9 things you need to know about the new 'Godzilla'
The iconic Japanese monster everyone loves and fears is returning to the big screen in the 2014 reboot of Godzilla, and this weekend DramaFever interviewed the director, the cast, and the producer at Legendary Pictures to get all the juicy details. Here are 9 things you just have to know about this incredible new film.
1. Godzilla is kind of a nice guy.
Not knowing much about Godzilla, I thought he was this giant, scary creature from the depths whose sole goal in life was to crush civilization and destroy humankind. Well, the part about him being scary and destroying civilization is true, but the thing is, he doesn't really mean to. In the weirdest way, he's actually kind of a hero. Thomas Tull, a producer from Legendary Pictures, told us about the process of visualizing Godzilla's character, saying, "When we first sat down, there were five or six rules…and that was one, that he wasn’t a bad guy.” When asked why this was an important distinction, he cheered like a little boy, “Cause Godzilla is awesome!" Fans will find that they have a complicated emotional reaction to Godzilla in this film. "There’s not people holding up lighters as he passes by...but we wanted people to cheer," Tull explained. And cheer the crowd certainly did when Godzilla beat down the other monsters during the pre-screening!
Despite the fact that Godzilla was mowing down people in his attempt to fight the other radioactive monsters, he unexpectedly became an endearing anti-hero, and the actors did a fantastic job portraying the resulting conflicted emotions. When asked about his character's reaction to a moment when Godzilla seems to be fighting on their side and suffers a defeat, Aaron Taylor-Johnson said that when he looked into Godzilla's eyes he felt as if, "we all lost hope. There’s not much left. It's a moment where we just look at each other and think what next? What now can we do?"
Apparently, however, the real Godzilla is not as nice to work with. When jokingly asked what Godzilla was really like when the cameras weren't rolling, Aaron's clever answer was, "Speaking of jerks, man, he wouldn’t even come out of his f-ing trailer…"
2. Godzilla was very tricky to create.
Creating a 350-foot-tall reptile is not fun and games, unless, that is, you are as obsessive as director Gareth Edwards and producer Thomas Tull. Tull said, "The two things we obsessed over were the roar and the Godzilla design. We spent hours listening to the roar and saying, 'No it’s not quite right'....It’s actually harder than it sounds. It took looking at hundreds of different iterations....It’s the proportions that were really, really difficult, and even thinking abut what’s too long, what's too short, what's the balance going to look like, how big his heart would have to be, how fast he would have to go. We just looked at it all again and again."
When asked about the inspiration for Godzilla's design, Edwards said they originally watched a lot of nature films to reference wild animals and animate him based on that, but there was a problem because “animals are very bad story tellers “and you can’t always tell what they’re thinking. Edwards said, “We ended up dialing in a lot of human sort of performance to him, and he slowly went incrementally from being purely animalistic to more like a guy in a suit kind of performance, cause you needed to understand in his body language just whether he was tired or angry."
The brilliant result of their efforts is that Godzilla manages to be terrifying in an animalistic sort of way, but at the same time relatable as a humanoid.
3. Watching Godzilla should make you feel a little guilty.
Godzilla, himself, is a mutant creature that exists on the surface of the earth as a result of humankind's misuse of radioactive power. Originally, Godzilla was somewhat a metaphor for the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII. Godzilla represented the complicated relationship Japan had with the United States. Now, when asked if Godzilla still represents the U.S., Edwards stated that he, "really represents nature, like the world, in our film. The mutos [the mutated flying creatures Godzilla battles] represent our abuse of nature, and so Godzilla is here because of our sins, our misuse of the power of nature, and specifically abusing it for weapons of power…There was the idea of man vs. nature that was sort of this dominant theme throughout the movie….I also wanted it to be like western companies and things, so it felt like the West kind of abusing our position."
Edwards wants us to step back and think about the way we are abusing the earth. He said, "I think that horror is best served when there is guilt. Like in a lot of horror movies they make the characters guilty of something, so they kind of deserve it… Godzilla is like nature’s retribution for our abuse of our position." Actor Ken Watanabe further described Godzilla's relationship to humanity in this film. "When I saw the movie, I became so excited whenever he let out his roar, but it involved a scream of sadness. His scream is like scolding us for humanity’s foolishness. He’s a symbol of man’s conscience. He’s going on a rampage of the city and destroys so many buildings…but humans believe we can stand up and rebuild the city that has been destroyed. Perhaps this is a slight, but certain, hope. Godzilla is like man’s conscience."
4. This Godzilla is not exactly like the original, but it carries the spirit of it.
Whenever there's a reinterpretation of a classic film, there tends to be a collective outcry from longtime fans who want nothing changed. While the new Godzilla takes plenty of liberty in recreating the look and feel of the original, the producers wanted to retain what was most important about it. Thomas Tull explained that the first thing they attempted was to preserve the, "sense of awe and terror in some ways, that it’s like this force of nature. Second thing is recognizing in '54 what Godzilla symbolized for Japan, and taking that history seriously and at least understanding that even though Godzilla has gone through many iterations since then, the original represented what happened there. That’s something we talked about a lot, except we wanted to root for Godzilla, so we tweaked that."
Ken Watanabe explained why the themes of Godzilla still appeal to us, saying, "Even after 60 years people are still fascinated by Godzilla. Why?...Because after all these years these still terrify us: nuclear power and nuclear energy."
