Review by C.J. Bunce
One of the benefits of behind-the-scenes and making of/art books for major studio movies is that anyone diving into the production process for the first time can usually learn plenty about the stages of filmmaking from pre-production to final product. Just pick a film you like and jump right in. Abbie Bernstein′s The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is no exception, but it will be particularly fun for anyone who is a fan of concept art and mega-monsters. It’s also weighted toward pre-production and the pre-visualization process. Readers wouldn’t expect a film with giant creatures to be filmed with practical sets, but with a modern studio Godzilla movie filmed in the U.S., you automatically expect a predominantly CGI movie. The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is filled with trial pieces from artists showcasing the process of turning the classic Japanese kaiju characters into something new and different.
Fans of Scott Chambliss will want to read what guided him to make the choices and decisions for the look of the film. Chambliss has his own style, and when watching the film my reaction was how many sets, and specifically the color and lighting choices, felt like Star Trek 2009, a film in which Chambliss also served as production designer. Chambliss discusses the visual tricks he used to make Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorra appear to have immense scale, but also appear real. Several effects companies worked on components of this film, each trying to make their creations the best of the pack without competing against each other–the goal being to create the best final product they could. Some artists worked on familiar software programs, combining photographs and 3D imaging of locations like San Francisco’s Union Square to combine with actors in Atlanta. Others made sculptures of each creature–in a variety of materials–and then those sculptures were scanned and manipulated into what the audience sees on screen by others, after even more creators contributed their colors, texture, lighting, and other touches.
The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is a great companion book to Mark Cotta Vaz’s Godzilla: The Art of Destruction, the behind the scenes look at Gareth Edward’s 2014 Godzilla film that was the starting point for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Simon Ward’s The Art of Kong: Skull Island. All of these massive monsters will come together soon in Godzilla vs. King, so it’s a good time to be a fan of kaiju. For fans of the new Legendary Pictures movie, it’s a good opportunity to understand the characters better from those who created them, and learn more from actors about their experiences on set, including Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Elizabeth Ludlow, Thomas Middleditch, Anthony Ramos, and Bradley Whitford.
Creators who worked on the film and explain the steps of the filmmaking process include director/writer Michael Dougherty, writer/executive producer Zach Shields, cinematographer Lawrence Sher, production designer Scott Chambliss, visual effects supervisor Guillaume Rocheron, costume designer Louise Mingenbach, set decorator Amanda Moss Sorino, special effects supervisor Eric Frazier, illustrator Matthew R. Cunningham, concept designer George Hull, creature designers Simon Lee and Timothy Martin, and pre-visualization artist Rpin Suwannath.
For anyone who likes to browse pictures of Godzilla and his frenemies, this book is for you. The Art of Godzilla: King of the Monsters is now available from Titan Books in an attractive full-color, hardcover volume. Find it here at Amazon. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is in theaters now.