SpaceGodzilla is threatening to plunge the world into an endless night. But when Godzilla arrives to face the cosmic tyrant, he quickly discovers that this creature from another planet not only shares his face, it holds a dark secret — and the key to his final destiny.
It was an exciting time growing up as a Godzilla fan in the 1990s. To indulge in our monster-smashing hobbies, most of us relied exclusively on our VHS tapes or catching a Godzilla movie on a Saturday morning broadcast. Before the advent of the internet, Godzilla movie news was sparse. Sure, we had our ways of looking forward to upcoming monster movie adventures. Sometimes we’d hear about an upcoming movie in a magazine article, or the first movie trailer would take us completely by surprise and rock our world.
GODZILLA (1998) was many things, but it helped reinvigorate interests in the Godzilla series by introducing the Heisei series to Western audiences. One of these films was 1994’s Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla. It’s not a good movie by any means; however, it’s a story rife with unique ideas and concepts. One of them was the titular monster himself—SpaceGodzilla.
For all its faults, it seems like the film’s most egregious failing was its convoluted origin for SpaceGodzilla. It mentioned Godzilla cells somehow finding themselves adrift in the vacuum of space before being sucked into a black hole. These cells subsequently assimilated crystallized organisms before popping out a white hole. After being exposed to supernovae, the most horrific monster origin was born.
I was inspired.
In the very beginning stages of this film, I wanted it to be the next installment of my Monster Sightings series. But as I continued to storyboard, it became clear that what I wanted to do would neither fit tonally nor narratively. At any point in the day, a giant monster could suddenly appear to run amok. But SpaceGodzilla changed that.
Several years ago, a talented Godzilla artist named Matt Frank launched a series of ambitious kaiju revamps on his DeviantArt page. In one of our MSN Messenger chats, I pitched a new origin for the cosmic saurian, one that has now become a new movie on my YouTube channel.
If you wish to avoid spoilers, please watch Space Godzilla: Prodigal Son before reading any further.
One thing I wanted to do was add greater emphasis to Space in SpaceGodzilla. He needed to be more than just a blue-glowing Godzilla clone from outer space. We know in SpaceGodzilla’s origin a mysterious crystallized organism assimilated Godzilla cells. But what if the organism mentioned above had a mind of its own? What if it had an insidious plan? We’ll call this entity the Cosmic Parasite.
When it comes to conquering worlds, hostile aliens follow a simple playbook: 1) Invade, 2) Assimilate and 3) Conquer. In most stories, their invasions fail because the heroes rally together and win the day. But what would happen if the hostile alien invaders won? That’s what I think happened with the Cosmic Parasite. Even though this was left ambiguous in the movie, such an origin story was my thought process heading into production.
After conquering this unknown world, the Cosmic Parasite found itself stranded and running out of time. The local star would soon go supernova, sealing its fate. Desperate, it reached out across many light-years and found a suitable host on Earth: Godzilla. But instead of it being Godzilla caught in the Dimension Tide’s crossfire—it was his son Junior.
Initially, things went from being a bad dream to a high-octane nightmare. The original ending was so depressing I thought about suspending the project indefinitely. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, and I’m delighted with the final picture.
I spoke of the original ending, but there was an alternate ending I liked. Godzilla vanquished SpaceGodzilla and, in doing so, liberated his son (who shrunk down to his Junior state). But victory came at a terrible price. Godzilla sustained horrific life-threatening injuries, and the Earth was a desolate wasteland.
Stop motion movies are fun to make, but they require a mountain of time, work, and innovation. Every new project brings new challenges. Traditionally, I like to share a scene from one of my movies and help break it down.
My primary visual effects/editing software is Adobe After Effects. Suppose you’re in a precarious position where you can’t film on location. In that case, I’d recommend investing in Adobe Stock or similar asset providers. For sound design, I use Final Cut Pro. I use my iPhone to take high-resolute pictures of my monster subjects (for this project, they’re all S.H. Monsterarts figurines). I make slight changes (e.g., a little head tilt here, an arm shifts there). Usually, each image will last two frames. When combined, it simulates movement.
When the stop motion filming process begins, I make sure the Resolution and Dimensions are high (e.g., 3840 x 2160). This way, in post-production, I can make it look like I’ve enlarged the video without losing its quality. Of course, when you add in the aspect ratio of your choosing, it can make it hard to get what you want.
We’ll analyze one of the most dramatic moments from Space Godzilla: Prodigal Son, where father and son reunite in a city frozen over.
Here is the original storyboard. Like writing a script, you don’t want to add too much detail unless it enhances the story. Part of the creative process is leaving room for expansion and adaptation.
Through Adobe Stock, I found the right image to serve as the backdrop for this scene. It’s snowing, so the snowy rooftops helped with that immersion.
At this point in the story, Seattle—and the Earth as a whole—have seen better days. I digitally replaced the skyline and water.
Next, I add in background crystals. I went with several different crystal designs to add diversity. In my mind, they all serve other functions. The water is now icy.
SpaceGodzilla has arrived. You might have noticed that the crystals glow when their master is near.
It was a little tricky incorporating Godzilla and SpaceGodzilla because they’re several hundred meters apart. The angle made this more challenging. Godzilla is moving towards SpaceGodzilla in this shot, so from our POV, he kept getting smaller and smaller. I had to synchronize a few cutaway shots with this scene, so the timing had to be just right.
OK, some significantly noticeable changes. First, we see plumes of smoke made in the wake of Godzilla’s march. Second, you may have noticed a massive crystal has gutted the Moon. The jury is still out on whether or not it stole the attention away from the monsters. I am pleased with how the Moon reflects on the icy water.
We now had additional fields of crystals.
Added a fog layer.
Snow! I love doing snow effects. It adds fluidity to the scene and hits home because Godzilla and SpaceGodzilla are fighting in a seemingly endless winter.
Godzilla and SpaceGodzilla are closer together now. The crystal missiles closing in on Godzilla is easily the most striking visual element. Since this is an extreme wide shot, I didn’t need to make the crystals move at blurring speed (as they would in closer shots).
Using Red Giant’s Supercomp, I can take all the above effects and immerse them into the desired composite. There is an abundance of light wrap, which helps absorb your subject(s) into the picture. The crystals emit a soft fog-like glow. Godzilla and SpaceGodzilla look like they were naturally part of the picture before I made any changes.
Overall, I’m happy with how things turned out. When we compare the final result to the storyboard concept, the former exceeded the latter’s expectations by a longshot.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but having a kid changes everything. I expected many things to happen, but I didn’t expect how being a parent would transform my artistic vision. My son was born in February 2020. He’s become the light tower of my life. So, the thought of Godzilla struggling to find a way to save his son hit close to home. It motivated me to find a way to humanize Godzilla and find a better resolution.
Since its premiere, the general reception seems that Space Godzilla: Prodigal Son is an emotional journey. Some have expressed how surprised they were that toys could somehow elicit so many emotions. I submit to you today that no matter how proud I am of my movie, it didn’t make the viewer feel what they did. No, what it succeeded in doing is helping them connect with themselves. It’s incredible how we can look at a work of pure fiction and feel waves of emotion—and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
When life gets you down, just keep swimming.