How Godzilla and Kong Have Changed Since Their First Appearances

When people think of giant monsters wrecking large urban areas, two names always spring to mind—Godzilla and Kong. For most of the 20th century and into the 21st, the two kaiju have stood tall over all other giant monsters. They’ve been rivals twice, most recently in 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong, which finally united these two Titans of the Monsterverse. With the upcoming Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, it looks like they’ll also soon be reluctant allies. How different are the 2024 versions of Godzilla and Kong from their original counterparts? Quite a bit actually. This pair has changed a lot over the decades, specifically in terms of their size. Let’s explore how the Monsterverse Godzilla and Kong are different from their first big screen appearances so many decades ago.

The original black and white versions of Godzilla and Kong, along with their modern counterparts.
Warner Bros./Legendary

The Original Kong Was a Lot Shorter

King Kong first appeared in the 1933 film of the same name from director Merian C. Cooper. King Kong was one of Hollywood’s first ever special effects blockbusters. From the moment of its release, the gigantic ape became an icon. The image of Kong holding actress Fay Wray in his hand as he climbed the Empire State Building remains iconic to this day. They sequalized it, remade it twice, and parodied it endlessly. But the modern Kong we know from the Monsterverse films differs from his original incarnation in a few significant ways. First, he’s much bigger today than he was back then.

King Kong fights a dinosaur in the 1933 original film, and he looms over mountains in Kong: Skull Island.
Warner Bros.

In the original film, King Kong is quite large, but nowhere near as big as he’s portrayed in the modern Monsterverse. The original 1933 film had Kong standing at around 18 feet tall. Although, the version that we saw climbing the Empire State Building was more like 24 feet tall, give or take. Meanwhile, the Kong we meet in 2017’s Skull Island is well over 104 feet tall. That went up to around 300 feet in Godzilla vs. Kong. Obviously, they did this to make him an even match with Godzilla, portrayed as significantly larger his 2014 film.

Is the Monsterverse Kong Still a King?

At least so far, in the Kong of the Monsterverse they never refer to Kong as “King Kong.” Perhaps this is because the title of “King” was given to him in an almost mocking way in the original, when humans captured him and put him on display. The more likely explanation is that Godzilla already has the name “King of the Monsters” in this shared universe, and maybe this kingdom just isn’t big enough for two royal kaiju. The “Beauty and the Beast” aspects of Kong’s personality are also largely absent in the Monsterverse, where he falls in love with a human woman. Kong does form other kinds of attachments to certain human.

Original vs. Monsterverse Skull Island

Kong fights a monster on Skull Island.
Warner Bros./Legendary

Although both the original and modern Kong both come from a place called Skull Island, what Skull Island actually is gets greatly expanded on in the Monsterverse. In this universe, Skull Island is very specifically in the South Pacific. It’s located dead center of a gigantic swirling storm system that hides it from the rest of the world. Skull Island is on top of an entrance to the Hollow Earth, home to all kinds of giant creatures called Skullcrawlers. These creatures wiped out Kong’s family, making it seem as if he was the last of his species. A stark difference between classic and Monsterverse Skull Island is that it’s inhabited by unique creatures, and not regular dinosaurs like previous iterations.

The Original Godzilla Had Many Reboots Before the Monsterverse

Godzilla looms large over San Franciso in poster image for 2014's Godzilla.
Warner Bros./Legendary

Godzilla has changed drastically over the decades since he first appeared on screen in 1954. While Kong has appeared in sequels and remakes, Godzilla has appeared in far more movies than his hairy rival. There have been several iterations of Godzilla in his 70-year existence, with several reboots of the character, from both Japanese and American studios. The original 1954 Godzilla was a statement of how atomic power was an abomination of the natural order. One that would only result in more chaos and destruction. In the original version, most of the key Godzilla ingredients are there from day one. He’s got the atomic breath, the spines on his back, the lumbering walk, and that iconic roar from the get-go.

Original Godzilla Was Far Shorter than Monsterverse Godzilla

The original Toho Godzilla and his stateside cousin from the 2014 Kong: Skull Island.
Toho/Warner Bros.

Much like Kong, one of the main differences between the original version and the Monsterverse Godzilla is size. The first Godzilla was about 164 feet tall. That’s huge, but nowhere near as big as he would become in the 21st century. In his first Monsterverse appearance in Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla in 2014, he is over 354 ft. tall. By the time we reach Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Godzilla vs. Kong, his height goes up to 390 ft. tall. We imagine he’ll grow into an even bigger boy in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.

How Original Godzilla’s Origin Differs From the Monsterverse

Godzilla attacks Tokyo in 1954 (above) and San Francisco in 2014 (Below)
Toho/Warner Bros./Legendary

The biggest difference between the original Godzilla and his Monsterverse counterpart is his origin. The Monsterverse changed Godzilla’s backstory from a creature created by atomic power to something ancient unleashed by atomic power. Starting with the 2014 film, Godzilla was now a Titan, an ancient being the atom bombs woke from a long slumber. While this Godzilla is still destructive and not the “hero” of the ‘60s and ‘70s Japanese films, he does still act in a role as the planet’s self-appointed protector. Godzilla is the chosen warrior who battles the other Titans when they reemerge to threaten the balance of nature. From a design standpoint, this American Godzilla shares more similarities with the original version than how the 1998 Godzilla looked. That one looked like a giant iguana, a look most fans hated. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to stray too far from the source material.

Will Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire evolve the two iconic monsters even further? Judging from the pink atomic fire Godzilla breathes in the new film, it’s safe to say he is definitely getting an upgrade. And Kong will wear weapons and have far more humanoid in intelligence than we’ve ever seen him before. We’ll find out for sure just what these updates all are when Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire hits theaters on March 29.

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