In the weeks since I’ve seen “Godzilla,” I’ve been vocal about my appreciation of it. I think it’s brilliant. Gareth Edwards managed to make a ’60s-style monster movie with a modern blockbuster budget, and he made it even better by barely showing the creature during the film’s first half.
Giant lizards aside, “Godzilla” is an impeccably made film that uses formal cinematic techniques that aren’t usually found in summer movies — nonetheless one with giant monster fights — and the delayed appearance of the title beast is just one tool in the kit.
There’s evidence all over the movie that Edwards intended to make something more than another dumb monster movie. (David Erhlich at The Dissolve did a particularly good job at dissecting the film.) But if you need proof that there’s a lot going on under the surface of “Godzilla,” all you need is one shot.
Do you see it?
In most other summer movies, the camera would be at the base of a cooling tower to capture its digitally rendered collapse. Instead, Edwards puts us with young Ford Brody, watching the towers — and presumably both his parents — go down from afar, but that’s not what makes this shot so clever.
Do you notice the origami in the frame, taking up the third opposite Ford’s head? They’re in the shot for a very specific reason. The paper birds are in exactly the right spot to look like they’re causing the destruction at the power plant, foreshadowing the kind of chaos that dominates the later parts of the movie.
The origami is supposed to look like a movie monster. Pretty cool, right?
This is the kind of clever filmmaking that makes a difference, especially in the commerce-heavy summer season, and just be glad this it’s coming from a guy who has his hands on a future “Star Wars” movie.
“Godzilla” is in theaters now. See it.