Younger than Marvel Cinematic Universe and among the most successful cinematic universes in recent Hollywood history, together with MCU o a Fast & Furious, the MonsterVerse is one of those projects that in principle have not invented anything new while moving extremely well. The monsters (or Titans) protagonists of these films produced and developed by Legendary Pictures in collaboration with Warner Bros. are among the best known creations of world cinema, American or Japanese, coming from a film culture that at the dawn of its establishment has always tried to to put in analogy the monstrosity of the unknowable or of the alien with the human one, also related to directly man-made monstrosities like the Atomic Bomb. It is no coincidence that the kaiju are closely linked to the nuclear issue and to radiation, at least those born from the imagination of Ishiro Honda after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; a way to exorcise those evils and, indeed, to underline the execrable historical legacy. In this sense, it all started with Godzilla, who is in fact nicknamed the King of Monsters, but even before this trend was born in the East, in America, in 1933, he saw Luke King Kong, the first giant monster ever created in the history of cinema e conceived by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace.
The success of the King of Primates in the West was then intercepted by the imitative audacity and passion of the Japanese, who in fact produced several films, re-inventing a bit of its canon and origins and then putting it face to face with Godzilla and other monsters of Japanese culture.
If Godzilla is one of the icons of Japanese cinema, Kong is at the same time an icon of American cinema, “the eighth wonder of the world“in Cooper’s original conception, and the most sensible idea of the MonsterVerse was to keep alive this territorial iconicity of the characters, at the same time mixing everything to create something that respects the sense of a shared universe without distorting the nature of the protagonists.
Reborn in Hollywood
Even if below the aegis of the legendary Toho, Godzilla and the other kaiju still continue to reap success and acclaim from audiences and critics alike, that artisanal way of producing films has never really been appealing to Western mainstream audiences. We are not talking about fans, cinephiles or fine connoisseurs of oriental cinema culture and genre, but of the mass audience, of casual viewers, of those who want a show packaged according to blockbuster criteria that are also accessible to large segments of the audience.
Before Legendary and Warner arrived to fix the shot to fit the Hollywood target, in 1998 Columbia Pictures and Roland Hemmerich thought about trying this path with the controversial Godzilla of the last century, the one inspired more by Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park than Honda’s King of Monsters. Having become a small cult of the genre, the film did not have the hoped-for success, destroying the dreams of an American franchise about the Alpha Predator for almost twenty years, at least until 2014, when the crooked and risky Emmerichian parenthesis on the character was now put aside. Gareth Edwards came with vision and content to relaunch the good Godzilla in a blockbuster key. The one of seven years ago, however, was not a film of origins, but rather a rediscovery of the character in a different light.
The director of Monsters he was careful to grasp Honda’s inspirational model, returning to talk about radiation and shifting his point of view back to the original one, returning to think about the monster seen from below, from the eyes of man, framing him as an omnipotent and unknowable being.
Edwards’ Godzilla, imperfect as it is, is a great film studio on the perception and staging of the giant with respect to the small; a show studied well in terms of lights and shooting points, distant as a filmic conception from the Japanese counterpart but valid and well adapted to Western culture.
Even better, however, was the Kong: Skull Island by the talented Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who was able to smooth the tonal soul of the project on atmospheric notes of the 70s, returning to the Vietnam War and the mapping of the ocean still in progress.
Here too there is the unknowable, the giant and the surprising, but it is not the monster that invades civilization but the opposite, since it is the man who goes to disturb the monster, albeit unknowingly. However, it is not Kong, the King of the Apes, who is a problem, at least until he is attacked. Not even this is intended as an origin film, at least not of King Kong, because it actually wants to lay the foundations of the birth of the Monarch seen in the previous Godzilla, officially opening at MonsterVerse. In this case, in addition to the magnificent aesthetics given to the feature film, well-finished in the phase of color correction, of contrasts, camera movements and photography in general, Roberts has been able to play well the content cards on the contrast between trust and constant search for an enemy, both from Kong than from man. While curiously working smaller than Godzilla this film is in truth the apotheosis of the spectacular and does not spare the mammoth vision of the King of Primatesindeed, putting it at the center of more than one adrenaline sequence.
Anticipated the importance of the Island of the Skull and of the future meeting between the two absolute protagonists of the MonsterVerse in Godzilla vs Kong (which will finally be released next May 6 in digital rental), Legendary has however packaged a second cinematic chapter dedicated to the Predator Alpha, taking also decided tonal and proportional distances from Edwards’ previous work to enter with straight leg in the sense of the sublime, both in an ecstatic and a narrative sense.
Some shots seem to come out of Goya, others imitate the visual ecstasy of Mad Max: Fury Road, trying to programmatically subvert the idea that the little one is the protagonist, slowly shifting the point of view from top to bottom. This is where the true genesis of Godzilla is as the undisputed ruler of the Titans and the beginning of coexistence with man. The fight for dominance Godzilla and Kong are now ready to play in the Adam Wingard crossover, which will go to close this sort of Phase 1 of the MonsterVerse, so loved that a few weeks after the release of the project, the sequel has already been announced, the one that will bring forward the cinematic universe of monsters.