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Godzilla – Review

by Esosa Osamwonyi

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A Japanese fishing boat while out in the ocean, is suddenly attacked by a ray of light and mysteriously disappears. Soon after, another ship is sent to investigate but only to suffer the same mysterious fate as well. On a nearby island, the village elder speaks of earlier times in which a legendary sea monster named Godzilla would disrupt potential fishing activity and the only way to please this sea creature would be to sacrifice the native village girls. Soon enough the village is attacked by a natural disaster. Sure enough word is sent out and an archeological team is sent to investigate but not before they witness Godzilla for themselves. And now a huge battle begins to stop this threat and also with an internal conflict brewing on what should be done with Godzilla and the implications it holds.

Such is the plot of Ishiro Honda’s Godzilla. The film was deemed an experiment and gamble of sorts at the time of its release, a venture that had the possibility of being disastrous. However, that was not the case as the film would prove to be highly popular and successful as the Godzilla franchise would go on to span 27 sequels, various spinoffs, parodies, and homages, all while becoming a worldwide icon. Now, while most of the sequels are more lighthearted and perhaps even more comical in nature, Godzilla is actually the opposite; it is a dark and grim tale with a very strong post World War II theme and message. In fact, the monster Godzilla came to be from a nuclear explosion. The idea had come from Honda himself who served in the army and had seen the devastating effects of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. With this in mind, Godzilla is essentially be conveyed as a walking atomic bomb that whatever crosses its path only destruction and death is left in its wake.

Though the film is called Godzilla, the prolific monster himself doesn’t appear as much. Rather this is a tale seen more from the human perspective, centered more on a principle core of characters. We have Hideto Ogata, who works for the navy and having witnessed the full scale destruction of Godzilla, have nothing but to wish for its demise. Next is Dr. Kyohei Yamane, who was the archeologist initially sent to the island  where Godzilla was first spotted. He opposes the killing of Godzilla and wants him to be kept alive for further studying. Both Yamane and Ogata represent the main differencing viewpoints of the film, and sure enough, eventually oppose each other. In the middle of all this is Emiko, who may know of a way of stopping Godzilla but has made a promise to Dr. Serizawa, who in fact has a way to stop Godzilla, but fears the consequence and repercussions of using such a weapon. It is these variety of viewpoints and perspectives that drive and carry the film while most other monster films have the main focus solely on the monster and its destructing path. The change of pace and viewpoint is quite refreshing.

But what of Godzilla? It’s not to say he is not an important player in the grand scheme of things. Rather each time he appears, symbolically it represents the essence of natural disaster and key point in helping to advance the story. One example – and what has gone to become a famous scene – is when Godzilla appears in the city and romps through a massive electric field trap deployed by the army on route to destroy the city. Godzilla is the source of what drives many of the characters and what guides and changes their actions. Without a doubt the story to me is the strongest element of the film and even today stands strong. The film itself is quite dated in effect and picture quality though, with the monster Godzilla essentially being 2 guys in a rubber suit. But director Honda has done a good job in making Godzilla’s presence felt with the support of piercing horns and strong drums. The pausing of music helps to build suspense as well.

The film though is not without its share of flaws. Though it is not a long film with a running time at around 90 minutes, it has its share of slow and unnecessary moments. These moments really play no significant purpose and do not help the story very much. And in my opinion, these should have been cut and edited out to make for an even more tighter, brisk, and more enjoyable piece. Also, a lot of scenes are very predictable and the slowness doesn’t help in that regard as well. But in that same sense the low budget style of the film’s production also adds to the overall charm of the film as a whole.

In the end, I would say Godzilla is not exactly a good film or exactly a terrible film. Rather it is a sub par film with some very strong and excellent moments. It is these moments that help carry the film, which proves to be more than enough. They are what I remember the most about the film as those scenes alone were quite impacting. A few of the actors themselves hold their weight against the monstrous Godzilla and manage to bring their own charm and allure as well. It overall wraps up as a glorious starting point for one of cinema’s most beloved monsters of all time.

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Author: Esosa Osamwonyi

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