Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers contained in this interview piece. If you have yet to see GODZILLA VS. KONG, bookmark this page and return to this at a later date.
The story development process on feature films can be a fickle beast. As is the case with most big scale Hollywood productions, narrative details either shift slightly, are abandoned or excised completely. Figuring out the overarching goal posts of a sprawling, monstrous major motion picture franchise proves as challenging as it can be rewarding. Such is the case for a few of screenwriter Max Borenstein’s clever ideas for Legendary Pictures’ “Monsterverse” films.
His creative input on the first draft of GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS wound up being shrunk down once a final draft was completed – and with that streamlining, out went a storyline featuring another big baddie. He says,
“Some story points remain, but a lot of the execution was totally different by the time it came out. In that was the first time I introduced Mechagodzilla into the Monsterverse.”
This choice wound up being a fortuitous one for GODZILLA VS. KONG. He continues,
“Ultimately, they chose not to do it in that film and went with the Battle Royale thing. But it was really gratifying when I came back to work on the GODZILLA VS. KONG script in a later phase of it, when it was getting closer to production, to learn that in fact Mechagodzilla finally made it in and it wasn’t too dissimilar, though a lot of the permutations around it had changed. The idea of emotionally what that represented for the people to insert themselves in the face of monsters beyond our control.”
Another of Borenstein’s formerly abandoned concepts that were resurrected involved Godzilla’s character design.
“In my earlier drafts, a big set piece that ultimately got cut – [maybe] not completely – was when Godzilla was first emerging in Hawaii from the water. We did a few set pieces with characters on a boat. I was always proud of it in the writing. Something I thought was cool was, “What if it was Titanic sinking, but it was impaled on Godzilla’s spine?” Now, we have them fighting from aircraft carrier to aircraft carrier, [so] that basic idea of a version with a ship came back in. It was super fun to see that.”
As for who he personally rooted for to win each of the film’s ancient grudge matches, he confesses that the fisticuffs had been fixed early on.
“I don’t think you can even root for one or the other – they’re both iconic and the king. One is going to give as good as he gets and the other one is going to be the same. For me, it always had to be that way: Round one to one of them, round two to the other and round three would be a draw where their sights turn to another baddie.”
Yet he still suspects most folks will side with Kong over Godzilla.
“I think Kong, by definition is who you’d identify with – as a primate, we identify with primates. And they identify with us. Whereas, Godzilla is unknowable and mysterious and, as a result, misunderstood. There’s something to it that the people fall into the two camps: you have the Kong side and the Godzilla acolytes. They are the believers in them.”
If there’s one lesson to be learned by his experience on this series, it’s not to rule out any contenders when it comes to pre-conceptualized creative machinations. He concludes,
“It was fun to come back to [the] abandoned threads and find a way to bring [them] to life. If you have patience, these things can come back around and organically find their moment. It’s been four films and a long time of coming in and out of this franchise. To be able to play in it with all these other talented people has been fun.”
GODZILLA VS. KONG is now playing in select cinemas and on HBOMax.