In 2010 Gareth Edwards directed the low-budget and little seen "giant monster" movie with the appropriate title of "Monsters." What made "Monsters" interesting is that, even though, it was about giant monsters, there was something remarkably nuanced about the film. Now, Edwards will get the chance to bring that kind of layering to the big-budget return of a monster you already know quite well: Godzilla. (Unlike the 1998 version, the new Godzilla actually looks like Godzilla.)
I met Edwards at the Hard Rock Hotel in downtown San Diego to discuss the challenges of bringing Godzilla back to the big screen, the obvious metaphors for Godzilla's destruction, and why the tepid box office for another giant monster movie, "Pacific Rim," doesn't matter.
Do you feel that directing "Monsters" is an obvious transition to "Godzilla"?
It's funny, because I think I first pitched the ideas for "Monsters" a long time ago. The one we landed on was the third one I pitched to the company I made it with -- and my early pitches ones were probably more closer to a "Godzilla" movie.
Or at least, the characters that we're following were more at the heart of that kind of story ... and, I mean, we'll see what people think, but I'm really pleased with the storyline in terms of the characters we follow. I think if it's a similarity -- I mean, I'm blessed with this cast. It's quite embarrassing how good they all are ... and every actor would just completely make it real and I'd be watching the monitor just getting excited more and more each day for the film.
And this is a "Godzilla" origin story?
Yeah, it's an origin story. I mean, I think those moments in films where everyone learns about these monsters, you know, it's very difficult moments to show on camera. And especially when you have multiple characters. So, I think we've been very careful. I hope we have in the way that we portrayed that. And you know, you can't help but reference events like September 11th and the tsunami.
I've seen comparisons between the teaser poster to the wreckage of September 11th.
The new one, then?
Yeah, the one that just came out. I've seen people post the poster and the picture side by side.
I know you didn't draw it.
Well, I mean, that's fair enough in that it's -- we try to make this as realistic as we can, and we try to take it seriously. And obviously, there's never been [a Godzilla].
Your Godzilla looks like Godzilla, as opposed to Roland Emmerich's Godzilla.
I mean, I think the design they came up with for Emmerich's film is a cool design. It's just not Godzilla. I am a great believer in that you should pursue all avenues, so we did hundreds of designs. Like, we just churned out the designs. And I was very lucky to have the best designers in the world. You'd call people and say, "Would you work on the film with us?" And they would say, "Aw, I'd like to, but I'm really busy." And then you'd say, "It's Godzilla," and they'd go, "When do you need me?"
What cities does Godzilla visit?
I think it's out there that Japan are involved.
So it's set in Tokyo?
Not necessarily. it's a global story.
So Godzilla gets around?
Yeah, exactly. It's global. It's not one specific spot. You know, we tried to pick an epic journey for the film.
So he might visit a few locations?
Yeah, maybe you could buy a t-shirt at the end with the different locations? Some of the crew made up t-shirts like that.
Did you pay attention to the tepid box office for "Pacific Rim"?
I honestly don't think about it at all. Because "Pacific Rim" I think is a great film -- and everybody who's come out of that movie has loved it and had good things to say about it. Or, most of the people I've met, anyway. It's not necessarily the right analogy, but you would think that there are so many superhero movies now that if one of them did certain business and another one did another -- it seems irrelevant to each film. Like, it feels like there's room now, there's enough fanboys ruling the world and who go to the cinema that I think there's room for multiple monster movies, multiple zombie movies, multiple superhero movies. Because however good one is doesn't affect the other ones. Our only goal the whole time is to try to make the best film we possibly can. And I think our film is tonally very different, I think. We've tried to be very serious. It's obviously set in the present day. It's probably much more character-driven in terms of some aspects of it.
When I watched Godzilla as a little kid, I always felt some sort of weird empathy for him. Will we feel that at all in this movie?
I think you can't help it, really. I mean, I can't, no matter how you represent him -- he's so cool looking.
And he seems like he's got a personality.
Well, what we tried to do with ours is that it's not just mindless smashing up of cities and things. Within the film, there are reasons why things are happening and you can hopefully go to the cinema and enjoy it just on a "I just want to sit and watch a giant monster smash things up," if that's the way you're inclined.
You made the 9/11 comparison. The original Godzilla was from an A-bomb. So is this like a similar tone to that?
It's funny, because giant monsters, genuinely -- you're never ever gonna have to worry about a giant monster ever smashing up your city or attacking your country. But you do have to worry about skyscrapers that can come falling down out of the blue or giant tsunamis can hit. The effects that a giant creature has are effects that we encounter all the time. And so, these monsters always end up being these metaphors for some sort of kind of vengeance of nature or something. And in our film, we definitely embraced the theme of man versus nature. It's something that reoccurs in the movie. And our abuse of the power of nature, and how that can come back to haunt us -- and that's something at the heart of this film. So, my goal was to try to make a monster movie that had some meat on the bone, you know? In terms of it wasn't just mindless spectacle -- you could enjoy it on another level if you wanted to.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.