The iconic Japanese monster’s debut was different than what I expected based on the numerous, and inferior, subsequent portrayals. I thought I was going to experience non-stop radioactive sea creature carnage for 96 minutes. However since this film wasn’t directed by Michael Bay there were also some interesting ideas going on. If you’re looking for a man in a lizard suit (aren’t we all) taking chunks out of Tokyo there’s plenty of that too. Godzilla delivers in such a way that while I may not be dying to see all five hundred spin offs and remakes maybe a a couple more wouldn’t hurt.
The beginning of the 31 installment strong franchise begins with the sinking of a ship. After a ship mysteriously disappears near Odo Island a second ship is sent to investigate. The second ship meets with the same fate as the first. This is when we are first introduced to the idea of Godzilla. The mysterious happenings around the island are said to be caused by a Godzilla by one of the village elders. Reporters flock to the island and we’re treated to some backstory about sacrificing girls to appease the monster. It’s clearly been awhile since that tradition was observed as that night a storm hits the island and ‘something’ destroys 17 homes and kills 9 people. Shortly after, Godzilla emerges from the depths and begins to wreak widespread destruction. Some people want to study him for his resistance to radiation. Some people want to see him destroyed. When you’re dealing with a 50 metre tall fire breathing sea monster are either of those even an option?
So the obvious downsides of this movie are basically summed up by saying “it was made in 1954”. Mostly the issue with it is the visuals. Godzilla was a man in a suit, there’s no ignoring that. However good physical effects from 1954 are still more engrossing than bad computer effects today (looking at you Sharktopus).
In addition to the dated visuals the acting was not the best. It wasn’t Kristen Stewart bad, it wasn’t even Halle Berry in X-men bad. The acting in Godzilla was more Jim Carrey, over the top and lacking in nuance but entertaining to a point.
While the lack of nuance detracted from the acting it’s actually one of the film’s greatest strengths in other aspects. It is made very clear that Godzilla’s awakening and rampage is due to nuclear weapons testing. Godzilla represents nature’s wrath. The effective communication of this core concept is what makes the film stand out. Mankind caused this problem, we brought it on ourselves and for all our progress we’re still at the mercy of the planet.
Beyond Godzilla the film also raises questions about the use of science. That knowledge isn’t good or bad it is how the knowledge is used. The atom bomb woke Godzilla but ultimately the Japanese turn to new science in the effort to find a way to defeat him. We see a scientist, Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), wrestling with whether or not to use his discoveries against Godzilla in case they would fall into the wrong hands afterwards. All these themes slot together and interlink exceptionally in the film. We don’t spend too much time on Godzilla, we don’t spend too much time on the scientists, we do however spend a little too long on the islanders.
Godzilla remains watchable because it could easily be relevant in today’s context of global warming. A man-made problem which, most of, the world is aiming to rectify seems like a perfect fit for Godzilla.
This was a fun movie to watch. There was enough balance between Godzilla and the rest of the movie so that you don’t get bored of him. The story was okay, nothing amazing. Through that mediocrity shone the light of an idea that was so good it would inspire way too many remakes. The idea that we are facing a mirror, we are looking at the result of our ideas and actions. Only this time we get to see a giant radioactive lizard looking back at us.