By now, the world has gotten a good look at all the human drama and monster mayhem that they're going to get from Godzilla: King of the Monsters. However, way back when, ComicBook.com was one of several press outlets invited to the set of the new Godzilla in the summer of 2017, back when director Mike Dougherty's (Trick 'r Treat) vision for an expanded rebooting of the Toho Monsterverse was just the stuff of hopes and imagination.
The Godzilla: King of the Monsters set visit was held at a large facility outside of Atlanta, Georgia, where 300,000 square feet of real estate had been converted into various landscapes of a world being overrun and destroyed by giant Kaiju (or "Titans" as they're referred to in the film) as well as the impressive power and resources of the factions looking to study, control, and/or kill these beasts. The highlight of the sets we could see was "Monarch Outpost 32," the massive undersea Arctic base that Monarch has built to contain and study one particularly dangerous Titan, which, based on later trailers, seems to be Ghidorah.
By the end of our visit, it was clear Warner Bros. has steadily, methodically been building this Monsterverse franchise between Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island -- and now Godzilla: King of the Monsters, with the epic Godzilla vs. Kong also on deck. It's a Marvel-sized upgrade to the classic Toho formula, and we left the King of the Monsters set far more excited for the mix of old and new that the Monsterverse will bring.
Scene: War on the Titans
As previously mentioned, we got an up-close look at the Outpost 32 set and all its juicy, Easter egg-filled details, and we even saw a pivotal early scene being filmed in the location -- one that brought together the lion's share of King of the Monsters' sizable ensemble cast, a diverse selection of stars on a global-spanning scale.
Included in the scene were Friday Night Lights star Kyle Chandler as animal behavior specialist Dr. Mark Russell and Straight Outta Compton star O'Shea Jackson Jr. as "G-Team" special forces member Barnes; both of whom we would interview later in the day. Also present for the scene were Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins, reprising their roles from the 2014 Godzilla reboot as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa and Dr. Vivienne Graham, respectively. New additions included Get Out's Bradley Whitford as Dr. Stanton; Zhang Ziyi (Cloverfield Paradox) as Monarch's mythology decoder Dr. Chen; Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley) as Sam Coleman, Monarch's US Government liason; and Anthony Ramos (A Star Is Born) as Corporal Martinez, Barnes' trash-talking G-Team buddy.
The scene was filmed as one big circular shot around the command center table where the Monarch group was discussing an event that preceded this scene: the mysterious character played by Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) and his anarchist group had unleashed a new Titan from Monarch's containment site, which seems to be how this new version of Mothra enters the story, which appears in its larva phase at first. During that operation, Dance's character takes Mark Russell's ex-wife Emma (Vera Farmiga) and his daughter Madison (Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown) hostage in order to utilize Emma's groundbreaking "Orca" technology, which allows her to communicate with the Titans.
In the scene we saw, Monarch attempts to decide what to do about the situation with Emma and Madison Russell as well as the growing threat of the Titans, as the monsters seem to be breaking loose of containment all over the world. Martinez and Barnes joke that someone would only want the "giant worm" that is Morthra in order to catch a giant fish; however, Whitford's Dr. Stanton warns that Mothra could hatch from its chrysalis state in a "much meaner" form than just a giant larva. Zhang Ziyi's Dr. Chen counters that there's no way they can know what will emerge from the chrysalis, hinting at big differences in opinion over the Titans within Monarch's staff.
Kyle Chandler's Dr. Russell is a lot more single-minded in his purpose: he thinks hunting down Charles Dance's character is a "duck hunt;" in his opinion, Monarch needs to focus on the real threat of the Titans, and kill any of them as necessary in order to get his daughter back -- no matter how benevolent his ex-wife's intentions are for these creatures.
Cast and Crew
As Chandler described when we spoke to him on set, this new installment carries on the tradition of Toho's original Godzilla films with a strong socio-political subtext:
"There's a story that goes throughout the film, it deals with what goes on today as far as how to heal the land," Chandler explained. "And I think you'll see that in the movie that's important to the director, and that's his 'in' with today's culture."
