GODZILLA: THE ART OF DESTRUCTION Book Review
Few pop-culture figures can claim to have the longevity of the “King of the Monsters,” Godzilla, 60 years and counting. It hasn’t always been a smooth road for the “Big G” (one of his other nicknames). American distributors heavily edited his big-screen debut, adding Raymond Burr to a handful of newly filmed scenes as an on-the-spot, American reporter and removing much of Godzilla’s anti-nuclear subtext. Despite dying at the end of his debut, Godzilla returned and returned again, appearing in close to 30 loosely connected sequels spread out over five decades. Recognizing Godzilla’s all-ages popularity, Toho Studios expanded Godzilla’s roster of gigantic friends and foes, and turned Godzilla into a heroic savior, each one campier (and often cheaper) than the last. But a failed American remake sixteen years ago led to one more burst of Japanese-made films, culminating in the aptly named Godzilla: Final Wars a decade ago.
Toho eventually decided to resell the rights to their most popular character to Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. In turn, Legendary and Warner Bros. tapped Gareth Edwards, a British filmmaker with the well-received Monsters, a micro-budget science-fiction drama Edwards wrote, edited, and directed (he also handled the visual effects himself), to his name, to direct Godzilla, a big-budget summer tentpole that cleverly remixes key elements from the title character’s previous incarnations to make him both a force of nature and an almost mystical, radiation-devouring savior, repairing and rebalancing nature through, of course, the kind of monster-related mayhem (e.g., city thrashing, military vs. kaiju conflicts, etc.) Godzilla’s casual and hardcore fans have long appreciated and/or loved about the character. Insight Editions, a pop-culture publisher, stepped in to memorialize Godzilla’s production history, from Edwards’ initial involvement through the final moments of post-production.
Written by Mark Cotta Vaz (Batmobile: The Complete History, The Art of the Incredibles, The Art of Finding Nemo), Godzilla: The Art of Destruction includes a long-form interview with Edwards, key members of the production team, and the cast, concept art, storyboards, and photographs. The concept art includes a foldout depicting Godzilla’s changing physical form, full-page or two-page spreads used as the basis for many of Godzilla’s final shots and sequences, and detailed storyboards that lay out several set pieces. On its own, the concept art is often beautiful, suitable for framing (if it could be printed and framed, that is), while the storyboards offer the kind of insight burgeoning filmmakers or fans of the production process will eagerly embrace. A mix of behind-the-scenes photos with the occasional background greenscreen, and set photos nearly identical to shots taken from the final film offer additional production insights.
Insight Editions printed Godzilla: The Art of Destruction on sturdy, high-glass paper in hardback form, the better to preserve the film’s history in analog form. As with other film art books, Godzilla: The Art of Destruction is slightly wider horizontally than it is vertically (9.5 x 10.6 inches), allowing Insight Editions the room necessary to reproduce Godzilla’s concept art and photos. Ultimately, readers of Godzilla: The Art of Destruction will come away from reading the book with the recognition of the massive complexity behind a production like Godzilla. Edwards and his creative team accounted for practically every detail before, during, and after production. As with many film-related art books, spoiler-adverse readers should wait until after they’ve seen Godzilla before opening Godzilla: The Art of Destruction. They’ll be thankful they did.