The film is a co-production between Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, with the latter also distributing the film worldwide, except in Japan where it was distributed by Toho. The project initially began in 2004 and was originally intended to be an IMAX short film but was later transferred to Legendary for development as a feature film. Principal photography took place in the United States and Canada in 2013.
In 1954, Godzilla, an ancient alpha predator, is lured to an island in an attempt to kill it with a nuclear bomb.
In 1999, Monarch scientists Ishiro Serizawa and Vivienne Graham investigate a colossal skeleton underground that was unearthed by a collapsed mine in the Philippines. They find two giant spores in the cave; one dormant and one hatched with a trail that leads out of the cave to the sea. In Japan, the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant experiences unusual seismic activity; Supervisor Joe Brody sends his wife Sandra with a team of other technicians into the reactor. A tremor breaches the reactor, leaving Sandra and her team unable to escape while the plant collapses.
Fifteen years later in 2014, Joe's son Ford, a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer, returns from a tour of duty to his wife Elle and young son Sam in San Francisco but has to immediately depart for Japan after Joe is detained for trespassing in the Janjira quarantine zone. Joe is determined to find out the cause of the Janjira meltdown, and he persuades Ford to accompany him to their old home in the quarantine zone to retrieve vital data while discovering that the zone is not contaminated by radiation. They successfully retrieve the data but are discovered by soldiers and taken to a secret facility in the power plant's ruins. After several power failures, a giant winged creature emerges and escapes, destroying the facility. Joe is severely wounded and dies as he and Ford are taken by helicopter to the U.S.S. Saratoga. The incident is reported around the world as an earthquake.
Serizawa, Graham, and Ford join a U.S. Navy task force led by Admiral William Stenz to search for the creature, called a "MUTO" (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). Serizawa and Graham reveal to Ford that a 1954 deep sea expedition triggered the appearance of Godzilla and nuclear tests in the 1950s were really attempts to kill him. Project Monarch was established to secretly study Godzilla and other similar creatures such as the MUTO, which travelled from the Philippine mine to Janjira and caused the meltdown, and how they are connected with each other. Ford reveals that Joe had monitored echolocation signals that indicated the MUTO was communicating with something.
The MUTO attacks a Russian submarine and drops it on land in Hawaii to eat the sub's nuclear material. Godzilla arrives, causing a tsunami in Honolulu and briefly engages the MUTO in battle, until it flees. Meanwhile, a second, larger, wingless MUTO emerges from the other spore in Nevada and devastates Las Vegas. The scientists deduce that the second MUTO is female, the female was the one the male was communicating with, and that the two MUTOs will meet to breed in San Francisco. As Godzilla is hunting them, they will lure him there. Over the scientists' objections concerning the monsters' radioactive nature, Stenz approves a plan to use nuclear warheads to lure the monsters to the open ocean and destroy them, with more power in the warheads than the power in the bomb used on Godzilla in 1954. Ford returns to the U.S. and ends up joining the team delivering the warheads by train, but the female MUTO intercepts the train and devours most of the warheads. The single remaining warhead is airlifted with Ford to San Francisco and is activated after a confrontation between the military and Godzilla at the Golden Gate Bridge, but the male MUTO steals it and takes it to the female, who forms a nest around it in the Chinatown area.
While Godzilla and the MUTOs battle, a strike team, including Ford, enters the city via HALO jump to find and disarm the warhead. Unable to access the timer, the rest of the team sets the warhead on a boat for disposal at sea. The MUTOs are eventually able to get the upper hand, but Ford blows up the MUTO nest, ultimately distracting the MUTOs enough to allow Godzilla to emerge victorious in the end, killing the male MUTO by slamming him with his tail into the side of an office building and the female by firing his atomic breath down her throat, beheading her. Godzilla then collapses from exhaustion on the city shore. With the rest of the team wiped out, Ford uses the last of his energy to get the boat with the warhead out to sea. He is rescued before the warhead explodes and reunites with his family at the Oakland Coliseum emergency shelter the following morning. Godzilla awakens, rising from the destroyed San Francisco, and with a final, victorious roar returns to sea while the media hails Godzilla as "King of the Monsters - savior of our city?".Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody
The son of Joe and Sandra Brody. After the nuclear plant's collapse, he grows up in the United States and becomes a Lieutenant in the United States Navy as an explosive ordnance disposal technician. When Taylor-Johnson first met with Edwards, they talked for six hours about the archetype of the character. Taylor-Johnson stated that Edwards brought a level of "intimacy" to the film and praised him for treating it like a "big budget art film". He stated, "I think he went for the right balance of sensitivity and testosterone. I've probably been more emotionally challenged in this film than in any independent drama or thriller". Taylor-Johnson went through training to achieve military etiquette, and said he performed "quite a lot of the stunts". The role of Ford was reportedly offered to Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 2012, but he declined. By 2013, Henry Cavill, Scoot McNairy, and Caleb Landry Jones comprised the shortlist for the role before Legendary took interest in Taylor-Johnson. CJ Adams portrays Brody as a young boy.
Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa
The lead scientist for Project Monarch. Watanabe was initially skeptical about a new Hollywood Godzilla
film but changed his mind after a meeting with Edwards, stating, "If you are telling the Godzilla story, you cannot separate it from the nuclear element, and the first thing I asked was whether there was going to be the nuclear element, as that now, in Japan, is a really sensitive problem. I was worried about how I could use that and how I could make that okay, but Gareth understood those feelings." Watanabe's character is named after the director of various Godzilla films, Ishiro Honda, and after the scientist who killed Godzilla in the 1954 original film, Dr. Daisuke Serizawa.
Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody
A nurse at San Francisco General Hospital. She is married to Ford Brody and is the mother of Sam Brody. Olsen agreed to join the film after being impressed with Edwards' previous film, Monsters
and Edwards' enthusiasm for the film and Godzilla's history.
Juliette Binoche as Sandra Brody
A nuclear regulations consultant at the Janjira nuclear plant. She is married to Joe Brody and is the mother of Ford Brody. Binoche agreed to join the film after reading a "beautiful" letter from Edwards and because she wanted to "please" her son, who is also a fan of Godzilla, however, Edwards has stated that her character's death scene is what convinced her (and Cranston) to join the film. Binoche later revealed that Quentin Tarantino admitted to crying during her character's death scene, Tarantino stating it was "the first time I've ever cried during a 3D blockbuster."
