Two of the biggest stars in movie history are back today as Godzilla vs. Kong opens in theaters and is now available to watch on HBO Max. Seeing Godzilla and Kong on the screen together, while it's happened before, is still something of a herculean task. One has to get the rights from the proper copyright holders and it seems that Toho Studios, the creators of Godzilla, are pretty protective of their massive lizard. The studio did have some expectations for how the character would be presented in Godzilla vs Kong, including how emotive Godzilla could be, or in this case, not be.
Speaking with our own Reelblend podcast, Godzilla vs. Kong director Adam Wingard admits that there was a certain amount of back and forth with Toho Studios regarding how the new movie was presenting Godzilla. While he says there was never any formal list of the dos and don'ts, the studio would sometimes bring up issues. One specific one they had was that Toho didn't want to see Godzilla emote, because that's just not something that a god-like creature would do. However, Wingard says the studio was willing to work with them and compromises were made. According to Wingard...
One of them, for instance, is (that) they don’t want Godzilla to emote. They see him as like this god-like force of nature, and so to them, it’s out of character if you have him reacting in a normal way to things. But, there’s always ways around it. We definitely have some moments where I think Godzilla is more emotive in this film than he has been in any of the MonsterVerse movies. We just had to get clever with it. And I think that sometimes that stuff is kind of presented to you in a very kind of brick-wall kind of way. But if you just do certain things, and present it to them just right, and if they’re on board with the movie, they seem to give us plenty of leeway.
Adam Wingard says that there are scenes in Godzilla vs. Kong where, to him, the massive beast is smiling or laughing, but those scenes are left up to interpretation. It would seem that's the sort of leeway he's talking about that Toho was willing to give. If somebody happens to feel Godzilla is being more emotive, that's ok, as long as one can also argue that's not the case.
Godzilla and Toho have been inseparable names for decades. Even letting a western studio make Godzilla movies has to be a little tough, because you want to make sure your creation is treated properly. Whatever Legendary does with the character will reflect on Toho in some way, and when more Godzilla movies are made in Japan, the studio wants to be sure that the audience hasn't been diminished because of a poor outing in the west.
You can now check out for yourself whether Godzilla lives up to Toho's high standards in theater or on HBO Max. Based on what we've seen so far, fans will likely be quite happy.