Writer-director Roland Emmerich (White House Down) decided to put his own spin on the Godzilla franchise back in 1998. The result: a destruction-happy Hollywood blockbuster that stars Matthew Broderick as Dr. Niko Tatopoulos, who bears more than a slight resemblance to the glasses-wearing nerdy protagonists found in other Emmerich films (James Spader in Stargate, Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day).
Needless to say, we expect that filmmaker Gareth Edwards - who directed the indie sci-fi drama Monsters - will take a different approach to the Japanese giant monster/metaphor than Emmerich did, on the upcoming Godzilla reboot. The film's human lead, Aaron Taylor-Johson (Kick-Ass), teased as much during a recent interview, where he spoke about the small number of special effects shots and his character in the movie.
Johnson knows what it feels like to work outside the studio system on a film (Kick-Ass, for example, was financed by director Matthew Vaughn), but he told Total Film - via Digital Spy - that production on Godzilla features so few people that "it feels more like an independent movie than anything I've ever worked on." He then added:
"I've hardly done any green screen stuff for it, he's (Edwards) really clever at doing the special effects. We'll shoot everything raw on location, on the streets, and he's going to put it all around us."
Edwards began his professional filmmaking career in the visual effects field (on TV projects like Seven Wonders of the Industrial World and Dive to Bermuda Triangle), which served him well on his directorial debut with Monsters. That movie primarily takes place in an alternate version of Mexico, which has become a warzone thanks to the arrival of giant extraterrestrial creatures. Armed with just a $500K budget - while serving as the writer, director, cinematographer and visual effects supervisor - Edwards managed to craft a visually-poetic and insightful human story.
The final result on Monsters led to Edwards being hired to reboot Godzilla, and his take on the lightning-breathing creature (as Johnson's comments indicate) looks to keep its distance from the gleeful destruction and camp from Emmerich's vision. By comparison, Edwards is more interested in the Mother Nature revenge aspect of the story - the emphasis in the original 1954 Godzilla movie - and that sentiment has been echoed by co-screenwriter Frank Darabont.
Of course, since there's a giant beast on the run, that means the U.S. military will play an important role in the proceedings. Johnson is reported to be playing a Navy lieutenant in the Godzilla reboot, and had this to say on the subject:
"There's an etiquette for guys in the military, so there was training for that, how to hold guns and how to run and to talk to other officers. I love all that."
Battle Los Angeles also blended naturalism and extraordinary circumstances (similar to what Johnson has said about Godzilla), in order to tell a story about the military's fight against alien invaders. However, there are a few reasons to believe that the Godzilla reboot will prove more successful in that endeavor. To be precise, the allegory in Godzilla is shaping up stronger than Battle LA; not to mention, the premise is being realized by a very-talented pack of actors, writers and Edwards as director.
The cast for the Godzilla reboot includes Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Juliette Binoche (Cosmopolis), Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), David Strathairn (Lincoln) and Ken Watanabe (Silence). That is to say, Johnson will have plenty of help, in reacting to a non-existent CGI Godzilla in a way that feels believable and convincing (assuming you are willing to wrap your head around the idea that Godzilla could exist in the first place).
Godzilla will be featured at Legendary's 2013 Comic-Con panel, well-ahead of the film's theatrical release on May 16th, 2014.
Meanwhile, you can see Johnson on the big screen in Kick-Ass 2 on August 16th, 2013.