Godzilla vs. Kong has been out for nearly a week at this point, but even then, you were likely enough to have already gotten glimpses of the film’s “twist” well beforehand—and not through leaks, but in either keeping up with the film’s marketing or walking down a toy aisle in Target. A surprise to be sure, but for director Adam Wingard, it was part of a long history of dealing with the Hollywood machine.
By now then, you probably know that Godzilla vs. Kong’s titular matchup is not the endgame of the movie—part of the reason the titans have been brought together on an international scale is through the manipulation of the seedy cybernetics company Apex, headlined by Demián Bichir’s villain, Walter Simmons. By studying Godzilla and harnessing energies from both the remnants of Ghidorah and the “Hollow Earth” that Titan life emanates from in the first place, Apex has constructed humanity’s own Titan in the form of Mechagodzilla, an homage to the classic robotic foe from Toho’s long line of Kaiju movies.
Godzilla vs Kong was never truly about that titular fight, it was always going to be about the two teaming up to take on this new threat—except you wouldn’t have known until Warner Bros. and Legendary started putting more and more teasing shots of the creature in trailers, (not to mention toys depicting the almost Terminator-esque take on Mechagodzilla started being revealed by manufacturers in the run-up to release). It’s not a problem unique to Godzilla vs. Kong or Wingard, being aware of that idea and that process as both a moviemaker and as a fan himself allowed him to let go of any concern about his movie being “spoiled.”
“The whole spoiler process of a movie like this, at the end of the day, it either works or it doesn’t work whether you know that [Mechagodzilla’s] coming or not. Obviously, you want the purest experience possible,” the director recently told io9 over a video call. “I’ll never forget, for instance, when Star Wars: Episode One came out, I was so excited about that movie. That was the most hyped, anticipated movie of my entire life. And I’ll never forget, right before the movie was released, a couple weeks beforehand, they released the score on CD, and of course I bought it right away—what is one of the track titles? ‘Qui-Gon’s Funeral.’ It’s like, ‘Really? You’re going to put that on the CD!?’”
Being aware of how marketing machines work on movies as gargantuan as this was nothing new for Wingard—and if anything, Mechagodzilla got to serve as a distraction for the things he did want to preserve for the audience. “Luckily, our spoilers aren’t that intense—I can’t believe it hasn’t leaked who wins in the fight, yet. That’s pretty amazing, that’s the most important thing.” the director continued. “The toy stuff...it leaked over a year ago—no, it was almost two years ago, when the initial toy stuff leaked, and that was really annoying because it was so early on. Like, ‘Really guys? That’s what we’re gonna do?’ So, [Mechagodzilla’s] kind of the worst kept secret.”
And yet, having to become part of that process himself meant Wingard got to face some of the hypersensitivity around “spoiler culture” that now comes with these highly corporatized fandom circles in popular culture. He knew that Mechagodzilla’s existence wouldn’t ruin Godzilla vs. Kong, but fans—who had been both voraciously consuming everything they could about the film in the run-up to release while also wanting to be as unaware of the film’s plot as possible—didn’t.
“I know some people were mad at me online—probably rightfully so—because I posted a picture of me with a Mechagodzilla toy,” Wingard continued. “But, the toy is in storage right now—you can buy it at Wal-Mart! The Funko version of him is out...this is not a secret. I’m very social media illiterate, so I probably should have put a spoiler page before it— that probably would have made people feel pretty good, but...at the end of the day, I was asked specifically by Warner Bros. to post a picture of [the toy]. Well, you know, the thing’s already out there, so I did it, and then you kind of realize that may have upset some people. But you can’t please everybody.”
However, that’s not stopped him from checking in on where fan culture was at around his movie. “I like to go on Instagram occasionally and type in Godzilla vs. Kong, just to see what people are posting about it,” Wingard revealed. “There was one person who posted four spoiler images before it got to the Chinese trailer that had a couple [shots of Mechagodzilla] in there...and what was so funny about that, is that each image says ‘Spoiler! Do Not Look!’— the next one, ‘Spoiler! Seriously, If You Do Not Want to See This...’ and it said that again and again. And then they showed the image. But you look at the comments and people were like, ‘How dare you spoil this for us!’ It’s just like...he told you there’s a spoiler! But also, I’m like, if you’re on my page for Godzilla vs. Kong, you know that Mechagodzilla is in this movie. Everybody knows he’s in the film. He’s in the trailer. The first trailer! So, it’s kind of funny.”
Godzilla vs. Kong is unlike anything, in terms of scale and Hollywood animus, that Wingard has ever had to deal with in his directorial oeuvre. But it’s been an interesting process for him even beyond the perspective of directing a film of its size, scale, and legacy.
“I’m still learning, in terms of what people’s expectations are,” Wingard admitted. “Because the last thing I want is to lessen anyone’s experience they’re having in the film, but...at the end of the day, these movies are just too big. When you’re dealing with merchandising and things, it’s just impossible to control the leaks. I remember even early on asking [GvK producer] Alex Garcia, like, before anything leaked—‘What do you think it’ll be? How do you think this will get out there?’ And he’s just went ‘It’s always the toys.’ For one reason or another, it always gets out through the toys.”
It’s something Wingard will likely have to deal with again soon as he’s set to tackle a hybrid CGI/animated ThunderCats film, but for now, Godzilla vs. Kong is in theaters and streaming exclusively on HBO Max in the U.S.
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