REVIEW: GODZILLA - THE OFFICIAL MOVIE NOVELIZATION / AUTHOR: GREG COX / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Literary purists are much given to grumbling that feature film versions of their favourite novels just aren’t as good as the original book. Films, by necessity, are leaner and meaner and tend to slice out great swathes of incident and character as the story mutates to meet the needs of a totally different narrative form. No one’s going to suggest that Greg Cox’s novelization of the script of the current FX blockbuster Godzilla is a great work of modern literature but there’s an argument to be had that it’s a more satisfying experience than the rather flat feature film. If nothing else, it at least makes the film better, adding light and shade to the film’s drab, featureless characters and making a decent fist of turning into prose big special effects sequences full of fighting monsters and apocalyptic destruction.
In 1954, on a remote atoll in the South Pacific a nuclear warhead is detonated in an attempt to wipe out a monstrous and inhuman threat to humanity. In 1999 a nuclear power station in Japan is devastated by some mysterious underground seismic activity. Now – today! – retired scientist Joe Brody, who survived the 1999 catastrophe, is obsessed with finding out the real cause of the disaster which killed his wife. When his son Ford, now serving in the US military, is called urgently to Japan to take custody of his errant father, the two men discover the truth about the threat which devastated the Janjira Power Station – and the new terrors which are about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world.
Godzilla is a thoroughly engaging little book. Cox briskly rattles through the events of the film, broadening, deepening and opening up the screenplay’s sketchy characters to the extent that now we finally understand Joe Brody’s obsession and the familiar bond between father and son which now runs deeper and truer than it did on screen. When the monsters finally turn up – the two flying MUTOS and the King of the Monsters himself – Cox deftly depicts their size and their power and the terrible destruction they wreak as they head towards San Francisco and the last great smackdown. It might help if you’ve seen the movie first just to get a real sense of the visual scale of the story and its monstrous protagonists but Cox colourfully and snappily recounts the chaos and devastation, whilst keeping the remaining characters four-square and genuinely believable. Incidents which seemed like filler in the film – the scene where Ford finds himself looking after a Japanese boy torn from his parents at Hawaii airport – now have a real pulse and a sense of urgency.
Movie novelizations might seem like redundant museum pieces in an era where fans can quickly own the original film in one form or another, but Cox’s telling of Godzilla, whilst it could have done with another quick pass by the proofreader here or there, suggests that the movie tie-in novel is an old dog which may yet still have some life left in it.