Max Borenstein explains his prequel graphic novel 'Godzilla: Awakening,' and where the movie's sequel might go.
Before “Godzilla” opens in theaters on May 16, fans of the legendary (or should we say, Legendary?) monster can get a sneak peak at what’s in store with the prequel graphic novel, “Godzilla: Awakening.” And unlike many cash-in books tied to movies, this one is an essential tie-in: it was written and created by the writer of the movie, Max Borenstein as an essential companion to the events of the movie.
“The comic came out having worked on the film,” Borenstein told MTV News over the phone. “The script was done, Legendary comics division approached me and said, ‘Would you be interested in expanding the universe you created in a graphic novel?’ And there was this germ of an idea in the film that had to do with Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his father that [had a] thematic tie to the original origin story of ‘Godzilla’ as a franchise. Immediately, I called up Greg [Borenstein] and we got cracking.”
The book tracks the evolution of man’s relationship with the giant beast, something that starts as a secret. It’s something that’s covered during the opening sequence of the film, but that doesn’t mean the comic is just an expansion of material you’ll see on film.
“The compressed bit that you see, along the course of development of the film – at one time – there was more,” Borenstein continued. “By the nature of filmmaking as things settle into place, you realize what you’re going to need to trim away… But it was always something I thought was very interesting and important in terms of grounding this story in historical reality. That’s why I was attracted to going back to that.”
Interestingly, the graphic novel takes a very different path than the film. Though it touches on some of the same points, and exists in the same world, the novel is almost a parallel to what happens on screen, rather than an exact copy. And nowhere is that more prevalent than in the related, but extremely dissimilar adversaries seen in the comic.
“We wanted to try and use it to establish a kind of appetizer of what to expect in terms of our take on Godzilla and his relationship to the world,” Borenstein said. “What kind of adversaries he might face that might be related to his own existence rather than a random alien crashing to Earth. Which has certainly been done, but we were trying to stick to one buy-in. If you’re going to accept that a giant lizard comes out of the ocean, we don’t want to have to ask you to also accept another big sci-fi premise in the next 20 minutes.”
Still, that doesn’t mean everything was fair game. In order to properly tee up the movie, Borenstein had to hold back on certain aspects of Godzilla lore.
“It was impossible for us to destroy a city in the comic,” Borenstein noted. “If we had destroyed a city, by the time the film starts, a city has been destroyed, and so everyone knows. That would negate everything we had set up in the film, so we had to make it so that it would be captivating in it’s own right, but within this timeline.”
Though there are currently no announced plans for a continuing “Godzilla” comic book, Borenstein did say he has an affection for the “X-Files” nature of the book (and movie) organization The Monarch Project, which tracks movements by giant monsters.
And what about a certain Easter Egg in the movie? During one scene, briefly glimpsed in the foreground is an empty aquarium with an open chrysalis. A marking on masking tape notes that the occupant of the tank was named Mothra.
“I can’t say the Mothra Easter Egg is an indication of any specific plans for Mothra, though everyone has a fondness – I know I speak for Gareth, and I speak for Legendary – everyone has a great fondness for all the Toho characters,” Borenstein said.
Regardless of what direction the universe goes in, Borenstein does know he wants to keep it in the same world — and though that doesn’t mean a giant moth creature is out of the question, it does mean that it would need to make sense for the continuity set up by the first movie.
“If we’re fortunate enough to make a sequel, then I think the choice of what character that might be, whether it’s a Toho character or a new one, it’s always going to have to be dictated by finding a way in to that character,” Borenstein said, “that feels of a piece with the tone we’re establishing. So you asked earlier if picking a grounded tone is why we didn’t have, Ghidorah or whatever? Not really, because I think there is a way to take any of those characters and put a fresh spin on them that might feel more of a piece tonally with our film than it would with maybe a campier, light-hearted version.”
And where would Borenstein draw inspiration for this? From a surprising source.
“The same way Chris Nolan was so brilliantly able to create a Joker that felt of a piece in his dark and grounded reality,” Borenstein said on where he’d get inspiration for Mothra, or other classic characters, “whereas if you just watched the television series from the ’60s, the Batman shows, you would have said that was impossible. I think it’s possible.”