I was raised on a healthy diet of movies as a kid and a few of those films ended up becoming repetitive watches for me. one of the most prominent films I remember watching repetitively was 1998’s American adaptation of Godzilla featuring Mathew Brodrick. The film while critically panned at the time (who cares when you are 5 years old) yet I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. For many, this film comes across as a slight against the Godzilla mythos and more broadly against Kaiju films. For a long time, the American Godzilla was my Godzilla.
It may be the nostalgia setting in but I think the film is a great fun romp that was at times very earnest, however, after watching the original Japanese version of the film I can see why many would view the American version as a bastardization of the franchise and what it stands for. contextually the 1954 version of the film or Gojira as it was called in Japan was a fantastic post-war allegory for the destructive power of the nuclear bomb. Post war Japan would have been rife with anxieties about Nuclear weapons, the 1954 version nestles itself nicely into these fears and creates something that a modern audience struggles to comprehend.
while I don’t think the 1998 version is a bad movie It is easy to see how the destruction seen on screen leaves the audience feeling a sense of apathy, It isn’t able to tap into the cultural fears of the American audience. Comparatively the 2014 Godzilla remake which is critically regarded as the better of the American Godzilla films works much better. One can speculate that the effectiveness of this film stems from the fact it features imagery reminiscent of the 9/11 terrorist attacks which would play upon the anxieties of the post-9/11 America. many modern films use this type of imagery as it evokes an emotional response in the audience. For me watching the 1954 film feels less impactful than how it was probably received in its day, and while I find the effects a little hammy (to their credit some scenes in the movie are very captivating) the movie plays as a nice little morality tale about war, weapons and the human spirit and if a movie can do that more than half a century later it has done its job.
I’ve included a video essay that talks about the importance of Godzilla as an allegory for the Hydrogen bomb that I found incredibly helpful so I’d recommend you check it out.