NEW YORK May 15 (Reuters) - Sixty years after giant reptile Godzilla wreaked havoc on postwar Tokyo in the Japanese movie classic, Hollywood filmmakers puzzled over how the saga could engage today's seen-it-all audiences.
Ironically, they found themselves looking to the past.
British director Gareth Edwards was entrusted with the $100-million-plus blockbuster, which opens Friday. He got the job on the strength of his independent film "Monsters," which had a reported budget of $500,000 but grossed more than $4 million worldwide.
"All that spectacle and amazing imagery is kind of pointless if you're not invested in caring about the characters that are affected by it," Edwards told Reuters.
Edwards said he tried to recapture the style of film classics such as "Jaws," "Alien" and "King Kong." "That's the sort of filmmaking that I love and grew up with," he said.
He assembled a roster of stars led by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, 23, and Elizabeth Olsen, 25. Award-winning actors Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Juliette Binoche and David Strathairn also appear in "Godzilla."
"I told them, 'Don't do this like it's a commercial thing,'" Edwards said. "'You should do this exactly the same way as you would your art-house, Oscar-bait film.'"
Taylor-Johnson, who played John Lennon in 2009's "Nowhere Boy," stars as Ford, a Naval officer who leads the fight against Godzilla. Fifteen years earlier, young Ford was living Japan with his scientist parents (Cranston and Binoche) when a nuclear accident brought tragic consequences.
Olsen, who starred in "Old Boy," plays his wife Elle. Much of the film's personal drama stems from their separation as the reawakened beast rampages from Hawaii to San Francisco.
Childhood associations drew Cranston to the film.
"I've always loved Godzilla. It's my favorite monster of all time," said the multiple Emmy award-winning actor of the hit TV series "Breaking Bad" and a Tony nominee for his performance as President Lyndon Johnson in "All the Way."
For him, the film combines strong character development with a monster and an action-packed plot.
Edwards said that in some ways, compelling stories in Hollywood films had taken a back seat to special effects and dazzling set pieces, which he was determined to avoid.
"Today we can just throw anything at the screen, and I think that as a result some films suffer from it because it's easy to get seduced and just throw everything in," he said. "I was more afraid of committing that crime."
He is hoping "Godzilla" will deliver the maximum power possible but he will have to be patient before knowing whether this non-traditional style of blockbuster meets the expectations of what he calls "show-me-something" film fans. (Editing by Patricia Reaney and Lisa Von Ahn)