While I’m not a disaster movie fan, I did grow up on the classic disaster flicks of the 90’s. There hasn’t been one that has made my heart race since Independence Day. War of the Worlds ultimately fell flat for me, even though the scale of the disaster measured up to the aforementioned alien disaster film. Cloverfield, a disaster film that more closely resembles the “giant monster” genre of Godzilla, was decent, but I was far too distracted by my intense dislike of most of the characters to really enjoy it. Most recently we had Pacific Rim, which worked on so many levels, but evoked a more emotional response over the character’s journeys than terror over the threat. That’s not really a flaw for Pacific Rim; I actually consider it a huge boon, but I still wasn’t genuinely terrified of the kaiju like I was supposed to be. I cared more about Mako and Raleigh’s journey than I did about the kaiju threat.
This trailer managed to cover everything all in one go. It conveyed a truly terrifying threat and give us glimpses at the characters that could draw us into the plot on an emotional level. It is evoking the strong nostalgia I have for the disaster flicks of the 90’s and we’ve only seen two minutes. How did it manage to do that? I have a few ideas.
First of all, the marketers for Godzilla have been leaking glimpses of our monster very slowly. In the first trailer we only see it moving in the smoke. When the official poster was released last week people expressed complete shock that Godzilla was so huge. Keeping him shrouded in mystery has been very intentional and well executed. Instead of showing us the monster, they are showing us the terror he’s wrought upon the world. They show us people’s reactions and panic. That’s enough to convey that the threat is very real. We don’t need to see the monster right out of the gate because that’s not what genuinely scares us. It’s what it can do that’s terrifying and that is exactly what the marketers have chosen to show us.
You should have been able to pick up on this by now, but strong characters are a huge deal to me. If I can’t connect with the characters, I can’t really connect with the film. This is where most of the disaster flicks have failed for me, particularly Cloverfield and War of the Worlds. The teaser trailer didn’t grip me because we didn’t really get to know anybody. I’m not faulting the teaser for that. It was, after all, a teaser. In the full trailer we’ve been introduced to Bryan Cranston’s character, who has already made me emotional from just a few short seconds on screen. When he waved good bye to the woman who I assume to be his wife as she disappeared on the other side of the door (sorry for the vagueness, but we have no context for anything here), I felt the beginnings of an emotional connection to them. The woman in the scrubs holding her son also sparked some potential for emotional connection and I’m interested in seeing how they develop.
I could be wrong about these characters. They could end up being completely flat or stock characters with little to no originality. It’s hard to say. But I’m definitely intrigued by them and I’m on board to see how this goes. Cranston’s acting is remarkable in almost everything he’s in whether he’s the goofy father from Malcom in the Middle or the more serious goofy father from Breaking Bad. The decision to cast him gives me faith that the other members of the cast should be quality as well. I only hope the script is deserving of the talent that they’ve hired.
Another shining aspect of the trailer is the creepy operatic tone that seems to be lifted directly from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It creeped me out in that film and it’s creeping me out now. It’s far more disturbing than sound effects or a musical score. It’s unexpected and highly unusual. I thought it was an interesting choice in the teaser and I think it was a smart move to carry it over to the official trailer as well. It worked then. It works now. It’s a good move and makes the trailer stand out from the others in the genre.
If you’d have asked me yesterday, I would have told you that I wasn’t going to bother seeing Godzilla in theaters. Now? I think I probably will. The marketing team has done a good job selling it to both traditional monster film fans and people like me who only go if something else is appealing as well.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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