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Film Fanatic: ‘Star Wars’ Spinoff News, ‘Godzilla’ Review

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‘Godzilla’ Director moving to ‘Star Wars’

Fresh off of the success of Godzilla (it made $93 million opening weekend), news of a sequel were quickly announced and one assumed that director Gareth Edwards would once again be at the helm.  While he is attached to direct two more Godzilla films, he’s going to be tackling an even “bigger” property in the meantime.

Heat Vision is reporting that Edwards will direct the first Star Wars spinoff film.  The pic will open in theaters in 3D on December 16, 2016 but it’s unclear which film Edwards will be making as Lucasfilm is rumored to have multiple standalone films in the works for such characters as Boba Fett, Yoda and Han Solo.

Gareth Edwards - moviefone.com
Gareth Edwards at the premiere of ‘Godzilla.’ | (moviefone.com)

It’s quite the ascent for Edwards.  Prior to Godzilla, the English director’s only feature was the independent monster movie Monsters which cost just $500,000 to make and made even less at the box office domestically.  But enough people at Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures saw the small movie and gave Edwards his shot at the king of all monster movies and it has paid off.

But scripts for future Godzilla movies haven’t even been written yet so Edwards will be focusing his talents in a galaxy far, far away.  Here’s what Legendary CEO Thomas Tull had to say about Edwards and the future of Godzilla:

“The plan has always been for Gareth to direct a different film before we started on another Godzilla, but who knew it would be a Star Wars installment?  We have a great plan in store for Godzilla fans and I am looking forward to seeing Gareth’s imprint on the Star Wars universe.”

As for Edwards himself, directing a Star Wars film has been a lifelong dream.

“Ever since I saw Star Wars I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life — join the Rebel Alliance!  I could not be more excited and honored to go on this mission with Lucasfilm,” said Edwards.

Some Thoughts about ‘Godzilla’

Likes:

Monster Design

The look of Godzilla is great and in keeping with Japan’s original design with the creature.  Gone is the giant Iguana Roland Emmerich released in theaters in the summer of 1998.  The new beast lumbers through destroyed cities moving like an actual animal would.  One shot from behind reminded me of a bear.  The ’98 version was more lizard-like and was often hiding behind buildings and underground.  This new monster knows that we know it exists and announces its presence with authority.

Godzilla - sciencefiction.com
Now this is how Godzilla should look. | (sciencefiction.com)

Real-World Portrayal 

The film was smartly marketed as more of a disaster movie than a monster movie and the story treats it like a post-911 universe.  The monster’s need for nuclear energy to sustain life is an interesting parable to the world’s need to stock nuclear weapons and other themes such as humanity’s scientific arrogance against nature are conveyed as well. 

Third Act

The final third of this film delivers on what the first two acts sporadically built up and that is the epic scope.  When Godzilla finally wreaks havoc on the city of San Francisco, as well as a couple more creatures, it is as exciting and destructive as any blockbuster of recent memory.  Fanboys of the monster will be cheering in their seats when they witness Godzilla kicking monster ass.  It’s what fans have been waiting for the last 16 years.

Dislikes:

Lead Character Uninteresting 

There are some great actors in this film including Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche and David Strathairn.  But all of them take a backseat to Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the main character and frankly, he doesn’t have the acting chops to carry the entire film.

Great actors in my opinion are ones who can convey emotion without even speaking and unfortunately, Taylor-Johnson doesn’t have that skill.  Often I would look at him and have no idea what was going through his head.  I was confused, as was him apparently because that’s what I was reading on his face.  It’s like you could see him working things out in his head (Okay, the monster is right in front of me, act frightened.  No, amazed.  No, shocked.  Ah hell, I don’t know).

I feel like he ended up being the main character because he was a soldier and had muscles.  Somebody had to be able to run and jump for two hours and it wasn’t going to be one of the better actors.

Supporting Characters Not Given Enough to Do

In the scenes featuring those great actors I mentioned, their characters were not fully-developed or given anything memorable to do.

If I had a dollar for every time Watanabe looked bewildered, shocked, and/or confused, I would be a millionaire.  He’s spent 15 years trying to figure out these monsters and he’s come up with what exactly?  How is he even qualified for this job?  And who is Sally Hawkins in this movie?  Is she his assistant?  Protege?  Her character only exists to elaborate on his muddled exposition.

GODZILLA
Ken Watanabe and David Strathairn are wondering if they should have more to do in this movie. | (huffingtonpost.com)

Cranston is given the most to do in the film, but A: he’s not in it enough, and B: his character goes from being a stressed-out scientist to a conspiracy-theory nut who has also been a terrible father to Taylor-Johnson’s character.  Instead of this relationship being redeemed or mended, it’s halted and turned into a father-has-to-get-back-to-his-family story.

This leads me to Elizabeth Olsen’s character.  After one significant scene in the beginning with her husband, she spends the rest of the movie either on the phone or running and looking up at Godzilla like every other faceless person in the crowd.  They even made her a nurse which usually means at some point, she’s going to bravely save an person’s life who was an innocent bystander at the hands of Godzilla.  Nope.  She does none of that.  She just runs and looks frightened in scrubs.

Not Enough Godzilla

I’ve mentioned all of this under-developed character moments because it takes almost an hour before we get our first real look at Godzilla.  I’m all for building up the titular character (see: Jaws, Jurassic Park, Alien and Batman Begins), but all of those scenes in between the monster have to be interesting and for the most part, they weren’t.  

It’s like the makers of the film focused so hard on making a serious, grounded Godzilla movie that they forgot about the characters who are playing people.  The people have to be developed in someway, otherwise they’re just ants underneath Godzilla’s giant boot.

As for Godzilla, when we do finally get his introduction and he roars for the first time, you expect an epic monster fight to follow.  Except it doesn’t.  The screen goes black and we’re treated to a few seconds of news footage of the fight and then the movie continues on.  Apparently there wasn’t enough money in the budget for this so they just scrapped it entirely.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m conflicted about this movie.  I loved the approach and overarching themes, as well as the phenomenal finale, but for the most part, Godzilla ended up being just okay.  I usually prefer dark and serious over fun, but unless the screenplay and characters are great, there needs to be some levity involved.  This is a giant monster movie after all.

Should you see Godzilla?  Yes.  If nothing else, see it for the sound and the finale.  They alone are worth the price of admission.  But if you are expecting a fun, summer movie with memorable characters and a well-balanced story, expect to be disappointed.

Coen Brothers to Pen Spielberg/Hanks Cold War Film

Look up the word “prestige” in the dictionary and you’ll likely find this upcoming project mentioned because it is loaded with Oscar-winning talent.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Coen Brothers are rewriting Matt Charman’s Cold War film.  The DreamWorks film is a true story that casts Tom Hanks as James Donovan, an attorney who negotiated with the KGB to get a spy plane pilot released.

Steven Spielberg and The Coen Brothers
This is a lot of talent involved in one project. | (screencrush.com)

Steven Spielberg, while not officially attached, is pondering several projects for his next directing gig and with Hanks starring, the untitled film could move to the front of the line.  The director and actor previously worked together on Saving Private Ryan and Catch Me If You Can.  They were also producing partners on Band of Brothers and The Pacific.

Just thinking about Spielberg directing another film with Hanks and using the Coen Brothers’ words is exciting enough.  These guys have nine Oscars between them and the Cold War has always been ripe for interesting stories.  All those involved have projects they’re currently working on so it will be a while before this film is released.

But as a film fan, I and many others will file this project away, maybe forget about it, and then be pleasantly surprised and reminded by it again when production starts.

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