Just like the original Godzilla, Tull hinted that there may be sequels, such as a Godzilla vs. King Kong. Tull said that it was a possibility because "you can never have too many giant robots or monsters," and when asked about where the next one might take place, Tull joked, "Probably Baltimore because I own part of the Steelers."
5. The director Gareth Edwards is magical.
During the press junket, one of the overwhelming themes was how amazing rookie director Gareth Edwards is. Incredibly enough, Godzilla is his first major motion picture, with the independent, low budget film Monsters being his first and only film prior. Even though other producers may have doubted the choice to put such an inexperienced director at the helm, Tull never doubted. He said of Edwards, "We wanted a fresh perspective and I was blown away by Monsters. He literally made it for $400,000, or something, on his laptop, and there was something in it that just kind of grabbed me. And when we sat down to get to know each other, he just, whatever that fairy dust thing is, he has it, and is a fan of Godzilla and came up with some things that I thought were extremely creative....He’s the only director that we talked to and offered it to."
The main actors in Godzilla felt the same way. Aaron Taylor-Johnson explained, “I first got involved because of Gareth. Before that, it was like, well why would they make Godzilla? You know, another monster movie, you should probably try to stay way from it. Until they said Gareth…His whole heart and soul and everything is in it, and [the movie] is a real emotional journey throughout a major catastrophe….Gareth is someone who really collaborates. He’s the sweetest guy and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. He really gives you the time and gets great performances because he really gives great ideas and doesn’t stop experimenting…He’s someone that’s got real strong ideas and visions and can work well with a group of people, and I think Legendary does that as well."
Elizabeth Olsen described something similar when she said, “He’s focused on story-driven films, and working with him is just incredibly collaborative. He’s very good at telling you what he needs you to do and he’ll get excited about something. And that's what I need to thrive."
6. All the main actors were the director and producer's first choice, and this was largely because of Gareth.
Godzilla is largely successful because of its talented cast. When asked about how they were able to convince the award winning actor Bryan Cranston to join in on the project, Tull stated, "This is the first time in over a decade of doing this that every single first choice actor said yes. And if you think abut that, first off, the call is 'It’s a Godzilla movie,' second, 'Thing is that it’s a director doing his second movie,' and Bryan in particular was pretty skeptical going in, but once he understood the tone we were trying to pull off, and more importantly sat down with Gareth, he said yes. They all said yes."
7. The director and producer made the movie like a fan would.
Not everyone became excited at the mention of a Godzilla remake, but it should be something true fans can get excited about. When asked if they faced opposition to the film, producer Tull said, "Certainly in Hollywood…people would say to me, 'I’m not sure anyone cares anymore. How do you make this relevant today?'" Luckily they ignored the comments and made the movie because they truly loved it themselves. Tull admited, "The truth is that at Legendary we make movies we want to see, and one day I’m sure that won't work, but our first movie was Batman Begins, and there was a lot of things about Batman back then [that people weren't excited about], and then a guy named Christophe Nolan [came along], and it seemed to work out with him at the helm. I think it’s just about the execution, and we wanted to make sure from the very first teaser that fans knew we were also fans. And there are all kinds of things that are tough in execution, but if you get a great filmmaker, like we did with Gareth, then that's it…It’s my fault if people don’t like the movie, but that’s the movie we wanted to make."
8. Aaron and Elizabeth may have played husband and wife, but they're pumped to play brother and sister next in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
It may seem kind of strange to see the two main actors in Godzilla play their next roles in the same movie. When asked whether it would be weird to play brother and sister after playing husband and wife with Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson explained, "She’s a great actress and I really like working with her. She’s super brilliant, and I think in the marvel comics it’s slightly a bit incestuous anyway. Not that we’re going to do it that way, haha."
Elizabeth was asked how she was able to build an emotional tie with Aaron while filming despite not sharing much screen time with each other, and she replied, "Aaron and I just get on well and trust each other, and there’s a comfortability. There’s nothing awkward, really." About playing brother and sister next she said, "I feel like that’s the way it’s supposed to be, haha. You’re supposed to know your twin super well, so I feel really lucky we have one film on us before Avengers, so it actually worked out pretty amazingly."
9. The story is really all about family, and it will probably make you cry.
I have to admit that I teared up while watching Godzilla, and it was largely because of the powerful family relationships between the characters. When asked about his inspiration for his character's relationship with his father, played by Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson said, "Family is the most important thing, and I think that comes clearer in a natural disaster, you know, when everyone’s, like, in chaos. It's what can you hold onto. Like, if you were going to die tomorrow, what was it all about, what does is all mean, you know? I think it’s all about having the people that you love and having them protected. And in the end, the movie is all about [the character's] family and knowing that he needs to be a better a father..."
Elizabeth Olsen was also truly touched by this when she watched the completed movie for the first time. She said, "I was shocked that I wanted to cry like twice in the film, and usually I’m removed from my films I watch. I’m really critical, but I was amazed by how moved I was. Especially with Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche! That shocked me...I saw it with one of my best friends and we were so excited afterwards. We were like, ‘It’s a good one!’” She later said that this version of Godzilla is, “how these sci-fi monster movies are supposed to be. The young kids can go see it and be like, 'Yeah! That’s crazy!' and everyone else can also see the hints of a larger story, and I think that’s why this film so successful.”
With its talented director, producer, and cast, the new Godzilla is truly a thought-provoking, emotionally tolling, visual masterpiece, and I highly recommend seeing it when it opens this weekend!