[dropcap letter="T"]he fan culture that the original slew of Japan’s Godzilla movies spawned is now the gold standard by which all giant monster films are measured by. Just like Black Sabbath is to metal music (especially doom and sludge), in comparison to the God-Lizard, everything’s already a rip-off.

Which is why this reboot by director Garreth Edwards, despite its flaws in pacing and sometimes downright failures with weird attempts at political gravitas, as well as wire-crossed fugues of a vague disconnect to recent current events (hello, Fukushima meltdown), is a hell of a re-brand for the hoary, spiky-backed old beast.

While 1950s movie magic and tech could never have visualized the level of detail and animalistic movement in the new creatures, there’s a good reason why the 1950s Godzilla and its sequels are beloved by cult fans--they delivered heart and narrative gusto in spades despite the often comedic SFX.



 

In this new movie, we open at some mining operation in the Philippine hinterlands (curiously, all the Pinoys are tall and resemble South Americans) in 1999, where the bottom of a shaft has collapsed and revealed the gigantic bones of an prehistoric creature.

Fast forward a few years later and a series of tremors rock the Janjira Nuclear Power Plant near the Tokyo district. Expat couple Sandra and Joe Brody (played by Juliette Binoche and Bryan Cranston), with their little boy Ford, work at the plant as scientists.

Joe Brody insists that the tremors resemble the ones that shook the Philippine site back in 1999. He raises the alarm even though others have tried to pass off the anomalous sound patterns as mere earthquakes.

After the tragic loss of lives and the destruction of the plant, 15 years later the young boy Ford is now Lieutenant Ford Brody, USN (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, yep Kick-Ass is here) who works as an explosive ordnance disposal technician.

Lt Brody links up again with his father, Joe, and they go back to the meltdown site to reveal just what the scientists there, led by Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), have been hiding. Soon the world finds out exactly what the scientists term an “Alpha Predator” is.

“A god, for all intents and purposes,” exclaims the oft-astonished and confused Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins), in what might just be one of the most ill-conceived or legendary lines in the annals of monster movie history.

Here’s a few ways to prep and whet your beak, drink and popcorn in hand, before going in to watch one of the most visually-magnificent Godzilla movies in the saga of kaijus. Here there be giants.



 






 

Being a brief, visual history of the imagined, radioactive species known as Godzillasaurus, which paleontologists have jokingly linked with the Tyrannosaurus Rex or Ceratosaurus families, only much larger. The new beast stands 355-feet-tall (the largest of any big screen incarnation) this Godzilla was conceived from the start as an entirely digital creation as a bipedal, amphibious, radioactive leviathan with armored dorsal fins spiking menacingly all the way down to his long, sweeping tail.



 







 


Mr Desplat’s resume is full of tall trees, including The King's Speech, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, and Grand Budapest Hotel. He doesn’t drop the ball on this one, not one bit, as the first track on the OST can attest. Beasts ho! Sound the alarm!



 






 

Thought the Frenchies had limp fingers when it comes to hard rock? This French metal band from Ondres, are living testament that the Francos are no wusses, especially since they’ve taken the original Japanese moniker of the God-Lizard, dragging the rest of our sorry carcasses with the brutality and speed of their namesake. Just check out their latest LP L’Enfant Sauvage.



 






 



 

Also known as “How Aliens Infested Mexico and the Southern US,” this is Edward’s feature film debut and boy is it a fine piece of sci-fi with both narrative balls (get two people through the “infested zone”) and ingenious visual stylishness (like deep sea creatures, the aliens communicate through a sparkly display of biological lights). If you are a creature feature fan, you must check this unassumingly beautiful film out.



 






 

That lachrymose eye contact moment between Mathew Broderick and our beloved beast is priceless, despite the story’s attempts at sour levity.



 






 

Just trust us on this one.



 





Think that the God-Lizard has a chance against “The One Who Knocks”? Bryan Cranston in TV’s “Breaking Bad” was a menace to society, but it turns out Mr White was a long-time fan of the franchise, too.

“Godzilla with his fiery breath. . .he just destroyed everything in his wake!” Cranston recalls. “It was actually a man in a suit stomping through a miniature Tokyo, but it was marvelous to a young kid. There’s a part of me that will always be that boy, but the whole sensibility of how to make a movie like this has matured; the audience has evolved. It’s not just about Godzilla smashing things up. People are still going to root for him, but you also want to be connected to what’s happening and root for the characters to make it through.”



 





The filmmakers’ efforts to capture the essence of Godzilla took them back to 1954. Their search led them to the iconic latex suit designed by Toho Co Ltd’s Teizo Toshimitsu, which he built with Eizo Kaimai, Kanju Yagi and Yasue Yagi.

The actor Haruo Nakajima (aka Man Tromping Around Tokyo in a Reptile Suit) made the rampage look real, while the costume was transformed through director Ishiro Honda’s lens into a nuclear disaster made flesh. Everything is here for classicists, from the visible atomic blast and the shillelagh tail.

“It was incredibly exciting to take inspiration from those early movies,” said visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel. “But [director] Gareth’s edict from the beginning was that everything we were creating had to look absolutely real. You want to believe that there’s this 355-foot beast crashing through the streets of San Francisco.”

 

“Godzilla” opens across the Philippines on May 15 in 3D, 2D and IMAX 3D in select theaters. Please post your fanboy feels (or feelings for Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in the Comments Section.



 

Karl R. De Mesa

Karl R. De Mesa is the author of the books of horror fiction "Damaged People" and "News of the Shaman." He's also a journalist and editor. His latest book is "Report from the Abyss," a collection of non-fiction. He plays guitar for the drone metal band Gonzo Army.

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