News came through this week that Edwards has been signed up to direct Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla reboot. The last Godzilla movie, Emmerich’s big budget destructathon was criticised for poor plot, weak characterisations, and, well, was lacking everything that Monsters did well.
Gareth Edwards, then, is the perfect choice to take the reigns. On the face of it at least. However, looking deeper, it looks to me that it might be a mistake, on both sides.
There are several different scenarios here. The first is that Edwards has been selected because the makers are hoping to put out a much more measured, dramatic relationship driven piece, much like Monsters. I have a couple of problems with this. The first, is that if this is really the case, if they are effectively asking for a remake of Edward’s own film, what is the point? The film already exists. Edwards did a fantastic job, and to ask him to do the same thing again is ludicrous.
It may be that they feel that not enough people saw Monsters, and that with a healthy budget Edwards can improve upon the formula, and the name value of the franchise can draw in the audiences that Monsters did not get. Fine in theory, but when the mainstream movie going public go to see a Godzilla movie, they want destruction and spectacle. Those that did not enjoy Edward’s debut were the people that went in expecting exactly this spectacle, that left disappointed at what they felt was a slow, boring film that did not live up to its promise of the title creatures.
It is certainly possible that Edwards can come up with a balance of the two elements, which would be the ideal, but remember he has only made one film. It takes a lot of skill and experience to craft the perfect action movie, and this would be a big ask for the first time filmmaker.
It could also go the other way of course. It is possible that the reason for the focus on the characters in Monsters, and the developing relationship between them, was purely due to financial constraints. With a big budget behind him, there is nothing to stop Edwards going crazy with an overblown disaster movie much like the last incarnation. This will most probably will not be the outcome, but the point is that Edwards is untested. One great movie does not make a great filmmaker. Donnie Darko was a universally praised debut from Richard Kelly, but his work has flopped since. Would a Godzilla movie be too much pressure to put on a fledgling feature director?
My biggest fear is that the choice is a cost saving exercise. It may be that the producers saw how well Edwards did with a minuscule budget, and are hoping he can work financial wonders with Godzilla, crafting a masterpiece at a fraction of the sum of the usual Hollywood action/disaster film. If this is the case, it could end in disaster.
As I said earlier, the wider cinematic audience go into a Godzilla movie expecting to see the monster, and plenty of him. Edwards could use every trick in the book to keep the costs down, and could well put together a fantastic, dramatic film. This would however leave a large percentage of the audience disappointed, and could well end up damaging Edwards’ reputation. You can make the most interesting of films, but if audiences leave angry and frustrated because they feel they were mis sold, it can do damage to reputations.
Of course, this is all very negative. Legendary Pictures have offered a promising, talented young filmmaker the chance to show his work on a much bigger stage. They could have made a lazy choice, employing a Michael Bay-like director of brainless action movies, so they should be commended for making a bold choice. I think we are starting to see producers and studios put a bit more thought into who they get to work on their revenue drawing franchises.
We’ve recently seen Darren Aronofsky named as director of the forthcoming Wolverine film, and Michel Gondry’s take on The Green Hornet will be released very soon. It is good to see more cerebral directors charged with restoring respectability to big budget blockbusters, and I’m looking forward to more choices like this being made. Also, with Edwards’ visual effects background, he is the perfect director to assist his actors in visualising a behemoth that isn’t there on set.
I don’t necessarily think Gareth Edwards is the wrong choice for the Godzilla movie, but there are a lot of factors involved. It depends greatly on the studio’s motives, what they want from the movie, and how much they will interfere with Edward’s work. If they do give him a big budget, they will be under pressure to produce a blockbuster movie that appeals to a large audience. If they leave the director to make the film that he wants, it may not be the one that the demographic audience for a monster movie wants to see.
I was a big fan of Monsters, and very keen to see what Edwards would come up with next. I can’t help but find myself disappointed that he has agreed to this particular project. a Godzilla movie can be great, and Edwards definitely has the potential to do a fantastic job. I think, though, that I would rather have seen him approach something different, a smaller project without the microscope effect of the awaiting fans and media. With a franchise as famous as Godzilla, there will be a lot of anticipation for what is coming. When a filmmaker approaches that difficult second movie, this sort of pressure can greatly cripple creativity and enthusiasm.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope Edwards is allowed the freedom to do what he does best, and manages to craft a film that satisfies the ravenous monster movie fans at the same time as providing the same kind of compelling, emotional storytelling that i enjoyed so much in Monsters. It’ll be very interesting in the coming months to see what kind of budget Godzilla will be set at, and what kind of scale they are pitching the movie at. Godzilla is a big name. It’ll be very difficult to contain the most famous of all the monsters in a small movie.
Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/baz_mann