Published June 27, 2013 on Vancouver is Awesome
After a three month-plus shoot here, the 3D Godzilla reboot wraps filming this week in Vancouver and moves on to Hawaii. The Legendary Pictures production is an American re-imagining of the classic films, keyed off the real-world earthquake/tsunami in Japan two years ago and the resulting nuclear crisis at some of the country’s older nuclear power plants. Is this what activates the radioactive sea monster (s)? If so, how do they make their way across the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco? We’ve seen hero Lieutenant Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and the U.S. military fight the monster (s) all over Vancouver and Vancouver Island dressed as the San Francisco Bay area. One such battle took place in the village of Steveston with two hundred soldier extras on set.
And last weekend, Lieutenant Ford’s wife (Elizabeth Olsen) and a hundred background performers got drenched by rain tower as they faced a monster in downtown Vancouver as San Francisco’s Financial District , while the second unit staged huge explosions overnight on a private Main Street set in south Burnaby dressed like San Francisco’s Chinatown. All together, Godzilla crew must have filmed for forty-eight hours straight in one weekend.
Everything about this movie is massive: thousands of extras; lifts with lights bigger than we’ve ever seen here; colossal rain towers; huge SPFX explosions and smoke machines; and gigantic inflatable greenscreens. Plus an unprecedented amount of public on-location filming from Nanaimo (train with missile below) to Steveston (docks below) to New Westminster (smoky night shoot below) to downtown Vancouver, as well as some more private shoots in Golden Ears Park and Cypress Bowl and inside local landmarks from the Vancouver Convention Centre (Honolulu airport) to B.C. Place (FEMA shelter).
Director Gareth Edwards is working from a script by The Walking Dead’s Frank Darabont, Max Borenstein and David Callaham and with a stellar cast led by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn and Ken Watanabe.
Godzilla started filming here in mid-March with a shoot inside the Vancouver Convention Centre as the Honolulu Airport and a “6.3 Earthquake Rocks Eastern Japan” on the news crawl on background set screens. Janjira is the name of the fictional Japanese nuclear power plant on the brink of meltdown with radioactive leaks, played mainly by an empty paper recycling plant on the Fraser River in Coquitlam. The movie lights lit up the sky for about two weeks and locals with binoculars spotted emergency vehicles flashing on set.
A nuclear disaster explains the evacuation of school children from the Janjira International School last month, played by Steveston’s Japanese Cultural Centre with fake pink blossoms glued to the trees outside. And it explains nuclear quarantine zones, like the one in Richmond’s Finn Slough — a historic collection of houses on stilts, float houses, net sheds and drying racks — dressed as a Japanese fishing village last month.
And a second nuclear quarantine zone on Front Street in New Westminster made over as a once-busy-now-deserted Japanese street of restaurants and shops overgrown with bamboo vines and littered with abandoned cars. This is the shoot Lieutenant Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his father (Bryan Cranston) walked through a couple of weekends ago.
Spotting the military cast in uniform on set through smoke from smoke machines or rain from rain towers is difficult. Aaron Taylor-Johnson could have been on the landing craft USS Almeda set that rocked and rolled like a Disney ride in Steveston’s Garry Point Park or on the Golden Gate bridge, aircraft carrier or navy ship greenscreen sets on the Kent Hangar field at Boundary Road. We won’t know until next year when the marketing campaign heats up and the movie is released in theatres on May 16th.
And what of Godzilla? Do we have any idea what this “terrifying force of nature” will look like? A clue might lie hidden in the movie’s production code name Nautilus, but all I’ve seen is a pole with silver spheres at each end. And frankly, that’s how it should be. The biggest thing about the already big Godzilla reboot will be the computer-generated sea monster itself.