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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

May 16, 2014

Godzilla: More Spectacular Than The 1998 Reboot

THE ORIGINAL “Godzilla” movie made by the Japanese Toho Company in 1954 is an allegory to the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima 8 years ago. It was such a hit that it had 27 sequels. There was even a Pinoy version made by Premiere Productions starring the late Tessie Quintana, “Tokyo 1960”. The monster later became more friendly to humans as he fought with other monstrous opponents. Hollywood first came up with its own version in 1998, directed by Roland Emmerich who had a hit in “Independence Day” the year before. Sadly, his “Godzilla” wasn’t as successful.

The latest reboot, on its 60th year, is from British director Gareth Edwards, whose debut in “Monsters” (2010), was well received. He and his writers re-establish Godzilla as the result of the nuclear age. It opens in our own country, The Philippines, in 1999 when a Japanese scientist (Ken Watanabe) and his assistant (Sally Hawkins) discover the huge skeleton of a monster in a mining pit. Whatever is inside the cavern has already escaped and created a messy trail into the sea.

Cut to a nuclear power plant in Janjira, Japan. An American couple working there, Joe and Sandra Brody (Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” and Juliette Binoche), become victims of an earthquake that destroyed the whole facility. Cut to the present, their son, Ford (Aaron Taylor Johnson who’s now so buff here compared to his debut in “Kick Ass”), is a bomb expert with the U.S. Navy. He returns to Japan for his dad, who turns out to have survived the killer quake and is now considered a crazy old man who thinks the government in covering something up in Janjira. While they are in Janjira, the first monster comes alive, called MUTO (for Massive Unidentified Terrestial Organism) that looks a gargantuan grasshopper, similar to the other famous Japanese monster, Mothra.

This is where destruction really begins. It turns out there are two MUTOs and they’re husband and wife out to breed more children. They actually enjoy eating nuclear bombs and rockets as these enrich their own energy system. Then Godzilla finally comes along after almost an hour and he turns out not to be another worthless destructive monster but is actually the savior of humankind who fights the MUTOs.

In the 50s, the skyscrapers destroyed by the monster (actually just a man in a rubber suit) look so much like cardboard boxes and toys. Well, not anymore, CGI technology has improved by leaps and bounds since then and here, we are treated to spectacular eye-popping scenes of destruction, including a fantastic set piece showing a tsunami surging on Waikiki. Some of the attacks are not really shown but we see them as TV news coverage, which seems to be a copout. But the finale in San Francisco which shows the destruction of Golden Gate Bridge (also destroyed in the recent kaiju movie, “Pacific Rim”, and many other movies) truly delivers and is stunningly mounted.

Godzilla is the title roler so you see him here in all his glory, in full close-ups, much bigger and stouter than the Japanese original, complete with menacing spikes on his back. His final one-on-one with the MUTOs will please fans of monster movies with its terrific special effects, but you’d still wish he was given more exposure. The final scene shows him returning back into the deep. If this movie would be a monster hit (and no doubt it would give Spiderman and the X Men a run for their money at the summer tills), then he will surely be back for a sequel.

The human characters is best represented by Aaron Taylor Johnson, who played the heartthrob Vronsky who sweeps Keira Knightely off her feet in the last “Anna Karenina” film version and got acclaimed as John Lennon in “Nowhere Boy”. He does his best as the beefcake hero and his reunion with his wife and son in the end manages to be quite touching. The other human characters play largely thankless roles, especially Sally Hawkins who is asked to do very little here after her Oscar nominated role as Cate B’s sister in “Blue Jasmine”.