GODZILLA EXCLUSIVE Interview with Writer Max Borenstein

Writer Max Borenstein is about as plugged into the world of Godzilla as anyone can be, having scripted the WB/Legendary Pictures film opening Friday, and co-written the prequel graphic novel Godzilla: Awakening. In this exclusive interview he discusses both. BEWARE SPOILERS.

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By EdGross - 5/14/2014

Published by Legendary, GODZILLA: AWAKENING (which is currently available at retailers. including Amazon) is written by Max Borenstein and Greg Borenstein, with pencils by Eric Battle, Yvel Guichet and Alan Quan; and colors by Lee Loughridge. Serving as a primer to the film, it effectively chronicles humanity's earlier - and secret - first encounter with Godzilla, revealing just what he really is and defining his purpose as designed by nature. Rather than a creature randomly stomping on Tokyo, cruelly waiting for the people to rebuild and stomping on it again ad infinitum, there is a reason that he was born and it ain't to serve as humanity's savior.
 
Overall, Godzilla: Awakening is designed to flesh out the scenario presented in the film and while the human element works, it should be pointed out that it - just like the film itself - has a tendency to perhaps spend TOO MUCH time with the humans, thus taking away from Godzilla and his role in it all. While on the one hand this is commendable (after all, how many summer blockbusters have there been where character is virtually non-existent?),  on the other....well, frankly, we want more Godzilla!
 
In the following exclusive interview, Max Borenstein (who's also written 2015's Seventh Son) discusses the challenges of not only writing Godzilla: Awakening, but making the character have resonance for today's filmgoing audience.


 
 
VOICES FROM KRYPTON
What was the challenge of writing this movie and then retrofitting a prequel comic?
 
MAX BORENSTEIN
That presented interesting challenges. Logistically, because we were writing the graphic novel after having written the movie, it meant expanding the story but not creating it from whole cloth. The germ of the idea was always there as a piece of backstory for the film and a lot of the specific ideas for the story developed afterwards out of that seed. An interesting challenge was to be compelling in a standalone sense while not stepping on the toes of the film or providing an act one that would feel incomplete. There was also the limitation of not doing anything that would conflict with the beginning of the film where most of the world doesn’t know of the existence or legend of Godzilla. That means you have to end the comic in a way that allows for that, so you can’t destroy a big city or anything. Our hands were tied – actually we tied our own hands - but it gave us another interesting opportunity to try and explore a different kind of Godzilla story. One that wouldn’t necessarily just have him smashing a city, but would be more about origins and thematic resonances with the birth of Godzilla. And an homage to the first film.
 
VOICES FROM KRYPTON
The total geek boy analogy that popped into my head – because that’s all I do – is almost like looking at the original Charlton Heston Planet of the Apes, but then you have a film like Rise of the Planet of the Apes that fills in the blanks and leads to the Heston film.
 
MAX BORENSTEIN
That’s exactly right. You take what exists and you say, “Let’s say something that’s going to stand alone in its own right, but let’s not contradict what came before.” But at the same time we wanted to be coherent in our own space.


 
VOICES FROM KRYPTON
In writing the film and the comic, is there a sort of Godzilla stigma that you have to overcome? What I mean is that I grew up with the version of the character that would punch a monster and do an Irish gig in celebration. How hard is to overcome THAT in writing a modern version?
 
MAX BORENSTEIN
That was a question that I had coming in, because growing up the Godzilla I was familiar with - and kind of loved BECAUSE OF the kitsch and camp factor - was that campier version. I wasn't really aware of the serious Godzilla. When I was approached by Legendary regarding this film and they had Gareth Edwards attached to direct, obviously the reason I got excited was that Gareth is the antithesis of the campy version. I know, having seen and loved Monsters, that he is a director who’s interested in telling a very nuanced, human, intimate, grounded story through a genre film. I thought if they were willing to go in that direction, that speaks to the tone they want, but I immediately wondered if that was doable with Godzilla. Are people going to laugh? Are people ready for it? I went back and watched the very first film and you immediately see they had answered that same question. That film is a harrowing, grounded, gritty allegory for nuclear war that is in no way campy. It has its genre tropes, certainly, some of which feel dated, but it’s kind of remarkable how much of that film DOESN’T feel dated, and that still feels terrifying. Especially in light of the context being nine years after the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were closer to THOSE events than we are to 9/11, which is crazy to think about. So they did it then, and that told me we could absolutely do that now.


 
VOICES FROM KRYPTON
One of the things I found interesting about the film was the attempt to hide Godzilla for as long as possible, for a time only showing portions of him until a full reveal. Obviously it was an approach Spielberg had taken with the shark in JAWS. Was that notion yours or Gareth's?
 
MAX BORENSTEIN
The visual stuff is absolutely Gareth all over. At the same time, those ideas are all in the script. From the beginning the script was developed very closely between the two of us. We were always talking about ways of allowing for suspense and build up even though you're dealing with something the scale of Godzilla. That’s an interesting challenge that’s difficult to accomplish on both the bigger structural level of how you’re telling your story, and then on the more micro structural level of how you’re handling each individual set piece and reveal. All of those ideas are in the script from that period of time. It’s just the nature of a movie like this that by the time you get to shooting, you want to know everything that you’re doing.
 
During that time, Gareth was in London and I was in L.A. and we were Skyping for hours on end. We would talk about different ideas. He'd sketch some of those ideas, go talk to the concept artist, who would work with him and then several hours later he'd come back and we'd Skype again. He'd send through some of the sketches he'd done, which started to actualize scenes we were talking about, and that would feed into another loop of story ideas. That was really the creative process for a few months early on just in terms of getting these set pieces established.


 
VOICES FROM KRYPTON
An interesting approach is that you DON'T have Godzilla rising out of the ocean and saying, "You know, I think I’m going to save the humans today instead of stepping on them.” I love the notion that he is actually nature’s way of creating a balance.
 
MAX BORENSTEIN
That went in line with the grounded, serious tone we were going for and treating this character as an animal. A noble animal with intelligence and something going on, but it’s not a human intelligence. He has motivations, there’s stuff going on, but it’s not concern for humanity. It’s the same if you look at whales or beasts of the wild: There's a lot going on in their heads, but they don't think the way that we think. Godzilla is potentially the last of his kind, which allowed us to approach it from the angle of being a character that you can have a certain empathy and respect for, but, again, it's not a human kind of respect. All of which led very naturally to the idea of him being a balancing agent; an Apex predator that we didn't even know existed. But without him, everything would fall to waste.
 
VOICES FROM KRYPTON
As the writer of this film, what’s your feeling when you stare up at an IMAX screen and there stands Godzilla in all his glory?
 
MAX BORENSTEIN
Even you saying it sends chills down my spine. From the level of being a fan, it's impossible for me to disentangle the feelings of pride and gratitude and being blown away by the fact I'm fortunate enough to have been able to write something brought to life by such an incredible group of artists and craftsmen.

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16 Comments
CaptShipwreck - 5/14/2014, 6:04 AM
He wants a snickers
Demongod20 - 5/14/2014, 6:11 AM
Up from the depths
Thirty stories high
Breathing fire
His head in the sky
Godzilla!
Godzilla!
Godzilla!
And Godzookie....