By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood May 2, 2014 at 11:12AM
After "Godzilla" was appropriately unveiled to journos on Thursday in IMAX 3D at the TCL Chinese, director Gareth Edwards and producer Thomas Tull did a brief Q&A about paying homage to the '54 Toho classic while offering relevant social commentary for our times.
"We police the world and tell everyone else not to have nuclear weapons and what if the tables were turned with a creature that feeds off radiation?" explained Edwards, who called it a one-stop shop for monster mayhem only with a humanizing twist.
However, Edwards, whose first exposure to "Godzilla" as a youngster in the UK was actually the Hanna-Barbera "Godzuki" cartoon, added that there was some initial concern about hitting too close to home with recent disasters in Japan. "Some people thought maybe we shouldn't set it in Japan or deal with radiation. We talked about it. The whole point of the '54 version was to take the opportunity to reflect on the period it was made in. We've opened this Pandora's Box so it became appropriate to deal with some [relevant] issues."
And with the natural disasters and terrorist attacks of the last decade, Edwards had plenty of provocative imagery and meaning to pull from. But going from the low-budget indie fave, "Monsters," to reworking the grandfather of post-war monster movies wasn't so much daunting as exhilarating. Edwards said he took additional inspiration from such faves as "Jaws," "Alien," and "Jurassic Park," which taught him not to get overly seduced by spectacle. In other words, a little tease goes a long way with some cinematic foreplay before delivering the big climax.
For his part, Tull (from Legendary Pictures) feasted on post-Thanksgiving "Godzilla" marathons growing up in upstate New York. He wanted to break out of the mold with some modern touches yet still stay true to the rules of the franchise. "We knew that if the journey with the audience [was to succeed], there would have to be a 180-degree turn..."
Yet for Edwards the difference between directing a $500,000 indie and a summer tentpole is to invert everything that's difficult and hope that it eventually balances out. The goal is still to tell a compelling story while attracting a new generation of Godzilla fans.
And Edwards has been helped by a series of cunning trailers that have built interest in the Toho monster that arrives May 16.