A closer look at the trailer for Gareth Edwards' Godzilla

Feature Ryan Lambie 11 Dec 2013 - 06:56

The first trailer for Gareth Edwards' Godzilla landed yesterday. We take a closer look at its finer details...

Next year marks the 60th birthday of Godzilla, Japan's most famous giant monster. The star of around 30 increasingly outlandish movies, a 1998 US remake, a cartoon series and a mountain of merchandise, it's easy to forget that Gojira (to give him his original Japanese name) wasn't conceived as a familiar figure of fun, but a city-levelling creature to be feared.

Director Gareth Edwards stated some time ago that he intended to reinstate Godzilla's power to inspire a sense of fear and awe in his forthcoming reboot, timed to coincide with the grand Kaiju's birthday next year. And it's clear from the first few seconds of the film's new trailer that Edwards has already gone some way towards achieving that.

Like the teaser trailer shown off at Comic-Con two years ago, the new promo uses the eerie Monolith theme from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey as a backwash for its images. This may be because the score isn't finished yet, but we're half hoping they use something like it in the final movie - it gives the firey visuals a perfectly apocalyptic tone.

In some ways, the Godzilla trailer's perfectly conventional: we're given a brief introduction to some of the leading players - Aaron Taylor Johnson, Juliette Binoche, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen are all glimpsed - an idea of the film's events, and finally a glimpse of the lumbering beast himself. But what's unusual about the Godzilla trailer is how carefully its shots are chosen, and how little they give away when you really look at them in turn.

The opening sequence, a series of shots depicting the briefing and execution of a military skydive over a city, sets the trailer's ominous tone and introduces Johnson's Lieutenant Ford, here looking apprehensive (as we would) ahead of the leap.

Exactly why Lieutenant Ford and his fellow soldiers are leaping from a plane isn't clear. In the 1955 Japanese sequel Godzilla Raids Again, flares are used to lead Godzilla towards the sea. Is something similar going on here, with the red trails left by the soldiers designed to attract the monster, or are they attempting something different?

It's an interesting lead-in to the promo in any case, since most trailers are designed to reflect a finished film's opening act rather than an event from what we're guessing is its mid-section. The trailer for the 1998 Godzilla, for example, showed off the scarred fishing boats and beached cargo ships which hailed the creatures arrival.

By contrast, Godzilla 2014 gives no obvious clue as to where Godzilla comes from or where he'll first attack. We've heard elsewhere that Godzilla won't be the product of an atomic bomb, as in the 1954 original, but as the result of some other, more contemporary form of ecological catastrophe. Is he the result of a military experiment, as hinted at by the occasional shots of soldiers in Hazmat suits?

Then there's that brief shot of Americans tinkering around with what we're guessing is a nuclear warhead. Does an attempt to bomb Godzilla fail abysmally, as it always has in the past?

Such speculation aside, there's one thing we can say for definite about the Godzilla trailer: it shows off a distinctive and thoroughly confident visual style. Before Godzilla, Gareth Edwards' first film was Monsters, a romance and road-trip drama which happened to have giant monsters as its backdrop. It was a stunning-looking film made for very little money, and in the Godzilla trailer, we're given a look at what the same director can achieve with Hollywood-level production values.

This doesn't appear to be a disaster movie in the usual glossy blockbuster mode. Look at the way splashes of crimson ring out against black skies and intense shadows, and appear repeatedly throughout, from the red of the seats in a crumbling train carriage to claret-coloured light enveloping Juliette Binoche's face. Admittedly, these are only brief glimpses of a two-hour plus film, but they hint at an artistic intelligence at work rather than something thrown together by filmmakers without a clue.

Godzilla is glimpsed only a couple of times, with his distinctive scaled back picked out by flashes of lightning at the one minute mark, and a silhouette of his howling profile bringing the trailer to a close. That final shot, along with one memorable aerial scene of a flattened train in the desert, appear to have been taken from the two-year-old Comic-Con trailer mentioned earlier, which could mean they'll appear in the finished film, too.

