Godzilla

dir. Honda
Opens Fri June 25
Cinema 21

How do you stop Godzilla? Missiles? Torpedoes? Yeah, right. Tanks and airplanes? Useless! Bullets, you say? Please. An atomic bomb? Perhaps... but since the prehistoric motherfucker was brought back to life because of radioactive experiments, it'd probably just make him stronger!

Much like its city-trashing star, Godzilla's immensely successful franchise has been impossible to kill for the past 50 years. Yet despite his tenacity, Godzilla's had a pretty tough time here in America--not only was there the execrable 1998 remake, but the version that most Americans consider the "real" Godzilla, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, isn't even the original classic. Rather, it's a poorly dubbed version with 40 minutes edited out, mostly to make room for a clumsily inserted Raymond Burr. (Even the monster's name was changed, from the Japanese "Gojira" to the Anglicized "Godzilla.") The Burr-ified version was designed to make the film marketable to American audiences, but according to Godzilla enthusiasts, the changes severely undercut the impact of the original film.

Godzilla enthusiasts also insist that the original is a serious social commentary, a dark meditation upon the dangers of modern technology. They have a point, but it's an overstated one--when it comes down to it, the appeal of any Godzilla movie is watching a man in a monster suit smash the shit out of miniature cardboard buildings.

Hardcore and casual fans alike, rejoice: the re-release of the original Godzilla restores that lost footage, boasts a new 35mm print, pretends Raymond Burr never lived, and has fresh translations and subtitles. More importantly, Godzilla's smashing of various shit looks better than ever--you name it, Godzilla smashes it, and it's awesome.

As an effects movie made before special effects were invented, the film undoubtedly shows its age. The heavy use of miniatures and other cheap effects can't be taken seriously, but therein lies Godzilla's campy, earnest charm. If it's a choice between watching a perfect CGI storm destroy a perfect CGI city in The Day After Tomorrow or watching a guy in a bulky lizard suit enthusiastically stomp and roar through some models, I'll pick the latter.