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'Godzilla' star Ken Watanabe: An authentic monster movie

Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa.

Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. Photo Credit: Kimberley French / Kimberley French

Hollywood has a checkered past when it comes to Godzilla movies, as the iconic Japanese monster made his big-studio English-language debut in Roland Emmerich's maligned, forgettable 1998 flick starring Matthew Broderick.

Unlike that movie, the new "Godzilla," from director Gareth Edwards, is purposefully made in the tradition of the beloved Toho films.

It's an authentic effort, according to Japanese actor Ken Watanabe ("Inception"), who plays a scientist tasked with tracking the monster in the big-budget extravaganza opening Friday.

Edwards "has a great knowledge about Godzilla's background," Watanabe says. "Godzilla was born out of fear of nuclear weapons. But he is a filmmaker of a blockbuster huge entertainment movie. It's a mix. At first it's a great entertainment blockbuster movie and finally audiences can recognize these themes."

The character and what he represents resonate all over the world, according to Watanabe. They certainly hit home for the actor when he was both a kid and a young man.

"Of course, I'm the generation after Godzilla. Its original was earlier, 5 years before I was born. ?I saw the movie about four or five [movies] about Godzilla. Godzilla versus a different creature, other creatures," Watanabe says. "I was eight or nine and I didn't recognize the theme, metaphor for something. Just entertainment. I went to see the original as an adult studying acting at 23 or 24, and was so surprised. It's so dark. So serious. So political."

As much as we all love big scenes of epic destruction, that's why the monster still resonates today.

"Right now, this year marks the 60th anniversary of Godzilla," Watanabe says. "I'm also not surprised how people are still fascinated by Godzilla. Why? We had a really hard experience three years ago in Japan, the destruction of a nuclear power plant by a huge tsunami. Even after 60 years we have the same fear. The situation has not changed."

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