-up will fumble. You gotta give the people what they want without giving them what they already had, even though that’s exactly what they want.
Aliens swerved expectations by crossing genres and multiplying the Xenomorph threat into an infinite horde. Terminator 2: Judgment Day flipped the threat, transforming the original’s killer robot into a badass babysitter. Avatar 2 will topple its predecessor by refusing to stop at one sequel and deliver a whole fistful of flicks.
When crafting a sequel, you gotta ask, what would James Cameron do?
Godzilla: King of the Monsters squashed its originator by opening its battlefield to an array of classic Kaiju beasties from the franchise’s massive monster roster. MUTOs are cool but not nearly as cool as King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan. Point, sequel. This month, director Adam Wingard hopes his new film can stomp the previous entry by introducing another champion from a different franchise, King Kong. It’s a safe bet.
The filmmaker I don’t envy is the one who has to follow Wingard’s Godzilla vs. Kong. Where do you climb once the King of the Monsters squares off against the Eighth Wonder of the World? Well, having already analyzed Godzilla vs. Kong‘s trailer, it seems obvious that the two titans will end their grudge match in favor of a team-up against Mechagodzilla. No doubt they’ll clobber that tin can loser.
In this modern Kaiju era, the next film could go Tom & Jerry on us, inserting an ampersand, making Godzilla & Kong partners, especially violently contentious ones. But, I don’t know. Once you’ve seen them sharing a single screen, a repeat is a letdown. The thrill is gone.
What would James Cameron do? You gotta kick it up a notch. A task that seems hard beneath Godzilla vs. Kong‘s shadow, but the answer rests in an unusual source.
Back in the late ’90s, when the comic book industry was at its lowest, Randy Bowen was still making a killing as the producer of high-end but affordable character statues and busts. Bowen Designs sold an extraordinary line-up including nearly every Marvel character: Black Panther to Fin Fang Foom. No one was too rad or too obscure.
Superheroes were not his only game. Now and again, he would venture out into stranger territories: Solomon Kane, The Goon, and Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer. He also concocted some original creatures like The Jimmy Legs, Decapitator, and Kongzilla.
Yaaaaaassssssssss. Bowen’s Kongzilla was the stuff of hardcore nerd fantasies. This ridiculous mutation was never realized on screen before (a more apish iteration appeared briefly in the first issue of DC Comics’ horror anthology Plop #1 from 1973), but upon first sight, he felt like an obvious cinematic fit.
Godzilla and Kong are natural-born frenemies. They should take their relationship to the next level. Kongzilla is that next level! As a hybrid beast, Kongzilla sports the best attributes of each warrior. It’s got Kong’s pugilistic frame and stance, implying a lightning limberness never imagined capable by his opponent. Then, it also sports Godzilla’s reptilian armor, complete with razor claws and dorsal plates.
To help realize his fantasy, Bowen hired comic book artist and celebrated monster-maker Arthur Adams. On the side of the figure’s box, Adams illustrated a one-page tale explaining Kongzilla’s origin. The first panel depicts the climactic Tokyo brawl from the original King Kong vs. Godzilla movie. During their battle, chunks of their flesh are torn and flung across the city. In the third panel, we meet a “crazed scientific genius” who unlocks both beasts’ genetic codes and combines them into a new horrific Kaiju: Kongzilla. Those hoping for an erotic love story between Godzilla and Kong must look elsewhere.
The four-paneled comic is not much to go on, but films have built masterpieces from less (Sean Penn’s The Indian Runner sprung from Bruce Springsteen’s “Highway Patrolman,” just one of several films based on a song). With Mechagodzilla hopefully thrashed during Godzilla vs. Kong, Kongzilla makes for a nasty follow-up adversary. Unlike the robo-zilla, Kongzilla is not a mirror based on humanity’s perception of the two titans but an actual biological double. It has all of their strengths, none of their weaknesses. It can take our Kaiju heroes to oblivion’s edge.
The Kongzilla film has to take Godzilla and Kong to an arena of bloodshed not yet experienced by the titular monsters. Maybe not R-rated, but as close to its realm as PG-13 can get. I’m talking the dust bowl once known as Metropolis in Man of Steel. When the credits roll, we should feel uncomfortable. Godzilla and Kong have to do some wretched stuff to put their wicked doppelganger down.
What director could best maximize such fighters and deliver a sequel that could easily dominate those that came before? Clearly, the answer is James Cameron. Or, at least, the James Cameron of thirty years ago. Sadly, he doesn’t exist, and the one that does will never break free from his infinite Avatar stream. We gotta turn elsewhere.
Neill Blomkamp is a director who’s flirted with Cameron in the past. His re-imagined Aliens sequel never found liftoff, but what little imagery we gleamed from the unrealized project seemed tantalizing. There was also that aborted Robocop sequel, and we’re currently waiting on District 10. Let’s get this guy to Skull Island.
Blomkamp’s grunge sci-fi sensibility would work smashingly well inside a Godzilla/Kong composite. Kongzilla’s mad science allows the director to maintain his low-fi sci-fi aesthetic and branch out into untouched fantastical regions. Getting him to hold back on the hard R violence is probably the biggest challenge, but we can always keep his more gnarly bits for the home release director’s cut.
With Blomkamp also comes Weta Digital. Yes, they’ve already traipsed about Skull Island on Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake, but I’ve seen their unused creature designs, and they can easily port them over to Kongzilla. Honestly, there’s not much mucking with Arthur Adams’ drawing. Weta can run wild with the tertiary beasties, but they shouldn’t touch the Randy Bowen sculpture. That’s your maquette. Run with it.
Who do you get to round out the cast? Does it really matter? Okay, sure, probably. Definitely. You don’t love King Kong without Fay Wray. You don’t quake under Godzilla’s feet without Akihiko Hirata or Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka under the suit. The people make the beasts.
However, the modern Kaiju era is firmly established with the Godzilla vs. Kong cast. Bring whoever survives into Blomkamp’s Kongzilla. Demián Bichir, Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, Julian Dennison, Eiza González, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri.They’re a dynamite group. Accept no substitutes.
Dropping Godzilla and Kong into the same ring for Godzilla vs. Kong is a big deal. These are heavyweights, and schoolyard debates have waged for decades on who would take the other one down given the opportunity. Cinema will probably never reveal a definitive answer because they don’t want to hurt either camp’s feelings. And honestly, do we want to see Kong get squished under Godzilla’s heel? Or vice versa? No, we love them both.
Crushing Kongzilla is an answer of sorts. If Kong or Godzilla can destroy the amalgam, then it’s surmised that they can destroy each other. Taking Kongzilla to the mat bypasses the awkward conjecture amongst fans. We can all leave the theater happy knowing our guy is the winner.