Godzilla: our spoiler-free preview reaction

Feature Ryan Lambie 28 Feb 2014 - 16:35

Earlier today, we sat down to watch 20 minutes of the forthcoming Godzilla. Here’s a spoiler-free summary of our impressions...

NB: While the below is spoiler-free, do avoid reading further if you’d prefer to see the final film absolutely cold.

You’d expect a modern Godzilla movie to be a widescreen spectacle, but the first thing that strikes us about director Gareth Edwards’ forthcoming reboot is its new take on the beast’s iconic roar: deafening, blood-curdling, ferocious.

Den Of Geek was lucky enough to be invited to a 20-minute preview of this summer’s Godzilla, and there was a palpable, almost gleeful air of excitement in the room as the lights went down. Although we won’t go into spoiler-filled detail here, we can report that what we saw was promising. Very promising indeed.

First, there’s the reassuring presence of Bryan Cranston. Fans of Breaking Bad will know how powerful an actor he is, and we were encouraged to note just how much passion he puts into his performance here. A nuclear physicist named Joe Brody, his character has a personal and tragic connection to the title monster, and in one superbly-acted scene, we see how determined he is to uncover the true nature of its origins.

Then there’s Brody's son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a soldier in the US army. As we’ve seen from the trailer, he’s another key character in the ensemble, helping to ground this global disaster from the street level. Initially stationed in East Asia, his goal is to get back to America as the monster-hastened catastrophe begins to spread across the planet.

The true star of the piece, of course, is Godzilla himself. In a later Q&A, Edwards revealed the time and effort spent on getting the look and size of the creature just right. Make him too small, and he doesn’t pose the mountainous threat the plot requires. Make him too big, and he’s simply too ungainly to hide himself in seas or among the thicket of buildings in a city. This Godzilla, the director informed us, is 350 feet tall - the biggest incarnation we’ve yet seen, but still nimble enough to pop up at inopportune times.

While Godzilla’s the main draw, we get the impression that Edwards will be careful not to over-expose the prized creature until he absolutely has to. The flashes we saw of Godzilla were largely partial - the crags of his huge back looming up out ocean spray, or his scaled back as he lumbers through a benighted city. These shots recall Ishiro Honda’s 1954 original, where Godzilla was repeatedly seen at night, lit up by the burning fires of buildings or the crackle of falling electrical pylons.

Edwards appears to have a similar eye for atmosphere and invoking a sense of awe. Like Spielberg, Edwards repeatedly shoots his action scenes from the perspective of the smallest and most vulnerable - the wide eyes of a child in one superb shot, or a fleeing stray dog in another.

Destruction’s a given in a Godzilla movie, but the devastation we saw doesn’t appear to be akin to the lingering revelry we see in so many summer movies. The havoc Godzilla causes is akin to the aftermath of an earthquake or tsunami - a tragedy, with a real human cost. This is as it should be, since Honda’s first film was a serious, perfectly haunting meditation on the power of nuclear weapons, and how they don’t - and can’t - discriminate between soldiers or civilians.

Edwards’ Godzilla still has something of a nuclear theme - it’s said that the creature is attracted by nuclear radiation - but the underlying meditation in his film is about humanity versus nature. We’d hesitate to say that it has an environmental theme as such, but it’s easy to draw a parallel between the events of the modern Godzilla and the sad aftermath of recent natural disasters, such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the ongoing crisis in Fukushima.

Although some of the effects shots clearly weren’t finished, the ones that were looked exceptional. Not just because of the quality of the CGI, which it’s easy to become numbed to each summer, but in the way the effects shots are executed. From the striking, sinister use of red against grey (a refreshing change from Hollywood cinema’s ever-present teal and orange) to the harsh use of light and shade, Godzilla appears to retain some of the arthouse sensibility that enriched Edwards’ breakthrough film, Monsters.

Like Monsters, Godzilla uses contrasting sequences of loud and quiet and intimate and colossal to create its drama. There’s a superb moment where Taylor-Johnson’s soldier stands at the mouth of a railway tunnel with the rest of his detachment, listening. It’s night time, and the silence is eerie. But then a dreadful noises emerges from the depths of the tunnel, signalling the start of a sequence that’s all the more effective because of the suspense that came before it.

