GODZILLA: KING OF the MONSTERS | Michael Dougherty on his MonsterVerse love…
Long ago, Michael Dougherty was swept away by a winged creature. “As a kid, there was a Rodan toy I wanted badly for Christmas and I never got it,” he tells Teasers. “Even into adult life, it always felt like the holy grail.” Though the Krampus helmer eventually fulfilled his dream via eBay, he’s getting to dream bigger with his position as co-writer/ director of Legendary’s third MonsterVerse movie.
Previous entries Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island (2017) both distinguished their tentpole turmoil with a heightened pulp passion for their resident monsters. So, before gecko fights monkey in 2020’s Godzilla Vs. Kong, Dougherty promises similar levels of lizard-love: “Some of my earliest memories are watching Godzilla movies. My mother is Vietnamese, and Godzilla movies and kung fu movies were the only places I could see Asian people on TV. He’s been with me my entire life.”
Family connections fuel the film’s story, with Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown making her movie debut as Madison Russell, daughter to cryptozoological agency Monarch’s Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga). When the pair are kidnapped by nefarious forces, Emma’s ex-hubby (Kyle Chandler) mounts a rescue campaign. Joining the mix are O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s military man and Zhang Ziyi’s mysterious scientist, while survivors of 2014’s Godzilla include Sally Hawkins,
Ken Watanabe and daddy G himself, headlining the menagerie of outsized insect Mothra, dino-bird Rodan and triple-headed dragon King Ghidorah.
While Dougherty wanted to create “a film that could stand on its own”, he also set out to respect founding Japanese studio Toho’s kaiju canon. Declaring his monsters “very faithful” to the original films, he promises to honour both the “morality play” angle and Mothra’s portrayal as a goddess. Notably, Emma and Madison first encounter her in an ancient temple. What’s more, Dougherty banked blessings from the source: “Toho had final approval on the creatures. I had to go to Japan and do a big presentation – which was intimidating. Thankfully, they signed off on everything without hesitation.”
Dougherty doesn’t hesitate, either, to praise Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla, which “loved the character as much as I do”, he says. His cast loved the creatures, too, with Brown falling for the goddess-in-residence. “Madison has a really, like, interesting connection to Mothra,” she teases.
Dougherty, meanwhile, maintains a love for Rodan, “because he’s always been a bit of an underdog.” If the MonsterVerse offers its own pulp-y underdog alternative to cinema’s slicker expanded universes, its secret weapon could be that very reverence. “I have such a deep-rooted love for these creatures,” Dougherty says. “These aren’t just giant monsters, they’re ancient gods.” Get ready to hail the king.
ETA | 31 MAY / GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS OPENS IN SPRING.
BRIDGE TOO FAR Monsters in the mist; Millie Bobby Brown as Madison Russell (below).