Godzilla: King of History


Godzilla, a name synonymous with bad dubbing, giant monsters, and a hatred for small architecture models.  With the recent release of the new Godzilla film on DVD and Blu-ray there is a staggering amount of people who enjoyed the film.  There is also is an equal number of people who thought it wasn’t a good movie.  I am part of the latter, at least in the sense that people think it is on par or better than the original 1954 film Gojira.  This is not a review, nor is it to say that the remake is necessarily a bad film.  I am simply saying that comparing it to the original Gojira is like comparing Hunger Games to the Canterbury Tales.

Like I said the new film is by no means a bad film, and sticks to much of the same structure of the original.  There is a tease to the King himself, Godzilla, that (supposedly) builds suspense, but turned out to be more frustrating then not.  When we first see the Big G he is obscured through stereotypical old fashioned footage and jump cuts.  Okay.  Old film, I understand that it lays the groundwork.  But then, I kid you not when I say, the first time we see the King of Monsters it is not until 50 minutes in.  And at that point we have been introduced to several main characters, killed off the most interesting ones, and spent more time with the enemy monster dubbed MUTO.  But once Godzilla shows up it is one of the most epic entrances in big monster movies ever.  Suddenly we cut to the child of the main character (that guy who played Kick Ass… another great movie…).

This is not the only time this happens however.  Every time we are set up to see these two, and eventually three mighty monsters clash it is obscured by something like debris or doors closing (yes doors closing) all to follow the humans who are insignificant to all of this. 2 and half hours of movie and you can actually find cuts of only Godzilla’s scenes.  It comes out to a whopping 8 minutes total.

I understand why they chose to do this.  The common argument I hear is he has more screen time in this new movie then the original.  But the problem is the original Gojira had a better film around it.  The original was a propaganda film basically for the atmoic bomb that struck Hiroshima almost a decade earlier.  The reason godzilla looks so rough in the scales was to mimic Keloid scarring from radiation poisoning. This historical significance that affected and still affects so many lives gave weight to this film and kick started a legacy.  They took this unspeakable event (the dropping of an A-Bomb on Hiroshima) and created a physical metaphor for a worse case scenario.  This weapon made to kill lives was not a once and done, but a long lasting ordeal that would continue to ravage the country even today.

And I think this is what keeps people coming back to the king of monsters.  He is not some creature from space, not some natural phenomenon, but a creature of our own ambition and need for destruction.  WE created him, WE gave him this terrifying power, and he is OUR problem. And sometimes he even becomes our hero.

In Mark Federman’s article, “What is the meaning of Medium is the Message?” he states “Whenever we create a new innovation – be it an invention or a new idea – many of its properties are fairly obvious to us. We generally know what it will nominally do, or at least what it is intended to do, and what it might replace. We often know what its advantages and disadvantages might be. But it is also often the case that, after a long period of time and experience with the new innovation, we look backward and realize that there were some effects of which we were entirely unaware at the outset.”  And I think this describes the draw towards Godzilla both as a monster and a franchise.  He was an unforeseen consequence of the actions of our country.  We never know what he is going to do.  Will he destroy the city? Will he save it from some other force? This is something that the newer film handled quite well.

In the newer film they depict Godzilla not as a creation of our own devices, but a force of nature charged with keeping balance and order.  There is several times throughout the film that we question, even in that moment, will he fight the MUTO’s or will he join in their destruction of cities?  At one point Godzilla is swimming through the water with a fleet of ships around him, and it builds the tension of will he disregard them or make them his next target? Even by the end of the film when it is clear which side he is on, because he has defeated the MUTO at that point and retreated, you still can’t help but think “Are we next?” When does he stop being a protector and find us (humanity) to be the problem.

This tug of war of uncertainty has made Godzilla timeless.  Especially with the constant fight and need for nuclear arms.  He has appeared in countless forms as parodies in movies like Austin Powers (see the link below), to cartoons like the simpsons, and so many other places.

One thought on “Godzilla: King of History

  1. I really never did take into the actual meaning of the Godzilla films until I read this, dealing with how we created him with the atomic bomb and such. I think the use of Federman’s quote really points this out nicely and helps to put the point right out there.

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