Sally Hawkins as Dr. Vivienne Graham,
A scientist with Project Monarch. She has been Serizawa's "right hand" for many years. Hawkins was the last actress to be cast while the film was undergoing principal photography.
David Strathairn as Rear Admiral William Stenz, USN.
An Admiral in the Seventh Fleet of the United States Navy. He is the commander of the United States Navy task force in charge of tracking down the escaped MUTO.
Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody
Ford's father and former lead engineer at the Janjira nuclear plant until its destruction in 1999. Cranston has said that Edwards' approach to the film and to its characterization is what drew him to the project. He stated, "The most important thing about this version of Godzilla is the characterization. The characters in this are real, well drawn. [Edwards] takes the time to really establish who these people are, that you root for them, that you invest in these characters, and that you care for them. That's the best part of it." Cranston additionally added, "I wouldn't be here if it was just, 'Look out, this monster is crushing everything!' Instead of trying to humanize the beast what this film does - and, I think, rightfully so - is humanize the people. You root for them and sympathize with their plight". Cranston also joined the film because he has been a fan of Godzilla since childhood, stating, "Godzilla was always my favorite monster when I was young. He was unapologetic." Cranston had to wear a wig for his scenes due to finishing Breaking Bad
days before joining Godzilla
. Cranston was initially ready to decline the offer after being approached, assuming the film was going to be "silly", however, director Edwards' passion for the film and his previous film Monsters
impressed Cranston enough to read the script and join the film. Cranston, despite his positive opinion on the film, would later opine that killing off Joe Brody so early was a "narrative mistake".
Richard T. Jones as Captain Russell Hampton, USN
The commander of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga
, the flagship of the MUTO task force.
Victor Rasuk as Sergeant Tre Morales, USAF
A sergeant of the United States Air Force. He becomes friends with Ford after the battles at Honolulu.
Carson Bolde as Sam Brody
The young son of Ford and Elle Brody.
Additional roles include: Patrick Sabongui as First Lieutenant Marcus Waltz, USAF, Jared Keeso as Jump Master, Luc Roderique as Bomb Tracker, Al Sapienza as Huddleston, the head of security at the Janjira MUTO facility, Brian Markinson as Whalen, a scientist at the Janjira MUTO facility, Catherine Lough Haggquist as PO #1 Martinez, Jake Cunanan as Akio, Warren Takeuchi as Akio's father, Yuki Morita as Akio's mother, Ken Yamamura as Takashi, Garry Chalk as Stan Walsh, Christian Tessier, Anthony Konechny, James D. Deaver as Captain Freeman, Primo Allon as a member of the mine team, and Jeric Ross.
Godzilla franchise actor Akira Takarada was cast as an immigration officer, but his scene was cut from the final film. Edwards stated cutting the scene was his "biggest regret". Despite cutting the cameo, Takarada is still listed in the closing credits of the film.
The film is a co-production of Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, with the participation of Toho in creature design, sound design and plot. It has an estimated $160 million production budget, financed 75% by Legendary and 25% by Warner Bros. The movie has an estimated $65 million promotion and advertising budget, for a total estimated budget of $225 million. The film is Warner Bros. Pictures' first new Godzilla property since 1959's Gigantis, the Fire Monster.
After the release of 2004's Godzilla: Final Wars, marking the 50th anniversary of the Godzilla film franchise, Toho announced that it would not produce any films featuring the Godzilla character for ten years. Toho demolished the water stage on its lot used in numerous Godzilla films to stage water scenes. TriStar Pictures, which had made the 1998 Godzilla film and held the rights to make a trilogy of films, let their rights expire in 2003.
In August 2004, Yoshimitsu Banno, who had directed 1971's Godzilla vs. Hedorah, announced that he had secured the rights from Toho to make a Godzilla IMAX 3D short film at his Advanced Audiovisual Productions (AAP) production company. The film was tentatively titled Godzilla 3D to the Max, and was to be a remake of the Godzilla vs. Hedorah story. In 2005, American Peter Anderson, ASC was added to the project as cinematographer, visual effects supervisor and co-producer by an independent producer Kenji Okuhira who represented Banno. In the same year, American producer Brian Rogers signed on to the project after the meeting with Banno arranged by Okuhira and Anderson. In 2007, also through Anderson, Kerner Optical then came on board to develop the technology and to produce the 3-D film And with Kerner's backing, in the fall of 2007 the team met with Toho in Tokyo where they re-negotiated their license to allow the release of a feature-length 3-D theatrical production. In 2008, Kerner was facing financial troubles that threatened to cancel the production. Rogers, Anderson and the then-proposed director Keith Melton met with Legendary Pictures to get their backing on a 3-D theatrical film. In 2010, it was green-lit by Legendary to go to production. From the Godzilla 3D production team, Banno and Okuhira would remain on the project as executive producers and Rogers as a producer. In November 2013, Banno stated that he still planned to make a sequel to Godzilla vs. Hedorah.
In August 2009, rumors surfaced that Legendary was in talks with Toho to produce a new American Godzilla film to be released in 2012, and on March 29, 2010, it was officially confirmed by Toho and Legendary that Legendary had acquired the rights to Godzilla. According to Hideyuki Takai, president of Toho Co.: “We are delighted in rebooting the character together to realize its much-anticipated return by fans from all over the world. We are anxious to find out where Godzilla’s new stomping will take us.” Legendary announced it would reboot the franchise with Warner Bros. co-producing and co-financing. Legendary announced it would make the new film closer in style to the original 1954 film rather than the 1998 film and its "iguana-like creature". According to Thomas Tull, chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures, "Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop culturally relevant for as long as it has." Film producers Dan Lin, Roy Lee, Doug Davison and Legendary's Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni were added to the project to work with Rogers, Banno and Okuhira.
