Tag Archives: Gareth Edwards

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 399 – The Creator

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We heartily disagree on The Creator, a sci-fi film directed and co-written by Gareth Edwards, who made his name with Monsters in 2010, which he made largely by himself for half a million dollars, and quickly graduated to tentpole cinema with Godzilla and Rogue One. José had a wonderful time, finding it marvellous to look at and emotionally effective, though leaving room to criticise cinema’s continued insistence that John David Washington is a star. Mike finds it dull, brim-full of clichés, and even a little ugly at times, although Edwards’ sense of how to convey scale, already shown off in his monster movies, remains intact here.

Also featured: ChatGPT and how AI will kill us all.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Luke Brown — ‘Shin Godzilla: The Return of a King’

Video Essay:

Creator’s Statement:

This video essay focuses on the ways in which Shin Godzilla returns the franchise to its Japanese origins after a 12 year absence of Japanese made Godzilla films. Released in 2016, Shin Godzilla was created in the aftermath of Gareth Edwards’ 2014 film Godzilla, which entirely relocated the narrative and the character from its Japanese origins to its new found American home. Due to the success of the 2014 American entry into the franchise, Godzilla’s position as a national icon was temporarily lost. While William Tsutsui attributes the continued success of Godzilla to “the ever shifting metaphor behind (it)”[1] the metaphorical nature of Godzilla appears to be largely lost within the American context. The big budget Hollywood versions of Godzilla forgo what Barak Kushner describes in reference to the original, its ability to act “like a social catharsis, aiding individuals in venting their long-repressed fears.”[2] Instead these modern interpretations seem to focus on action and spectacle. While this is still clearly present in Shin Godzilla, it is not foregrounded in quite the same way, due to the extensive political scenes that make up a bulk of the films run time.

In this video essay I posit that Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi’s 2016 film does more than simply return the narrative to Japan, despite the fact that the film clearly stresses its Japanese location constantly. The film is a clear satire on Japanese politics, offering a return to the initially political nature of Honda’s 1954 film that is missing from the American offering to the Godzilla canon.  I also posit that the film offers an entirely unique representation of the character of Godzilla, while reclaiming much of what made it meaningful in its original context, such as its response to national tragedy.  The version of the kaiju present within this film is unlike any other, offering a uniquely terrifying display of a character many have come to know as a hero.

It is within Shin Godzilla’s national pride, and its wholly unique characterization of a well-known character, that I argue the film shines above the Legendary Pictures Godzilla films. It uses a knowledge of Godzilla’s past to set up a well informed and creatively open future for the franchise. The visual and narrative improvements over the previous Japanese installments in the franchise show how the cultural place of Godzilla has changed in the years between 1954 and 2016, and even between 2004 and 2016. Shin Godzilla has set out how Godzilla should be, using its past and Japan’s present to return Godzilla to its position as a Japanese cultural icon, functioning similarly to Honda’s social catharsis film from 1954 but in response to the tragedies of the modern time. The film uses the interactions between this understanding of the past, and awareness of the present, to offer up a new formula for kaiju movies, a deeply political artifact that can instill fear, grief, hope and joy throughout one film.


Kushner, Barak, “Gojira as Japan’s First Postwar Media Event”, in William Tsutsui and Michiko Ito (ed.), In Godzilla’s Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp. 44

Tsutsui, William, Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of the Monsters (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); quoted in Nathaniel J. Dominy and Ryan Calsbeek, “A Movie Monster Evolves, Fed by Fear”, Science Vol. 364, Issue. 6443 (31 May 2019) pp. 840-841.

[1] William Tsutsui, Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of the Monsters (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); quoted in Nathaniel J. Dominy and Ryan Calsbeek, “A Movie Monster Evolves, Fed by Fear”, Science Vol. 364, Issue. 6443 (31 May 2019) pp. 840-841.

[2] Barak Kushner, “Gojira as Japan’s First Postwar Media Event”, in William Tsutsui and Michiko Ito (ed.), In Godzilla’s Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp. 44

Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, USA, 2014)

Godzilla-new-poster-616x907I thought Godzilla the dullest blockbuster of the season but then, after yawning for an hour and half, the monsters finally arrived and woke me up. It’s a movie where everyone seems to have done an amazing job except director, writers and actors (Juliette Binoche excepted). Some of the shots are jawdroppingly good — the vfx truly astonishing, with the scene on the bridge where the monster rises behind the hero and Godzilla’s arrival at the airport being particular delights.

But maybe a monster movie SHOULD start with a monster rising out of the ocean and stomping on people. All that useless exposition…and to so little end: the background with the mother and father; the sentimental cringe of the father’s birthday greetings at the beginning and middle of the film; the son repeating the father’s cycle; the rescuing of someone else’s child paralleling the danger faced by his own —  it all leaves one either cringing or yawning

Hollywood filmmakers should find something other than psychiatry to entertain them. It really seems to have reduced their understanding of people, of individual character and their motivation, and of the political and social contexts in which recognisable people might live in. Thus in Godzilla, the filmmakers’ control over the means of expression vastly exceeds an understanding that never seems to go beyond Pychology 101 and Intro to Film Studies 101 (there seemed to be a shot copying everything ever done here — The Birds, the Aliens films etc) with a dash of cod-Buddhist philosophy thrown in so that Godzilla can come and re-order the ‘natural balance’ of things. There’s a ‘feather-in-brain’ moment too where Ken Watanabe brings out his father’s watch to remind us of the Atomic Bomb (as if a film called Godzilla in which the monsters are powered by nuclear energy itself needed further reminders).

The actors are supremely bad: when one’s noticing that Bryan Cranston is wearing the same wig fifteen years later; or feeling cheated because Aaron Taylor-Johnson hasn’t taken his shirt off but isn’t doing much else; or longing for Mathew Broderick to appear from somewhere show his charismatic face and crack a few jokes, there’s a problem with the story-telling and acting. Ken Watanabe seems to have three expressions: one where he turns his mouth into an o; another, more expressive, where he turns his mouth into an oval; and then a grim and resolute downturn of the mouth. He does say Godzilla with a Japanese accent and with particular relish for which much can be forgiven; and to be fair, it’s is not as if he’s given a lot to do.

Except for Juliette Binoche, Godzilla does give a more compelling performance than the rest of the cast: the monster design and animatronics or whatever vfx skills brought the monster to life are indeed terrific and worthy of praise. The gradual introduction of the monster, the design and execution of the shots of destruction in the Hawaii and San Francisco sections of the film, the detail and amount that one can see going on inside each shot; all are thrilling. There are shots that truly do make one go ‘Wow’! However, even when the monsters do start stomping on cities or fighting each other, the story lacks tension and suspense. I was longing for them to stomp on someone we were meant to care about but didn’t really.

Godzilla is indeed spectacular. If your interest is in vfx and on the look of things, it may well surprise and delight. It’s certainly worth seeing on IMAX in order to enjoy those pleasures to the full. But the pleasures the film satisfies are those of spectacle rather than of narrative, and given that so much time was spent on narrative, this really counts as a failure in this film. Ultimately, Godzilla illustrates how empty and ultimately unsatisfying spectacle on its own can be, that there’s a story-telling dimension to spectacle itself, and that a monster movie that doesn’t scare, doesn’t thrill and doesn’t allegorize with intelligence is not much of a monster movie at all.


José Arroyo