They've recreated a monster: Introducing Godzilla's latest incarnation

$160m Hollywood reboot proves you can't keep a good radioactive mutant down
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The Independent Culture

The 1954 screen debut of the oversized reptile from the deep was an unprepossessing one. The entrance of Godzilla, or "King of All Monsters" to give its literal translation, amounted to a 90kg latex creation that relied on piano wires, pulleys and firecrackers to come to life. Despite this, it captured the public imagination and has since graduated to Hollywood and a further 28 sequels, not to mention hundreds of comics and video games.

This week will witness the latest irradiated incarnation of the monster emerging from the water with the release of Godzilla, a $160m Hollywood reboot directed by Warwickshire-born Gareth Edwards.

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, studio bosses promise it will draw inspiration from the original by portraying a sober, dramatic take on the Godzilla story. Of course, it's still an aspiring Hollywood summer blockbuster, so added to the mix is a strong dose of American patriotism and US military power.

Back in Japan, some Godzilla aficionados are not impressed. Fans complain that the latest take on the city-destroying creature is a "calories monster" and has been "supersized" by its director. Mr Edwards says he told his team to imagine that the creature really had existed 60 years ago, and that they were only just now recreating it. He told The New York Times: "In our film, people are going to see the original animal that those people witnessed back then."

That original monster was, according to Yulia Frumer, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, a metaphor for the nuclear devastation Japan suffered during the Second World War.

"There are explicit references to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and fire bombings of Tokyo," said Ms Frumer. "These were less than 10 years away when the movie was released in 1954. Godzilla's skin looks like the burns of the bombing victims, and his breath itself is a destructive fire."

And Godzilla's appeal to directors hasn't diminished, says Dr William Tsutsui, author of Godzilla on My Mind. "Godzilla doesn't age," he told The Independent on Sunday. "So in the 1950s he was dark and politically engaged; in the 1960s he was fun and aimed at children; and now we're seeing, after the disaster at Fukushima, a return to that darker Godzilla. He is mirror for the time in which he is made."

Like the 1998 Hollywood flop, this latest movie also stars an array of deadly US military hardware. However, according to Mr Tsutsui, this new version "is the best ticket to box-office success we've seen in a Godzilla movie in some time".

No Pixar for kids

Last year, children had Despicable Me 2, Epic and Monsters University to keep them busy. But for the first time since Pixar was gobbled up by Disney in 2005, the animation studio will not release a new summer film, now that The Good Dinosaur has been moved to November 2015.

"A summer without Pixar is not a happy summer," said Gerry Lopez, chief executive of the US cinema chain ANC Entertainment. "Particularly for the hand-holding set, there is going to be a huge hole."

Only Fox-DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Disney's Planes: Fire & Rescue look set to break up the six-week summer holidays, dominated by disaster and superhero movies, including Godzilla.

The dirth of family fare, say industry insiders, springs from 2011, when Happy Feet 2 did badly.

Jamie Merrill