Although it is perhaps for the best, there are sadly no real titans that can be trained to battle for our cinematic enjoyment. That means that a whole lot of people need to put in a lot of work to bring these kaiju to life on the big screen for a movie like Godzilla: King of the Monsters. One of those people is production designer Scott Chambliss, who spoke about his role on the film and the guiding principle to not screw things up, saying:
It’s one of the interesting things for me in my career. It’s, of course, creating the environments for the story of the movie, but also I was hired to be the ringleader of the design team that we brought on to collaborate on the updating of the monsters themselves and, to me, is very exciting ... As part of a design team, none of us wanna fuck it up.
Not wanting to fuck it up is probably a pretty good objective to have in any creative endeavor, but especially one like Godzilla: King of the Monsters, where the potential to do just that is so high. Scott Chambliss wasn’t just in charge of creating the world of the film as production designer, he also had the responsibility of shepherding the design team through the process of updating the look of the monsters.
As Scott Chambliss told Forbes, updating and designing these awesome monsters that are what people pay to see was really exciting-- but it also carries with it a huge degree of responsibility. Neither he nor the rest of the design team wanted to fuck it up and that is not as easy as it sounds, as he explained:
The challenge of trying to remain true at our core to the designs of these original monsters that people really hold dear in their hearts, but also bringing them up to date in a way that honors their past, but feels much more contemporary, not only technologically, but in terms of how monsters function in movies as characters. We focused a lot of design attention on what the environment in terms of how all the monsters are affecting it, whether they’re directly or indirectly affecting it and what, visually, their place is in [the] world and what sort of natural elements they represent.
It’s one thing to design a new character, but another entirely to depict an iconic one that audiences have known for decades in a new way. That’s why things like the casting for the next James Bond or the design of superhero costumes are subject to such scrutiny. People have very high and specific expectations that must be met and that holds true for the monsters of Godzilla 2, some of which have existed since the 1950s.
The creatures in Godzilla: King of the Monsters couldn’t look totally different than their previous iterations, because fans of the property already have basic ideas in their heads of what Mothra, Rodan and Ghidorah look like. So Ghidorah can’t have 1 head or 8 and Mothra can’t have bat wings. They need to stay true to the things that made them iconic in the first place.
But these giant monsters had to be designed to fit within the world and aesthetic of the current iteration of the franchise and also be updated to appeal to modern sensibilities. Scott Chambliss previously spoke to CinemaBlend about this topic and how difficult it was to design Mothra for Godzilla: King of the Monsters. They wanted to make her truly feminine and graceful, but also frightening and powerful and it is quite a challenge to find the design that fits that balance.
Therefore it wasn’t as simple as a technological facelift using current CGI technology. For Scott Chambliss, that was the needle that had to be thread with the monster designs for Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
I also found it interesting that he wanted look at the monsters as characters and having visual representation of how they interact with their environment and what elements they represent. In the trailers, Mothra has this ethereal glow to her and King Ghidorah has this charged electricity around him, so perhaps those traits are a reflection of those efforts.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is tracking to make between $40 million and $60 million opening weekend and if the early reactions to the film are any indication, they didn’t fuck it up. Godzilla: King of the Monsters opens in theaters on May 31. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule for all of this summers biggest movies.