Ugh, I wish I were just reviewing the Blue Oyster Cult’s Godzilla, but no, we’re doing the whole thing. Let’s do it. Godzilla (1998).
Ah, Godzilla. Is there a more recognizable monster in the world? Maybe the Xenomorph from Alien, but in terms of gigantic monsters, Godzilla is the number one. Mainly because the movies are campy and fun, and somewhat ridiculous. Yes, I only think they are somewhat ridiculous. The man in the rubber suit movies are somewhat serious to me.
You see, one of the things that I really like about Godzilla is that it is actually a movie about the consequences of unmitigated experimentation and that science is the only way to defeat science. How did Godzilla become Godzilla? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Godzilla was irradiated in a nuclear blast. This resonated with Japanese audiences because, in a minor footnote in Japanese history, two nuclear bombs were dropped on them at one point in their history. By whom, you ask? History does not relate. The nuclear weapon is a bit of cultural memory for the Japanese, which makes the consequence of the lizard destroying Tokyo even more interesting. Additionally, it was the US who released the nuclear weapons, so it was also about the relationship between Japan and the US.
It is this relationship that the 1998 Godzilla looked at, pondered, wondered about, and then smashed to pieces to completely ignore. In the American remake, a nuke effects an egg. Egg grows to be Godzilla. Godzilla comes to New York. America fights back. Godzilla’s weakness is bridges.
Look, there isn’t much to work with here. Everyone in the movie is somewhat passable, but for the most part, it has no resonance. First off, everyone hates New York. Even people who love New York know that it is the worst. This makes you root for the monster. Second, the monster is trying to propagate her species, and we kill them all because we are in danger. There is no parallel being drawn with this action to us nuking Japan. And there could be! Someone could say, this is a genocide or something to acknowledge what the hell is going on. Thirdly, I don’t give a shit about anyone in the movie. They all seem pretty passably dumb, and when they die, I’m just as prepared to cheer as I am to just not care.
What makes Godzilla great is the allegory of it all. Godzilla, as a stand in for nuclear weapons, can stand as the thing that can cause the greatest destruction, or the greatest safety. It is able to turn the terror of nuclear weapons into a source for good. It can talk about these harder issues because it can approach them obliquely. The US version of it misses this entirely.
This is the same reason that the new Akira remake is going to be the most brutal thing you have ever seen in your life. Cracked already covered that though, so we’ll just link to that.
Anyway, this was is this week’s Friday Night Creature Feature. Don’t watch it. Because Size Does Matter. The Bigger they are, the more they deserve to be dropped off buildings into a dump.