At one hour and 53 minutes, Godzilla vs. Kong is the shortest of the four movies made so far in Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse. To be sure, none of the other movies are behemoths either. The longest, 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters, clocks in at a still reasonable two hours and 12 minutes. But with big tentpole films regularly running anywhere from two and a half to, uh, four hours these days, Godzilla vs. Kong is the briefest of an already relatively compact franchise.
Apparently director Adam Wingard did shoot quite a bit more footage that was not used in the movie, including additional material with actor Lance Reddick (who’s billed fairly prominently but only appears in two brief scenes) and possible subplots involving Jessica Henwick (Iron Fist) and King of the Monsters holdover Zhang Ziyi, neither of whom appears in the finished film. (It’s important to note that while both were announced for the movie at different points, it’s not confirmed whether they shot any scenes.)
So naturally, with Zack Snyder’s Justice League now officially a thing and phrases like the “Ayer cut” part of our vernacular, the question arises: Is there enough unused material from Godzilla vs. Kong to make the “Wingard Cut?”
As Wingard explains to us, the answer is not so straightforward.
“There’s certainly enough footage to make a five-hour version of this film, I’m sure,” Wingard tells Den of Geek. “But making a longer film is easier than making a shorter film in a lot of ways. For me, this is the version that worked the best, and I don’t see any reason to do a director’s cut. Probably the only thing if, 10 years from now, somebody said, ‘Hey, do you want to do a director’s cut of Godzilla vs. Kong?’ I would probably just use that time to have another 40 days in the sound mix, because I just love that kind of thing.”
Wingard admits that it seems almost rare these days to hear a director say they are completely satisfied with the version of the movie that audiences are seeing for the first time. “The funny thing about that is I don’t even know that people believe it whenever I say this kind of thing,” Wingard reveals. “Because I think everybody’s been so kind of led to believe that a director’s cut is always longer and there’s always more.”
While he doesn’t go into detail, Wingard does delve a bit into what was ultimately left out of Godzilla vs. Kong’s 113 minutes.
“We did shoot more and there were other parts of the plot that we cut out,” he recalls. “There were other actors and stuff. I mean, Lance Reddick is top billed in the film, because he used to be in the movie more, but his role is very small because we tweaked a couple of plot points.”
He continues, “Unfortunately, sometimes just a tweak of the plot means that whole scenes have to go because they don’t fit anymore. Ultimately all the stuff we shot was just stuff that worked on its own merits, I think. Some of it did [work]. Some of it didn’t work. But most importantly, it wasn’t supporting the movie as a whole and the experience that I wanted to give people.”
Part of that experience was a finished film that didn’t extend its running time past the 120-minute mark. “I always knew that I wanted this movie to be two hours or under,” says the director. “I never wanted it to be over that. I wanted this to be a thrill a minute kind of ride. So yeah, could I make an extremely long director’s cut? Absolutely. But I would never want to… For better or worse, this is my movie.”
Wingard comes from the independent world of filmmaking, with indie hits like You’re Next and The Guest leading to more high profile projects like Blair Witch for Lionsgate and Death Note for Netflix. Godzilla vs. Kong is his biggest project yet, and–director’s cuts and all that noise aside– e ask how he wanted to put his own personal stamp on what is the fourth film in a tentpole franchise (and by the way, the 36th and 12th films featuring Godzilla and King Kong, respectively).
“Well, I looked at the other MonsterVerse films as all being so wildly different from each other,” Wingard says. “That’s what I kind of liked about them. So coming into this, I was never thinking I need to course-correct or do something different than what the other guys have done. I felt like I was being hired to make the Adam Wingard MonsterVerse movie, and that’s how I approached it.”
Wingard notes that he was working on his movie at the same time that King of the Monsters director and co-writer, Michael Dougherty (who also gets a story credit on Godzilla vs. Kong), was finishing up his.
“By the time we were in pre-production, he was in post-production on his movie,” explains Wingard. “What that means is that there’s not enough time to even react to what Michael Dougherty’s doing. We were already kind of going in a direction. I think that Legendary hired me specifically because they knew that my direction would be very different than Dougherty’s, and they knew that they didn’t want two films back-to-back to be totally similar.”
As for what mandates he got from Legendary Entertainment or Warner Bros. Pictures, Wingard says, “The main direction that I was given from Legendary was that they want to see the monsters in new environments and doing things that they’d never seen them do before. That’s a great marching order to have, because that just opens up so many doors. It’s the right way to look at it. Godzilla himself has been in 36 movies or so now. You can do so many different versions of him within that, and people have. So my whole goal was to try to put them in new environments and settings and situations.”
Godzilla vs. Kong is out now in theaters and streaming for all of April on HBO Max.