As the cinematic calendar gears up for the (now extended) summer season of Hollywood box office big-hitters, there’s one film on the way which has already caught the collective enthusiasm of genre fans. Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. are bringing a new version of the famed Japanese fable Godzilla to the big screen in May, under the direction of young UK-born talent, Gareth Edwards.
Yesterday we joined a packed and very excited screening room at The Mayfair to view footage from the film, with Edwards himself in attendance. This is the first Hollywood feature for the director, following his hugely-praised sci-fi/social commentary infused 2010 debut, Monsters. Packing the kind of budget which would have paid for that prior production several thousand times over,
Godzilla is a huge leap for Edwards, although judging by his fun and good-natured demeanour, it’s clear he wasn’t overly fazed by the experience.
“It was dream come true to do this film and the last three years have been the hardest and most exhausting, intense and exciting years I think anyone could ever have. We survived and we’ve come out of the other side with a film I’m immensely proud of.”
The clips presented to a rapt audience illustrated a mixture of shock and awe, alongside some smaller, intimate (though less affecting) moments from the film. As jaw-dropping as the scenes of mass destruction brought on by the humongous man-made beast were (the domino effect of planes being destroyed in an airport was a particularly chilling and imaginative moment of carnage) it’s clear Edwards hasn’t lost sight of what made Monsters so engaging.
Seeing lead Brian Cranston (whom Edwards claimed was chosen due to his work on Malcom in the Middle and an 1986 episode of Airwolf, and not because of his exploits as Walter White) in the middle of an emotionally-charged, life-or-death moment further hints at the dramatic weight which has been achieved outside of the CG mass destruction.
Above all however, this is still a major studio production which demands thrills on the greatest of scales, but even those (which includes a devastating tidal wave due caused by the monster’s appearance on land) look a cut above the usual disaster overkill engineered by the Bay’s and Emmerich’s of the cinematic world. Former effects whiz Edwards shows his experience here, and there’s a real thoughtfulness to the destruction. The Godzilla in this version is also clearly the biggest in size to have ever graced the screen
“WETA in New Zealand did all the designs for Godzilla, and it was a back and forth process until we could rotate him from every angle and feel like there’s nothing we’d want to change. I’m really happy with how he turned out.”
Edwards chatted about the reasons behind him coming on-board such a well-known creation, and the difficulties initially faced:
“I think the reason why it’s lasted [Godzilla] has lasted so long is because you have an infinite canvas. It not like others franchises where you have a particular story you have to tell over and over again. With Godzilla you can kinda do anything you want, and that was paralysing to begin. We brainstormed it for ages and circles around a million different ideas. It probably took us a good year and a half to land on the story which felt right for everybody. At the heart of our movie, which is also there in the original, is the idea of man versus nature. If you mess with it, you’re going to lose.”
When asked about how the challenges differ on a huge-scale project like Godzilla to that of a low-budgeted affair like Monsters:
“If you put a list together of the pros and cons of making both a low-budget and big-budget movie, just swap them over. Everything that is easy to do when there are just three of you [on the crew] is really hard when there are 400 people on the production.
Everything that’s really hard to do when you only have ten pounds is really easy when you’re got millions to spend. The real difficulty and hardest aspect in any filmmaking process is to try and tell a gripping story that you really care about the outcome of. It doesn’t matter if you have ten pence or 200 million dollars, it’s just as difficult. We focused our time on getting it right.”
It remains to be seen if Edwards has managed to completely balance the demands of the popcorn crowd with those audiences looking for some heart and brains amongst the spectacle, but the prognoses looks very promising indeed. Judging by the footage, there’s a very real possibility we could see a genuine contender for film of the summer before the season gets fully into swing. Humanity may have yet another reason to fear for its existence.