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PortWatch

May 16, 2014

Monster misgivings

Loyal to zip-up Godzilla, Japan wary of US remake

The big-screen Godzilla that scared and thrilled viewers in 1954 was an actor in a rubber suit with a zipper up its back. And many Japanese fans still prefer that monster over a Hollywood version made in terrifying, full 3-D computer-graphics glory.

“American Godzilla is just a giant iguana freaking out,” says Mudai Nozaki, 30, who believes Godzilla is Japan’s greatest contribution to cinematic history next to “Seven Samurai” and “Kagemusha” director Akira Kurosawa.

His reaction is surprisingly typical among Japanese who have seen the trailer of the film, titled simply “Godzilla,” which premieres today in the U.S. and in July in Japan. They wonder if the Warner Bros. remake will be a tribute or an embarrassment for Japan’s monstrous legacy.

Japanese Godzilla lovers say their iconic hero falls into a special phantasmal category called “kaiju,” which have more imaginary, far-fetched traits than what they see as more mundane monsters like King Kong or Frankenstein.

And the Hollywood version is no kaiju, said Kazuya Haraguchi, who collects Godzilla goods, including a 100,000 yen ($1,000) complete DVD collection from Toho Studios that came with a huge, fangs-baring Godzilla head.

The 45-year-old technician for reel films says Hollywood already botched it once with a 1998 remake, directed by Roland Emmerich.

And almost everything about the new Godzilla is wrong again, from head to toe — how its arms are limp at its sides, how the scales on its back are too regular, even the shape of its head.

“The head is too small,” Haraguchi said. “The voice is all wrong. It has to be much higher.”

He shrugs off the creature in the new film as depicting what he pronounced as “Gadzilla,” imitating an American accent — instead of “Gojira” (Go-jeeh-ruh), the way Japanese say it, a word that combines “gorilla” and “kujira,” or whale.

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