'Godzilla' Stomps Into Hollywood for Monster-Sized Premiere

Godzilla Premiere Statue - H 2014
<p>Godzilla Premiere Statue - H 2014</p>   |   Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Warner Bros./AP Images
A 200-foot-tall Godzilla was the centerpiece of the Hollywood afterparty for the star-filled premiere that was held at the Dolby Theatre on Thursday night.

Godzilla roared and stomped his way into Hollywood Thursday night for the premiere of his monster movie from Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures.

The screening, which took place at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland (where audiences really got to feel the creature via the venue’s eight giant subwoofers), was followed by one of the bigger afterparties Hollywood has seen this year.

In fact, the party was called the "Aftermath Afterparty," with guests having to pass through a decorative set piece of creature carnage featuring overturned cars and military vehicles before entering a converted parking lot made to look like a Japanese town. Inside, there was a feast of mouth-watering Japanese fare, from sushi and ramen to wagyu beef sliders, served up from Katsuya, while in the center of the party was a 200-foot-tall Godzilla made of hardened foam bricks. (Warners and Legendary worked with 15/40 Productions to put on the event.)

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Bryan Cranston didn’t make it to the festivities (the actor had to fly to New York) but stars such as Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen did. Other famous guests included Neighbors director Nick Stoller and Adam Duritz of Counting Crows.

Legendary has a lot riding on the production, which opens May 16 and cost between $170 million to $200 million depending on whom you ask, but individually, the man carrying the weight of the evening was Gareth Edwards, the unassuming British director behind the movie.

Edwards surveyed the proceedings, looking at what he had built after convincing Legendary more than three years ago that he was the man to bring the Japanese creation back to the big screen. The creature, who first made his appearance in a 1954 film from Japanese company Toho, was once a staple of drive-ins and ran rampant in the imagination of audiences but has been in movie jail since the 1990s, with the much-maligned Roland Emmerich movie made in 1998 looking like a life sentence.

"I don't know if it's the end of something or the beginning of something," said Edwards. "It feels like a metamorphosis, from one chapter to another, and I don't know whether to be sad or excited. I don't know if it’s the end of this great period of time or it's the beginning of a career."

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The movie is a gigantic step for the filmmaker, who wowed the discerning fan boy crowd with Monsters, his previous creature feature that was decidedly indie and low-budget, having cost only $500,000.

Godzilla, both the movie and the marketing, plays the creature close to the vest, revealing little. In fact, audiences don’t see him until an hour into the movie. It’s a decision that goes against the "give the audience what it wants when it wants it" thinking that guides many other filmmakers and companies, and a conscious one on the part of Edwards.

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"Showing him for the first time, it’s like your golden coin that you can only spend once in the movie," said Edwards. "And there's no part of me that wanted to throw that away. I grew up in the era of Spielberg and Ridley Scott and James Cameron. And you look at classic monster movies such as Jaws and Alien, even the original King Kong, where they spend the first half of the movie teasing you. That was before the advent of digital and computer graphics, and they couldn't show a lot. As a result, the filmmaker is so much more effective."

One group that found the movie effective were executives from Toho, who according to witnesses came up to Legendary CEO and the movie's producer Thomas Tull and, hand over heart, thanked him for being true to their creation and bringing back his honor.

Taylor-Johnson said one reason for Godzilla's enduring popularity, despite the ups and downs, is his ability to act as a metaphor.

"Everything that’s been happening -- earthquakes, tsunamis, disasters -- there's an urgency to this, and you feel the awareness of our planet," he said. "The monster is a metaphor for nature."