At the 3D Summit conference held in September 2010 at Universal Studios, producer Brian Rogers confirmed a planned date of 2012. The reboot is a live-action project featuring a fully computer-generated Godzilla. Godzilla fought at least one or two monsters, rather than simply the military as seen in Emmerich's 1998 film. Rogers also confirmed that the two Godzilla head designs that were floating around the Internet and rumored to have been designed by Legendary and sent to Toho for approval were fake, and were just simply fan-made. He also went on to say that he and Legendary Pictures wished to revive Godzilla in the same fashion Legendary had revived Batman.
In October 2010, it was rumoured that Guillermo del Toro was approached to direct the film, which del Toro later denied. In January 2011, Gareth Edwards was announced as the director for the film. In an interview publicizing the DVD release of Monsters, Edwards discussed the new film: "this will definitely have a very different feel than the 1998 film and our biggest concern is making sure we get it right for the fans because we know their concerns. It must be brilliant in every category because I'm a fan as well." Edwards further stated, "Without addressing anything specific, everyone knows how important it is to get it right."
The film remained in development into 2012, missing the planned release date. Edwards worked on his vision for the film at a stage at the Warner Bros. lot. The production team developed Godzilla models, artwork and pre-visualizations of the action scenes of the movie. From the lot, Edward directed a short teaser video, shown to Legendary executives and later shown at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2012.
In 2010, David Callaham pitched his take on Godzilla to Legendary and Warner Bros. and was hired to write the first draft. Speaking of his draft, Callaham stated, "Godzilla is a pretty cut and dry, giant monster that smashes stuff. But the reason I got excited about it is because I saw themes and relationships to the modern world that I could tell in this story that was important." Callaham did research on Godzilla's history, animal documentaries, as well as natural disasters and local government disaster plannings in order to depict the events as close as possible to real-life disasters.
When Edwards' signing was announced, it was also announced that Callaham's first draft would be rewritten by another writer. In July 2011, David S. Goyer was attached to rewrite the script. Goyer only worked a few weeks on the script and did not get any credit, stating, "[I was involved with Godzilla] a little bit. I mean I did three or four weeks of work on Godzilla, it wasn’t a page-one rewrite or anything like that. The term is ‘script doctoring,’ is what I did on it." In November 2011, Max Borenstein was hired to continue work on the script. In October 2012, Legendary announced that writer Drew Pearce would polish the script, making the principal characters older to suit the actors that Legendary had intended to cast.
In January 2013, Frank Darabont was hired for a final rewrite. In interviews, Darabont described his plans for Godzilla as returning it to a "terrifying force of nature". The film would add a "very compelling human drama" and that Godzilla would be tied to a "different contemporary issue" rather than the original atomic bomb testing. In addition to contributing to the script, Darabont mainly focused on the emotional aspect and further development of the characters. Commenting on Darabont's work, Edwards stated, "We blocked out the whole story and Frank did a pass at helping the characters and emotions. He delivered on that. Frank brought a lot of heart to it and soul." Edwards additionally confirmed that one particular scene from Darabont's rewrite convinced Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche to join the film. Edwards felt it was not believable that a creature as giant as Godzilla could go undetected by humanity, so the writers conceived of the idea that the monster's existence had been covered up by the United States government, and as such their nuclear tests in the Pacific during the 1950s were actually an attempt to kill the creature.
In July 2013, Edwards confirmed an origin story for the film. He also confirmed that Godzilla would be an anti-hero rather than a villain or a hero. He also discussed the themes incorporated into the film, stating "Godzilla is definitely a representation of the wrath of nature. We've taken it very seriously and the theme is man versus nature and Godzilla is certainly the nature side of it. You can't win that fight. Nature's always going to win and that's what the subtext of our movie is about. He's the punishment we deserve". Actress Elizabeth Olsen discussed how the film returns to the roots of the original Godzilla film and its themes as well, stating, "There's a strong theme about the importance of family in it as well as the theme of trying to control nature and how that backfires in the end."
Actor Bryan Cranston praised Edwards' vision, tone, and pitch for the film and titular character. In an interview with Canada's Entertainment Tonight, he compared Edwards' approach similar to Steven Spielberg's style in Jaws where the film does not immediately show the beast but rather build up to its appearance while still delivering an eerie and terrifying off-screen presence.
In licensing Godzilla to Legendary, Toho set down some specific conditions: that Godzilla is born of a nuclear incident and it be set in Japan. The film has a title montage set in 1954, and then moves forward to 1999 and deals with a mysterious disaster at a fictional Japanese nuclear power plant named Janjira. Legendary rejected an origin story where a Godzilla carcass would be found entombed in Siberia. The idea was rejected after the production learned that Man of Steel had a potentially similar scene. The US Army reviewed the script, suggesting corrections for accuracy.
Tony Gilroy contributed some additional rewrites for the script.
Edwards and the design group reviewed all previous incarnations of Godzilla's design for inspiration. Edwards stated, "The way I tried to view it was to imagine Godzilla was a real creature and someone from Toho saw him in the 1950s and ran back to the studio to make a movie about the creature and was trying their best to remember it and draw it. And in our film you get to see him for real." He went on to say that his Godzilla remains true to the original in all aspects. Edwards also stressed that, "It was important to me that this felt like a Toho Godzilla" and concluded by wishing, "I'd love ours (Godzilla) to be considered as part of the Toho group."
In October 2013, toy and collectible web sites offering pre-orders of merchandise for the film revealed aspects of the other creatures to appear in the movie. The other creatures are, as a group, known as "MUTOs", with some having the ability to fly and being multi-limbed.
The filmmakers specified in a January 2014 interview in Total Film magazine that Godzilla would be 350 feet (106.7 meters) tall, the tallest incarnation of Godzilla to date. According to special effect chief Jim Rygiel, the mechanics of Godzilla's fighting style is based on the study of animals, primarily bears and Komodo dragons.
For Empire magazine's April 2014 issue, the magazine cover featured a picture of Godzilla, revealing the monster's design. According to Edwards, elements of the faces of bears, dogs and eagles were incorporated into the design of Godzilla's face. Motion capture by the special effects firm The Imaginarium was also utilized in the movement of the movie's monsters in film sequences. Andy Serkis provided consulting work on the film's motion capture sequences in order to "control the souls" of the creatures.
