Godzilla opens on Bryan Cranston's Joe Brody, an engineer living in Japan with his family who oversees a nuclear reactor where there's a terrible accident that costs his wife (Juliette Binoche) her life. When the movie picks up 15 years later, Joe is estranged from his soldier son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who now has a family of his own, and he's become fixated on the idea that the explosion at the plant is part of a larger cover-up.
Ford's reluctantly drawn back into his father's orbit and ends up helping him sneak into the quarantined area, where the pair are witness to the destructive emergence of a giant creature called a "Muto" (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism).
And then, Joe dies. But the way the death happens is less shocking than the fact that it happens so early in the movie.
Godzilla has a talented international and indie-ish cast that also includes Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins, Martha Marcy May Marlene's Elizabeth Olsen, veteran character actor David Strathairn, and Japanese movie legend Ken Watanabe. But Cranston, who's coming off Breaking Bad, one of the most beloved television dramas of all time, is easily its biggest star, and there's a touch of Game of Thrones-ishness in Godzilla's offing of his character before we ever get a glimpse of the monster for which the movie's named.
Godzilla director Gareth Edwards wanted to be clear that the decision came from needing to kill off the character, not the actor. "When Bryan saw the screenplay, that was always the scenario," he said. "I loved his character and I love Bryan as an actor. The problem was we reached the point where I was like, Where would he go in the story without him being a spare wheel? He would be on that ship just saying random things — conflicting with Ken and David Strathairn. Then what? At the end he reunites with Ford and they hug?"
Edwards admitted that he and screenwriters Max Borenstein and Dave Callaham did play that scenario out. "We went through that version, and it was a real struggle, what to do with him. After a certain point, he's done his job in the story and I felt like, Well, let's kill him, because it'll give the gauntlet to Ford and it will help make the audience unsure that they know who's going to survive and who isn't."
The hope, Edwards added, is that the moment will make viewers think, "Maybe anything could happen."