There's a big lizard out there, rumbling toward a cineplex near you. And I don't know if we should try to stop it.

Like so many middle-aged men, I grew up with serious love for Godzilla. I loved him when he was bad, I loved him when he somehow became good, and I loved him when I could see the zipper going up the length of his back. When Channel 2's late-night "Creature Features" played Godzilla movies, I got the same feeling that I did in later years when going to see my favorite band play in concert. I wanted to name my first born after Godzilla, but her mother apparently didn't watch the same movies I did growing up.

So you'd think I'd be happy that they're bringing back my old pal next year, in a real bang-up 21st-century action film -- especially since someone has to erase the still-lingering stench of the 1998 reboot, starring Matthew Broderick. In that movie, my friend was stripped of his iconic look and personality in favor of some redrawn alien dinosaur-looking thingie that ended up being a girl (well, if it wasn't a girl, then I don't know what it was doing having eggs, which, of course, were just intended to spawn a sequel in case the movie did well enough, which it didn't).

A dependable star


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With the old Godzilla, Hollywood didn't have to hedge its bets. Either another monster threw him into the ocean at movie's end or he jumped in himself after vanquishing the latest threat to humanity, leaving everyone on the shore wondering when the next movie would come out and whether he was really a fish. Of course, he would always return. Godzilla was like a modern Sylvester Stallone: from another age, yet determined to come back and destroy again. And you always got the idea that, whether cast as the good guy or the bad guy, he was always having a good time. If some of the later movies became tongue-in-cheek -- and some did -- at least the title character seemed like he was in on the joke.

But things have changed in Hollywood. The standard in giant monster movies is no longer sticking a guy in a suit and letting him wrestle another guy in a suit, crushing a major metropolitan area in the process. We have an updated "Transformers." We have an updated "Star Trek." We will have an updated "Star Wars," for which Disney didn't pay billions of dollars just to get Mark Hamill off unemployment. Standards have changed and, if you're going to reboot a classic, you better do it bigger and better than anyone ever imagined.

Japan’s favorite nuclear-powered monster Godzilla, right, roars against Mechagodzilla during a press announcement of Japanese movie house Toho
Japan's favorite nuclear-powered monster Godzilla, right, roars against Mechagodzilla during a press announcement of Japanese movie house Toho Co.'s 26th Godzilla movie series "Godzilla x Mechagodzilla" at Toho studio in Tokyo in this July 16, 2002. ((AP Photo/Tsugufumi Matsumoto, FILE) )

Loads of personality

But what would that mean for Godzilla, whose personality is somewhere between your favorite nasty guard dog and cousin Eddie from "Christmas Vacation"? He celebrates, he gloats, he unleashes history's worst case of bad breath. Either we loathe him for being a radioactive menace (in the 1954 original "Godzilla" film) or love him for destroying anything that even looks cross-eyed at his child (in 1967's "Son of Godzilla"). Either way, he stood for something.

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures are mum on the plot. At least there are indications the filmmakers are taking this seriously, casting talented actors such as Ken Watanabe, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn and Bryan Cranston. Right, Bryan Cranston. Godzilla hooked on meth would be pretty entertaining.

Here's hoping they can balance the action with giving the big boy the personality he deserves. If they can't advance the franchise without retaining the things that made Godzilla so awesome to begin with -- which the 1998 reboot utterly failed at -- then it won't work. Sometimes all the 21st-century big-bang technology glosses over what makes a character iconic. Hopefully the special-effects wizards who will no doubt turn this into a 3-D extravaganza will understand that and perhaps include the moral equivalent to the zipper running up his back in a couple of scenes.

Contact Tony Hicks at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.TonyHicks or Twitter.com/insertfoot.