The Godzilla roar was revamped for the movie. According to Edwards, sound designer Erik Aadahl improved on the original sound effect provided by Toho. Aadahl and fellow sound designer Ethan Van Der Ryn spent six months over the three-year production getting the roar right. Using microphones that could record sound inaudible to humans, the team found sounds to match the initial shriek and the finishing bellow. The new roar retains the musical key and cadence of the roar, going from a C to a D. The final version was the 50th the team produced. The pair tested the roar on a back lot at Warner Bros., using a tour speaker array for The Rolling Stones, and estimated that it could be heard 3 miles (4.83 km) away. In IMAX theatres, the roar was integrated into the sound of the "Welcome to IMAX" sequence shown before Godzilla showings.
In an interview with The Verge, Edwards commented that it took over a year to design the MUTO creatures because the crew wanted to create something new and different for contemporary audiences. Edwards and the design team looked to creatures from such films as Jurassic Park, Alien, Starship Troopers and King Kong for inspiration, reflecting on what made their designs so iconic. From this, the design for the MUTOs kept evolving and "mutating," according to Edwards, into a cohesive design.
T.J. Storm provided the motion capture performances for Godzilla while Matt Cross and Lee Ross provided additional motion capture performances.
In late 2012, the plans for the film's filming, release and distribution were revealed. In September 2012, Legendary announced a theatrical release date of May 16, 2014, in 3-D. IMAX announced that the film would also be released in IMAX 3D on May 16, 2014. Warner Brothers distributed the film worldwide, except in Japan, where it was distributed by Toho. At that time, Legendary Pictures added Alex Garcia and Patricia Whitcher as executive producers. In December, Dan Lin revealed that the film would likely start filming in Vancouver in March 2013.
Legendary turned its attention to casting parts for the movie. On January 7, 2013, it was reported that Joseph Gordon-Levitt had turned down being cast in the film in the fall of 2012. It was reported that Henry Cavill, Scoot McNairy, and Caleb Landry Jones comprised the shortlist for lead of the film. On January 10, it was first reported that Legendary Pictures was interested in Aaron Taylor-Johnson for the lead role. It was reported that Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen were also in talks to co-star. Olsen confirmed her involvement at the 2013 BAFTA awards. Juliette Binoche and David Strathairn were then signed on to join Taylor-Johnson, Cranston and Olsen in the film.
In January 2013, Mary Parent joined the project as a producer for Disruption Entertainment. and producers Dan Lin, Roy Lee and Doug Davison were dismissed from the project. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the producers left over creative and financial differences with Legendary Pictures, and Legendary was buying out their producer contracts, a move which led to court. On January 9, Legendary Pictures filed a 'Complaint for Declaratory Relief' lawsuit against Lin, Lee and Davison in California State Court to spell out any fees owed to the individuals, who had signed an agreement with Legendary and were working with Legendary on the film's development. According to the complaint, Legendary had decided in the fall of 2012 to not employ the three as producers on the film and the three were not eligible for any producer fees. The three filed a counter-claim, that the agreement cited by Legendary was not in force and that the original working agreement was breached by Legendary. The three argued that the suit should be decided in open court, not in arbitration, and that Legendary should be responsible for damages for breach of contract. At court, the judge dismissed the arbitration and ordered mediation followed by jury trial if necessary. Legendary appealed the decision and lost the appeal in March 2014, leaving the case in California Superior Court for trial. In June 2015, on the eve of the trial, the parties came to a settlement, terms of which were not disclosed.
At the start of principal photography in March 2013, Legendary formally announced the cast and producers. Yoshimitsu Banno, Alex Garcia, Kenji Okuhira and Patricia Whitcher were formally named as executive producers and Legendary announced the addition of Ken Watanabe to the cast. After filming started, Richard T. Jones and Sally Hawkins were added. From the film set, a photograph of actor Akira Takarada (star of the original Godzilla, including five sequels) with Edwards was released. Takarada had publicly appealed to be part of the production and the photo indicates some sort of role for the Japanese actor in the reboot. In April 2014, Takarada said in an interview that his role was cut from the final version of the film. He had the role of an immigration officer. Edwards stated that cutting Takarada's role was his "biggest regret".
Principal photography began on March 18, 2013, in Vancouver, under the working title of "Nautilus," with scenes shot at the Vancouver Convention Centre, inside BC Place, and at Hi-View Lookout in Cypress Provincial Park, West Vancouver (as San Francisco's Bay Area Park). This was followed by filming in the Richmond neighborhood of Steveston. A large battle scene was shot on Moncton St, involving approximately 200 soldiers and many military vehicles. Another scene was filmed at the fisherman's wharf along Finn Slough. Additional shooting took place on Vancouver Island, around Nanaimo and Victoria in British Columbia. Additional filming involving extras took place around industrial areas of Coquitlam, British Columbia.
The scenes at the Convention Centre stood in for the Honolulu and Tokyo airports, while other locations in Vancouver were used to simulate scenes in San Francisco, Tokyo and the Philippines. Filming also used the stages of Burnaby's Canadian Motion Picture Park, (CMPP) where crews built a San Francisco Chinatown street, a giant sinkhole set used for the Philippine mine and the MUTO nest and a 400 feet (120 m) section of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Chinatown street was built on the site of the New York City set built for the Watchmen film.
Further on-location filming was done in June and July 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii. On June 2, 2013, over 2,000 people applied at an open casting call in Hawaii to be cast as extras. Over 200 extras were hired for the expected three weeks of shooting in Hawaii, which included dressing up Waikiki Beach as the site of disaster. Eastern Oahu was used as a double for the Marshall Islands. According to The Hollywood Reporter, principal photography on Godzilla wrapped on the weekend of July 13–14.
In an interview, Aaron Taylor-Johnson described the filming as mostly on-location, with very little use of green screens. He described the film crew as fairly small compared to other films he has worked on, "almost an independent production." CGI was used to add elements later.
