Boston Herald, Wednesday, May 27, 1998

'Godzilla' vs.
... Godzilla

Cheesy King of the Monsters has his loyal subjects, and they'll never bow to Hollywood's `improvements,' thank you


Maybe Ben Robbins shouldn't care so much about a guy in a rubber monster suit who stomps on little buildings. But he does.

Feeling protective of everything that is classic Godzilla - the lizard's otter-shaped face, his rough, pitted skin, his moody personality - Robbins could only describe the Hollywood ``Godzilla,'' released last week, as a betrayal.

``They messed with Godzilla,'' said the 24-year-old from Somerville, who likened Hollywood's interpretation of the monster to ``a `Jurassic Park' T-Rex with a Jay Leno jaw.''

For serious Godzilla fans, who grew up watching the King of the Monsters on Saturday morning TV, size doesn't matter as much as authenticity. After all, when you've seen all 22 Godzilla films - at least once - and you've been anticipating the new version for months, your expectations are high.

Barry Goldberg of Somerville, creator of Barry's Temple of Godzilla, ``the largest and most popular fan (Web) site in the world,'' ( has been fielding 100 to 200 e-mails a day from fellow aficionados.

``In the final analysis, I felt it wasn't truly Godzilla,'' said Goldberg, who attended the new film's giant New York premiere at Madison Square Garden and has seen the movie a second time.

Godzilla's identity crisis seems to stem from the question of his very being. A mutated dinosaur? An iguana? Some disappointed fans complained he looks more like an alien than a lizard.

``It could be a creature from Planet Z,'' said Mike Zdanowicz.

Zdanowicz sells monster movie memorabilia at his shop, Day Old Antiques, in Cambridge. He plans to sell new ``Godzilla'' merchandise alongside classic pieces (a 6-inch plastic figure goes for $75). But the two versions, he said, are as opposite as good and evil.

``Godzilla should look very doggy, with jowls like an old junkyard dog,'' he said. ``(The new Godzilla) looks more like an iguana - his eyes are very small, and he has a more angled face.

``Purists are going to hate it,'' he said.

Of course they are. What's so appealing about a monster whose classically thick, heavy body is replaced with a sleeker version, one that can supposedly outrun a bullet train? What were the directors thinking when they replaced Godzilla's spongy skin with the smooth, anti-aging kind?

Case in point: the monster's signature atomic fire-breathing power. Goldberg said he was disappointed that Hollywood downplayed the big guy's havoc-wreaking halitosis.

``He has a power breath (that) pushes things out of the way,'' he said. ``But it had nothing to do with his atomic power.''

``They strayed too far,'' said Aliya Wali, manager of Tokyo Kids, a shop in Harvard Square that sells Japanese monster toys and movies. ``It's very upsetting.''

These longtime fans - many of whom call to mind Fox Mulder's techno-geek friends on ``The X-Files'' - miss the old Godzilla as much for his mind as his body. The monster of the earlier films - made from 1954 on - was always one to hate and love, one who was a menace one minute and a hero the next. A monstrosity with personality.

``People identified with him,'' said Wali.

But now Hollywood has remade him - aside from one fit of rage when he discovers his babies have been killed - into a one-dimensional freak.

``Just a dumb, lumbering monster,'' said Robbins.

Even the new film's technological wizardry, designed to take Godzilla into the millennium, missed the mark. Maybe the movie's disappointing first weekend - it did just $55.5 million, far less than last year's Memorial Day record of $90.2 million set by ``The Lost World'' - proves you can't improve on the old Godzilla's camp appeal.

``You'd get these two guys in monster suits doing wrestling moves,'' said Tyler Stuart of Somerville. ``It got very cheesy and amusing.

``Now, he's just this huge, hulking thing,'' he said.

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