GODZILLA: The Official Annual
 Nichola Tyrrell
Language: English Release: 1998
Publisher: Grandreams Pages: 61
Genre: Fiction ISBN: 1858306205

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Nicholas Driscoll

GODZILLA: The Official Annual is the official British adaptation of the 1998 American GODZILLA, and certainly the first Godzilla book of any kind printed in Belgium that I have reviewed. Written by Nichola Tyrrell, who also put together a number of other media tie-in books, The Official Annual quickly shows itself distinct compared to its American GODZILLA adaptation counterparts. The Brit book is huge and in hardback, and sprinkled throughout are curious edits sensitive to European relations, and the book even goes so far as to reveal the American Godzilla design in multiple artist renderings. However, the overall design suffers some traps familiar to Scholastic’s GODZILLA line-up, among other problems.

The story is straight out of the movie, obviously, with the usual beats. A nuclear explosion big-ifies a lizard, which proceeds to go on a rampage on Manhattan Island. The American military are a bunch of dunderheads, but a bug expert saves the day with the help of a corny, superheroic French spy and some ambitious reporters. Even moreso than any other adaptation I’ve read (and, so far as I know, I’ve read all of the English ones), The Official Annual reads largely as a glossing of the movie script. Entire pages are devoted to dialogue straight out of the movie with very little added detail. The overwhelming sense I had through much of the book was that I was just reading the script. Any description outside of dialogue tended to be unimpressive anyway, despite the fun British vocab like “boot” for trunk and so forth. Here, clichés are integral to Tyrrell’s writing style, and a surprising number of basic errors have managed to hang on in the text. Mostly, reading the book is a dull task, made worse by horrible design—white text against textured, monster-skin colored backgrounds. At times, the text is downright difficult to read simply because of the poor contrast.

Nevertheless, despite the slavish adherence to the screenplay, the story deviates occasionally from the script, and not only in the usual ways. Yes, once again, Godzilla has his "power breath," but it never ignites like in the movie (an infamous last-minute change). Yes, Godzilla is a chameleon again here, and, like in Weinberger’s adaptation, the monster drags his tail. These aren’t surprising. What struck me was the editing-out of all the jokes that explicitly make fun of the French. Here, the French secret agents never complain about their coffee and so on, and they certainly never imitate Elvis Presley. Perhaps England’s close proximity to France made them squeamish about GODZILLA’s cheesy French jokes?

If only the Brits had been more sensitive to general design principles as well. The overall design, as mentioned earlier, makes heavy use of ugly background patterns, most of which are faux lizard skins, and, as mentioned, some of them make reading a smidge painful. This Brit release also includes a few unorthodox photographs. It seemed like the American releases all had the same twenty or so shots from the movie, but here we have a few unique ones, albeit they are still mostly just pictures of the human cast. Thankfully, the publication does include a smattering of colorful drawings of the monster cast, which are fun to see. A number of “Godzilla Force” logos and a unique “Genuine Godzilla” imprint bring some much-needed interest to the pages, but not enough.

As a novelty, The Official Annual stands out, but only because it’s a curio of Brit-lit for Godzilla addicts. Tyrrell's writing leaves much to be desired, and the page designs are some of the worst I’ve seen in the GODZILLA line. It’s a good thing they didn’t come out with a new one of these every year, despite the title.