This coy introduction of Godzilla, with the trailer showing his power to inspire shock and awe rather than lingering on the beast himself, shows the kind of confidence we're hoping to see in the rest of its marketing. It's refreshing to see a trailer which doesn't rely on the usual aural assault to keep viewers interested; look, for example at the mid-point. It's here, as we see Bryan Cranston (we think) run down a corridor, that the usual "Braahhm" sound effects should kick in - but instead, there's silence.

It's a trailer heavy on atmosphere and light on spoiler-filled details. And most importantly, it introduces a new iteration of Godzilla that Ishiro Honda himself would surely be impressed by. The 1954 film tapped into the psyche of a nation left reeling by the power of the atom bomb, but it also dwelt on a much older, more universal fear.

In ancient Japan, it was said that a giant sleeping catfish called Namazu created earthquakes with the flick of its tail. The ancient Greeks blamed Poseidon, while the Romans pinned the blame on Vulcanus. Godzilla is in the tradition of those folk tales and old gods, and it's this sense of the mythical that the teaser trailer gets across so well. This is Godzilla as a terrifying force of nature.

Godzilla is out on the 16th May 2014.

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Let's hope so... this is the kind of tone I wanted from Pacific Rim but obviously didn't get. There's certainly no indication of anyone getting munched a la Hannibal Chau in this creature feature.

Incredible. Now that's more like it.

Pacific Rim was awful.

Needs more BWWAAAAM... Nah just kidding.

Always had high hopes for this with Edwards onboard but, after the trailer, this just shot to the absolute top of my must watch list in 2014. Cant wait!

I think this would be a great trailer to see at the cinema not knowing what its for, the opening moments are really effective at drawing you in.

Yep same here, and considering how disapointed i've been the last few years from some of the most anticpated films and trying to put some caution on this. But that is easily the best trailer i've seen in a very long time.
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In fact, i would go as far as to suggest that Edwards had a major hand in its production - not rely on some of the usual hackneyed trailer BWAAAAAAs that proliferate these days. More directors need to make sure that keep the reigns tight on those promotion folks.

I thought the storm clouds look a lot like a Katsushika Hokusai painting. Intentional perhaps?

One of the things I love most about this trailer is the distinct lack of
spoilers, something that is all too common in trailers these days.
Compare this to its Amazing Spider-Man 2 Easter-egg-filled counterpart - Easter eggs
are supposed to be discovered, not served to us on a plate in the
trailer to create a 'buzz'. But this Godzilla teaser is one of the best
I've ever seen: giving very little away except for an impending sense
of horror and awe. This looks truly epic.

Hopefully this trailer will begin a new era for trailers, without the Inception-horn. It's heard almost everywhere, for all types of films and television events, that it's just sickening to listen to. :/

I really enjoyed Pacific Rim, yes it had it's flaws but I had a blast watching it. But this is looking properly epic and atmospheric.

Wot no Godzuki ?

Before this, I thought the idea of another Godzilla remake was just Hollywood's desperate attempt to make a bit of money. After seeing and appreciating this trailer, though, you gotta admire what a risk this actually is.

At last classic Godzilla returns! I hope he is as fierce as he looks. He defiantly looks more convincing then that 300 foot tall iguana Matthew Broderick fed fish to in the last remake.

And as the voting on this comment demonstrates, opinions are divided on the matter!

Finally, a trailer that sparks interest but doesn't reveal the whole film.

It wasn't awful, it just had some atrocious actors... Squeaky voiced man from Horrible Bosses & nerdy man from TDKR...

It was badly written, overbearing and dumb. I am all for a good romp but I found it utterly tedious. Different strokes and all that...

I love the way the (presumably CGI) C-17 is shot - like an actual aerial shot rather than impossible camera moves. The pyro shot also has some heft to it. I'm hoping Edward's background as a VFX director will mean they won't try and draw attention to the sylistic cliches of CGI (i.e. rag doll physics).

My thoughts exactly. I'm sick of being able to tell almost the whole plot of a movie from the trailer.

I also enjoyed Pacific Rim a whole bunch simply for the giant monster/giant robot battles. The story was secondary to me. The fight scenes were the bees knees...

This looks to be what Westerners _should_ have done with the 1998 movie. Maybe Japan won't make fun of our Godzilla this time. :)

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