[Photographs by Carlos Duncan]
Ohayo goza-imasu, my fellow Fridge Nukers! Bradfield here, reporting from, well, the nuclear zone. [Not a fridge in sight, though. We are safe.]
I’ll say it up front – I’m a long time fan of Gojira, King of Monsters – to the point that I don’t even mind Roland Emmerich’s film, the only problem being the branding. [That is to say, don’t call it “Godzilla,” and it’s a pretty good riff on Godzilla.] So while the words “Western Re-Boot of Godzilla,” don’t throw me into a blind rage, I do raise an eyebrow. And if the GODZILLA ENCOUNTER at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International is any indication, it’s a sentiment that Legendary Pictures is well aware of.
Comic-Con Exclusives don’t always come in the form of merchandise. And sneak peaks for the biggest and best movies of the upcoming year don’t always occur in Hall H and Ballroom 20. To stir up interest in their upcoming Godzilla re-boot, Legendary Pictures occupied an empty building in The Gaslamp Quarter, transforming it into a fully immersive experience, announcing as loudly and clearly to Godzilla fans everywhere, “We get it. The Master of Monsters is back!”
The cost? Nothing – provided one had a Comic-Con badge. A respectful nod to the fans who’d traveled from the four corners of the Earth to get their geek on, and possible doubters who have been fuming for fifteen years. If everybody could go, everybody would go.
It also assures an audience that isn’t just going there for something to do. People whose love for the Big Guy is mighty. And for the love and appreciation of Godzilla, fans were justly rewarded – both in the thorough immersion of the overall experience, and a first glimpse at Godzilla version… I don’t know what we’re up to now. 3.0?
It began with a queue lined with hazard markers, nuclear warning signs, and police tape – a miniature “Disaster Area” in the center of one of the most beautiful cities in Southern California. A quick briefing — “When the sirens sound, please do not linger in Tokyo!”
“Okay. Sounds reasonable to me. Wait… what?”
And I was in “Tokyo.” No expense was spared in transforming a rather small space into a reasonable facsimile of a section of Tokyo street like, well, you’d see in a Godzilla movie. Right down to a functioning ramen bar, at which participants could grab a bowl of ramen while they watched reports of seismic disturbances and nuclear signatures off the coast of San Diego on miniature TV screens.
Then came the siren. [Note: from this point, no pictures were allowed.]
Being the kind of reporter who makes a point of following instructions generally works well for me. People are happy, and I don’t require a lot of handholding at events. Sometimes, I’m the first guy into the Decontamination Chamber… Then again, after a mad race down the San Diego Freeway to make our scheduled time, [Which we didn’t make, but were still kindly accommodated by event organizer, Adam Fenton.] being spritzed with cool air and atomized water wasn’t such a bad thing.
From there, we were ushered into a Command Center by “Soldiers,” where according to the monitors, the situation at the Coast was growing worse. I have to note the attention to detail here. Godzilla movies operate on a heightened reality. American military shouldn’t look exactly right, nor should it be completely wrong. Similarly, the sets themselves shouldn’t be as committed to reality as they are a more “comic book” reality of what somebody with no concept of how these things really work imagines a Command Center to be. So to that end, and right down to a scientist barking orders in Japanese to a frenzied assistant, once again, I really felt like I was in a Godzilla movie.
But there was no time to sit around and bathe in my Toho dream come true. Though everyone tried to keep mum, it was apparent: something bad was happening. The King had arrived.
Our trip in a service elevator was cut short by a power outage. Our only option: wait it out in an already ravaged office, and hope for the best. No sudden moves. Just wait.
The BOOM!!! BOOM!!! BOOM!!! Of the Mighty One’s footsteps, with accompanying seismics.
And there he was. Right in front of me, a sighting second only to Stan Lee last week that gave me genuine goosebumps.
I think it’s important, at this juncture, to convey my impressions of the look Godzilla, as it’s sure to be the biggest question on the minds of those who got into neither the Legendary panel, nor the Godzilla Encounter. Without going into drastic detail and risking spoiling it for everyone, I’ll say that the look of the monster is endemic to an authentic Godzilla movie as the elements I’ve already mentioned. So… this Godzilla looks like Godzilla. Yes, the monster of the 50’s doesn’t look exactly like the monster of the more recent movies. That’s my point: Godzilla’s look evolves. So, obstinate hardliners might find nits to pick, but as for me, I’m very happy to see him back, looking as he should.
At first he ignored us, preferring to mosey up the street, slashing at a couple buildings with his mighty claw, not so much in a direct attack, but out of indifference and frustration. The tail took care of the lower floors. And then he turned – we’d been spotted!
He walked straight up to the building and peered in, and then, again, faithful to so many Godzilla movie moments, the eyes lit and he bellowed flames at the windows. [Thank you, plexi-glass!] And simply walked away. We’d been warned.
So there you have it. Monster Destroys San Diego. Good Time Had by All. Reporter Impressed.
At the end of the day, I’m a picky Godzilla fan, and at present, I’m a happy, picky Godzilla fan. I’ll be there, front and center, May 16th of next year. I hope you will be, too.