Seamus McGarvey served as the film's cinematographer, shooting the film digitally using Arri Alexa cameras with Panavision C-Series anamorphic lenses. Sequences of the film set in the year 1954 were shot using vintage lenses from the early 1960s in order to give the film a "distant period feel." This effect was enhanced though the digital intermediate's colour grading, as McGarvey noted that the "look I wanted was a peeled look with muted colors and diffusion on the highlights, a sense of period distance. I found a lot of photographs and magazines, and I knew that I wanted the blacks to be imbued with a tint of magenta." Though the film was made to be released in 3D, it received a predominantly 2D release. McGarvey himself decided to shoot the film as if it were only 2D, because he dislikes working with 3D filming equipment and the experience of watching 3D films in theatres.
The U.S. Navy co-operated in the making of the movie and filming took place on three U.S. Navy aircraft carriers: the USS Carl Vinson, the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan. Part of the opening sequence was filmed on the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor. The U.S. Army also participated in the movie with the support of three technical advisors. The U.S. Marine Corps, which had participated in the 1998 film, declined to participate after reviewing the script, which featured Navy personnel. Taylor-Johnson was put through a "mini-bootcamp" by retired Marine Sgt. Maj. James D. Dever, one of the film's military technical advisers, to "ensure he had good military bearing". Dever also helped stuntmen train for high-altitude, low-opening jumps.
Director Gareth Edwards has said that he "intentionally placed humans in shots to give the scene a sense of scale, as everyone knows the size of a human, so we know the size of a creature or a building." He has also claimed that "We said that we wouldn't place a camera anywhere it would be impossible to get one. We would say "Imagine it was a news story, or a sports event, cameramen would put cameras where they could in a hurry, and get any shot they could." This is what we wanted [Godzilla] to feel like, as if people were filming glimpses at any chance they could." He also found himself "Doing things [I] think are cliche; panning up just as a roar happens, or getting the perfect shot, things I shake my head at when watching other people's films. Especially when [Godzilla] is first seen, we wanted a build up, and then pan up, we see him, and then we don't see him. I love that."
Visual effects on the film were supervised by visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel, best known for his work on The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Rygiel has stated that the effects are in the spirit of the original series, with the blessing of Toho, although the monster would be "more dynamic than a guy in a big rubber suit." Visual and special effects companies working on the picture include The Moving Picture Company (MPC), Double Negative, Weta Digital, Amalgamated Dynamics, ComputerCafe/CafeFX, Lidar VFX, Scanline VFX, Stereo D and The Third Floor. Production of the movie was completed in the last week of March 2014.
To create a CG version of Godzilla, MPC studied various animals such as bears, Komodo dragons, lizards, lions and wolves which helped the visual effects artists visualize Godzilla's body structure like that of its underlying bone, fat and muscle structure as well as the thickness and texture of its scale.
The production used high-quality panorama photos of the San Francisco skyline, and built a three-dimensional map of the city. The map was used in the background of sequences shot on the bridge set in Vancouver. According to Jim Rygiel, “this technique gives you a real city that is accurate down to every piece of mortar in a brick building, so, using that, we were able to composite the live action shots with the key frame-animated monsters destroying digital buildings into a seamless whole.” Army vehicles, including tanks were provided by CGI and are not real vehicles. The studio digitized actual military equipment from the 7th Infantry Division of the Army. The film's title sequence was designed by Kyle Cooper, who had done the title sequence for Godzilla: Final Wars. The film's sound was mixed at Warner Bros.' studio in Burbank, California. The tracks were mixed by Gregg Landaker in the Dolby Atmos surround-sound format for exhibition in theaters with Atmos-equipped sound systems.
Edwards decided on a restrained approach similar to when films were fueled by a "sense of anticipation" and relied on "high suspense", with films such as Alien and Jaws. Edwards also wanted Godzilla to feel "universal" in a way that it could appeal to a general audience like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which Edwards cited was a heavy influence on the film. Edwards additionally stated, "I grew up watching Spielberg movies, what they did so well — as well as having epic, fantastic spectacle — they made the characters feel real and human. We were trying to do the same thing here." Critics and journalists have also noted the film's nods and homages to Steven Spielberg's style of filmmaking and his films such as Jaws, Jurassic Park, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira had also influenced the visual design of the film, Edwards stated, "...one of our designers on the film - a friend called Matt - when we were designing things, and got stuck, we'd always go, 'What would Akira do?'" For the film's cinematography, Edwards wanted "...to do this beautifully real documentary vibe, but also that classic Spielberg style". Ishirō Honda's 1954 original Godzilla also inspired the film, Edwards stated, "Godzilla is a metaphor for Hiroshima in the original movie. We tried to keep that, and there are a lot of themes from the '54 movie that we've kept." Real life events such as the 2004 Indian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster served as heavy influences on the realism behind the film's destruction scenes and man vs. nature themes. Edwards had also cited action films from the late 70's and early 80's having influenced the film as well, stating, "We tried to make a blockbuster that harks back to the pace and style of the early ’80s and late ’70s action movies."
Film composer Alexandre Desplat was hired to compose an original soundtrack for Godzilla. Desplat had not composed previously for a monster film, having worked on movies such as The King's Speech, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the final two Harry Potter films. Desplat accepted the contract after being impressed with Edwards' film Monsters. Desplat describes the soundtrack for Godzilla as "non-stop fortissimo, with lots of brass, Japanese drums, and electric violin." The score is also conducted by Desplat. The film score was released by WaterTower Music on May 12 and 13, 2014.
The film also features György Ligeti's Requiem, Dusty Springfield's 1969 recording of "Breakfast in Bed," and Elvis Presley's "(You're the) Devil in Disguise."
In promotion of the project, visitors to the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) received a T-shirt with an image of the new Godzilla design, an image credited to comics and manga publisher UDON Entertainment. Artist Gonzalo Ordóñez Arias worked with Legendary and Toho to create the painting. Further, visitors to the Legendary Pictures booth at the convention could view an animation of the new Godzilla breathing radioactive fire superimposed over their image captured via a webcam. The augmented reality promotion was designed by Talking Dog Studios of Saskatchewan, Canada.
