MonsterVerse 101: Catching up with Kong and Godzilla movies before New Empire

Looking back at the MonsterVerse movies before Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire
Godzilla vs. King Kong: The New Empire - ©2023 Warner Bros
Godzilla vs. King Kong: The New Empire - ©2023 Warner Bros /

Can you feel that rumbling? It's the opening salvo of Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire which promises an all new monster mash with its March 29 debut. Starring Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry and Dan Stevens, this latest installment in Legendary Picture's MonsterVerse comes from Adam Wingard (You're Next) who returns to the behemoths after bringing them together in Godzilla vs. Kong. Before knuckling down with the new film, let's look back at the franchise's decade-long film history!

Kaiju fans were understandably leery when Legendary announced plans for a new Godzilla. That didn't go so well last time when Roland Emmerich brought the thunder lizard to New York City in 1999. But the studio had experience in the genre thanks to Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim and set Monsters helmer Gareth Edwards up in the lead chair. He delivered 2014's Godzilla which focused on humans played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn and Elizabeth Olson while a pair of giant monsters dubbed M.U.T.O.s -- Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms -- began their reign of destruction until Godzilla showed up to smash them.

Edwards implemented a slow burn pace that certainly took its time to finally reveal the terrible thunder lizard in all his updated glory and firmly centered the action on Taylor-Johnson, Cranston and company. Along the way, viewers learned that this world played home to many a monster, or Titan, but that the general public was not aware of their existence, thanks it part to an organization called Monarch. This attempt took the material seriously, but some considered the results a bit too slow and wanted more monster mayhem. They would not have to wait long for that approach!

In 2017, Legendary released Kong: Skull Island from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and it expanded the world greatly by kicking off in 1944 and then firmly setting itself in 1972 at the very end of the Vietnam War. John Goodman, the head of Monarch, set out to explore the title place backed by a military unit lead by Samuel L. Jackson. Brie Larson's photographer and Tom Hiddleston's tracker are also along for the ride. The group made their way to the island and were stunned to find a giant ape protecting the place. Kong's initial attack split the expedition into smaller groups, one of which met John C. Reilly's character, who had crash landed there during World War II.

Along the way, viewers learned that Goodman's character was the sole survivor of a monster attack and that Monarch was in trouble as a government organization leading into these events. Kong also introduced the Hollow Earth concept and its relation to the Titan which would get explored much more fully in Godzilla vs. Kong. Characters in the film theorized that he and his parents came up to this island, but that the skullcrawler monsters killed his folks. The end of the film further set Skull Island in the MonsterVerse by revealing the existence of other Titans like Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and Ghidorah, who all went on to appear in the next film.

Kong: Skull Island not only continued the MonsterVerse's tradition of packing films with stellar casts, but also gave audiences plenty of gigantic action to sink their teeth into. This film featured plenty of action set pieces while also presenting compelling characters doing their best to cope with mind-bending revelations.

For his second film, Godzilla threw down with those monsters hinted at at the end of Kong. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters also furthered the idea put forth by Watanabe's character in the first one that this Titan worked as a kind of natural protection for the world against other monsters. In addition to the familiar kaiju faces, the 2019 Mike Dougherty (Trick 'r Treat) film also brought back Hawkins, Watanabe and Strathairn who played alongside newcomers Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Thomas Middleditch, Bradley Whitford and Charles Dance.

With that installment, the filmmakers revealed that Monarch had outposts all over the planet monitoring Titans. Besides the beast battles, the main conflict at play in this film was whether the Titans should be allowed to live their lives or be destroyed. While clearly dangerous to humans, it was also theorized that their presence could help cure the plague of man and bring back a more natural state. The presence of Ghidorah muddied the argument, though, because he compelled the others to go wild. However, it was soon revealed that Ghidorah's origins were in the stars, not Earth. In his other incarnations, Godzilla has had plenty of run-ins with aliens. Perhaps that will carry on in the MonsterVerse moving forward!

(L-r) GODZILLA battles KONG in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “GODZILLA VS. KONG,” a Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures release. © 2021 LEGENDARY AND WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. GODZILLA TM & © TOHO CO., LTD. /

Godzilla Vs. Kong (2021) picked up many threads from the previous films, but left the space stuff to future entries. This time around, Brown and Chandler were backed by Alexsander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, Bryan Tyree Henry, Demian Bichir and others. The world had adjusted to the presence of Titans and Godzilla was even trusted by many until he seemed to attack Apex Cybernetics for no reason. Of course, there wound up being a very good reason as they had used Ghidorah's heads to make a Mechagodzilla. Meanwhlie, Kong was brought from Skull island to help get them to the Hollow Earth.

Both Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King Of The Monsters mentioned the Hollow Earth theory, but it came into full view with this Adam Wingard movie in which Kong traveled there, found a link to his own past and discovered an axe charged with Godzilla's own power. The two Titans fought throughout the film, but found a common enemy by the end: Mechagodzilla. While they did not become allies, Godzilla and Kong did seem to form a grudging respect for one another.

By the way, we've focused on the MonsterVerse films, but there are also a pair of shows on streamers. You can watch 8 episodes of the Kong-based Skull Island animated series on Netflix as well as Monarch: Legacy Of Monsters on Apple+. The latter splits time between 2015, right after the events of Godzilla and various points throughout the 1950s with Wyatt Russell playing a character in the past and his dad Kurt Russell doing the same in 2015.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire seems poised to reunite Kong with his people, but there appears to be something going on with his fellow great apes. But there seems to be a lot more going on here as the leads look to team up against an even larger threat that might give even more information about their origins. We'll find out how that all shakes out this weekend!

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