Making a Godzilla Movie: a Seven Part Guide

Photo: John Stanowski,

Photo: John Stanowski,

Hello, big-budget filmmakers! As summer approaches, I am sure that you are all ready for another opportunity to destroy great swaths of our culture and civilization — on film, of course. And I’m not here to stop you, but instead to inspire you! Let me humbly suggest that you pick Godzilla for your latest 90 Minutes Wanton Destruction. You see, making a Godzilla movie isn’t all that difficult. There are only a few clear-cut elements that you need to utilize in order to create another movie starring humanity’s favorite fictional killing machine.

Part I. Intro

The film’s introduction is one of the most important elements (besides Godzilla, of course), as well as one of the most inflexible. It must be a montage of Pacific Island nuclear bomb tests. This will serve as both an origin story as well as a throwback to the original anti-nuclear genesis of Godzilla. And no, having an explicitly anti-nuclear viewpoint isn’t necessary anymore because this intro, no matter how ambiguous, will cover that for you. (Nowadays, nuclear weapons and nuclear energy aren’t prescient enough topics to warrant possibly alienating your audience over, so just sweep those topics under the rug for the remainder of the film.)

Side note: In a just world, the Pacific island nations that endured these nuclear tests would get royalties every time a film includes footage of some foreign force obliterating their island paradise. Unless they have forgotten about it.

Part II. Giant Footprints

Now we cut forward to the modern day, or perhaps the recent past. We’re still in the Pacific, but now on a fishing vessel or an island which has just come under attack. The investigators find teeth marks on the hull or a series of giant footprints in the forest. See, you can’t just come out and show Godzilla. Besides the fact that it’s against the law[1], it ruins the mood and is a major turnoff for this most famous of Kaiju. We may already know what he looks like through cultural osmosis, but you still need to take it slow, revealing damage or footprints first before moving on to feet, ankles (scandalous), or an ominous tail disappearing behind a building.

Part III. Outsiders

This brings us to a boring but necessary part: the actors. I know, I know, we all want to get to the destruction, but you need to have some semblance of plot before you get to the fightin’. Perhaps a tragic loss during a monster-instigated disaster, a brooding knowledge of a dark conspiracy, or the return of a biologist’s old flame. This is the stuff that you’ll piece together haphazardly and force the audience to endure before the computer graphics team earns their paycheck.

One important note here: don’t let the ladies run the show. Whether you’ve picked a good or bad actress to participate in your human-drama-intermission between bouts of explosions, make sure you give her as little as possible to work with. For example, if you’ve established that she’s a doctor / nurse, make sure that she never actually feels the need to use her years of experience to help others as people lay wounded and dying behind her. Use these scenes, instead, as an opportunity for her to add some crying to her demo reel.

Part IV. A Night on the Town

By now we’ve given the audience a tantalizing peek at Godzilla, followed by a tedious and poorly written exposition about characters who might as well remain nameless. Time to give the people what they’ve been waiting for. Pick a city, any city, as long as it is a) on a large body of water (no, the Great Salt Lake doesn’t count. Godzilla would just float) and b) in the USA (what, you seriously think that people Americans will feel bad when Manila gets destroyed??).

If you can also contrive some scenario in which there is a monster elsewhere in the heartland of the USA then go for it! As a Hollywood producer, it’s good to blow up a random city from time to time as an exercise in learning about places that aren’t Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. Pick the shiniest landmarks and boom boom boom. You really can’t mess this part up. When done correctly, this will account for at least 50% of the film’s running time.

If you’re feeling especially ambitious, make Godzilla the good monster in this fight…as long as there is a huge amount of collateral damage to any (non-zero) number of US metropolises while fighting said fight.

Part V. Even the Score

Okay, so we need to wrap this thing up. Godzilla and other miscellaneous monsters have been decimating at least one American city and now it is time to get some payback. Up until this point the military has been shooting expensive weapons quite haphazardly and, if you’re doing it right, blowing up a good amount of the city on its own. But now they — or perhaps some other monster fightin’ force, if you want to mock the military as much as possible — will receive a pep-talk from one of the…sigh…human actors — preferably a no-nonsense, incredibly dim-witted yet effective kind of character. After a few more minutes of explosions, we are ready for our endgame

Part VI. Fin…or is it (dum dum dum)

Godzilla dies. Or perhaps she is seriously wounded but not actually dead (does anybody know how to give CPR to a giant lizard?). Or perhaps it’s just a nap. Point is, we need to “think” that Godzilla is dead. We already know full well that Godzilla isn’t Dead because this film series will never end, but we can and will pretend for a minute or two while you have the human people act out their reunion and show extras walking around the rubble in a daze.

If Godzilla isn’t actually dead, he simply gets up and walks off, or something equally silly else happens (the audience is still in a daze from all of the explosions so they likely won’t remember the specifics anyway). Otherwise, he’s dead and we need an ominous shot of a hatching egg or a childzilla eating a whale or a fully grown ‘zilla chilling out in an undisclosed location. Gotta set up the sequel, you know (Godzilla II: Beach Vacation — It was all fun and games until Mr. Gojira received the bill for room service).

Which leads me to…

Part VII. Repeat

Start preparing for the sequel by returning to Part I of this guide. Better yet, print this out, twist, and tape it together like a Möbius strip. It’ll help you to not stray too far from the design, which you may do at your own peril. Nobody wants to end up making another Pacific Rim! If that film taught us one thing, it’s that the domestic audience doesn’t like it when monster movies break tropes, or refuse to cater to an America-centric worldview, or *gasp* have people with funny accents (unless it falls under the ever-important Jean Reno exception).

Just stick to this plan and everything will be destroyed all right.