A Changed World
After San Francisco's very public decimation by monsters, the world is likely a very different place. While the US military was doing its damnedest to keep the existence of Godzilla and other giant creatures a secret at the beginning of the movie, the events of the San Francisco battle have made these creatures a matter of public record. Chances are, there’ll be people who have things to say about that, and powerful people too. Politicians will have a whole new mess on their plates as they try to clean up the wreckage left from the San Francisco attack and keep the public quelled and assured. The military will likely be pressed to ramp up their efforts to deal with the threat of huge beasts as well. New technologies will be pursued and researched. Conventional weaponry had little effect on Godzilla and the MUTOs, and history’s already proven that nukes aren’t much good either. Likely, the military will have to pursue new avenues of science and technology to meet the looming threat of more monsters, and possibly even penetrate even deeper into nature’s hallowed ground. If Godzilla history has proven anything, it’s that this almost always adds up to more threats, and even more monsters to deal with.
“King of the Monsters, Savior of our City?”
While San Francisco TV news stations laud Godzilla as a hero at the end of his titular 2014 stompfest, chances are not everyone feels the same way. Those close to the MUTO conflict are probably more partial and sympathetic toward the King of the Monsters and understanding of his efforts to restore balance to nature and protect his territory. Those on the edges of the destruction, and the general public, probably don’t feel too at ease with a near-invincible giant monster now known to be lurking in the depths. The fact is that while Godzilla was out to protect and preserve - in sharp contrast to the MUTO’s instincts to spread, consume, and destroy - it wasn’t like he was trying to avoid stepping on buildings either. His entry to Honolulu left hundreds dead, and he pretty clearly toppled the Golden Gate Bridge. The simple fact is that this Godzilla is a hugely destructive force with tons of power at his disposal, and many, many people are going to be uncomfortable with that. The US military was already pretty hesitant to consider Godzilla an ally, and I can’t picture that changing. The divided opinions in the public and the military have serious potential as a compelling source of conflict in a sequel.
In all of his 60 years of existence, Godzilla’s always been a powerhouse, sporting a near invulnerability to conventional weaponry, regenerative power, and a thermonuclear reactor square in the heart of his body. Some of Godzilla’s most compelling stories and enemies have come of humankind’s efforts to unlock the unfathomable secrets of his body, and exploit the knowledge and power therein. Chances are after the rough battle with the MUTOs, there are plenty of stray Godzilla cells scattered all over San Francisco. A focused study of Godzilla’s cells and properties could be a great opportunity to lay some ground rules for this new universe, and open up a ton of interesting possibilities for new stories and creatures.
Though continuity between films was a unique mainstay in the Heisei series, the main cast of characters would always rotate between movies while supporting characters received continuing and expanding roles. This provided a sense of connection while keeping the slate mostly clean for new stories exploring the world of the series from a new perspective. Over the course of that series, we followed scientists, journalists, military men, and ordinary citizens as they got themselves tangled in the growing web of monsters and military weapons. Each unique role and occupation has granted viewers many a perspective on the series’ monster action.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Ford Brody was a soldier, which gave him a logical impetus to be at the heart of the destruction and allow us to witness the carnage firsthand. Gareth Edwards’ decision to show the monster destruction from a human POV was a new direction for this series, and one which I would argue was proven successful. I don’t really think we need to come back to Ford in a substantial way in the sequel; his story is wrapped up, and he effectively fulfilled his function in the narrative. Start fresh: give us another main character to follow into the fray with a new (and hopefully meatier) character arc to carry us through his or her story. A journalist would be a logical choice, especially if the public’s reaction to monsters is going to play a part in the story. A few other roles that could work just as well are: a parent in the middle of the chaos, a scientist whose research unknowingly holds the key to understanding monsters, or a politician. There are lots of possibilities to be explored.
An Expanded Role for Serizawa
Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa represented the heart of Godzilla in many ways, acting as voice of reason, a moral center, and a sort of mediator between Godzilla and humanity. We only really have an idea of the monster’s motives and intentions because Serizawa had deduced them first, and through the tantalizing hints we get, there’s a real sense of history between them. Serizawa is fascinated with Godzilla, and his growing up the son of a Hiroshima survivor gives him a unique empathy with the King of the Monsters and a different perspective from his more aggressive contemporaries in the military and science communities. Despite all that, we still don’t know too much about him. When and how did he begin studying Godzilla?How did his fascination evolve and grow? Why does he defend a giant creature who, no matter what his intent, can kill thousands simply by walking around? What perspective does he have now following the events of the San Francisco battle? There are a lot of loose ends with this character, and some great steps toward polishing up the narrative in this new series can be taken by tying them up.
More Monsters, Old Faces
The decision to give Godzilla an opponent to fight as opposed to going the solo route as is so often seen in reboots was a smart one that yielded exciting results. While I sincerely hope Godzilla 2 stretches the Big G’s role and screen time a bit farther than the first movie did, I think we all want to see him fight more monsters. The giant Godzilla skeleton discovered in the beginning of the film and the revelation that prehistoric Earth was inhabited by a number of radioactive beasts are a good enough basis for more monsters to appear in this world. A good original beastie is always welcome, but I think there are a lot of fans, myself included, who wouldn’t say no to the opportunity to see Mothra, Rodan, or King Ghidorah rendered with top notch special effects.
Toho already has a number of monsters that would fit snugly into this new series’ “radioactive earth” backstory, among them being Anguirus, Rodan, Baragon, Varan, and Megaguirus. I don’t know if a 100% traditional Mothra or King Ghidorah would translate into this more grounded film universe, but there are certainly elements that can be kept and adapted (keep Mothra a deity of a distant island, King Ghidorah can still destroy planets etc.) The histories of lots of classic Toho monsters have been remodeled and changed to fit new stories anyway, and as long as a few key elements are kept, there are lots of creative liberties available. If Legendary Pictures’ keen and respectful treatment of the classic Godzilla is any indication, these familiar faces should be in good hands should Toho choose to license them to the company.
Gareth Edwards and his crew had a solid start establishing a new universe for the Big G to wreck. Hopefully they’re able to further it and enrich it rather than awkwardly shoehorn in new conflicts and characters with slightly elevated stakes (lookin at you, Transformers.) With a monster sized budget and talent behind Godzilla, things could get even bigger and better if smart choices are made.