Godzilla: the monster movie with a director of modest origin

From The Gaurdian

Warning: this piece may contain spoilers

How do you go from a microbudget monster movie with special effects created using off-the-shelf software to a $160m (£96m) Hollywood megalith starring the hottest cult actor in the world in three years? The answer, if you are 38-year-old British film-maker Gareth Edwards, appears to be with plenty of laid-back panache, no small amount of style and masses of geeky charm.

It is very unlikely that any other director in Hollywood – certainly not the likes of Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich – would have admitted their first experience of Godzilla was the late-70s Hanna Barbera cartoon version. Nor that when they first watched the Japanese Toho movies on Channel 4 they could not work out why the (heavily dubbed) dialogue seemed so out of sync with the picture.

Edwards' film, by contrast, has the look of a dark and atmospheric, blood-curdling journey into a world of uncertainty where man is no longer the apex predator and preposterously gargantuan creatures roam through cityscapes with brutal and unearthly insouciance. "As the human race we abuse our position," said Edwards when asked to describe the new Godzilla's dramatic undercurrent. "Our movie is very much themed around man v nature. It's about our abuse of nature and how that can come back to haunt us."

This time Godzilla is far from the only behemoth crashing through skyscrapers with unstoppable destructive force, and some of these other monsters are staggeringly sublime visions from a nightmare plane of existence. I won't ruin the fun for serious acolytes, but there are multiple nods to the Toho films.

Aping the intelligent camerawork and cinematography of Monsters, the new film sees Godzilla and his fellow kaiju shot from angles and in light that never gives too much away: we are always straining our eyes to make sense of the vast and savage horrors before us. Edwards also revealed that his version of the monster is the biggest ever at 350ft tall.

"The idea was to make him as big as we possibly could," he said. "We wanted him tall enough for you to be able to see him wherever you are in a city but small enough for him to be obscured at times – because otherwise it's no fun. We did a whole version of options from crazy tall to small to dinosaur-sized and it was quite clear that 350ft was the optimum height. Especially as that would make him technically the biggest Godzilla ever, so we thought 'let's do that'."

Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, playing a nuclear physicist whose life was changed 15 years previously by an earth-shattering event he refuses to believe was a natural disaster, is the perfect actor to express humanity's incandescent fear and rage at the prospect of imminent Armageddon.


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