What’s Next for the Versus Movie?
By Stuart Heritage
Like you, I was convinced that the versus movie genre died five years ago. What began as a silly, self-aware method of getting bums on seats had hardened into the unforgivable grim dark pomposity of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. Any rational human being would see a film like BvS as a larky bit of inconsequential fun. And yet there it was; three hours of ponderous emo claptrap where the cinematic equivalent of two toys knocking together was treated like nothing less than an actual biblical text. Why bother making another versus movie after the agony of Marthagate?
Well, now that Godzilla vs Kong is out, it looks like we’re back on. Because Godzilla vs.Kong is everything anyone wants from a film like this. Two big dumb animals slugging each other in new and different ways for barely any reason at all, and the whole thing is wrapped up in less than two hours.
Better yet, the film understands how stupid it is. These might qualify as spoilers, so skip this paragraph if you haven’t seen it yet, but the film begins with King Kong having a shower. There’s a bit in the middle where Godzilla literally blasts a hole all the way to the centre of the Earth just on the off-chance that some rubble might smack King Kong on the head in the process. There’s a skyscraper-tall robot kung-fu lizard who, while ostensibly the baddie, you sort of end up rooting for. There are several scenes where humans run from peril with such impressive hamfistedness that you will genuinely come to believe that the original intention was to soundtrack them all with Yakety Sax. The whole thing is dumber than a box of farts, but the film never tries not to lean away from it. It’s beautiful.
And now, quite frankly, all I want to do is watch versus movies. Where once there was a wasteland, now I see nothing but promise. The Monsterverse, clearly, needs to go on forever. If it can maintain this tone, rather than default to the hollow awe of the much worse Godzilla: King of the Monsters, then it deserves to run and run. Let’s bring back Gigan (essentially a giant knife-armed ninja), or King Caesar (a sort of huge gormless dog who can only be woken up if a princess sings a full three-minute song at him) and make them fight Godzilla and Kong. Heck, let’s chuck the Cloverfield monster back into the mix, and one or two of whatever those things from Pacific Rim were as well. The more the merrier. The Monsterverse is basically the WWE at this point, so we may as well make it a Royal Rumble.
Then, I suggest going back and fixing the errors of the past. 1966’s Billy the Kid vs Dracula, for example, featured almost no scenes of Billy the Kid fighting Dracula. Let’s change that. Let’s make a new film where, right from frame one, Billy the Kid and Dracula just Tom and Jerry the knickers out of each other like the clappers. Imagine the last third of Home Alone, but starring a cowboy and a vampire. Brilliant, right? Or let’s have another shot at Alien vs Predator, but this time there’s just one Predator and one Alien, and they’re both 300 metres tall, and nobody ever adequately explains what’s going on. You’d watch that. You’re angry that you can’t already watch that.
And then the fun can really start; scouring other franchises for suitable versus movie candidates. God knows there are a lot of them. You could revive the Terminator series by making a film where an old T-800 has a boxing match with Rocky Balboa. Or a film where James Bond fights The Rock and Jason Statham from Hobbs and Shaw. Or, and I’m just spitballing here, Harry Potter vs Jurassic Park.
It’s similarly bewildering that Disney – which produced seven of the top ten films of 2019 – hasn’t already got in on this. Imagine Snow White vs Cinderella. Imagine Aladdin vs Wreck-It Ralph. Imagine, and I mean this, Frozen versus The Lion King. Imagine Elsa from Frozen fighting an actual lion for two hours, and being mauled whenever she started to sing.
And then, with the formula for this sort of thing definitely cracked, let’s have another shot at Batman vs Superman. Make it lighter and less rain-soaked. Make Batman and Superman clatter each other with saucepans and cricket bats, and edit in a load of SPROING sound effects whenever they do. Make Batman hit Superman with an antique vase at one point, and have the vase’s owner stand next to them while it happens, and make his monocle pop out at the moment of impact. Make it exactly 87 minutes long, including credits. This is the film we should have got in 2016. And, thanks to the majesty of Godzilla vs Kong, it’s the movie we can have again.