New ‘Godzilla’ goes back to roots of Japanese legend 

click to enlarge Godzilla
  • Director Gareth Edwards’ new “Godzilla” opens May 16.
Godzilla expert August Ragone says he is “cautiously optimistic” about the upcoming “Godzilla” remake.

“I have faith in Gareth Edwards. Everything that comes out of his mouth gives me more confidence in the film,” says Ragone, author of “Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters.” The writer of the first authorized English biography of the special-effects wizard who created the famed movie monster appears at Bay Area fan events this month in anticipation of the May 16 opening of director Edwards’ new reboot of the Japanese franchise.

When Legendary Pictures and Edwards announced they were making a new “Godzilla,” many were skeptical. An American “Godzilla” remake directed by Roland Emmerich released in 1998 is despised by most fans because it changed the monster’s appearance and behavior, and it didn’t acknowledge Godzilla’s origin as a haunting allegory for nuclear war.

This time around, Ragone has high hopes, particularly because the new “Godzilla’s” story line shows that the film is in touch with the franchise’s anti-nuclear roots. It also demonstrates that Godzilla is an indestructible force of nature, not the mutant lizard of the 1998 film.

The new origin story has the monster being awakened by U.S. nuclear testing in the Bikini Atolls in the 1950s, with subsequent nuclear tests being failed attempts to destroy the creature.

“Just that one thing proves to me that these guys know what they’re doing,” Ragone says.

Edwards has cited Ragone’s tome as a source of inspiration.

“When I moved to America to start filming ‘Godzilla,’ this was one of the few books I brought with me,” he says. “Eiji is a true inspiration, and a one-of-a-kind innovator of special effects the likes of which we’ll probably never see again in cinema.”

Although the plot of the 2014 Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures “Godzilla” is shrouded in secrecy, there’s plenty to interest San Francisco audiences. Teaser trailers show the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge, publicity materials show Godzilla hulking over the Transamerica Pyramid and Bay Area fan events are planned in conjunction with the premiere.


August Ragone appearances

May 13-14 – Book-signing, hosting screenings of 1954’s original “Godzilla” at Alameda Theatre & Cineplex, 2317 Central Ave, Alameda; $7.75

May 16-17 – Screenings of 2014 “Godzilla” at Camera 12 Cinemas, 201 S. Second St., San Jose; $10.75-$35

May 17-18 – Big Wow! ComicFest at San Jose Convention Center, 150 W. San Carlos St., San Jose; $20-$25


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