At a session during the July 2012 SDCC, Legendary presented both a poster for the film and a teaser trailer. The teaser trailer included a depiction of Godzilla faithful to the Toho monster, including its roar, and a "gigantic centipede-like monster." The centipede-like monster was not used in the final film. Screenwriter Max Borenstein later confirmed that the centipede monster was conceived only for the teaser and only to indicate that Godzilla would fight another creature. It was included in the teaser before Borenstein completed writing the script.
During filming in Vancouver, Legendary released several videos and still pictures of filming in Vancouver on its Facebook site. Pictures included a destroyed subway car with a green screen backdrop, soldiers inspecting a radioactive vault and wreckage on a shoreline. In July 2013, Legendary launched a "viral" website godzillaencounter.com in conjunction with the film. The company was promoting the film at the 2013 SDCC, and converted a warehouse in San Diego to the "Godzilla Encounter" exhibit in conjunction with the convention. According to USA Today, the exhibit was "part museum, part theme park" with displays to simulate an experience of a Godzilla attack. The exhibit also had artifacts from the franchise series, including the "Oxygen Destroyer" of the original film, and a Godzilla costume from Godzilla 2000. An audio sample was released on Godzillaencounter.com of an announcement suggesting Godzilla or a "gigantic atomic creature" attacking San Diego.
At a session at the 2013 Comic-Con, Legendary showed footage from the film. As reported by various media, the footage is of a large monster, reminiscent of the Cloverfield monster, attacking an airport, when Godzilla's foot appears next to the monster. Godzilla's height is revealed to be several times the size of the other monster and a battle ensues, but Godzilla's face is not revealed. Various clips of scenes with Cranston, Taylor-Johnson and Olsen were also shown.
In October 2013, the proof of concept footage shown at SDCC 2012 was leaked online and was available on several video sharing websites for several days before Warner Bros. and Legendary managed to have it fully removed. The first official trailer was released online on December 10, 2013, and was attached to theatrical showings of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in select theaters. Also on December 10, Toho released a slightly different version of the trailer with Japanese subtitles, and a TV spot. Within two days, the trailer surpassed nine million views on YouTube. Legendary launched a viral web site www.mutoresearch.net just prior to the trailer release, with video from the trailer and the trailer itself. Toho launched a web site of its own, godzilla.jp, with a simple arcade game of Godzilla stomping on Tokyo and using his radioactive breath, as well as appearances from King Ghidorah and Mothra.
The second trailer was released on February 25, 2014. It revealed more scenes of destruction by Godzilla on San Francisco and Las Vegas, brief glimpses of other creatures, as well as a conspiracy plot intertwined with the atomic blast tests in the Pacific Ocean in 1954. Within three days, the video had recorded 13 million views on YouTube. Several more trailers were released, with variations for North America, Japan, Asia outside Japan and internationally. Several of the marketing materials won awards: the trailer ("Ravaged/Event"), the TV spot ("Fight"), and the Godzilla poster won Golden Trailer Awards.
In cross promotion, Godzilla appeared in a light-hearted commercial for the Snickers chocolate bar, playing ping pong and water skiing. The angry Godzilla is calmed by eating a Snickers bar. Godzilla is portrayed as both human-sized and much larger. Another cross-promotion commercial was made, featuring Godzilla in a Fiat 500L car commercial. In it, Godzilla is rampaging through a city, devouring Fiat cars as he goes, with a soldier claiming that he was "craving Italian." He then approaches to devour a Fiat 500L, but because of the car's size being larger than a 500 model, Godzilla cannot swallow it. Nearly choking on it, he spits out the car as it drives away.
Legendary Pictures had set up a new Applied Analytics Group to direct its marketing efforts, and Godzilla was the first film that used analytics, similar to the use of sports analytics, to direct its marketing. According to Legendary CEO Thomas Tull, it developed a news software program named "Eddington", which, based on a massive database, was able to determine demographic trends among sub-groups of core filmgoers. It extended the standard Hollywood four-quadrant analysis of male/female and under/over 25 years of age to smaller target markets. Godzilla beat predictions of an opening-weekend gross of $60 million by over $30 million, a difference Tull attributed to Eddington. According to Tull, Legendary spent less in marketing than it had in the past.
In July 2014, Japan completed a 6.6 meters (22 ft) statue in Tokyo Midtown area in Tokyo.
In June 2013, Variety reported that Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Legendary Entertainment had assembled a large team of partners to make licensed merchandise to be released in conjunction with the film. Bandai America produced a line of toys, and other products were produced by NECA, Jakks Pacific, Bioworld, Trevco, Rubie's and Sideshow Collectibles. Bandai and NECA produced toys inspired by the film; JAKKS Pacific produced large-scale figures and other toy products; Rubie's produced Godzilla costumes; and Sideshow Collectibles produced collectible statues.
A novelization, written by science-fiction writer Greg Cox, was published by Titan Books in May 2014, to coincide with the film's release. Cox has previously written novelizations for movies, including Legendary's own The Dark Knight Rises. He has written numerous Star Trek novels. Two other books were scheduled for release including Godzilla: With Light and Sound! for children, and Godzilla: The Art of Destruction, a collection of artwork, plus interviews with the director and cast members.
Legendary announced in January 2014, along with a video message by Edwards, a tie-in graphic novel to be released on May 7, 2014, one week before the movie. Entitled Godzilla: Awakening, the novel's events take place decades before the events seen in the film. It is co-written by Greg Borenstein and the film's screenwriter Max Borenstein, with cover art by Arthur Adams and interior art by Eric Battle, Yvel Guichet, Alan Quah and Lee Loughridge. The tagline is "Delve into an incredible mystery, generations in the making. At the dawn of the atomic age, humanity awakens lifeforms beyond imagination, unleashing monumental forces of nature."
Pictures of the line of toys, including a Godzilla "Atomic Roar" model by Bandai, were leaked to the internet in March 2014. The Godzilla model has "atomic fire breath". The toys shipped in March 2014. A S.H.Monsterarts version of the 2014 Godzilla is also announced by Bandai, which is released in September 2014.
A tie-in game for mobile devices was announced in March 2014. The game, titled Godzilla Smash 3, allows moves by matching three items of a similar type in a row. It is being made by Rogue Play and features puzzle-based gameplay similar to Candy Crush Saga. Above the game board, a view of Godzilla destroying various military vehicles is featured and the different attacks correspond to the combinations the player scores. The game was released in May 2014.
