HI-authentic geekly buddies out there,
As promised, here is the first in a series of reviews about my favourite movies of all time and the foundation of my number 1 favourite geeky obsession; Godzilla, King of the Monsters. But I suppose if I'm to do him justice (or her, it's actually a bit confusing...) I should use his proper Japanese name Gojira.
...and I tell ya, it's gets pretty easy to get on a ramble when you're writing about something you love. So I'm just going to keep this simple, and tell you exactly what I love about these films and why I think you should watch them. Are there spoilers? Of course there will be, but I'll try to keep that down too. I mean, I want you to watch the film and enjoy yourselves like I did too!
My first impression was what a great film "Gojira" is. Not only as a piece of historic-cinema, but great as a film unto itself. "Gojira" is far from a traditional monster movie. The pacing is slow, but dramatic and engrossing; the directing is surprisingly down-to-earth and full of human emotion for a cinematic-genre that is usually pretty silly; and the special effects are spectacular for 1954 with the shots of Godzilla kept relatively tasteful, long enough to see the monster, but short enough that you don't spend all your time laughing at a rubbery dinosaur.
I love how "Gojira" takes the time to set up a mood of suspense and foreboding by slowly increasing the influence of Gojira unraveling his first appearance like a mystery novel. There is a real sense of danger built up by the suggestion of Big G's impending approach with thunderous foot falls that always thrilled me as a child and still does today.
"Godzilla King of the Monsters", however, jumps straight into a feeling of unease and disaster by starting the movie right after Big G's second and most devastating rampage through Tokyo. This serves to introduce the character of Steve Martin, American Journalist passing through Japan at the worst possible time, who gets caught in Godzilla's rampage and then relates the events of the movie to American audiences. Unfortunately, Steve's narration leaves out a lot of very interesting dialogue from the Japanese film and edited out themes not explored in the American release; like the desire of one of the main characters, Dr. Yamata, to study Gojira and not run out and kill something we don't understand and could learn much from.
Another aspect that elevates "Gojira" above the genre of a simple monster movie is the strong metaphore Godzilla is to the tragedy and utter severity of the damage that was inflicted upon both the physique and the psyche of Japan during and after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, and the fire bombings of Tokyo. This is most significantly reflected in the scenes after Godzilla's destructive rampage through Tokyo where the entire city is lit by the flames devouring it from the inside out as Godzilla stands in the center of it all, leering his demonic satisfaction.
The destruction is also expresed in the American release Godzilla, but the responsibility for Godzilla and his actions is expressed much more in "Gojria" than in the American release. Where "Gojira" ends with a soliloquie by Doctor Yamata on the folly of mankind and how much life has been senselessly lost in how we have utilized Atomic science, "King of the Monsters" has Raymond Burr reassuring us that we can all sleep peacefully now that the monster is gone. "Gojira" left me with a somber feeling of the weight of the tragedy that beffel the Japanese people while the American release left me ready for more pop-corn.
Thus, I give Gojira Five out of Five big G's for general awesomeness and for being the foundation upon which almost thirty sequels of Dino-Monster-Crushing-Pure+Entertainment!
Gojira - G*G*G*G*G -
I only give King of the Monsters Four 1/2 out of Five big G's for fast-forwarding all of the wonderfully paced first half of the movie. American audiences should learn how to sit still and wait for the big pay off, but still, this is the movie that started it all for me and shant be forgotten!
Godzilla: King of the Monsters - G*G*G*G*g -
In the end, "Gojira" was a massive success in both countries as we both came to love Godzilla for our own reasons. Over a very short time Big G became the King of the Monsters world-wide and none since have come close to knocking him off of his throne.
Long live the King
(Next time: Godzilla Raids Again!)