The following contains spoilers from the Dec. 15 episode of Apple TV+’s Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.
Godzilla came back in a very big way in Episode 6 of Apple TV+’s Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.
In the 1955 timeline, Keiko (played by Mari Yamamoto), Lee (Wyatt Russell) and Bill (Anders Holm) found themselves on Hateruma aka “Monster” Island, meeting up with a scientist who had in effect developed “Titan bait.” And just when the trio feared they’d met a dead end, who emerges from the drink but Godzilla himself — revealing to the trio (including a pleased Keiko) that the big guy in fact didn’t get nuked off of Bikini Atoll.
Juxtaposed with that storyline, Cate (Anna Sawai), Kentaro (Ren Watabe), May (Kiersey Clemons) and 90-something Lee (Kurt Russell) in 2015 followed Hiroshi’s map to the middle of the Sahara Desert in Algeria, where they spotted Hiroshi himself, alive and well! He did not wave back kindly to them from afar, though; instead, he frantically waved them away, clearly knowing that Godzilla was about to put in an appearance, nearly swatting the heroes with a wag of his big-ass tail.
TVLine spoke with Monarch VFX supervisor Sean Konrad — whose previous credits include the films Godzilla (2014) and Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), plus TV’s For All Mankind and Ms. Marvel — about bringing the OG kaiju to life on a small-screen budget/timetable.
TVLINE | What’s the secret to delivering CGI monsters on a TV budget?
You know, it’s hugely challenging. We have a great budget, and we had a great timetable to work on this stuff, but you’re still trying to figure out how, instead of servicing 2-1/2 hours of [theatrical] content, you’re doing eight with similar-sized budgets.
One of the things that helps us is that this is an emotional story, and our set pieces are really driven by the emotional journeys that our characters are going through. So we’re centering the action around them, our human characters. We’re making their fears manifest in these monsters, and the trick of it is you need to make sure that every single shot you have nails the characterization of the monsters, makes them scary, makes it punchy. So, you use that economy to your advantage and make sure that no shot is a throwaway. Everything needs to be telling the story in a really essential way.
TVLINE | Were there any efficiencies to be had given the movies that have been made in the past decade? Is there, like, a “base code” for Godzilla that you get to work off of as a starting point?
Yeah. So, Legendary [Pictures] at the end of a project will collect all of the assets from all the [VFX] vendors that worked on everything. Like, Godzilla from [the] 2014 [film] sits on a drive at Legendary, and so does the King of the Monsters [version] of him. Now, sometimes those archives aren’t the greatest thing in the world and have to do a bit of tweaking to bring it back, but we worked with the same companies that worked on the feature films.
[Lead VFX studio] MPC worked on Godzilla 2014 and did the Golden Gate Bridge sequence, which meant that we could say [for Cate’s Episode 1 flashback], “Hey, all the same cars are used in both scenes, and the same tank that was on the bridge while the cable was collapsed is there, so it’s the same Godzilla….” Things always change, though — like, the whole way that they render and shade the materials has changed from when that movie happened to now.
TVLINE | So the flashbacks that Cate had, that was all new?
That’s right. All-new scene. We had toyed around with reusing some footage. Like, as Godzilla is tearing through the bridge, there’s a bunch of school buses on the bridge that are being used to evacuate children from schools into Oakland—
TVLINE | And now we know that Cate was on one of those buses.
And while the movie was a story of one of the buses that gets away, this is a story of one of the buses that doesn’t. And that starts to become a [challenge] at a certain point. All of your coverage [from the movie] is from the opposite side, so Godzilla would be on the wrong side of the bridge if we intercut that. Originally, it was going to be just flashbacks to the movie, but then we were like, “Well, this doesn’t really work, we need to do an actual scene,” and [director] Matt Shakman came up with a concept of how to tell that.
TVLINE | Did I see online that some fans refer to the Godzilla that you’re working with as “thicc Godzilla”?
I mean they’re both pretty thicc. The version of Godzilla that’s in the 2014 film, the differences between him and King of the Monsters are that he’s been really damaged between that movie and the other movie — his spines have been damaged, like a deer whose antlers get chopped off. It grows back, but it grows back differently, right? So, you get these more curvy spines rather than really angular ones. And then there are some other details, like the foot’s a little different, and there’s a little chunk of the tail that’s been cut off…. But he’s still the same thicc boi!
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