In August 2017, a group of fellow journalists and I went to the Atlanta set of Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Set five years after the events of 2014’s Godzilla, the movie sees a more powerful Monarch organization once again calling on the help of Godzilla after a villain seeks to use the monsters as living atomic weapons.
During a break in filming, we got to talk with director Michael Dougherty. During our conversation, we talked about how he got involved with the film, why his film is like Aliens when compared to Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, why it was important for scientists to be the heroes, making a nod to King Kong, Easter eggs, redesigning Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra, for a new era but staying loyal to the original designs, bringing in horror elements, how the film connects to the other films of the Monsterverse, if he wanted to bring in any other Toho monsters, and more.
Check out the interview below, and click here for our full report from the set.
MICHAEL DOUGHERTY: My local TV station had the old black and white Universal monsters, so I was subjected to it for years. And I fell in love with the character (of Godzilla) and it’s funny because when I got the job I went back and looked at an old childhood bible – I went to Catholic school, which is a much longer story – and I found an old bible where I had drawn Godzilla, in between the various bible illustrations, so there was a picture of like the fall of Jericho and I had added Godzilla. I figured if I add Godzilla to anything, it’s better. So yeah, he’s been a good friend for a very long time. So it’s a dream come true.
Edwards’ Godzilla has been described as slow burn, where the other Godzilla films have been more action packed. How would you describe your Godzilla?
DOUGHERTY: Well, I hesitate to say it, but I would call it the Aliens to Gareth’s Alien. So it’s a bit more on an ensemble film. Whereas the first movie was really about Brody’s character kind of weaving his way through that adventure and Monarch kind of was the backdrop for that. Here Monarch is the focus, because I find that concept really fascinating. The idea that there is a secret agency that tracks giant monsters – that is a dream come true for me too. I think if the government said to me, ‘Tomorrow you have to fake your own death and abandon every one you know to go hunt the paranormal,’ I would be gone in a heartbeat.
So I felt there was an opportunity to sort of craft Monarch as a group of humanists, who unlike a lot of top secret government agencies where they have their own nefarious mission statements, Monarch has a very positive outlook on what these creatures are and what they represent. And the idea of a team of heroes who are scientists really appealed to me. This isn’t a Marvel film where you people in mech suits or with superpowers getting into endless fist fights. These are just very intelligent, capable people, who are up against impossible odds. So in a time where, in our current climate, where science is being constantly questioned and targeted, the idea of creating a film where scientists are heroes, I thought was really important.
How long after the event’s is Edwards’ Godzilla does this film take place and where are these monsters sort of suddenly coming from – do the events of that film set off a chain reaction?
DOUGHERTY: No. This film roughly takes place in real time. So we are placing that first film in 2014 and we are saying this film takes place roughly five years after, so in 2019. The monsters – it’s not like the monsters are suddenly popping out of nowhere, they’ve always been here. They were here before we were. So the concept we’re running with is that this world belonged to them. If anything, we’re the invasive species, and we’ve simply rediscovered something that’s always been there and that they are in some ways, the old gods. The first gods. And that’s something we’re also trying to bring to this film for a more mythological, almost biblical, backdrop to the creatures, and it’s called Godzilla…the idea that these creatures were once worshipped by some ancient civilization. I really love that about the old movies in that Mothra was this deity. It really opened up the mythology. So if Mothra existed thousands of years ago, and Godzilla existed thousands of years ago, and Mothra was worshipped by some ancient civilization, as was Kong, that would make sense that the other creatures probably had some contact with human beings at some point too. As a kid it always bummed me out that dinosaurs never actually crossed paths. After years of Harryhausen films, that was such a heartbreaking truth to discover. So I’m saying fuck that. No. At some point, ancient humans that we have forgotten about, somehow did interact with these ancient beasts.