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. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re looking for a man in a lizard suit taking chunks out of Tokyo there’s plenty of that too. However, my preconceived ideas of what Gojira was about was heavily influenced by the numerous references in popular culture. Due to the nature of American entertainment often parodying other works of fiction, it has become rather rare for Godzilla to not be referenced in an animated/live-action movie/TV shows. Godzilla is everywhere. If he’s not on your computer screens (Mozilla Firefox) he’s on your TV screens (reality show Bridezillas).
Growing up as a Portuguese-Australian in Western society, these references to Godzilla were often used in a comedic sense. Due to this, when I first realised we were watching Gojira (1954) I had to laugh. As I viewed the film it was obvious that Godzilla was a man in a suit, there’s no ignoring that, and in addition to the dated visuals the acting was not the best. However, what I had never realised was that to its first viewers in 1954, Gorjia would have evoked a disturbingly recent catastrophe. With the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Lucky Dragon 5 incident still fresh in the Japanese consciousness, Gojira was conceived as a metaphor for nuclear weapons. However, I unusually found myself sympathetic to the character despite its wrathful nature. Towards the end of the film I viewed the Gojira’s behaviour as an act of self-preservation and sends a message about where science and technology can go wrong. This context for me makes Gojira a powerful and emotive film. It’s disappointing that these messages are lost through comedic popular culture references.
This tweet I composed during the viewing of Gojira really encapsulates my initial reaction to the film: focusing primarily on the comedic value due to my influences from popular culture.
The film presents 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. Gojira delivers in such a way that while I may not be dying to see all five hundred spin offs and remakes maybe a couple more wouldn’t hurt.