New images and footage from the forthcoming Godzilla movie have us so excited that we're zooming through the air like three-headed space kaiju. At Comic-Con, we sat down with director Gareth Edwards to talk about his giant monster designs, and the political subtext of this classic anti-nuke tale.
io9: Which version of Godzilla influenced your design for this monster? Were you looking at any particular Godzilla movie?
We went through all of the previous Godzillas [for inspiration]. We did hundreds of designs. I wanted to experiment with everything. We're making this film in partnership with [Godzilla franchise owner] Toho Studios, so they had signoff on a lot of the designs. The way I tried to view it was to imagine Godzilla was a real creature and someone from Toho saw him in the 1950s and ran back to the studio to make a movie about the creature and was trying their best to remember it and draw it. And in our film you get to see him for real. In the Toho movies, you can see how they made those suits. But hopefully now with VFX, we can make the most realistic version. Still, it's true to the Toho original in terms of the animal itself.
Is this the 1954 Godzilla, who is deadly and horrible, or more like the humanized ally who emerges in the 70s and 90s movies?
That's the fascinating thing. Godzilla's an antihero. He started as the enemy and in the later films became the good guy. In our film, it's not black or white. I wanted people to be afraid, and have that reaction. You wouldn't be cheering if he really turned up, and we tried to keep it that way.
You have a strong political subtext in your previous movie Monsters. Did you deal with any of the politics from the original Godzilla movie?
Godzilla is a metaphor for Hiroshima in the original movie. We tried to keep that, and there are a lot of themes from '54 movie that we've kept. To me, if all we did was just have monsters smashing things up, then the film would be pointless. The great thing about the 1954 Godzilla is that beyond the spectacle and epic enjoyment of seeing giant monsters smashing a city, there's another layer to the movie that you could take or leave.
In our film, Godzilla represents a force of nature. The theme of man vs. nature creeps up a lot visually throughout the film.
What do you mean? Like climate change?
It's not specifically climate change or anything. We tap into nuclear themes within our film — that's at the heart of the film. But it's more about the power of nature, and how we sometimes abuse that power. Godzilla is a symbol of nature coming back to put us in our place, to restore the balance or however you want to define it. Films like this are powerful when you feel like you deserve what's coming. It's not just a fantasy. Deep inside you feel like we've been asking for this — it's been a long time coming. As crazy as all these events are, subconsciously it feels true that this could happen.
My favorite horror films are ones where characters feel guilt, and have it coming to them. Humanity has abused its position in the world and I think that Godzilla represents a force — not quite of retribution, but a force of putting things back to right.
Does an American kaiju represent something different than a Japanese one? Does it have to be set in Japan to tell this story?
It's important that part of the film took place in Japan, but it's very much a global story. The whole idea was that it would be a sort of origin story, and you can't do that without Japan.