The Singer Is The Song.

Posted June 3rd, 2014 by Ben

My last post was about the importance of biography as part of story telling, how you cannot separate the story from the storyteller. A good example is “Godzilla”.

I went to see the film because I have an interest in Gareth Edwards. His first film, “Monsters” was a remarkable achievement in British low-budget cinema and his instant elevation to the helm of an American Summer Blockbuster was almost unheard of. Flipping from the budget topsheet of “Monsters” to that of “Godzilla” is enough to give you the bends. For me “Godzilla” was a film about Gareth Edwards and all the atomic dinosaur shenanigans were just a CGI backdrop to this compelling human story.

Gareth Edwards

Of course not all of the film’s paying audience will have been aware of the director’s CV. Nevertheless whoever you are this is a film about him. Not least because “Godzilla” is also notable for its lack of a star.

Normally in a film it is the biography of the leading cast that draws us in. However Aaron Taylor-Johnson currently lives too opaquely to bring anything of biographical interest. Besides the script keeps him absent from the first reel and never lets him step from the shadow of the monster. Indeed the creature is the closest thing the film has to a star turn but, as has been often noted, the director keeps his CG lead at arms length, giving him only a cameo until the climax. This decision, reviled and praised in unequal measure, forces us time and again to think about the film’s only character of note – its director, imposing the importance of his story on all others.

But we all knew that before we sat down. The film’s publicity has been built upon the idea that this is a new, possibly controversial version of a classic by a gifted young talent. The drama may play out off the screen in the box office (he wins) and the fan forums (he loses) but this is the real drama of the movie. Has he done it? Is it a good block buster?

Not that I say any of this as criticism. Consider the stories he could have told. “A monster does some fighting”. “Aaron Taylor-Johnson remains a beautiful but unengaging young man”. “Elizabeth Olsen isn’t really in this movie”. “Bryan Cranston is still playing the same character”. “These effects are thoroughly acceptable”. Amid all this the story “I didn’t expect to be here” surprisingly turns out to be the most interesting thing the film could have been.

So what is the theme of “Godzilla”? That there are forces in our lives we cannot control. These can wreck havoc, yet if we trust them and don’t interfere we might get out ok. We might, even, get to direct a Star Wars spin off…

  1. John Harden

    GODZILLA does something pretty unorthodox, in shifting POV to a different character halfway through the film. Was it a “mistake?” That’s a judgement call – personally, I was able to stay with it and I enjoyed the film. Probably because (as you and others have noted) the human characters aren’t very important in the first case. They are here to provide scale.

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