Superhero movies are alive and well in Godzilla's MonsterVerse

The MonsterVerse has many of the characteristics of a superhero franchise, proving there's still life left in the genre.
Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved
Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire © 2024 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved /

There's been a lot of talk lately about the death of the superhero movie, and there's no denying that there's some truth in it. 2023 saw some big losses for Marvel Studios, with The Marvels and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania hitting the dust at the box office, while over at Warner Bros. the DC universe was going through another overhaul, leaving films like The Flash without a purpose, sealing its fate at the box office. Couple that with the poor performance of Madame Web and the fact there are no big superhero releases this year besides Deadpool and Wolverine, and it becomes clear that people just aren't buying into the superhero hype anymore.

Or are they?

Recently, I watched the CGI destruction-fest of Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, the latest in the Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures franchise known as the MonsterVerse, and it struck me how much this was like a Marvel movie. Far from being dead, the superhero genre seems to have rebranded and taken on a new, monstrous identity.

The main force behind the MonsterVerse are the legacy characters of Godzilla and Kong. Both of these titans have been on cinema screens for decades and have the kind of reputation that makes them immediately recognizable, much like Superman, Spider-Man or the Incredible Hulk. People will go to see a movie simply because it features them, and in their current form, they've adopted something of a superhero identity.

Kong is seen as a good guy and has taken on the role of hero. Recent movies have made him more emotional too. He can communicate with humans through sign language and even asks them for help when he's in pain. On the other hand, Godzilla has an antihero quality. In his first MonsterVerse appearance, 2014's Godzilla, he trampled across cities without a care, but now the humans see him as necessary to protect them against even bigger threats. Not only that, but these two titans have teamed up to take down common enemies, and like any good superhero, they get cool upgrades. Kong has a magical ax and mechanical gauntlet, while Godzilla absorbs any radiation he comes into contact with to get a quick XP boost.

The wonderful absurdity of superhero and monster movies

The increased focus on Godzilla and Kong has come at the expense of the human characters, who've been relegated to the sidelines. They mainly fill the role of walking exposition machines or comic relief with little character development or effect on the plot, while the titans steal the limelight. Naturally, when it comes to the big monster battles, the humans are of little use and can only look on as outsiders, and there are a lot of fight scenes in these movies.

One big criticism of latter-day comic book movies is their over-reliance on CGI spectacle over story. So many of the special effects feel weightless, overpowering and somehow just wrong. Yet the MonsterVerse has totally embraced this style. CGI isn't just ever-present in this franchise, it's essential. The plots are so stretched and unbelievable that it's only through a constant barrage of visual effects that audiences can be kept from tuning out, and just like with the MCU, there's been a steady increase in the saturation and scale of these effects, with monsters being thrown around like plushies and cities falling by the dozen, culminating in such unforgettable moments as the destruction of the Pyramids in Godzilla X Kong.

If the effects have hit new levels of absurdity, then the science has followed close behind. The first couple of movies had a level of accuracy similar to Jurassic Park. The basic premise was solid and there was some reasonable scientific speculation to back it up, even if it's not gonna get taught in any science classes. Now, the series makes it up as it goes along, introducing an entire world below the Earth's surface, telepathic connections, and alien creatures without anyone ever questioning it.

It's a similar situation with technology. Much like how Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark are able to develop any of the technology they need without any explanation of how they were able to manufacture it or how such a complex machine would work, the MonsterVerse has tech that's decades ahead of us and still no one thinks it's strange or cool, it just exists. A giant mechanical Godzilla operated by mind control is somehow built without any fuss, and none of this tech seems to affect the everyday items people use.

All this goes to show that these films are pretty much superhero movies, and yet that isn't harming them at the box office. Godzilla X Kong has flattened the opposition since it debuted on March 29, beating out movies like Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire for the top spot, and is looking to become one of the biggest hits so far this year. Clearly, then, people don't have a problem with this type of film, so why have superhero flicks flopped?

Why are supehero movies fading while MonsterVerse movies rise?

In general, it looks like people are tired of the Marvel and DC franchises. They've been on our screens almost constantly for the past 15 years, and there's only so far any franchise can go before it starts to run out of steam. They're also starting to become predictable. In the 2010s, Marvel found a formula that worked for them and have been repeating it ever since. While that led to some big hits, it's also meant that the franchise has gotten itself stuck in a rut, unable to do anything new or exciting to shake things up. There's also less reason for fans to be invested now that the Infinity Saga and the "Snyderverse" have come to an end. Fans no longer have their favorite heroes like Iron Man, Captain America, and Superman around to root for, so some have lost interest.

Fans still want something to fill the gap though, and it looks like the MonsterVerse is the franchise they've picked, satisfying their desire for easy popcorn entertainment. No doubt other studios will begin to take notice and try to capitalize on a new trend. The upcoming Jurassic World movie could be a test to see if they go down the copycat route and try to emulate the MonsterVerse; that movie happens to be directed by Gareth Edwards, the guy behind 2014's Godzilla. Whatever happens, it looks like Godzilla and Kong are the big stars now and will continue to dominate the box office for some time.

dark. Next. All 35 live-action Godzilla movies in chronological order. All 35 live-action Godzilla movies in chronological order

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