This time of the year is huge for professional wrestling fans as Wrestlemania is rapidly approaching. But before the Showcase of Immortals descends upon Philadelphia, PA in a few weeks, the biggest tag team match of the year may actually take place in movie theaters around the world thanks to Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire rather than a WWE ring. (No offense to Seth Rollins, Cody Rhodes, Roman Reigns, and The Rock.)

Following their colossal head-to-head battle during their first encounter in 2021, the almighty Kong and the fearsome Godzilla must team up to fend off a previously undiscovered threat that looms over both of their domains of Hollow Earth and the surface world. Ahead of the movie’s March 29, 2024 release date, director Adam Wingard invited Daily Dead and other esteemed members of the press to the IMAX Headquarters to show off the upcoming sequel to his first MonsterVerse crossover. Along with the film itself, Wingard also recreated his “war room” to share the various things that inspired him and his team. And it all started back in his childhood days.

Adam Wingard: Where my influence as a filmmaker started, really, was that experience of walking down the toy aisle as a kid and just being bombarded with all these neon colors. It was the golden age for toys in the 80s with ThunderCats, He-Man, Transformers, G.I. Joe. For whatever reason, that’s ingrained in my psyche and my introduction to Godzilla started in that same era. The way I experienced Godzilla for the first time was being at home before preschool. Godzilla would be playing on daytime TV and it was always the Showa era films like “Invasion of Astro-Monster," “[Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster],” “Destroy All Monsters.” That kind of technicolor psychedelic vibe really interfaced nicely with my experience of the 80s neon colors. That's the starting point for me with this movie. I really wanted to bring those influences into the Godzilla world and bring it back in my own way to that Showa era’s fun and colorful vibe.” 

How much input did you have on the actual toy lines? And were there moments that you couldn't wait to see in toy form? 

Adam Wingard: It's funny that you bring that up because whenever we were in pre-production, like when we had this war room set up over there at Burbank, the toy company Playmates, because they did the last couple and so they were coming back to do it again, they wanted me to give them a walkthrough. I gave them a very similar spiel that I gave you all with the inspirations, the toy stuff, the 80s toy specifically, and they were very excited about that. They still have some stuff that they're potentially going to do that I even pitched to them directly. Like the guy who… Well, I don't want to give it away. I don't know if they want me to say that. But what I was really excited about, the other day, I went to Target to just to see the toys in the aisle, just to get that thrill. I'm just so proud that they actually went with the crazy neon 80s color palette on the toys because the boxes look so fucking good. They just look exactly like what I would like what we talked about and that was a big thrill.

While Kong has been an integral part of the plot of his films (likely because he’s only had one standalone MonsterVerse film compared to Godzilla’s two), Wingard paid particular attention to the evolution of his Titan tag team partner. Although, despite having a passion for action figures and play sets, it was important that the King of the Monster’s design changes were story-driven. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, lead creature designer Jared Krichevsky, who also designed Mechagodzilla and new villain Scar King, found a way to make Godzilla’s pink colorway make sense in their story. But as far as the massive creature’s mannerisms go for his latest big screen appearance, Wingard looked to a much smaller and slightly more adorable form of inspiration.   

Adam Wingard: One of my biggest influences in life is my cat Mischief. Mischief has been a big influence in terms of the way I've developed mannerisms with Godzilla. In a literal way, she came through in this film. This shot of the Godzilla in the Coliseum was a direct lift from my cat sleeping in her cat bed. And funny enough, like a couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with [Takashi] Yamazaki, who directed Godzilla Minus One, and it turns out that his cat was a major influence on the way he developed his Godzilla as well. I don't know what the deal is with these cats. I think that maybe they're just mind-controlling us, you know? Mischief also makes a cameo in the film, too. You'll see a photograph. You can't miss it actually.

Finally, though the world around us tends to influence all sorts of art, it’s fairly obvious that filmmakers also find inspiration from other films. In Wingard’s case, he borrowed the dynamic between the characters played by Wrestlemania veteran “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Keith David in the 1988 John Carpenter cult classic They Live when it came time to bring together two of the greatest monsters in cinematic history once again.

Adam Wingard: When I watched Godzilla vs. Kong in the theater, it was an emotional thing because it was during the pandemic [and] it was one of the first movies that opened up back movie theaters. I'll never forget that moment at the end of the movie when Godzilla and Kong briefly team up to go against Mechagodzilla. It was like 20% capacity, but the roof was blown off. People just loved seeing them work together. And so I knew [when] we're going to do a sequel, that one is about the verses, this is about the team up. 

These characters, Godzilla and Kong. Their influences for me are 80s buddy cop films. There’s a dysfunctional relationship that they have. They might be friends, but it's not going to be as straightforward as that. And they might not even like each other necessarily. One of my other big influences is the movie “They Live.” That's like my favorite film of all time and the thing I love about “They Live” is the best sequence in the movie is not the hero versus the villain, it’s the heroes fighting each other because of a misunderstanding. So this rematch is more complicated than that.

  • Ben F. Silverio
    About the Author - Ben F. Silverio

    Ben F. Silverio is a pop culture enthusiast from Philadelphia, PA who loves storytelling in all forms. In his decade-plus career, he has used his skills all over the internet as a journalist, critic, editor, and social media ninja to craft over 4,000 news articles and editorials for outlets including /Film,, the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, and In addition to film and television, Ben is a fan of professional wrestling, superhero comic books, and being an advocate for representation in media.