Some of Bleeding Cool's contributors were lucky enough to recently see a good, long chunk of the new Godzilla movie. Here's Patrick Dane's take on what went down.
A mother holds her children in the burning streets of Tokyo as an enormous goliath stomps through the Japanese capital. She implores them to greet death with her so they can be reunited with their father…
This was one of the most haunting images of Ishiro Honda's 1954 Gojira and it's part of what really sets the movie aside from the rest of the canon, a series that eventually descended into a B movie soup where there was, ultimately, little connective tissue from film to film.
To many, Godzilla is a rubber monster getting into a fight with other rubber monsters, towering over an awfully-dubbed human cast. To others, Godzilla is a bleak metaphor about a country reeling from not only devestating nuclear attacks, but a history of natural disasters that had been pounding the Pacific isle over the eons.
The most important question for me, as someone who puts Godzilla's first outing among one of his favourite movies, was finding out out exactly what Gareth Edward's new Godzilla was trying to say with the big beast, especially when it's all been retrofitted to a western culture.
I spoke to Edwards after the screening today and he told m:
The original is blatantly a metaphor for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think all good science fiction is metaphorical or an analogy for something else. I mean all films really – the story, it is all a lie. Even straight forward drama with actors and cameras is, but at the heart of anything, hopefully, there is a bigger truth. It's the same with science fiction and fantasy. You're looking for what's… true about what we are doing.
I feel like the human race, we do abuse our position a lot and never really face the consequences. But then we do have to, in strange ways, now and again and even though there is never going to be the threat of a giant monster coming out of the ocean and smashing up the city, the actual physical consequences that you see in these kinds of films does happen. We do have tsunamis, we do have melt downs at nuclear power plants, we do have tornadoes and all sorts that we have to deal with. So, in our movie, it is very much the man v nature theme. And the Nuclear theme is very present, and I don't want to ruin it but Ken Wantanabe's character has a backstory that I really like about that. And it is all about the abuse… the potential abuse of the power of nature and how that can come back to haunt us, realised in a sort of literal way.
Edwards does seem to intend that this isn't just a monster movie and has a goal of making his movie relevant past the big budget special effects. I started with that quote, because I think it does a good job in setting the tone of what I saw earlier today.
Warner Bros. have asked that I omit some details – well, one giant one, in particular – but other than this, I will try my best to convey the footage that I was lucky enough to see.
Some of this might contain smaller spoilers, so you've been given a heads up.
In the first clip, we saw the latter half of a nuclear meltdown. Bryan Cranston came running towards the disaster scene that has featured in both trailers. The sequence started with a strange tremor that the scientists of the power-plant can't quite understand. This leads to a meltdown and ends with a deeply personal dilemma for Cranston's character, Joe. If you have paid even a lick of attention to the trailer, you pretty much know what happens to his wife played by Juliete Binoche and that it all gets more than a little bit Wrath of Khan.
The next scene we were shown, and indeed the rest of the film, takes place 15 years later and features the lines that open the newest Godzilla trailer. Cranston as Joe was sitting behind glass being interrogated for nosing around in a restricted area. It's clear he has fallen from grace after the events of the first scene and also that he knows that there is a cover up surrounding the events that lead to the power plant's meltdown. Ken Wantanabe and Sally Hawkins witness Cranston's warning before they are interrupted by quite a large thud. No prizes for guessing the source of that.
The real take away from these opening scenes was that Bryan Cranston is putting in a real performance focused on actual human loss and even though the amount of time we spent watching these dramatic scenes was relatively slight, it became clear that there is a very human, familycentric story at the heart of Godzilla. While it is impossible to say how well this all pulls together in the final film, the initial analysis is looking positive.
The next scene focused on Godzilla's first stomps onto American soil as he set about wrecking poor tourists' holidays on Honolulu. In this extended sequence, we saw Ken Wantanabe watching from an aircraft carrier as Godzilla passes under the ship, and then cut over to Aaron Taylor-Johnson aboard that tram getting munched on in the trailer. Taylor-Johnson was seen consoling a young child about the power going out on the tram, and then… touch down. Some massive waves and a few crumbling buildings later, we saw a scene that was shown at last year's Comic Con with Godzilla in… um… a stand off at an airport. We've written about that before.* Only this time there was an added shot showing off the King of Monsters from head to toe. What I will say is that he honestly looks magnificent. They nailed this.
Next up was a scene from towards the end of the movie with Taylor-Johnson in full military mode, escorting the train that has featured in previous trailers. I can't go too far into detail about this scene, but I will tell you that it features truly a massive menace. It's a suspense building scene, featuring the lead characters hiding from danger before an explosive finish. This showed off the potential range of the movie and that it won't be all smashy smashy, with moments of quieter, yet compelling danger in the film.
Lastly, I got an extended look at the HALO jump from the first trailer. It was every bit as dramatic as the promo would lead you to believe. You've seen a good portion of this, apart from a sequence of Aaron Taylor-Johnson pining over a photo of his wife and son. That and once the jumpers get lower to the surface of a burning San Francisco, they don't see exactly what the teaser trailer suggests…
And that was it.
So what does this footage suggest about the film we'll all be watching in May? Well, unless Warner Brothers were very selective about what they showed, it's shaping up very well. If you have always wanted a serious Godzilla disaster movie that is awesome in many senses of the word, Gareth Edwards is on track to deliver just that.
But he isn't doing 'just' that. He's also building on the groundwork he put in place with Monsters. While, of course, this is a massive blockbuster movie and thus needs lots of action-focused destruction, it's also the story of a family faced with disaster.
It's hard to say exactly how much of the final film will land on the action side and how much on the character driven side, but judging by the deeply personal story he was able to tell in his previous movie about massive monsters, it would seem Godzilla is in good hands with Edwards.
What I saw today had great actors doing 'real' acting, taking the source material seriously and connecting to a relevant theme while still providing more than enough wanton destruction to keep everyone happy. It is too early to call it, but Edward's first foray into Hollywood looks as if it might be one to remember.
Godzilla will be released in the UK and US on May 16th.
*I'm sorry, I was asked not to go into too much detail about a certain aspect of some scenes, but if you have been following our coverage, you should have an idea of what I'm keeping out of the picture right now.