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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » June 3, 2014
Film review
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June 3, 2014   
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It’s hard to believe, but Godzilla, the world’s most famous prehistoric reptile, has turned 60. The scaly giant was first introduced in a 1954 movie from Japan’s Toho studio, when it was awoken from a million years of slumber by nuclear tests in the Pacific.

In the string of sequels that followed, humans often tried to kill Godzilla, but the oversized lizard took their side to protect civilization against a range of other monsters that were not so well disposed to mankind. After saving the day, Godzilla, bruised and covered in wounds, would usually disappear into the ocean only to resurface in perfect shape in the next movie.

Godzilla didn’t get the Hollywood treatment until 1998, when a movie by Roland Emmerich showed the oversize reptile arriving in the States to trash a military submarine, swat a few choppers and wreak havoc in Manhattan. In the Hollywood movie, rather than a benevolent if scary giant, Godzilla was a menacing monster and towards the end of the film it tried to reproduce by laying hundreds of eggs inside Madison Square Garden, no less. In a joint effort, the military, a scientist (Matthew Broderick) and a French intelligence agent (Jean Reno) managed to destroy the nest and annihilate the monster with air-to-surface missiles fired from F-18 jets.

In the 1998 film, Godzilla was killed on a bridge in New York. In the new movie, directed by Gareth Edwards of Monsters fame, the producers have been much kinder to the giant lizard which is, after all, almost an old-age pensioner. Godzilla once again teams up with humans against a new type of monsters referred to as MUTOs, which stands for Massive Unknown Terrestrial Organisms. Determined to produce hundreds of baby monsters as soon as possible, the MUTOs feed on nuclear waste—and wouldn’t mind a tasty nuclear warhead or two either.

The movie begins in the Philippines and then the characters cross the Pacific via Japan and Hawaii all the way to Nevada where, as we all know, old testing grounds are packed with Cold War waste stored in containers with ominous black-and-yellow radioactive symbol on them. The gigantic MUTOs make a stop in Las Vegas, turn the city to ruins, and then proceed to a final showdown in the picturesque urban scenery of San Francisco.

Like the 1998 Emmerich movie, human characters in the new Godzilla play second fiddle to 300-feet-tall monsters. The scientists in the film, whose warnings traditionally go unheeded, span two generations this time, with the action moving from the 1950s to the 1990s and on to the present day. The film has the usual mix of military men and confused civilians, mostly the wives and kids of the main characters for dramatic effect. All to satisfy viewer’s painstakingly researched preferences.

Godzilla, which cost $160 million to make and grossed over $93 million at the American box office on the opening weekend, looks set to easily recoup its costs and notch up a tidy profit besides. Bringing the veteran monster out of retirement has clearly paid off, not least because the cutting-edge 3D technology makes you feel like the reptile’s trademark knobby tail is about to knock you out of your comfortable seat.

Witold ¯ygulski
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