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Starship Troopers to Star Trek: Godzilla Blu-ray reveals King of the Monster’s cinematic influences
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is packed to burst with loving and organic nods to more than six decades of Toho films from Japan. And even when the all-out monster mash seemed like it couldn't fit anything else, director and co-writer Michael Dougherty stomped up and down on the proverbial kaiju skin suitcase until he was able to cram even more pop culture references into the movie — these ones paying homage to the general world of genre cinema.
With the latest Godzilla project dropping on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow (Tuesday, August 27), we decided to sift through all of the home release's special features to find the most shocking factoids and easter eggs that help shine a bright atomic light on the budding MonsterVerse over at Warner Bros. and Legendary. Godzilla won't face off against King Kong until next spring, but you can stave off your hunger for more creature feature mayhem by taking a deep dive into the stuff we learned from the King of the Monsters home release.
WARNING! The following contains major plot spoilers for Godzilla: King of the Monsters!
A number of science fiction, horror, and fantasy movies helped shape the ultimate look of King of the Monsters. For example, Dougherty reveals on the director's commentary that he went back to watch 1997's Starship Troopers for inspiration on how to make a giant bug frightening and expressive. To him, Paul Verhoeven's sardonic take on the seminal sci-fi novel by Robert A. Heinlein "nailed the giant bug genre." In the end, production added bioluminescence and a praying mantis-adjacent structure for the "Queen of the Monsters."
Spielberg fans will get a kick out of the fact that the film's central MacGuffin, the Orca (a device that mimics monster calls to keep them docile or aggressive), is a direct homage to Quint's boat in Jaws. This shark-related tribute is an extension from Gareth Edwards' Godzilla movie from 2014, where the central character had the surname "Brody." The ode to Spielberg continues with Mothra's heavenly glow that makes the human characters stop in their tracks and look upon her with awe, a deliberate creative decision meant to emulate the colorful spaceship from 1977's Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
"We really wanted to make sure that Mothra felt like something divine, that she wasn't just a big moth," Dougherty explains in the commentary. "That thousands of years ago, when ancient man first encountered Mothra, they would think that she was a goddess."
When the plot pivots to Antarctica, we're taken to Outpost 32, the Monarch facility that looks after a frozen "Monster Zero," aka King Ghidorah. According to Dougherty, the name of the clandestine outpost is meant as a hat tip to Outpost 31 in John Carpenter's 1982 remake of The Thing. In his mind, Outpost 32 became the government's main hub for weird and unexplained phenomena after 31 burned down, courtesy of the Molotov cocktails thrown by R.J. MacReady & co. Another reference to the Carpenter classic arrives when Godzilla rips off one of Ghidorah's heads and it grows right back in a severely gross way that is meant to recall Rob Bottin's disgustingly "visceral" creature effects on The Thing. Since Ghidorah is an alien, it makes a lot of sense that he'd have a similarly gross biology to that E.T.
One of the bigger twists that the film's marketing materials didn't give away is the fact that Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) is technically the bad guy in the story. While the director considers Emma a "very complicated antagonist" rather than a straight-up bad guy, the character's monologue that reveals her plan to awaken the Titans in order to save the world was inspired by 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
“There’s a scene in that film where they explain how the Genesis Device works. And the Genesis Device could take a lifeless planet and create a whole new ecosystem on a planet or a moon. I just love the idea that these giant monsters don’t just destroy things, but in the aftermath of their destruction, they could cause nature to reclaim an environment," Dougherty continues.
Hoping to add something new to the Toho canon (not an easy feat), Dougherty decided to show us where Godzilla goes every time he slinks back into the ocean after a fight. It turns out that his humble abode is an ancient and radioactive city that once nurtured a civilization that worshipped the Titans as deities, and even lived with them in harmonious symbiosis. As the Monarch sub plunges through the Hollow Earth portal, Dougherty reveals his inspirations for wanting to visit the titular monster in his undersea home:
"[It's] sort of a like a Jules Verne-style adventure. I just feel like we never see these kinds of scenes in big movies anymore, because it is usually so much about running, jumping, explosions, Infinity Gauntlets, and giant blue beams going into the sky. I miss the classic, almost Indiana Jones-style adventures where they enter strange new environments ... where you would enter mysterious new locations that had profound implications about who or what we are."
And finally, we come to the film's final scene where all of the remaining monsters bow to Godzilla, now the one true king and Alpha after dethroning Ghidorah with a destructive atomic blast in his "Burning" form. This last moment harkens back to Conan the Barbarian, particularly the sequence where Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) slices off the head of Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), holds it up, and throws it down. Godzilla establishes his dominance in a similar way by eating and then melting Ghidorah's last-living head.
"You knew who was boss from that point forward, you knew there was a new sheriff in town. This is Godzilla firmly establishing himself as the king of the monsters," finishes Dougherty.
Co-written by Dougherty and Zach Shields, Godzilla: King of the Monsters stars Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Ken Watanabe, David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, Zhang Ziyi, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Charles Dance, and Joe Morton.
Check back with SYFY WIRE tomorrow morning for an exclusive look at a featurette about Mothra on the home release!