Entertainment & Arts

Godzilla film 'harks back to Jaws and Alien'

Godzilla Image copyright Warner
Image caption Edwards and his team studied the faces of dogs and bears while developing Godzilla, which also incorporated "the nobility of an eagle"

Godzilla director Gareth Edwards has said that despite a huge budget, his monster movie harks back to the '70s and '80s before digital technology existed, with just "brief glimpses" of the creature.

He said his version was underpinned by references to high-suspense films like Ridley Scott's Alien and Steven Spielberg's Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, fuelled by a "sense of anticipation".

"Because [Scott and Spielberg] couldn't show the creature constantly, the first half of the movie would be these brief glimpses... you got so many chills and goosebumps - I miss that style of storytelling," he said.

"I felt that in modern cinema it's so easy to just throw everything at the screen constantly."

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Media captionThe stars of Godzilla on sharing the big screen with the famous giant lizard

Godzilla, which had a reported budget of $160m (£95m) and stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins and Juliette Binoche, has had mixed reviews.

Variety said the focus on the human characters left "scarcely enough screen time for the monster itself" while The Independent added Godzilla "still looks as if he has just escaped from a low budget Ray Harryhausen movie, shooting in somebody's garden nearby".

The Telegraph described it as a "summer blockbuster that's not just thrilling, but orchestrates its thrills with such rare diligence, you want to yelp with glee".

The original Godzilla film, made in Japan in 1954, was a metaphor for the devastation which followed the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by US forces at the end of World War Two, and then 1954's H-bomb testing in the Pacific.

Then, Godzilla was played by a man in a reptile suit who caused chaos by trampling on a miniaturised version of Tokyo.

Image copyright Warner
Image caption Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson play an estranged father and son whose lives are blighted by the devastation

Multi-tasking director

The 2014 film, which coincides with Godzilla's 60th birthday, follows the critically panned 1998 version directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Matthew Broderick. There is a degree of pressure on Edwards to get it right this time.

Visual effects specialist Edwards, 38, was chosen for Godzilla after he blew critics away with his 2010 debut movie Monsters, made on a micro-budget of about £500,000 and edited at his London home.

Having directed, written and orchestrated the special effects, Edwards won best director at the 2011 British Independent Film Awards.

Three years later and armed with a budget of millions, Edwards said despite hankering to make "just one" Godzilla special effect shot, he "didn't even get a spare five minutes".

"But the beauty of it is that I was surrounded with the best of the best," he said. "The visual effects supervisor was Jim Rygiel who did The Lord of the Rings and we also had John Dykstra, who did the original Star Wars movie.

"Working with genuine heroes of mine, handing your baby over to people who can look after it way better than you can, is an easy thing," he added, although he admitted "this film is the hardest thing I've ever had to do".

Image copyright Warner
Image caption Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays a lieutenant battling to return to his wife, played by Elizabeth Olsen, and his son

Edwards employed the skills of actor Andy Serkis - who has previously used performance capture to create characters such as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films and King Kong - to help create Godzilla's movements on screen.

The director said Serkis "helped shape the title character's emotional arc" and was key for Godzilla's facial expressions. The director and his team also studied the faces of dogs and bears while developing the monster's head, which incorporated "the nobility of an eagle".

Among the human characters battling the monsters and the elements is Breaking Bad TV star Cranston, who plays a nuclear scientist and whistleblower.

After his Emmy and Golden Globe-winning performance in the TV drama, he said he knew his next role would be "compared" and wanted it to be "of extremely high quality as far as the writing is concerned".

Godzilla ticked all the boxes for him and he said he liked the film's emotional content and focus on relationships and family.

Image copyright Warner
Image caption Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins play the scientists trying to stop the military from obliterating the creatures

"When the offer came in to do Godzilla, at first I thought 'Oh, I probably shouldn't do it, no', and my agent said: 'You might want to take a look at this because it's very different'.

"I was like 'Wow, this is fantastic', and then you have this monster movie and I loved Godzilla - he was my favourite monster. I like to keep surprising people."

Taylor-Johnson, who plays his army lieutenant son who battles to return to his family, also liked the focus on relationships.

"I liked the fact that he was a father and a husband and [the film] had a real strong family element to it, and that it became a fight for survival he had to try and get through in order to reach his family," he said.

'Up to the fans'

Olsen, who plays Taylor-Johnson's on-screen wife, said she enjoyed the challenge of playing a mother who has to "figure out how to go through things that are scary but not let on" because her son is witnessing the devastation around him.

Cranston said ultimately it would be the fans who determine if the film is a success. Some have already criticised Godzilla for being "too fat" but the actor said he had to "hope for the best".

"It's the public - the fans - that create a classic film or TV show," he added.

"So it's up to them to decide if it weathers the test of time. And so too will it be for this version of our film."

Godzilla opens in UK cinemas on 15 May.

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