Legendary's Godzilla was featured as a playable character in Bandai Namco's 2014 video game Godzilla as "Hollywood Godzilla".
Godzilla had its world premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on May 8, 2014. Godzilla received wide release worldwide in 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D beginning May 16, 2014. In the United States, the film was given a PG-13 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for "intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence." The film was released in China on June 13 and in Japan on July 25, 2014.
In April 2014, Toho had an early screening of Godzilla and gave a positive review. Edwards said, "They saw it yesterday and I got an e-mail saying they thought it was fantastic! So that was a relief." Legendary also held screenings for the military.
The film grossed $9.3 million in North America at early Thursday screenings, one of the best late-night openings for a non-sequel, and $93.2 million for the entire weekend, making it the fifth highest opening weekend in 2014. Its opening weekend gross broke the records for the highest weekend debuts for a disaster film and a creature feature. It was estimated that approximately half of the gross was in 3D screenings. In its second weekend, which saw competition from X-Men: Days of Future Past, Godzilla had a 66% drop. At the end of its domestic run, Godzilla grossed $200.7 million in North America, the lowest total ever for a movie that opened above $90 million. Godzilla finished as the thirteenth highest-grossing film of 2014 in North America.
Also on May 15, Godzilla opened in every major market internationally, with the exception of China and Japan, grossing $103.4 million giving it a worldwide opening weekend of nearly $200 million. On June 13, the film opened in China and grossed $10.9 million for the largest opening day in that country for 2014, and would open with $37 million for the weekend. The film finished with $77.6 million as the eighteenth highest-grossing film in that country for the year. On July 25, Godzilla finally opened in Japan, where it opened at number one and grossed $6.95 million for the weekend, the second-highest opening weekend in Japan of any foreign film in 2014. Considered a "robust debut", this helped push the film's global box office to over $500 million It eventually finished with just shy of $30 million making it the eleventh highest-grossing film in that country for the year. Godzilla finished its global run in theaters with $328 million from international markets, giving it a worldwide total of $529.1 million and making it the fourteenth highest-grossing film of 2014 worldwide. Calculating in all expenses, Deadline.com estimated that the film made a profit of $52.477 million.
Godzilla received generally positive reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes has a 74% approval rating from critics, based on 291 reviews with an average score of 6.6/10. The site's consensus states: "With just enough human drama to anchor the sweeping spectacle of giant monsters smashing everything in sight, Gareth Edwards' Godzilla satisfyingly restores the franchise's fire-breathing glory." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average based on selected critic reviews, the film has a score of 62/100, based on 48 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". CinemaScore reported that cinemagoers gave the film an average grade of B+ on an A+ to F scale.
Alex Pappademas of Grantland called the film "the first truly joyous popcorn action movie of the season" and praised Edwards' restrained direction, stating, "I admired Edwards’s restraint, a quality I’m not accustomed to admiring in $160 million summer action movies." Richard Roeper stated, "Edwards and his team produce consistently stunning visuals", but admitted that he "would have liked to see more of Godzilla" but stated that the film is "leaps and bounds ahead of the 1998 bomb" and awarded the film a B+ rating. Tom Russo of the Boston Globe felt the film "is an uneven spectacle that can’t sustain its solid first-half character moments" but did state the film "can also flash a surprising, often clever sense of legacy, and is intermittently capable of thrilling us" and praised the film's special effects, stating, "Crafted with motion-capture technology and an aesthetic eye toward tradition, Godzilla is convincingly rendered here, making for some genuinely electrifying moments" but did feel that the third act's battle was "overkill" and that the principal characters were lackluster, stating, "needs performances that ground it — and they’re just not coming from Taylor-Johnson, Watanabe, and the rest of the thespian soldiers and flabbergasted biologists who dominate the second hour" and concluded by stating, "Godzilla, Watanabe breathlessly hypothesizes, “is here to restore balance.” The film could do with a little of that itself, thrills notwithstanding."
Stephanie Zacharek of the Village Voice stated "Gareth Edwards's new desecration of his (Godzilla) legend should make him (Godzilla) want to eat Hollywood for lunch", feeling that the film "hits all the wrong beats" but did praise Juliette Binoche and Bryan Cranston's performances, stating, "Their few brief scenes, particularly Cranston's, make for the best dramatic moments in the movie" and also praised Alexandre Desplat's score and the scenes involving Godzilla but stated "it's just one tiny beat in an otherwise way-too-big movie that, weirdly, doesn't give us enough of the one big guy we showed up to see in the first place" and concluded by stating, "Godzilla is one of those generic, omnipresent blockbusters that's undone by the very spectacle it strives to dazzle us with: Everything is so gargantuan, so momentous, that nothing has any weight." A. O. Scott of the New York Times stated the film "is at once bloated and efficient, executed with tremendous discipline and intelligence and conceived with not too much of either" and found that "it surpasses Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Hollywood version" and praised the film's aftermath destruction scenes, stating, "the vistas of trampled cityscapes are frequently more memorable and always more haunting than the chaotic scenes of smashing and flooding that clutter the film’s climax" but felt the characterization was "thin" and the performances were "squandered" but felt that the "soul" of the film "dwells with the monsters". Matt Zoller Seitz highly praised the film's direction and craftsmanship, giving it three and a half out of four stars and stating that "'Godzilla' represents some sort of high water mark (pun intended) in Hollywood's nearly forty year crusade to turn once-disreputable genre films into pop art that demands our contemplation, if only because of the wit and skill that its army of technicians lavished on each frame. The long shots of kaiju grappling in ruined cities are gloomily magnificent, like oil paintings of Biblical miracles."
