Whenever a big film comes out, there’s usually a plethora of additional content that comes out in the form of books. Whether movie novelizations, comic books, children books or art books, they rarely offer anything new to the initial film property. This is NOT the case with Gareth Edward’s remake of the Toho classic Godzilla.
In the wake of this monster crushing the box office – both at home and abroad -, two novels were released that not only deepen the film’s narrative; but also reveal the story behind the film’s narrative. Godzilla: Awakening is a graphic novels that serves as a true prequel to the film; while Godzilla: The Art Of Destruction reveals all of the film’s concept art and thought processes. So are they worth the buy? Yes, a million times yes!
As I said, Godzilla: Awakening is a true prequel with Legendary Pictures and Gareth Edwards behind it. In the film, we learn that “in 1954 we awakened something” and the nuclear tests in following years was our attempts “trying to kill it”. In Awakening, we find a young Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe’s character) listening to his father’s deathbed tale of the events that happened after the Attacks on Hiroshima.
This was a brilliant way to convey this origin story. Dr Ichiro Serizawa’s presence in the film was great to begin with since his name came from the tortured doctor in the original 1954 film by Toho; but by having this origin story involve his father, we get vast new levels added to the film.
The flashbacks of the novel take places between 1945 and 1954, placing Ichiro’s father in the time frame of the original Toho films. Though using this time period not only imbeds the comic – and film – into the time frame of the 1954 films, but also explains Ichiro’s acceptance and trust in Joe and Ford Brody. Like Ford, Ichiro was the lonely child who’s father was obsessed with searching for the truth of MUTOs after a nuclear disaster destroyed their homes.
It’s simply amazing how much this prequel story adds to the film, rather than take away from the beauty of the original – *cough* Star Wars prequels. Between showing the foundation of ‘Monarch’ and a new MUTO named Shinomura (“The death Swarm”), this graphic novel is a must read that not only fits in seamlessly with the movie; but also deepens the beauty and mythology of this newly reborn – and expanding – franchise.
Godzilla The Art Of Destruction:
While Godzilla: Awakening does wonders for expanding upon the film’s narrative, Godzilla: The Art of Destruction does the same for the story of ‘how’ the film was made. With tons of interviews and details on each piece of beautiful concept art, you get so much more than just a simple ‘here-it-is’ art book. So why is this such a quality ‘Art Of’ book? Simple, because Gareth Edwards is such a huge fan of them.
As soon as a new concept art book comes out, I head straight to the nearest comic shop and desperately turn the pages, trying to find any cool designs or ideas that didn’t make the cut… I promised myself if I ever got to make a film… I would make sure that every single beautiful shot or cool composition would end up on-screen. No one’s talents would ever go to waste! . . . How wrong I was. – Director Gareth Edwards
Edwards statement perfectly captures how I feel whenever I hear about an ‘Art Of’ book coming out for one of my favorite franchises. From Assassins Creed to X-Men: The Last Stand, I’ve seen a lot of ‘Art Of’ books, but none have done what Edwards has done he. There are no brief blurbs interspersed among tons of photos; there’s substantial articles and memories from cast and crew interspersed among tons of full page photos.
Edwards even goes on to give amazing insights into the original Toho film. If you’ve never seen the original – or think Godzilla is nothing more than “A man in a rubber suit stomping a scale miniature Tokyo” – then you need to read these passages. From the initial atomic explosion that starts the movie off – a reference to the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru that was irradiated during the Bikini Atoll tests in ’54 – to Godzilla’s atomic breath turning Tokyo into a sea of flames, everything of the initial film was to call to mind the horrible events that took place only a few years prior.
Sure, it’s a monster movie… but I think its much more than that, and that’s why its had such lasting power. Godzilla struck a very personal note for the United States and Japan. And the fact that Japan made the film nine years after the bomb was, to me, extraordinary, an incredibly courageous and audacious thing to do…. It’s a very poetic construct, a symbol for so many things we are still working on as a species. – Actor David Strathairn
Many have come to see Godzilla as ‘that funny Japanese film with monster battling’; but it was always so much more from its inception. It was supposed to be a “dark and disturbing reflection on what science had wrought”; but the franchise eventually lost that edge. The beauty of Edward’s film is that it reintroduced the world to Godzilla’s – as it was meant to be seen.
It’s not about some fantasy world, but rather a world that could seem real if humanity continued on a dangerous path of trying to control nature. Edwards even went as far as to explain the monsters so that “their motives were akin to animals”. The film was a beautiful adventure into a deep and meaningful past; and these novels flush out all of it – the prequel and the story of reinventing Toho’s classic. Whether you loved the movie or not, there is something to learn in these novels; and they have certainly earned a place on my shelf.