Last night at SXSW in Austin, Texas, not only did Collider get the opportunity to sit down for a screening of the 1954 original, but a sequence from Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros’ new rendition of Godzilla, too. As director Gareth Edwards pointed out prior to rolling the footage, the material was unfinished and did contain a handful of work-in-progress VFX shots, but even then, it was strikingly absorbing and boasted an exceptional build. Hit the jump for my recap.
We begin with a shot of our main man, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, aboard an airport tram. From there, it’s a glimpse of a family enjoying their Hawaii getaway and then off to a wooded, mountainous terrain with a fire raging on in the distance. Back with the family, the youngest of the bunch, a little girl, senses something strange and walks off alone towards the water, hitting the shore just in time to watch it recede. Knowing what’s coming, the tourists make a run for it.
After that, the focus shifts to Ken Watanbe who’s aboard some sort of military aircraft carrier out at sea. He’s a bit uneasy too, and soon enough, we find out why; he spots a massive fin heading straight for them. The boats bob violently until we hit an overhead shot that reveals the enormity of the creature heading their way. As Godzilla makes his way past the fleet towards shore, we get a striking shot of the view of the scene from inside a fancy restaurant filled with unsuspecting patrons enjoying their meal while the water rises just outside their window.
That’s when we cut back to our tourists who are now running through the streets of the city as an enormous wave floods the area. The girl from earlier is scooped up by her father and pulled into a shop just in time for them to keep dry as the water rushes by. Aerial shots show the extent of the flood, the lights go out, flares are fired and the camera pans up with those flares, which then illuminate just a small portion of the beast that has arrived. Soldiers make an attempt at stopping Godzilla dead in his tracks by sending a barrage of bullets his way, but to no avail.
Back on the mountain, a group of soldiers look on as power is restored. Trouble is, back at the airport, Taylor-Johnson’s tram still isn’t moving and there’s something right outside the window – a second Kaiju! It’s got a bug-like stance with two wings on his back, four legs for walking, two tiny t-rex hands and a face very reminiscent of the monster from Cloverfield. The creature begins to demolish the tram track. Sparks fly, people scream, cars tumble to the ground and Taylor-Johnson manages to grab hold of a young boy just before he goes down with them.
Before the creature can cause any more destruction, Godzilla makes one heck of an entrance; whereas that second Kaiju once appeared to be an enormous threat, compared to Godzilla, he’s quite literally a bug that can be stepped on and squashed. After a wide shot in which Godzilla’s legs alone dwarf this Kaiju, we get what we’ve been waiting for – a toe to head look at every inch of the iconic beast.
The moment the footage cut to black, the crowd erupted and for good reason; even in an unfinished state, Godzilla is looking good. Just like the material featured in the film’s trailers, all of the shots are very well composed, but what this standalone clip suggests that no trailer montage can is the proficiency of the narrative and shot selection. In one sequence, Edwards manages to establish two main players and offer a comprehensive sense of the geography of this environment. Of course there’s no judging an entire film based on a single snippet of material, but if Edwards is this successful at building the world throughout the feature, it will be an immensely visceral and satisfying experience.
Godzilla is due in theaters on May 16, 2014.