Why American Godzilla Movies Hit Different1,358 Views25 RepliesAdd A Reply
Disclaimer: This is not an essay to tell you not to enjoy this, or any other movie. This is not to persuade you to think one film is greater than another. This is merely an attempt to highlight the differences between 2 films, and what it could mean for films to come.
Of course there are big differences between the 1954 classic Gojira and the 2019 film Godzilla: King of Monsters. Separated by over half a century in time and many, many Godzilla films, there are many obvious changes that have influenced the making of these films. The modern predilections for jokes, CGI, and lighthearted action are easy culprits of the changing time. But the true separation lies somewhere else. It lies with the themes of these films and how they are antithetical to eachother.
Nuclear technology and its possible dangers is an underpinned theme in all Godzilla films. Whether someone breaks out the Geiger counter or the remarking of the Monsters dangerous aura there is always some instance where radiation is referenced. The 1954 film is stuffed full of references like this, with disasters and refugees, first aid clinics and press conferences, its got it all. Radiation is still present in the 2019 film, but it is hard to believe that both films are talking about the same kind of radiation. There is a promised “earth-healing” effect of the monster’s landfall in a very blindingly optimistic sense. A sort of miraculous blessing to have the monsters tread on the land. A gift from a loving and benevolent god. A nuclear bomb without the fallout. However the subjects of these gods also act in odd ways.
The human reaction to these Godzilla’s actions have a sharp contrast between films. In the 1954 film, it is the main consensus that the monster should be killed as to protect human life at all costs. It wreaks havoc in cities and villages, slaughtering many innocents in its path; making the consensus reasonable. The only critic comes from a lone scientist who wishes to study the creature, as it could be a goldmine of information and innovation to come. This makes for a consciously picked set of thought processes to choose from, as nuclear power in its study has the potential to both help and harm humanity going forward. The 2 sides in the 2019 film does not focus on Godzilla as the main subject of decision, it is humanity itself in the question. The humanitarian side of the cast fights on Godzilla’s side to keep on the monster’s benevolent side. This would prevent other monsters from destroying cities and slaughtering people, keeping humanity at status quo. The misanthropic side cites that humanity has caused untold damage through pollution, war, and overpopulation and points to the releasing of the monsters as a solution, no matter the losses. And the way these ideals are carried out has some differences as well.
In both films, the military is only an annoyance to the monsters, never being much effective in stopping them. The only effective response is the Oxygen Destroyer. In the 1954 film, the Oxygen Destroyer is a weapon of perfect killing. A weapon able to strip flesh from bone whether its from a fish or Godzilla. The scientist who created it had doubts in using it, as the weapon’s mere existence is an existential threat to humanity. The only solution for the scientist is to burn his research, use the last of the supply to kill Godzilla, and to take his secrets to his immediate grave. The 2019 film completely disregards any internal conflict as the military has it fully developed and ready to go. The explosion and floating fish corpses are merely cameos of what the Oxygen Destroyer once was, the impact of the weapon only lasting the few minutes its on screen. There is no reflection on the ethics of using such a weapon like in the 1954 film. Why are such differences present in these films.
The reason I suggest for the difference lies at the core inspirations of Godzilla, The Lucky Dragon No. 5 incident and the nuclear bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The Lucky Dragon was a Japanese fishing vessel which unwittingly sailed through the fallout of US nuclear testing. The resulting mélange of health issues plagued the crew and Japanese health system for years. The US in response refused responsibility for security reasons, which brings this to the real reason these movies feel very different.
“Victory is written by the winner” while not directly applicable, is the main issue in effect. Why wouldn’t the different perspectives be different? Japanese movies are written for Japanese audiences and American movies are written for Americans but knowing what is being left out can help show why it is being left out. It is easier to gloss over nuclear issues when the audience is not intimately familiar with disasters of such. If Captain America was in a Japanese movie, wouldn’t he be different? The one parallel that I find that shows this the most is Serizawa’s death. In the 1954 film, he sacrifices himself in the depths to slay the beast, but in the new film, to resurrect Godzilla.
So why would these differences matter? I would say reflecting on these issues brought up, the future of these movies is clear. They will likely become more lighthearted in action, the topics of discussion will be limited and safe, basically becoming a Marvel clone with wasted potential and safe American takes on popular issues. As audiences already complain of the terrible character writing, it will only continue to be an issue.