What we’ve seen is, of course, only a fraction of the finished film. We can’t possibly tell whether the suspense mentioned earlier is sustained effectively across the whole film, or whether the acting in general is as powerful as the performances we saw from Bryan Cranston and Taylor-Johnson. But what we can say is that the preview gave us the impression that Edwards understands what’s required of a great Godzilla movie - not just stuff blowing up, not just a big growling monster stomping through a city, but also drama and a palpable air of menace. The 20 minutes we saw showed plenty of evidence of this.

It presents Godzilla as he should be: big; terrifying; that iconic bellow signalling the presence of a true force of nature.

Godzilla is out on the 16th May in the UK. Look out for the full Q&A with director Gareth Edwards, on the site next week.

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As a fan of Godzilla movies, viewer of the cartoons (aaaaand Godzuuuuki) and the Mathew Broderick version (which was OK), I'm really looking forward to this version. I like how the monster looks more traditional but to be honest such things don't bother me. I really hope this film matches my own personal expectations.

Yes but is Rodan or Mothra in this film?!? Please say "Yes".

Does anyone else find this new trend for studios to preview 20mins or so of footage a bit odd? How can viewers properly asses anything from it? Doesn't it spoil the movie?

I think the Broderick version should have just been an American monster movie, instead of trying to be a Godzilla movie. In that regard I think it would have been received a lot better overall. I, too, enjoyed that version for what it is.

The Mothra twins are in the trailer. Hidden very well but it is them

A movie where a giant monster hides in NY for most of the film?!?

Really? Cool!

From the footage you've seen, would you say it's a 12 or a 15?

Looks taller than 350ft. Pretty sure that's the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. It's 853ft tall and Godzilla seems to be towering way over that. Of course it's just the poster so might not be an accurate depiction.

Which is a thing which can happen?

Hmm...to be honest, I think it's a good way to generate hype, personally - and in this case, to assure skeptical fans that they are doing it right.

I think we're being hoodwinked. Godzilla will be seen as the threat but he will be the saviour as he was in most of the Japanese films. He won't be benign, but he'll be on our side.

"New trend"? Studios have been previewing movies - especially summer blockbusters - this way for over 20 years. There was an infamous moment at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, where the press laughed at scenes from "Armageddon".

I think I saw rodan twice in the trailer, fleetingly though

they've already said he will be an anti hero not a villain so yeah.....

NOT confirmed. People have seen two people in a building that kinda sorta look like maybe its the twins but they're small, far away, and it could be just about anyone.

I would love it to be true as he's always been my sentimental favorite kaiju, but it could also be that its another flying creature since all we catch in the trailer are shadows.

No. No other Toho monsters are in this movie. It's been confirmed time and time again, that the monsters Godzilla face in this movie are dubbed MUTO's. One is a flying form while the other is a land form.

It's a nice Easter egg moment. But it's really not them.

Uses quiet and loud to good effect. In other words - great for the cinema, but will involve constantly turning the volume up and down at home when watching on DVD or (eventually) TV... So many film these days are like that - dialogue that is muffled, mumbled and whispered so the volume has to be turned way up to make sense of it , and then loud, crashing action sequences, volume has to be turned right down again...

Yep, and doesn't all that volume adjusting p*** the neighbours off.

I am so goddamn excited for this, no movie this year aside from Guardians of the Galaxy hasme so hyped. Every trailer so far has been spine tingling, even the leaked one, I wasn't the biggest fan of Monsters (I just personally wasn't that entertained by it), but Edwards is a great director who definitely knows what he's doing. The cast is also incredible, and like DoG said, heavily implies the film is looking to balance human drama with CGI destruction. Hopefully this will be the high point in the new wave of giant monster movies that Cloverfield seems to have kicked off.

Wasn't it closer to being a remake of Ray Harryhausen's "The beast from 20,000 Fathoms rather than Godzilla?

I've feeling that it's 350m not ft. a mistake. looks too big in the trailer for ft. yeah, the poster i think isn't accurate to movie scale i think

Does anyone know if naming the protagonist 'Brody' is a nod to Jaws?

Excited!

I'm glad somebody else has noticed this. I have found that I often resort to using subtitles so that I can hear the dialog without shaking the house during action scenes. The sound mix on blu ray / dvd releases has become increasingly poor in recent times.

Up from the depths.... Forty stories high... Breathing fire... HE TOWERS IN THE SKY...

GODZILLA duh dududdaaaah

GODZILLA duh dududdaaaah

and Godzuuuuuuuki

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