I’ve had several conversations over the last few years with Thomas Tull about Godzilla, both generally and specifically.
If you don’t know Tull’s name, he’s the Big Cheese at Legendary Pictures, the company that has served as one of the primary financing partners for Warner Bros. the last few years, and he is a fascinating figure, a guy who came to Hollywood from the world of high finance but who is genuinely a giant movie nerd. Sure, he’s a financial partner in the Pittsburgh Steelers, and a guy who build a giant hedge fund, but movies are one of his great passions.
And even with movies as a general passion for Tull, the character of Godzilla is a particular passion, something he loves dearly. Right now, as Legendary prepares for their first Comic-Con panel next week, I’m excited to see what sort of presentation they’ve put together for “Pacific Rim,” which is a big giant demented monster and mecha movie that Guillermo Del Toro and Travis Beacham have cooked up. It’s a wild read, and I can’t even imagine what sort of outrageous energy Del Toro’s eventual film will have. I know there was some confusion during development when it was reported that “Pacific Rim” would be replacing “Godzilla,” but despite the presence of giant monsters in both projects, I don’t think that would be as easy as previously suggested.
“Godzila,” after all, comes with its own mythology, its own history, and over 50 years of pop culture baggage. If you’re going to make a movie about Godzilla, you need to consider all of that when crafting your approach. Toho, the company that created the character and released his movies, is onboard to distribute this new version in Japanese theaters when it’s ready, and according to Tull, they’re very protective now of a new Godzilla after their experience with Sony in 1998. Everyone involved seems well aware of just how easy it would be to get this wrong, and they seem dedicated to getting it right.
Gareth Edwards, whose microbudget movie “Monsters” garnered him some serious attention, is onboard to direct this new version, and until now, Dave Callaham has been the writer on the film. It looks like that changed, though, and now David Goyer is coming onboard to rewrite the film. What I can tell you about the approach the studio is taking to the film is that Godzilla is not “just” a giant monster. He is a character, a major force of nature, and there will definitely be other giant monsters in the world. They’re focusing on the notion of Godzilla as a defender of Earth, the one thing that can stop some of these other giant creatures, and while there will obviously be a human story playing out with the giant monster story, don’t expect it to overwhelm or overshadow the monsters. They know why you’re going to the theater, and they are determined to give you a real, no-compromises Godzilla film featuring the giant lizard you know and love already. There are definite design choices they’ll make, and the official Toho Godzilla has gone through many changes over the years, but I guarantee when you see this one for the first time, you will know immediately that it is Godzilla.
Goyer is one of those guys who knows the studio system and game very well, and I have no doubt this was an open assignment people were fighting for. What he does well is think big-picture, and this is an important franchise for Warner and for Legendary. If all goes well, they could make a number of these. If they screw it up, they’ll be a footnote in the character’s history, just like the Emmerich version. I know they’re doing everything they can to avoid that, and I’m curious to see now if they set a 2013 date for this one, and if so, how fast things will start to come together.
One thing’s for sure… we’ll be covering any developments on “Godzilla” eagerly, and we look forward to seeing his return to theaters as soon as possible.