Kaiju Tuesday! - Gojira
Hello everyone and welcome to Kaiju Tuesday! A blog that will go up on Tuesdays analyzing a random Kaiju film and monster. Kaiju films center around a giant creature that usually wreaks havoc amongst a densely populated or indigenous area, although there are exceptions to the formula of course. Before we get into our first film, let me tell you a little bit about why I love this particular genre of film that is over eighty years old, but over the last couple years has finally been getting the mainstream recognition it deserves.
Something that always stuck out for me when it comes to movies about giant monsters (or giant people) is how the films are shot. When the film shows off the creature, the camera either tends to be faraway or at a low angle facing upward to make the monster seem more gigantic and intimidating. These camera techniques worked especially well before computer-generated imagery was overused, and the monster was an actor in a rubber suit surrounded by detailed miniatures such as buildings, railroads, and bridges.
While seeing the monster(s) in action is always a spectacle on the big or silver screen, you can’t have a movie without plot, setting, and characters. I love how familiar yet different each kaiju film can be. You see all the recognizable characters, the quirky scientist who can explain everything, the lead hero who you identify with and follow, the love interest, a general or military commander who can either make the situation better or worse. Yet, not every movie has these, over time you’ll see what I mean.
Finally, what is a Kaiju film without some sort of destruction? It’s entertaining to watch buildings be smashed to pieces do to some destructive force of nature. This is where these films tend to be relatable to the viewer. During and after the destruction, we usually see our characters react in a way that seems all too familiar. We live in a day where social media instantly shows the reaction and mayhem of natural disasters. People in mass distraught trying to survive something completely out of their control. Kaiju films tend to reflect that fear we hopefully never have to experience, but all too many do unfortunately.
Hopefully that gives you an idea on why I love these movies, and why I think they’re important as a whole. But now let’s get to our first film of Kaiju Tuesday! Gojira (AKA in the United States as Godzilla: King of the Monsters). While it’s not the first movie of its kind, it certainly popularized it and has gotten nothing but praise and international attention for its realistic tone, memorable characters, it’s allegorical message on nuclear war, and giving birth to easily the most popular giant monster of all time, GODZILLA!
There are actually two version of this film, an American film recut with an American actor named Raymond Burr and the original uncut Japanese version. Gojira was released in Japan in the year 1954, while the American Godzilla was released two years later. While I do appreciate the American version, and felt they did a decent job trying to fit in actor who clearly has no business being in the movie, I highly recommend the Japanese version over it. The story has a perfect straight forward narrative with characters that are believably connected, yet each of them bring something different to the table.
I don’t want to give too much away for you so I won’t go into every single character; I will tell you about my two favorites though. First there is Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, he is a reclusive yet hard working scientist who has been working an experiment that may determine the outcome of how far Godzilla’s destruction will reach. He also is arranged to marry Emiko Yamane, but she is in love with a sea captain named Hideto Ogata, who is one of the first people to respond to Godzilla’s destruction. This causes tension between the two within the film, which makes the climax all the more heartbreaking.
Then there is my second favorite character. Dr. Kyohei Yamane, a paleontologist who explains to the public what Godzilla is, he is also the father of Emiko. His character not only is important because of his explanation of how Godzilla came to be, but his prophetic monologue on the dangers of nuclear weapons and its possible effect on the future of mankind.
Gojira was released nine years after the devastation on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the United States military dropped two atomic bombs (one on each city) in a successful effort to end World War II. While Japanese and American relations quickly recovered during American occupation after the war, the destruction the nuclear weapons brought was all too familiar to the Japanese population. Gojira is a reflection of that fear, the Japanese knew first-hand the dangers of the nuclear age and the consequences it could bring. Godzilla represents the effect the United States had on Japan right at the end of World War II, and the consequences of their own actions.
Finally let’s dive into the star himself Godzilla, or Gojira as they call him in his native county. What’s not to love about this character? He is an incredible destructive force of nature evolved from the Jurassic period, that is disturbed by hydrogen bomb testing in the Pacific Ocean. He is indestructible to conventional guns and bombs and can release a powerful stream of atomic breath from his mouth and measure to be about 164ft tall. Throughout the series though his height and powers increase. He is amphibious and green which I guess makes him a cold-blooded animal.
If you have never seen Gojira, I highly recommend it. It’s not only entertaining because of the action and destruction that occurs in the movie, but what it represents as whole. Everything about this movie I love, the characters, the setting, the themes, and of course the big green star himself. All these factors contribute to a film that is far above in quality than most in its genre, or most movies in general.