Return of the King!
15 years ago, Tri-star and Sony brought us the first ever American Godzilla movie starring Matthew Broderick and directed by Ronald Emmerich. Although it was a financial success, "Godzilla" was a disappointment with critics and fans alike. Emmerich created outstanding special effects and a giant rampaging monster that was Godzilla in name only. The creature spent most of the film running and hiding from the military. Fan sentiment was pretty much the same; "That was a cool monster, but that wasn't Godzilla." More to the point, nobody involved in the picture was a fan or cared anything about the original material. They were out to make their "own" Godzilla.
Now fast forward to July 2013, "Pacific Rim" by Guillermo del Toro is released, a sci-fi action movie about evil giant "kaiju" and heroic robot "jaegers" that do battle over the Earth. It's a tribute to kaiju eiga, "Japanese giant monster movies" that started with Godzilla and spawned many sequels as well as numerous imitators like Gamera and Ultraman. The movie was a big success at home and abroad.
Then, only a couple of weeks after it's release, there was the annual San Diego Comic-con where Legendary Pictures(the same studio that made Pacific Rim) unveiled next year's Godzilla reboot by Gareth Edwards. They had an amusement park like exhibit, the "Godzilla Encounter" which took participants inside a Godzilla attack, with glimpses of the new monster. The also had a Godzilla panel with the main cast and a teaser trailer(not released to the general public) with footage from the movie. The time is ripe for a new America movie. I've been following the development of this film since the news first broke in 2010 and updating news through this website and let me tell you, this is going to be a huge international success that will be loved by fans and casual moviegoers alike. I predict it'll be one of the biggest movies of 2014 and even give Avengers a run for it's money. Here are 5 reasons why it'll be a huge success:
1. The Director--Gareth Edwards may not be well known now, but after next year, get used to hearing his name. The soft-spoken, almost shy British director made a very small movie that made a very big splash. 2010's Monsters, about the aftermath of an invasion of large, tentacled, aliens was made on a shoestring budget and was filmed with a crew of 5 including 2 actors. It was filmed using handheld cameras on locations throughout Central and South America. It was acclaimed by critics, made a financial success, and turned heads in Hollywood. I think of Edwards as the "Anti-Bay"(Michael). The Michael Bays of the world think all you have to do is throw a bunch of dazzling special effects in the audiences' face and that will distract them from the fact that; 1. The story doesn't make any sense and 2. We don't care anything about the characters. Edwards is different and knows how to make a good monster movie. You start with the human characters, you develop them and get to know and care for them. You allude to the monsters, but only show fleeting glimpses that creates an atmosphere of fear and builds suspense. Edwards' background is in visual effects and Godzilla is sure to be a special effects extravaganza, but he knows how to use them effectively, sometimes sparingly to tell the story. But, you don't have to take my word for it, listen to what the cast has to say:
Lead actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson said that despite the fact it's a multi-million dollar picture, "The Godzilla crew is such a small group of people that it feels more like an independent movie than anything I've ever worked on."
He also said he did very little green screen work and that Edwards is very clever at special effects. Most shots were on location and they will build the effects around that.
Co-star Elizabeth Olsen said much the same and, "it was going to be a fun ride to be a part of; it has a strong character narrative, but at the same time it satisfies the destruction and all that. It looks amazing."
In interview, Edwards said that no matter what scene they were shooting, whether there was a monster in it or not, they always tried to tell the story from an emotional point of view. Then when they went back to add the special effects, "‘I completely forgot there’s a whole other layer to this!’ We have been painstakingly worrying about the characters and their journey and on top of that is this spectacle embedded in the whole film – and it makes you feel really good.”
2. The Studio--In March 2010, Legendary Pictures and partner Warner Bros. jointly announced that they were developing a new Godzilla reboot picture. This is the same collaboration that created such great films as, The Dark Knight, 300, and Inception. Thomas Tull, chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures said,
“Godzilla is one of the world's most powerful pop culture icons, and we at Legendary are thrilled to be able to create a modern epic based on this long-loved Toho franchise…Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as it has."
