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A chronological recap of the MonsterVerse before you watch Godzilla: King of the Monsters

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters is on release now in Cineworld, and acts as the latest city-smashing instalment in the Warner Bros 'MonsterVerse' franchise, one that's set to build towards next year's Godzilla vs Kong.

King of the Monsters picks up where the earlier Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island left off, as a group of human characters (played by the likes of Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga and Charles Dance) are firmly reminded of their place in the pecking order. That's because humanity has come under threat once again from several enormous, oversized beasts, and only a certain iconic Godzilla is capable of levelling the playing field.

Feeling the need to brush up on your 'MonsterVerse' knowledge? We understand – it's a bit complicated. That's why we've done the hard work for you. Scroll down to fill in those essential gaps.

1. King Kong is discovered

The year 1944

The movie Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) enthusiastically melds Apocalypse Now with the monster movie in this all-action beast-athon. Largely set in the 1970s, Kong: Skull Island sends a disparate group of individuals to a remote Pacific archipelago where they discover the titular oversized ape and his nemeses: the terrifying, subterranean skullcrawlers who are responsible for decimating Kong's kind.

The opening World War II prelude is, in a chronological sense, the birth of the MonsterVerse, as two fighter pilots, one American, the other Japanese, unwittingly land on Skull Island in 1944 before discovering Kong and the crawlers for themselves. When we jump ahead to 1973, one of the pilots is revealed to have survived on the island: strung-out Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who at the end of the movie is returned to the mainland and reunited with his wife and son.

Marlow is therefore an important figure in MonsterVerse lore, given he discovered the existence of monsters before anybody else. Can we expect him to make an appearance (albeit aged) in a future instalment of the franchise, namely in next year's Godzilla vs Kong?


2. Godzilla and the nuclear bomb

The year 1954

The movie Godzilla (2014)

Although Godzilla was released before Kong: Skull Island, chronologically the events of the movie take place afterwards. For the most part, that is – the eerie opening credits sequence whisks us back to the heyday of the atomic age in 1954, as we're witness to an apocalyptic bomb test in the Pacific.

The opening credits (cleverly replacing redacted text as they appear) are accompanied by Alexandre Desplat's thunderous score as we're filled in on Godzilla's troubled history. Namely, that deep sea exploration awoke this mighty monster from beneath the sea, prompting a drastic military intervention as our own weaponry was later used to try and kill him.

It's a slight tweak of the mythology from the original 1954 Toho Studios Godzilla movie, one designed as an allegory for the nuclear age – in the original, Godzilla was awoken by nuclear testing, but the ensuing military retaliation was absent from the storyline.


3. Monarch's mission

The year 1973

The movie Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Midway through Kong: Skull Island, our various characters, having been variously killed or scattered across the island after their helicopters are attacked by King Kong, struggle to understand what they're dealing with. It falls to no-nonsense Army Colonel Packard (who else but Samuel L. Jackson) to quiz mysterious government man Bill Randa (John Goodman) as to what's happening. 

Randa then comes clean, and an important MonsterVerse puzzle piece clicks into place. He reveals that he is affiliated with a mysterious government agency known as Monarch, and they're using the expedition to Skull Island as a cover to prove the existence of monsters. Chronologically, this is the first reference to Monarch within the franchise – they're later revealed to play a significant role in both Godzilla and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.


4. Not the only monsters...

The year 1973

The movie Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong: Skull Island's post-credits stinger is a brief but hugely important moment in connecting the disparate pieces of MonsterVerse lore. At the end of the movie, Kong defeats the final skullcrawler and the surviving members of the expedition make it back to America. However, two of them, tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) are intercepted and held against their will by Monarch.

It turns out that two other members of the team, San Lin (Jiang Tan) and Brooks (Corey Hawkins), are also members of Monarch. They're the ones who brief Conrad and Weaver with the most terrifying knowledge of all: that Kong is not the only monster out there. Our central duo is faced with archive footage of cave paintings depicting Godzilla, King Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra, the screening cutting to black as we hear Godzilla's signature roar.

And with that, the connections between Kong: Skull Island and the (chronologically) later Godzilla movies are officially established.


5. MUTO emergence

The year 2014

The movie Godzilla (2014)

Fast-forward to the 21st century and we're presented with a modern world that's about to receive a shocking wake-up call. By this point, Monarch's knowledge of monsters is firmly established, giving rise to the acronym MUTO (massive unidentified terrestrial organism). It's also revealed that when the aforementioned 1954 nuclear assault on Godzilla didn't succeed in killing him, Monarch was formed to keep track of his kind and other such beasts.

Not that this knowledge does much good when two terrifying oversized MUTOs, capable of emitting a powerful electromagnetic pulse, emerge to create havoc. It's eventually revealed they're a male and female pair whose intention is to procreate, spelling further doom for mankind. It then falls to the emergent Godzilla to destroy his enemies – all the human characters can do, including soldier Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), is stand by and watch the battle play out.

Of course, the most important human characters to emerge in this movie, directed by Gareth Edwards (who would later helm Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), are Monarch scientists Ishiro Serazawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins). In contrast to the warring military types, they're more interested in studying and observing the MUTOs, and given both characters play an important role in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, it's important to be reminded of their significance in the MonsterVerse.


6. Godzilla's victory

The year 2014

The movie Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla's role in Edwards's movie is somewhat ambiguous – is he ambivalent to the concerns of humankind, or is he something of a saviour? In the rousing final moments (again aided by Alexandre Desplat's powerful score), the movie seems to fall down on the side of the latter. Having defeated the final MUTO with his atomic breath, Godzilla appears to be down and out, lying prone amidst the debris and waste of what was San Francisco.

However, he soon rises from the ashes as the various human characters watch with a mixture of awe and gratitude. The various news channels officially proclaim Godzilla to be a hero and the creature who saved mankind, as he lets out one final roar and disappears back into the ocean. This sets up the title character's role in King of the Monsters...


7. Godzilla the saviour

The year 2019

The movie Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

When Earth is attacked by the aforementioned King Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra (now named Titans, as opposed to MUTOs), there's only one creature capable of taking them on.

Picking up the thread of the earlier Godzilla movie, the oversized lizard is now positioned as humanity's potential saviour. Of course, how much of our world will be left standing in the wake of Godzilla's destruction remains to be seen...



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