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune awarded the film three and a half stars, finding that the film "makes up" for the 1998 version and praised Edwards, stating, "The director thinks visually, which sounds redundant until you realize how many monster movies are flat, effects-dependent factory jobs. Edwards knows how to use great heights for great effect." Phillips also praised the film's build-up, stating, "director Gareth Edwards lays the expository groundwork nicely and hands the audience what it craves in the second half" and defended the amount of screen-time Godzilla received, stating, "Is there enough Godzilla in "Godzilla"? Folks, there is. There is just enough." David Blaustein of ABC News Radio called the film "very good, but not great", criticizing the film for not having enough screen-time for Godzilla, stating, "There’s not enough Godzilla. When the monster’s away, the movie drags. It’s clear what Edwards and company are trying to do here. i.e. less is more. The issue is, this Godzilla is so much fun to watch, we never want it leave the screen and when he/she/it's not there, it's a letdown." Regardless, Blaustein stated that the film's finale, "more or less, makes it all worth the wait", and awarded the film three-and-a-half stars out of five.
Japanese critics and journalists have praised the film for putting "more of an effort to honor the spirit and visual style of the Japanese series" but criticized the film for "complicating the anti-war, anti-nuclear sensibility" and "lack of nerve on the part of the filmmakers to say anything substantial about nuclear weapons or nuclear energy", however, Godzilla illustrator Yuji Kaida called the film "a real kaijū eiga (monster movie) that honored the original in that Godzilla was presented as a force beyond human understanding that maintained the Earth’s natural balance".
Ed Godziszewski (author of The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Godzilla) felt that the film didn't provide much social commentary like previous Godzilla films, stating, "The 2014 film paid superficial lip service at best to the nuclear issue, but really there's almost nothing of substance there. Rather than offering caution about nuclear energy, the new film almost gives you the idea that nuclear weapons are actually the answer to everything" but did feel that "there was a lot more to enjoy in the 2014 film" and didn't feel bothered by Godzilla's insufficient screen time. Godziszewski also praised the film's monster scenes, feeling they were executed better than Pacific Rim, stating, "Instead the monster battles in Godzilla 2014 were staged much more like a Japanese film. You get to see prolonged shots of the monsters in action, filmed in a way that the action was easy to understand" and concluded by stating, "Since G2014 delivered that, I could overlook the relatively weak drama and the lack of social conscience. It's unsatisfying that they made Godzilla into a secondary player in his own film, but at least when the monsters were on screen, they delivered the goods."
David Kalat (author of A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series) stated, "I was really surprised how much I liked this", though he felt that "Godzilla himself gets almost no screen time", he did feel that Edwards figured out a successful "modern American context" for the film in supporting American troops, stating, "Edwards' Godzilla (2014) takes that concept and weaponizes it: we're used to seeing Godzilla movies where the military fails because they're stupid, but seeing them fail but be heroic while failing is new. It's also something the culture needs—and it's the kind of heretical idea that's otherwise hard to dramatize in pop culture, just like the original Godzilla's anti-American stance was so potent in 1954."
William Tsutsui, author of Godzilla on My Mind, discussed the new film in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine. "This latest reboot brings to the screen a Godzilla that remains true to the spirit of the Japanese series while creating a very American, very twenty-first-century monster." He noted that the film "depicts gluttony for food and sex in ways that were never a feature of Japanese productions. There are far more overt displays of affection in the first 15 minutes of the 2014 Godzilla than in the entire Japanese franchise, which totaled one very chaste kiss over 50 years." He also noted that the film is more violent than the Japanese series, showing more carnage. The Godzilla character, in its heroism, is reminiscent of the 1960s and 1970s Japanese Godzilla, but not anthropomorphized like those. Also, the identity of the character as Japanese is lost: "In the 28 films made by Toho, Godzilla is unmistakably identified as one of wareware Nihonjin (we Japanese). After liberating San Francisco from the spawning MUTOs, Godzilla is thus crowned as a defender of the United States." Matt Zoller Seitz, in his positive review of the film, observed how "[i]t's less interested in a giant monster's rampage than in what it might feel like to be a tiny human watching it close up, or far away, or on TV. It is not about Godzilla or the beasts he fights .... it's a combination epic horror film and parable of nature in revolt, filled with odd ellipses and surprising but appropriate storytelling choices, such as an early monster duel that plays out mainly on CNN." In regards to the film's shallow characters, "the film is inclined to see them as representatives of an endangered species rather than complex individuals". He also noted in the film "a touch of Terrence Malick's Transcendentalist humility in how the director lavishes attention on meadows and forests and rolling waves", with the film's final shot evoking The Thin Red Line (1998).
Godzilla was released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD formats on September 16, 2014, in North America. It was released for digital HD download on August 26, 2014. Target released their own exclusive edition of the Blu-ray which included an exclusive 30-minute featurette titled Godzilla: Rebirth of an Icon while Walmart released their own exclusive edition which only featured an alternative cover for the DVD. Producer Thomas Tull confirmed plans for an extended cut of the film to be released in the future.
Toho released the film on Blu-ray and DVD formats in Japan on February 25, 2015, as well as a 5-disc limited edition Blu-ray set including the 3D Blu-ray, 2D Blu-ray, DVD, a disc of bonus features (includes the North American special features, as well as additional Japan-exclusive features), a full color booklet with Japanese promotional art, and an exclusive S.H. MonsterArts figure.
In October 2015, Legendary announced plans to unite Godzilla and King Kong in a film titled Godzilla vs. Kong, set for a 2020 release date. Legendary plans to create a shared cinematic franchise "centered around Monarch" (the secret government agency which debuted in 2014's Godzilla) and that "brings together Godzilla and Legendary’s King Kong in an ecosystem of other giant super-species, both classic and new". While Legendary will maintain its home at Universal, it will continue to collaborate with Warner Bros. for the franchise.
Prior to announcing a shared cinematic universe between Godzilla and King Kong, Legendary originally intended to produce a trilogy with Gareth Edwards attached to direct the sequels, however, Edwards left the sequel in May 2016 to work on smaller scale projects. In January 2017, Michael Dougherty was announced as the director and co-writer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Principal photography began on June 19, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia and is scheduled to end on September 29, 2017. The film is scheduled to be released on March 22, 2019 in 2D, 3D, and select IMAX worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, except in Japan where the film will be distributed by Toho.
Godzilla vs. Kong is scheduled to follow up on May 22, 2020 with Adam Wingard attached to direct the film.