Legendary was keen to make clear that their film would a reboot and have no connection to the previous American Godzilla. Since then, they've maintained that commitment to be true to the original character and work with people who are fans. Producer Brian Rogers first brought the project to Legendary and had been trying to develop a Godzilla project for years. He was working closely with Yoshmitsu Banno, Toho Pictures Executive and director of Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster(1971). Also, when Gareth Edwards got the call from Legendary to offered him the job as director, he just happened to staring at his "Gojira" DVD on the shelf. They've been developing it carefully for the past 4 years. In the meantime, Legendary also made Pacific Rim to get audiences warmed up to giant monsters again and get things ready for return of the King. Godzilla is a tent-pole film for Legendary and they have a lot riding on it. They want to make sure it's a big success and start a new American Godzilla franchise.
3. The Story/Script--Godzilla co-star Bryan Cranston said:
"We think that you'll be able to wipe the memory of the old Godzilla, 12 years ago.. or whatever that was, right, completely out of your system. This Godzilla is very different. A very, character-driven Monster movie.."
The creators of the film pulled heavily from the original Gojira(1954). In that first film, Godzilla was a dark force of nature, a metaphor for the atomic bomb and the misuse of technology. Legendary's Godzilla will have a very similar tone and message. Elizabeth Olsen said:
"It's about us attempting to control nature and it just ultimately not working out in the end..."
There will also be a lot of action. And don't worry, there are other monsters for Godzilla to fight. Based on filming details, we know Godzilla appears in Japan and later attacks an aircraft carrier, Godzilla battles a spider like monster in an airport, Waikiki beach is destroyed by some giant beast(s) and the climactic battle takes place in San Fransisco.
Here's the official plot synopsis from Legendary Pictures:
"An epic rebirth to Toho's iconic Godzilla, this spectacular adventure, from Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures, pits the world's most famous monster against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence."
An attendee of the Comic-con teaser trailer made a sketch of the spider monster and posted it online, described by one attendee as similar to the Cloverfield monster, but with long, spindly legs
For a monster movie, the Godzilla script has been penned and rewritten by some of the best screenwriters in the business. In this day and age, it's normal for a big-budget movie to get several re-writes by different authors. The original story credit will go to David Goyer who wrote Batman Begins, Man of Steel, and has been announced as the writer for both Superman vs. Batman, and Justice League. Max Borenstein was brought in to write the main script from Goyer's idea. Borenstein also wrote Legendary's upcoming Seventh Son and Jimi, a Jimi Hendrix bio picture. Later, Drew Pearce(Iron Man 3) touched up Borenstein's script in a '4 week polish'. Lastly, Frank Darabont(Shawshank Redemption, Walking Dead) fleshed out some of the characters and add more emotional depth to the story which is his specialty. The result is an emotionally charged, character driven story about humans trying to survive in a world of giant monsters.
4. The Cast--When planning Godzilla, director Gareth Edwards wrote down a list of his 'dream cast' and it's said that he got everyone on his list. The story will focus on the movies three main characters, Lietenant Ford played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson(Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron), his nurse wife played by Elizabeth Olsen(Martha Marcy May Marlene) and his stepfather scientist played by Bryan Cranston(Breaking Bad). In addition, there is an international supporting cast, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche, and Sally Hawkins. These are some pretty heavy hitters with great acting credentials. There sure to deliver great performances in an emotional story.
5. The Monster-- This is probably the part that people are most concerned about. 1998's Godzilla design was a complete departure from the traditional elements that make Godzilla. Legendary Pictures stated they would honor the original design, but at San Diego's Comic-con this year, we got to see it, or at least very close. The 'Godzilla Encounter' event/exhibit displayed earlier design sculptures and a brief view of the new Godzilla as it walked past the window. Edwards said it was pretty close to the final design. It looks like Godzilla. It's a bipedal creature with dorsal plates, a tapering neck, and small head with red, feral eyes. Later, a promotional poster in Brazil showed Godzilla's face. We can rest assured that this monster will be original, but recognizable as the king of the monsters.
So, there you have it. This will be a Godzilla movie that remains faithful to the original character, has an emotional, character driven story with great special effects and a stellar cast of performers. Legendary really has a winner on their hands. We are seeing the beginning of a whole new golden age of kaiju movies, now from American fans of Japan's most beloved and recognizable star.