Godzilla at Comic-Con: Going Inside the Monster

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Much has been made about the attack on San Diego that was Godzilla at Comic-Con. Movie Fanatic was there when the creative team made landfall and spoke to stars Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor Johnson and director Gareth Edwards. Cranston, for one, knows all too well the secret to the badass monster’s success all these decades. He first became aware of the nuclear accident spawned reptile as a child.

Godzilla Comic-Con Poster

“Unfortunately, my discovering of Godzilla was in the 1950’s with the Raymond Burr movie. I remember watching that on TV. That was astounding and astonishing, even for its time. It was amazing to see those special effects that were state of the art at the time. I just loved them. For a boy to watch that, it was great destruction,” Cranston said.

The Emmy winning star of Breaking Bad admitted that times, and what audiences crave has changed and that’s why Warner Bros.’ Godzilla is ready for his 21st century close-up.

“Our tastes have become more sophisticated since then. That’s what is so great about this version of Godzilla. There is careful concern to develop the plot line and its intricacies and the character development. Without that, audiences wouldn’t be invested. Audiences, I believe, will truly be invested in these characters and riding with them through the tension, fear and anxiety.”

Olsen, veteran of indie films such as Martha Marcy May Marlene and Liberal Arts, found the big budget spectacle of Godzilla surprisingly inspiring. “I was expecting to sit in a fancy trailer for three hours until they were ready with a lighting set up or something,” Olsen said. “What ended up happening was the moment I was ready I was on set till lunch time and then until we wrapped.”

She credits the studio behind the film, Legendary, with allowing their films to breathe.

“Legendary does a good job of creating this incubator of creativity and they hire people that they trust and they put them in an incubator and they allow them to put their heads together to do what they need to get done. It was just as creative a process as anything else, honestly.”

Taylor Johnson responded to how Edwards fostered a set that allowed the emotional connection with the audience to develop, even while a city gets destroyed.

“What was really interesting is that this, sure, is a special effects movie. My idea of a special effects movie is you go to a studio and film against a green screen all the time. Maybe there was a couple of days like that,” Taylor Johnson said.

“A majority of the time we were on location and it gave it a whole nother depth. We were on locations with utter destruction and people injured and it came to life and felt so natural. The way we were shooting it, it was with you and you’re on the journey from our perspective. So, when you get into the Godzilla it’s out of a car window or through a military helicopter. You’re really on a rollercoaster.”

Edwards admitted he never worried about effects. They were not a part of his shooting mentality. “It’s just about telling the best story we can tell. It’s about humans trying to survive,” Edwards said.

“What was so refreshing is we would shoot scenes that would have the creature -- we desperately try to make it work from an emotional point of view on its own. We were painstakingly worried about characters and their journey. And on top of that, there’s going to be spectacle that’s going to be put on top of it.”

Godzilla Movie Poster

Olsen had also never appeared in a special effects-heavy film and wound up finding great joy in the process. “It’s kind of funny to be like, ‘That corner up there is this thing, and is it a unicorn or is it a sniper?’” she said and laughed.

“It’s like playing in hot lava as a kid. You’re trying to go deep into your imagination. You’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s a monster and it’s going to kill me unless I run fast.’”

The first Godzilla was one borne of tragedy. Nuclear panic had gripped the world and this monster was a result of it. Cranston cautioned that this Godzilla will have every bit of societal reflective power.

"It’s a cautionary tale,” he admitted. “I think you look at the tale and you see the scope of it. It is relevant to today’s time: Harnessing power, messing around with Mother Nature… can you get away with that? How long can you get away with that? Living in that milieu is this creature that emerges from the muck and mire.” 

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