The Ninjabot

Geek Legacy Chats Godzilla with Max Borenstein

Posted on May 5, 2014 at 11:00 am by Justin Cavender

Godzilla: AwakeningWe at Geek Legacy were lucky enough to get our hands on the upcoming graphic novel, Godzilla: Awakening, co-written by Max and Greg Borenstein. After reading the graphic novel, we had the opportunity to chat with Max who also wrote the screenplay for the upcoming feature film, Godzilla. If you’re one of our regular readers, then you know we’ve been keeping tabs on King of Monsters. Thanks to Legendary and Warner Bros. we’ve done our best to provide you with plenty of news, images, and videos to wet your whistle.

Geek Legacy: Let’s get right into it. Let’s talk about Godzilla. After reading your graphic novel, Godzilla: Awakening, we’re lead to believe Godzilla is just minding his own got dang business until we wake him up by dropping some bombs in his backyard. Also, it turns out, Godzilla wasn’t the only sleeping giant in this story and that was a fun surprise.

Max Borenstein: Well good. I’m glad that was a fun surprise.

GL: Absolutely. I mean we’re teased with other monsters in the film, but I wasn’t ready for it in the book. Are you able to tell us how many monsters are in the film?

MB: Ah… to be honest I don’t know, but I’ll let it be spoiler free. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

GL: Ooh, I like the sound of that. Can you talk about what was discussed between yourself and Gareth Edwards about the tone he wanted to achieve with the film

MB: Yeah, it was something we talked about in the early stages of the process. I came aboard pretty much when Gareth did, and Gareth and I really saw everything eye-to-eye in terms of how it would be cool to approach this film, and this story as something as grounded and believable as it could be. Obviously, you’re dealing with this one major buy-in of there’s a giant a lizard that’s going to come up from the ocean, GO! Where do you go from there? And we talked a lot about some of our favorite films that handled some pretty “out there” concepts in a plausible, believable and coherent manner. I got very excited to work with Gareth because I had seen his film Monsters, where I thought he did a tremendous job of telling a very human, very ground story, within the context of a genre film. So that was something that attracted me to the project to begin with and we spoke a lot about that.


GL: It seems like there would be a sense of responsibility of handling such an iconic property, while also updating it to a modern audience and catering to Legendary’s hope to get its first real franchise on the books as the Warner Bros. team up winds down. Did you have to figure out a way to balance all of that or did you keep those considerations out of the writing process?

MB: Well I think that’s a two part question. The first part about handling a property or franchise that has such a storied legacy, certainly there’s a sense of responsibility. At the same time I think, and I did a lot of thinking about this, particularly early on and more so the more I’ve thought about it. The thing that’s interesting about Godzilla and the thing that sets Godzilla apart from other film franchise characters, is that there is no one coherent version of Godzilla over time. In fact, every Godzilla film over time has treated this character or creature differently both in terms of origin story–in terms of style–in terms of tone–in terms of what he represents. I think Godzilla is less a coherent character over time than he is a vessel for a multitude of years that we as humanity and as the filmmakers over a course of time, have imposed on him and made to represent.

So early on, from his inception, the story was this walking embodiment of the fear of nuclear annihilation, which was ever present in 1954, in Japan particularly and that was very resonant on global scale. But as the film evolved, both because the filmmakers I think didn’t want to repeat themselves, and also because the beauty this sort of larger-than-life, walking metaphor of man’s powerlessness in the face of the world around us, was that this could embody different ideas. So Godzilla came to represent different ideas like our fears of what may come from outer space. Or our fears of environmental degradation. Or genetic mutations. So that is kind of liberating when you latch onto that and go, OK, our obligation is actually not to repeat what’s been before. It’s to respect the legacy, but to reinvent this character in a way that actually resonates today in a new way. And in a way that’s going to feel as explosive as the first film and subsequent films. So that’s part of it.

In terms of pressure, or outside pressure from the studio, or what the desire or demands were from that front, I think this was really exceptional and perhaps unique–the mandate was from top to bottom, let’s make the best movie we can. Let’s make the best Godzilla movie we can, and let’s try to make a Godzilla movie that will be  just a great movie. And hopefully attract a global audience by that virtue. Those were the marching orders and that’s what got me excited from the beginning. We certainly aimed for that bar and hopefully we’ve met it.

Classic Godzilla

GL: Why do you think Godzilla still resonates with audiences after all these years?

MB: I think there’s something really harrowing about the idea of a force that is so beyond our scale, size wise and power wise. We as human beings are always at every stage of our history very keen to believe we’re in control. That’s what technology is, right? It’s this effort to control our surroundings. Whether it’s with a stick and a stone or with the internet. We as a civilization have evolved, we have gotten to a place where I think we believe and we have this increasingly false sense of confidence that we’re in power in our world. We live our daily lives all the time thinking that. Well Godzilla as a character and as a concept, thrashes that. Literally. That’s that fear that’s very primal in us. Gareth has talked about this and that’s something we talked about in the early stages of the process, which is that cavemen had animals to contend with outside of their huts and that was terrifying. There are stories about terrifying lions and tigers in the ancient world. Well our huts have gotten a lot bigger and so the animals are our worst nightmares. They have to get immensely bigger. I think that idea, that concept, resonates in a very, very, deep, primal level for humanity. That’s why I think old giant monsters appeal in a different way than regular monsters, and of course Godzilla is the ultimate giant monster.

GL: I agree. In fact I think my first memory of Godzilla was a Dr. Pepper commercial back when Godzilla 1985 came out. I remember being blown away by this giant creature. Do you remember the first time you saw Godzilla?

MB: Yeah! I don’t remember the first time in that detail, you know, the Dr. Pepper thing. I do remember for me it started back when the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers kind of hit, and I remember watching that as a kid and thinking how strange and what is this thing? And where does it come from? I was a big film buff when I was a kid and I remember going to the Tower Video and renting the Godzilla films they had in order, but they didn’t have the original Japanese versions. I saw King of the Monsters and then started watching a whole bunch of them from the series.

What was so interesting was the way the campiness initially attracted me to it out of curiosity from the Power Rangers. I was like, this is weird and what is this? You know it evolved in the series of Godzilla films, but it’s not at all present in that first film. In the first American film that I saw then, there’s an aspect of it, but that’s more just a matter of the time period, and in the the weird way they edited Raymond Burr into it.

Cut to when the project was brought up to me by Legendary, and I found out that Gareth was involved, I got really excited. I went back and watched the original Japanese cut, which I hadn’t seen and that film is one where zero camp is present. It’s really harrowing and very resonant about the atomic bomb nine years in the wake of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. They were closer to those events then, than we are to 9/11. Those are events of such magnitude, and you feel it in that movie in this intense way, and that was exciting. You go oh my god that’s something that would be really interesting to use in this monster movie as an opportunity to try an affect people, and impact people at anything close to that level.


GL: Well Max it was a pleasure chatting with you today. We at Geek Legacy are very excited about Godzilla which opens in theaters on May 16. I’m eager to share the graphic novel with all my friends when it arrives in stores on May 7 and we wish you all the best. Thank you for your time.

MB: Hey, thank you. This was fun.

Look for our review of Godzilla: Awakening later this week and we hope you enjoy watching the king of monsters on the big screen when Godzilla opens in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D on May 16th.

Follow Justin on Twitter @Edgyarmo for more geek news.

    Sharing the Legacy on Flickr

    See all photos