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Entry updated 8 August 2019. Tagged: Film.

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1. The anglicized version of Gojira (which see).

2. Film (1998). TriStar Pictures presents a Centropolis Entertainment production. A Fried Films and Independent Pictures production. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Written by Emmerich, Dean Devlin. Cast includes Hank Azaria, Matthew Broderick, Maria Pitillo and Jean Reno. 138 minutes. Colour.

Decades in development, this American Godzilla was resoundingly hated by most Gojira fans for the liberties it took with the title Monster. In this version, Godzilla is created by French nuclear tests in the Pacific. Capable of asexual reproduction, it travels to New York to lay hundreds of eggs. Traditional destruction ensues, with several of New York's most famous landmarks being demolished by the film's end.

Godzilla is a light-hearted Monster Movie. The actors are mainly from comedy backgrounds, the story is silly and corpses are kept to an absolute minimum. The film drops this high-spirited tone only at the very end, when Godzilla's death is infused with pathos. Emmerich freely admitted that he wasn't a fan of the Toho Gojira films, which may explain his failure to exploit Gojira's iconic status. Indeed, Godzilla for all its spectacle is only fleetingly absorbing. The novelization is Godzilla (1998) by Stephen Molstad.

Reportedly, Toho studios laid down a series of guidelines to the Americans about their beast which were then ignored by Emmerich and Devlin. Certainly, this Godzilla has little in common with its Japanese counterpart. The humanlike qualities of the monster are scrapped in favour of a more instinctual animal. Gone too are Gojira's powers; there is a confusing suggestion that the American Godzilla is capable of breathing a flammable gas, but this is never mentioned in the dialogue, and may well have been a post-production addition. Clearly, Emmerich's primary influence was Jurassic Park (1993) and its Dinosaurs, with Godzilla resembling an oversized version of that film's Tyrannosaurus rex, and its offspring's movements shamelessly copied from the velociraptors.

Plans for American sequels were scrapped after Godzilla's mediocre reception, but a US animated children's television series, Godzilla: The Series, ran for two seasons from 1998 to 2000: here the star had more of his original Japanese personality intact. Meanwhile Toho studios got their revenge in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), where the computer-generated "Zilla" attacks Sydney before being defeated by the superior Gojira. [JN]

3. film (2014). Warner Brothers/Legendary Entertainment/Disruption Entertainment. Directed by Gareth Edwards. Written by Max Borenstein, based on a story by Dave Callaham. Cast includes Juliette Binoche, Carson Bolde, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn and Ken Watanabe. 123 minutes. Colour.

Ancient Monsters that feed on radioactivity (see Nuclear Energy), long dormant, have started to awaken, beginning with an enormous Dinosaur dubbed Godzilla, who emerged in the South Pacific in 1954, followed by a huge insect-like "parasite," called a Muto, discovered in 1999 within a mine in the Philippines. Both creatures returned to a dormant state and their existence was concealed from the public, although grief-stricken widower Joe Brody (Cranston) has long sought to uncover the real reason (which was the hidden Muto) behind the 1999 accident at a Japanese nuclear power plant that killed his wife. In 2014, Godzilla, the original Muto, and another Muto awakened by nuclear waste in Nevada all come to life and proceed to travel toward California and San Francisco (the male and female Mutos, to mate; Godzilla, to attack the Mutos), as observed by Brody's son Ford Brody (Johnson), who is also striving to return to San Francisco to assist his wife and son. Eventually, beginning in the vicinity of the Golden Gate Bridge, Godzilla battles against the two Mutos, ultimately defeating them, while Ford Brody works to deactivate a nuclear weapon that had been deployed to destroy the monsters. As the victorious Godzilla returns to the Pacific Ocean, he is hailed as a hero despite the devastation and many deaths caused by his intervention.

Reactions to this latest entry in the long-running Monster Movies series launched by Gojira in 1954 were sharply divided, as some hailed it as a worthy addition to the canon while others denounced it as a muddled disappointment. What all can agree on, though, is that the timeless monster has now been stripped of its original purpose – as a representation of nuclear devastation – as well as its later role as a symbol of Japanese values combating various evils, so that it is now difficult to determine precisely what Godzilla stands for, or what his adventures have to offer viewers other than colourful mayhem. Thus one can admire this film for taking its subject matter seriously, unlike its disastrous American predecessor, yet criticize it for failing to convey why this subject matter is worth taking seriously. Perhaps this rather homely, decidedly un-charming, rarely glimpsed, and relentlessly antisocial Godzilla can be regarded as a monster with Asperger's Syndrome which audiences must, but should, struggle to appreciate in this era of universal acceptance of individuals with disabilities. In any event, whether this incarnation of the venerable monster will prove capable of launching the hoped-for sequels is, at the moment, yet to be determined.

The novelization, by Greg Cox, is Godzilla: The Official Movie Novelization (2014). [GW]


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