I wish I could say I’m surprised at the news that director Gareth Edwards has been tapped to direct a remake of Godzilla (the original Toho creation, not the Roland Emmerich American abomination), but I’m not. This is Hollywood, after all; if you can’t find the shortest straight line between two dots, you’re fired.
Edwards made a movie called Monsters. Legendary Pictures wants to remake the king of all monsters. The shortest line between the two is Edwards. Duh.
That’s the cynic in me talking, of course. If it were any other studio, I’d let the cynic win out right off the bat, but this is Legendary Pictures we’re talking about. It’s not some mass-production studio that cranks movies out like a sausage factory. It’s the defiant outfit that paired up Christopher Nolan with Batman, Spike Jonze with Where the Wild Things Are and Zack Snyder with Watchmen. While not all of the studio gambles pay off, its track record for matching bold, uniquely stylized directors with iconic cinematic material is simply unmatched in Hollywood these days.
But is giving Godzilla to Gareth Edwards really thinking all that outside the box?
That’s not a slight against Edwards. I think he’s a tremendous talent and I’ve been a huge and vocal supporter of Monsters since I was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere of it. Even with only one film under his belt, he’s earned enough credit in my book to be a director I’ll be keeping an excited eye out for for years to come.
But that’s the problem I have — that Edwards has made only one film. Sure, it’s a mighty impressive film, the production of which should inspire anyone who has ever wanted to make movies their own way, but he’s still a very green director. My concern isn’t that he’s incapable of going from a $100,000 budget to a $100 million budget (I’m just guessing here, as the Godzilla budget hasn’t been disclosed); it’s that in the scheme of things, Edwards is actually a very safe bet.
It isn’t because he just made a giant monster movie so another one will be easy, either. It’s because a Godzilla remake isn’t all that exciting to begin with. He’s a giant lizard that destroys cities. As long your Godzilla movie has a giant lizard destroying a city, 95 percent of your job is done already. That being the case, you need to make damn sure that the destruction is so awe-inspiring, so larger than life that you can’t help but stare at it all slack-jawed. Naturally, the movie needs to be a special effects extravaganza, and once you’re telling that kind of a story, who is doing the heavy lifting? The director? Or the special effects department?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see what Edwards will do. I just don’t want to be so quick to say a Godzilla remake is going to be OMGAMAZING simply because it’s directed by a guy who made a low-budget monster movie. I can all too easily envision this being a case of a studio picking a unique directorial talent to make a not-so-unique movie. I doubt that at this stage in his career, Edwards has the confidence to throw any weight around against studio decisions. And what happened the last time Legendary Pictures hired a unique directorial talent to make a by-the-numbers movie? We got Jonah Hex, that’s what happened.
The Crank duo was brought in to make a grungy “superhero” flick about a merciless gunslinger. But their approach to the material was just too out-there for its star, so Legendary gave in, the two left the project and a no-frills replacement was brought in. The result was a no-frills movie that’s dull as dishwater.
I fear that’s exactly what’s going to happen here, only Edwards won’t even need to leave the project for it to happen — he already is the easily controlled director for hire.
I hope that doesn’t end up being the case, of course. The glimmer of hope I have comes from knowing that all deals are a two-way street. Edwards no doubt had gobs of projects thrown at him after Hollywood found out about him, so for him to choose Godzilla above all tells me that he feels he has something to bring to the project. But only time will tell how much of that the studio actually lets him bring.