Godzilla in America: All downhill from Raymond Burr?

Godzilla. Cool. New Godzilla? Cool. New Godzilla made by America?

No use mumbling. ’54 Godzilla‘s a film about post-atomic destruction. From Japan; the country that had atomic bombs dropped on two major cities and countless individual humans less than nine years prior. America dropped the bombs. Do the United States have a culture with anything to say about Godzilla? Except, like, “sorry”. Gareth Edwards, director, talks to Ryan Turek at Shock Til You Drop about his Godzilla as “definitely a representation of the wrath of nature […] Nature’s always going to win and that’s what the subtext of our movie is about. He’s the punishment we deserve.” I’m too young and too English to understand Godzilla from the inside, but that seems wonky to me. Godzilla as Nature? What about your classic what-have-we-wrought Godzilla as Science? What about the prickly personality and sulky intelligence that the name has gathered over the past half-century?

(What about Mothra?)

None of us can tell what’s really going on until the film hits the screens, but to get an audience in front of said screens, it needs to seem like it’s worth it. Does it? Are you into it? Is Bryan Cranston acting his ass off, great monster suit work and giant-size spectacle enough? Are you curious about how the American and Japanese casting and stories will be integrated? How many of you youngins and newbies are just gonna pretend you’re watching Pacific Rim 2?

Speak your minds, daikaiju fans.

Gif above from deweymossempire.tumblr.com
Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at clairenapierclairenapier@gmail.com and give me lots of money

6 thoughts on “Godzilla in America: All downhill from Raymond Burr?

  1. If Godzilla was originally conceived as a metaphor for
    nuclear fallout, perhaps it makes sense that a contemporary Godzilla is a
    metaphor for nature in terms of global climate destabilization? In the light of
    global climate destabilization, with much of the world experiencing extreme and
    destructive weather patterns, and the aftermath of those extreme patterns, I
    think the notion of Godzilla embodying nature and destroying humanity’s way of
    life as we know it seems appropriate, maybe even intriguing. It’s hard to tell
    if this is a new Godzilla for a new time, or just another disaster porn with a
    side order of Godzilla. I’m tentatively excited for this movie.

  2. I actually think that an American Godzilla could be spectacular if done right. Though we never felt the fire on our shores, the bomb, and by extension Godzilla, are our monsters. We set them loose and we have a responsibility to accept our part in them. While Godzilla has and will always be a Japanese icon, he’s a creation of American policy on nearly every level. Ishiro Honda was kind to us when he accepted Godzilla’s birth as a sin of human nature. If the film presents a triumphant America saving the world it will fail but if it has the courage to accept our role in Godzilla’s history, it could be great.

    As for the comments about Godzilla representing nature, that puts us on more complicated ground. One of the essential paradoxes of Godzilla, as I see it, is his dual role as embodiment and victim of the atomic bomb. Gojira (1954) was not subtle in its presentation of Godzilla as a walking nuclear attack, however as soon as 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla the films were looking at him as a force of nature. One thing that Honda was very clear about was Godzilla’s relative blamelessness. He is a victim, hurting and angry at a world too small for him. From the perspective of Godzilla as a representative of nature, hurt by atomic science, I think Edwards’ comments make sense, though admittedly requiring the proper context to work.

    The one thing I will say is that I think this points in a good direction. Godzilla (1998) had the gaul to imply that there is a military solution to Godzilla. In Gojira, Dr. Serizawa’s sacrifice requires the bravery and conviction to be certain that science would not be used for war. In Return of Godzilla, mankind only survives by turning to nature. Like War of the Worlds, Godzilla is a story of the tables being turned on us. A vengeful avatar of nuclear war attacks us, reminding us how small and how powerless we are. Godzilla was made by war. It powers him. And against him it has no power. I don’t know if this movie will be good or if others agree with my thoughts, but it seems like a movie with something to say, and that’s the most important first step.

    1. “his dual role as embodiment and victim of the atomic bomb.” I like this a lot.

      Something that comes up a lot when my sweetie and I discuss Godzilla is the ending of the very first film; the de-oxygenised bay becoming hostile to all life, for the forseeable future. Beyond the sacrifice of one human life, Dr Serizawa, Godzilla’s (temporary?) defeat demanded massive environmental invalidation. It’s really not a triumphant win at all. Whether his science and invention will be used for war or not, the result of that kind of environmental disaster will be similarly hostile to life and culture and morale.

      Thanks for your comment. (And Aleph below, too.) Food for thought.

  3. I will say that I loved that first teaser trailer; contrasting Oppenheimer’s reaction to something he helped create with the beast that came to symbolize same at least made me think that someone on that crew knew what they were doing.

    Then I heard it was gonna be Americans making a film about Americans fighting the monster and it just started to sound like one of those really whitewashy things (and not just in the sense that there aren’t going to be a lot of Japanese folks in a film based on Japanese works) like when they made the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter film and just handwaved away all the pro-slavery forces as inhuman monsters, never minding that it was actual real humans any American with roots reaching back a certain length are related to.

    Godzilla’s not about nature getting one over on humanity for being gross. Heck, I’m an American and, as such, I doubt I’m really qualified to say exactly what the films ARE about (though I’m very fond of the idea that they’re kind of a pop-cultural coming-to-terms with the realpolitik surrounding the nuclear bomb and, later, American military power generally–fearing Godzilla at first then coming to see the beast as a protector from other, worse, monsters–but that’s an outside perspective and is filled with a lot of assumptions I wouldn’t ever claim as actually the case), but they are absolutely not about something so simple as “nature”.

    That said, I’m thrilled to hear they’re sticking with a suit instead of another CGI thing.

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