Big-budget movies seem to keep getting longer and longer–after Avengers: Endgame proved once and for all that a lengthy running time isn’t a real impediment to box office success, why not? But Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire comes in at a sleek 115 minutes, just under two hours long–and director Adam Wingard says that’s just how he likes it.

“My preference is, I don’t really love watching super long movies. Like, Dune 2 really worked, and there’s certain movies that should be over two hours. But for me, it was really by choice. It wasn’t like we ran out of stuff to do or we’re rushing things. It’s just kind of the movie that we made,” Wingard told me at a Godzilla x Kong press event earlier this month. He also pointed out that Godzilla x Kong is actually his longest movie, being two minutes longer than Godzilla vs Kong, which he also shepherded. Prior to joining the MonsterVerse, Wingard was making horror flicks that would usually last between 90 and 100 minutes. So his tendency has always been toward shorter running times.

The young giant ape Suko in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
The young giant ape Suko in Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

“It felt like when we were making it, in my mind the sweet spot was around two hours,” he explained. “So even the rough cut of the movie was never over 2:10, it might have been, like, 2:08. And I already worked with this editor on Godzilla vs Kong, and so whenever we were working together, we always try to aim within 20 minutes of the final run time. So I never wanted a version that was three hours. It was a natural thing. I know that’s not a great answer, but it wasn’t like there’s a mandate [from Warner Bros], like, you have to do a movie under this time.”

Given all that, Wingard said, there isn’t much in the way of deleted scenes on Godzilla x Kong–it was mostly just portions of scenes that were cut, rather than full sequences.

“There’s not a lot on the cutting room floor. There’s a couple little additional moments to sequences. Scenes could have easily been cut longer,” Wingard said.

Despite the relatively short length compared with a lot of other mega-budgeted, CGI-heavy action movies, Godzilla x Kong doesn’t scrimp on the plot at all.

“We pack a f**king shitload into it,” Wingard said with a chuckle, before claiming it wasn’t that tough to make it all fit while also keeping it coherent.

“That was never a problem really with this one–because we were doing so much previz and stuff, we had so much the movie already finished with before we even started filming,” Wingard said. “We had the opening scene basically pre-built, we had the first sequence with Suko. And we were almost halfway through the whole Skar King sequence while we were filming. So we had a lot of confidence of like, this sequence is going to be this length. And those always kind of stayed the same, like the Skar King. I knew, like his intro was going to be between seven and nine minutes. And also I wanted to see how far we could push having a scene without any humans in it as long as possible.”

But once the humans were around for filming, Wingard joked that he liked to play favorites. Godzilla vs Kong stars Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry returned for this one, but the main cast also got a new addition in Dan Stevens, who has been tight with Wingard since they worked together on The Guest a decade earlier.

“On the set, we sort of had an ongoing gag where the actors, like Rebecca and Brian, were always accusing me of favoritism with Dan because we’re so buddy-buddy,” the director said.”There would be certain takes where it’d be all three of them right? And maybe, like, Rebecca and Brian are doing all the acting, and Dan might have one line or no lines–at the end of the take, like, after they’d done all this stuff, I’d call cut and be, like, ‘Dan! That was amazing!'”

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is in movie theaters now.

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