For Godzilla director Gareth Edwards, he sees the Japanese monster representing different things over the decades. In the 1954 original, it was a response to nuclear fear and what it was doing to our planet after the atom bombs dropped over Japan ending World War II.
When we caught up with Edwards in New York City to talk about Godzilla, he feels that his monster, circa 2014, is all about nature rearing its head and re-establishing the balance.
“[Godzilla] really represents nature in our film and the MUTOs represent our abusive nature. So Godzilla is here kind of because of our sins and our misuse of the power of nature, and specifically the power of nature of using nuclear weapons and power,” Edwards said.
Edwards knows that, although Godzilla brings up some deep timely issues, at the end of the day audiences will experience the film and simply have fun. “Hopefully you can watch this film and enjoy it as entertainment. I personally like science fiction or fantasy when it has a little meaning behind it,” Edwards said.
The helmer believes that scary movies score the biggest marks when they strike on a core human emotion -- proof of that is seen in the Godzilla trailer.
“I think that horror is best served when there’s guilt. In a lot of horror movies you try and make the characters guilty of something so they kind of deserve it. Then it’s a lot more awkward to watch because it’s not so black and white. I always remember Cape Fear. I love that movie because that guy kind of deserved the retribution. It was a long time coming and I feel like Godzilla is nature’s retribution for our abuse of our position.”
Edwards first impressed us with his work on the indie film Monsters, and that film was clearly what got him in the room to pitch his idea for a modern Hollywood Godzilla movie. Yet, he cautions, even though he had a larger budget, he was still thinking like a small budget filmmaker.
“Saving money isn’t something that is that precious to doing a studio film. But what I wanted to do was to show some restraint where we could. I know it sounds silly because there’s a lot of spectacle. But when there is spectacle try and limit it to you using your imagination and the audience is a character in the film as well,” Edwards admitted.
“They have to think and have expectations that get rewarded or twisted. And to try and give it a pace where you can think and have a thought. Sometimes things go so quickly you don’t have time to comprehend anything and it’s just an overwhelming attack on the senses.”
He was inspired by some of the films that influenced him to be a filmmaker, like Jaws and Jurassic Park.
“We were trying to harken back to that style of filmmaking from the late '70s and the early '80s that we all grew up with -- the restraint that they had before they had computer graphics. I’m not saying we did that -- obviously because there’s a lot of stuff in the film -- but at least one foot in that world in terms of leaving some of it to the imagination,” he said.
“The fear I get when I watch a film is by not seeing things and sort of imagining things, and then certainly the second usually when you show something in all its glory, you can’t get scared of it anymore because you’ve revealed it. We just wanted to build the film in a way that incrementally progressed so that we were always topping ourselves.”
And when it came time to orchestrate the movement of Godzilla and the two MOTUs the “King of Monsters” is fighting, Edwards said he and his team did exhaustive work to make it seem as real as possible -- even as the scale was mind-blowingly huge.
“We initially had to research hundreds of different clips of animals fighting and animal behavior. I felt that the obvious thing to do was like, ‘Okay, we’re just going to use nature as a reference. We’re going to do this realistic. Let’s look at animals. Let’s just copy that. That’s all we have to do,’” Edwards said.
“So we got bears fighting, wolves hunting and everything, and animated him based on that. Then sort of sat and watched and we were like, ‘Hmm, there’s a problem here.’ If you watch nature, natural history documentary or wildlife documentary, and you don’t have any narration, you don’t know what the hell is going on.”
He believes that animals on their own are very bad storytellers! “Is that thing even scared?” Edwards wondered.
“We ended up dialing in a lot more human performance to him and he slowly went incrementally from being purely animalistic to a lot more a guy in a suit kind of doing the performance, because you needed to understand in his body language whether he was tired or angry. There was a more human performance that we needed by the end of that.”