In 2014's Godzilla, the eponymous titan stomped onto the shores of San Francisco and resurrected America's love of the iconic Japanese monsters. This summer, his story continues with Godzilla: King of the Monsters. This hotly anticipated sequel will not only take audiences into the headquarters of the top-secret crypto-zoological research agency Monarch, but also will pit Godzilla against such mighty rivals as Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah!
While visiting the Atlanta set of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Nerdist sat down with co-writer/director Michael Dougherty to learn how this super-sized sequel will compare and connect to Gareth Edwards' critically heralded Godzilla.
"I hesitate to say it," Dougherty said, "But I would call it the Aliens to Gareth's Alien." He went on to explain, "There's definitely a little bit more horror to it than the previous films had. It's fun. But what I appreciated about Gareth's film is that it took things seriously. I think there's a fine line between the two. This isn't like a knee-slapping comedy by any means. But again, it's like if you compare Alien, which is a very straight science-fiction film with not a lot of hyucks, to Aliens, which was sort of had a bit more fun and tongue-in-cheek moments."
Noting another major difference, Doughtery said, "It's a bit more of an ensemble film, whereas the first movie was really about Ford Brody (Aaron Johnson) weaving his way through that adventure and Monarch was the backdrop for that; here Monarch is the focus." Brody is not back for the sequel, but Monarch scientists Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) are. Plus they'll be joined by a slew of other Monarch soldiers and scientists, played by O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Check out our interview!), Anthony Ramos, Zhang Ziyi, Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, and Bradley Whitford, who's basically playing Rick Sanchez.
Of grounding the film in the heart of Monarch, Dougherty said, "I find that concept really fascinating, the idea that there's a secret agency that tracks giant monsters. That is a dream come true for me too. Like if the government said tomorrow you have to fake your death and abandon everyone you know to hunt the paranormal, I would be gone in a heartbeat."
"Monarch has a very positive outlook on what these creatures are and what they represent," he continued, "And the idea of a team of heroes who are scientists really appeal to me. You know, this isn't a Marvel film where you have people in mech-suits or with superpowers running around and getting into endless fistfights. These are just very intelligent, capable people who are up against impossible odds. In our current climate where science is constantly being questioned and targeted, the idea of creating a film where scientists are heroes I thought was really important."
"The concept we're running with is that this world belongs to them," Dougherty said of Godzilla and his fellow Titans, "If anything, we're the invasive species, and that we've simply rediscovered something that's always been underneath our feet, literally. They are in some ways the old gods, the first gods. And that's something that we're also trying to bring to this film is a more mythological, almost biblical backdrop to the creatures. I mean, it's called 'Godzilla.' So in some ways, we're putting the 'God' back in Godzilla."
Dougherty cited the classic films that inspired the Monsterverse, noting in those Mothra and King Kong were worshiped as gods by ancient civilizations. This is something the filmmakers took to heart when redesigning the creatures for this franchise. While the Titans' sounds and silhouettes will stay true to their origins, their vibe will be more divine. Speaking of Mothra, Dougherty said, "What would she look like flying in the sky at night? I wanted to jump off this idea. If you saw her hovering in the sky, would you think that you're looking at an angel, that you're looking at a god?"
"You want to give them a presence that that would make them drop to your knees and bow to this god," Doughtery said of the tweaks to the classic designs. "Same thing with Rodan. They can't look like just big dinosaurs. Jurassic Park has that covered. These have to be distinct. They have to be their own thing. They're Titans."
A life-long Godzilla fan, Dougherty takes the responsibility of this sequel seriously, telling us his love of the franchise bleeds into the sacrilegious. Which proved an unexpected inspiration. " When I got the job, I went back and looked at an Old Childhood Bible…that I had were at drawn Godzilla into like the various Bible illustrations," Doughtery said. "So there was a picture of like the fall of Jericho and I had Godzilla. I figured add Godzilla to anything, it makes it better. So yeah, he's been a good friend for a very long time. So it's a dream come true."
Godzilla: King of the Monsters opens May 31.
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