I don't think it's fair to compare the two films, as they deal with completely different themes and have very different tones.
The use of the Oxygen Destroyer in KOTM did have consequences in the plot, as it nearly killed Godzilla which almost led to Ghidorah destroying the world. The theme of KOTM was about humanity learning to coexist with nature, rather than working against it. The scene with the Oxygen Destroyer was meant to show how interfering with nature and working against it only resulted in making the situation worse. Humanity was only able to overcome this issue by working alongside Godzilla, rather than against him.
This isn't to say that KOTM is on the same level as the original, far from it, but completely disregarding KOTM for not having the same tone and theme as the original is a bit ridiculous. The franchise has continued to evolve over the years, with the themes and tone of the series continuously changing. You could technically make the same arguments in regards to the other movies in the franchise. The later Showa films had a very lighthearted tone and portrayed Godzilla as an Earth defending super hero, you could argue that those films went against the theme of the original for not portraying him as a terrifying metaphor for nuclear weapons, however, I rarely see that being brought up by the fandom.
Well written, REEEe. Agreed on most points, but even more so than a straight comparison is the fact it decides to bring nuclear weapons/power into the film's thematic conversation and supports a very western viewpoint with it. Not every Godzilla movie has to bring this up, but when they do the films paint it in a negative and apprehensive light. Until 2019 anyway.
Had the 2019 flick not brought it up at all, and instead just focus on its eco-facism, perhaps it would've been less egregious. At least Godzilla vs. Kong managed to avoid the topic overall. But that leads us to what you brought up about how these movies will, "likely become more lighthearted in action, the topics of discussion will be limited and safe," and ultimately not have much to go back to. This is why I've given up hope on these Monsterverse films. Moreover, the mere spectacle it's going for we seen plenty of times before--and often executed better.
Naturally, Legendary will get my money when the next movie is released because, like so many of us here, I'm a fanboy of the material. Though I can earnestly say I've never been more apathetic toward an upcoming Godzilla project. Hundreds of millions of dollars and the most I walk away with is that Godzilla can slap a monkey pretty hard.
That was Godzilla Vs. Kong for ya. For the next movie, I'm gonna walk away with the fact that a giant nuclear lizard and a gigantic ape can become friends. Hopefully the Apple TV+ show fixes that issue.
I'm more excited for Toho's Godzilla project coming out next year though.
SasquaDash, regarding your comment...DOES THAT MEAN WE'LL SEE THIS IN THE MONSTERVERSE--
I want that in MV tbh
I just want the monsterverse to end. maybe the toxic fans will go away with it.
eh, i'm a bit on the fence whether or not the monsterverse should continue or not
Ending the MonsterVerse won't get rid of any toxic fans. Unfortunately, fandoms of big franchises will always have to deal with toxic individuals. To be honest though, I've seen more toxicity coming from "Toho purists" and Reiwa fans than MonsterVerse fans. Regardless, a franchise shouldn't have to end because of the actions and attitudes of some people in the community.
Theres equal from every subject of fans. The greater toxicity of “one group” tends to be based on which group u fall into, its perspective, not something inherently wrong with each group
HinikunaGoji I don't really understand some of the words you are saying but I think I get what you are saying. Agreed I guess.
Im saying that one group of the fandom is not more toxic than another. The reason that a specific group is perceived as more toxic than others is bias.
Cool Godzilla Oh OK, now I get it. Sorry, I sometimes don't get complex words.
No it’s fine, I usually confuse people when I say things
I mean, it's not the worst toxic fandom in the world (that would be the fandoms of Star Wars and Sonic plus some ship factions of the Stranger Things fandom).
you do make a point there
Eh, not to be that guy but toxic Toho kind of started the gatekeeping first when Godzilla 1998 was released and before then you had Showa vs Heisei fans
Semantics, but much of the Showa vs. Heisei discussion happened after 1998 when the Heisei series became legally available in the States.
Even then, however, those topics don't underline toxicity or gatekeeping (the latter of which is a term that didn't exist back then and has only been manufactured today) but merely fandom discourse.
Fandom discourse is pretty much what consumed Star Wars, but I doubt it'll happen to a fandom as large this one (hopefully).
One plus is the Godzilla fandom doesn't have a ship discourse (I may be speaking too soon).
there is shipping.
like shipping Godzilla with Mothra?
That was dumb in KOTM ngl.