The Monarch organization has served as the throughline for Warner Bros.' Monsterverse franchise, but in Kong: Skull Island, the organization was a pipe dream based on wild theory, and in the 2014 Godzilla, they were still operating underground and off the books. King of the Monsters is finally giving Monarch the SHIELD-sized upgrade to being world protectors. And, like the hard-working agents of Marvel's Cinematic Universe, Mike Dougherty is clear about wanting to present normal humans going up against fantastical odds as the big appeal of his story.
"I find that concept really fascinating, the idea that there's a secret agency that tracks monsters, and that is a dream come true for me too," Dougherty explained. "If tomorrow the government said you have to fake your death and abandon everyone you know to go hunt the paranormal, I would be gone in a heartbeat. And so, I felt there was an opportunity to kind of craft Monarch as a group of heroes, who, unlike a lot of top secret government agencies like the spies and whatnot, who have their own kind of nefarious mission statements, Monarch has a very positive outlook on what these creatures are and what they represent."Of course the Monarch scientists won't be alone: Monarch will employ its own special forces unit, appropriately named "G-Team" for field operations, as O'Shea Jackson explained.
"There's certain divisions of military, and then there's G-Force. There's G-Team. There's the cream of the crop, and there's the crazy cream of the crop that makes it to G-Team," Jackson said. "You've got to get up on a different side of the bed to hunt monsters willingly. Yeah, if I haven't seen my family in years [in the film], I know the requirements to become G-Team. But to be a high-ranking officer on G-Team, warrants a little crazy."
Scientists and soldiers thrown together against a horde of monsters? If it all sounds vaguely familiar, Dougherty himself acknowledges that King of the Monsters is taking cues from another iconic sci-fi/horror monster movie franchise.
"I hesitate to say it, but I would call it the Aliens to Gareth's Alien," Dougherty confessed. "So, it's a bit more of an ensemble thing, whereas the first movie was really more about Ford Body's character kind of weaving his way through that adventure and Monarch kind of was the backdrop for that. Here, Monarch was the focus."
The scene we witnessed being filmed was a perfect illustration of why the sequel's human-character storyline will be more interesting than the original. Monarch's brilliant scientific minds and elite soldiers can't all come to consensus about what should be done about the Titans, which provides some grounded interpersonal conflict.
"If the mission is called for to get some DNA samples, I might risk my life I'm sure, but as I now know, it's all about saving the world at the end of the day," Jackson said. "And if we can't agree on that, what the heck."
Touring the facility where Godzilla: King of the Monsters was being made was fun, and the cast and crew were funny and diligent about their respective work, but the highlight of the set visit was no doubt going to see the production office, which was practically graffiti-tagged with concepts from the classic Toho Monsterverse, adapted for a new age.
For the sake of avoiding any and all spoilers, we can reveal that, at the time of the visit, final concepts for Kaiju like Rodan, Mothra, and Ghidorah were all still being worked out, which allowed us to see a number of fun concepts for each monster, with Mothra's final form being the one in the greatest state of flux at the time. Some concepts for Ghidorah leaned much closer to artwork inspired by Chinese dragon myths, while Rodan's fearsome hawk look incorporated the harsh environment he comes from.
There were also many artist renderings of big action sequences and set pieces from the film, which looked all too exciting for longtime fans of the franchise. An aerial chase scene between Monarch's fancy X-Men-style jet and Rodan is one we definitely hope makes it into the final film, while the centerpiece of the art showed off all the featured Toho monsters in an image that is destined to become an instant classic one-sheet -- if Warner Bros. ever puts it out, as we begged them to do on behalf of fans.
You can catch so much more of our Godzilla 2 s set visit info by visiting our official Godzilla: King of the Monsters page. The film hits theaters on May 31st.
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