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Nonfiction/Fiction Godzilla stomps his way into bookstores, too

  • Washington Post
  • Published Sunday, May 25, 2014, at 12 a.m.

Photos

Godzilla can’t be stopped – or contained in the movie theater.

Gareth Edwards’ new cinematic treatment of the radioactive lizard, which reportedly chomped down $93 million last weekend, has also unleashed two authorized books on a helpless populace.

“Godzilla: The Art of Destruction,” by Mark Cotta Vaz, offers everything that diehard fans of the movie could want. In three sections – “Dreaming,” “Conjuring,” “Creation” – the glossy photobook from Insight Editions ($45) contains fire-breathing detail about the monsters, the storyboards and the special effects, along with an introduction by Edwards, a 12-page “Monster Gatefold” and a movie poster.

The publisher claims that Edwards worked closely on the creation of this book. Insight senior editor Chris Prince says, “Gareth understands that fans want to see material that takes them beyond the experience of the movie. He was very keen not only to include art that formed the basis for the key scenes in ‘Godzilla,’ but also to include imagery that didn’t make it into the film. Like many movie fans, he’s very interested in the ideas that don’t make the cut and why filmmakers choose one idea over another. As a result, he made sure we had access to the broadest range of material possible, from the roughest sketches to beautiful pieces of concept art.”

For fans who really, really want to go beyond the experience of the movie, the studio has also authorized an official novelization: “Godzilla” was released Tuesday (Titan; paperback, $8).

The author, Greg Cox, has written media tie-in books for 20 years. (Perhaps you read his novelizations of “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Man of Steel.”) It’s an unusual alcove of the literary world, with its own special challenges and demands.

“You almost never get an advance look at the actual movie,” Cox says, “which is usually being filmed at the same time that you’re writing the novelization. You’re usually working from an early version of the script, plus whatever visual reference is available at the time.”

Godzilla can do what he wants, but the writer of a novelization can’t. “The studios prefer that you stick to the script as closely as possible,” Cox says. Even the tone of the movie is important to catch just right. “This Godzilla movie approaches the subject matter in a fairly serious matter, so I wouldn’t want the book to feel light or breezy or campy. Invariably, there are going to be minor discrepancies between the novelization and the movie, just because you’re writing an 80,000-word description of a movie you haven seen yet. But, ideally, fans of the movie get to experience the story again in a different medium.”

So the novelizer has to exercise his creativity subtly, even as a giant lizard stomps around crushing buildings. Cox knew he couldn’t compete with the movie’s special effects, but he could “try to go a little deeper into the heads of the main characters and tell the story from their point of view.” In addition to re-watching the old movie versions for inspiration, Cox kept the soundtrack from the original Toho films blaring away as he was writing.

For Cox, this project was something of a lifelong dream. He grew up in the ’60s, the son of a monster movie buff who made sure he saw all the classics. “There’s just something deeply satisfying – on a primal level – about watching an unstoppable beast rise up from the sea to lay waste to entire cities,” he says. “I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there’s a Godzilla action figure sitting on my desk.”

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