Comic-Con: Legendary's 'Godzilla Encounter' Brings the Monster to San Diego

Godzilla Upside Down Car - H 2013
Legendary Entertainment
In a preview for select press, the studio revealed an immersive experience designed to get fans excited about the lizard movie reboot

Legendary Pictures is betting big on monsters.

While its Pacific Rim may have not set the box office on fire (at least domestically), the company is not slowing down with Godzilla, an upcoming creature feature starring the famous Japanese city-crusher.

Not only will Godzilla — which just wrapped principal photography this past weekend — have a major presence in Hall H at Comic-Con on Saturday, Legendary is putting its best clawed foot forward with the Godzilla Encounter, which select press were invited to preview Tuesday night.

The encounter, set in a warehouse in San Diego’s trendy and boozy downtown area known as the Gaslamp District, definitely is worth visiting.

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You’re greeted with police-uniformed men who take you inside a re-created melange of Tokyo that — according to Barnaby Legg of Five33, the ad agency recently acquired by Legendary that is behind the encounter — is designed to “take the Godzilla legacy and physicalize it.”

Hence there’s a TV store called Tanaka TV shop, named after Tomoyumi Tanaka, the producer of the original Godzilla movies. The storefront features old televisions stacked on top of each other, each playing a different Godzilla movie. But there’s a little twist. The 1950s sets play the 50s flicks, the 60s tubes run the 60s movies, etc.

There’s a movie costume and a prop from the original movie. There’s a section that pays tribute to all the manga and comics Godzilla has inspired, as well as the toys and fashions.

There’s a ramen bar with Japanese men drinking beer and reading newspapers (actors who don't break from their roles … or language). Explore closely and you’ll see a bowl of little origami Godzillas. And yes, you can take one.

Before you know it, there’s an alert. Tokyo is under attack. The Japanese men are telling you to go hide while police appear out of nowhere and usher you into a bunker. Godzilla is hitting the coast.

From there, you’re taken into an “elevator” that is supposed to scurry you to a helipad, but wouldn’t you know it, the monster attack causes you to be let off on the floor of an office building. And then you’re face to face with the rampaging radioactive beast.

I've been told that the Godzilla visitors see is not from the upcoming movie, but it is effective nonetheless. And from the scientists to the policemen to the ramen-eaters, the actors are intense. The whole thing is fun, although it’s pretty short.

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The encounter is somewhat similar to what Disney did with Tron Legacy a few years ago, re-creating that movie’s look with props and an old arcade. But this new experience has a bit of theme-park fun thrown in.

The Godzilla Encounter joins an Insidious Chapter 2 experience and obstacle course The Walking Dead Escape, now in its second year. It seems that these immersive, modern versions of carnival events are the latest evolution of promotion at the ever-growing Comic-Con.

And while Legendary will have to wait until next year to see if its stunt has an impact on Godzilla box office, you can’t say that the company doesn't like to put on a great show.

E-mail: Borys.Kit@THR.com
Twitter: @Borys_Kit