Director: Ishirô Honda
Genre: Science Fiction/Action/Drama
Spine Number: 594
When we hear someone talk about monster movies, the first thing that pops to mind is giant beast destroying everything in its sight. We have seen this trend in such films as “Pacific Rim”, “Jaws”, “The Host” and “Cloverfield” to name a few, but Ishirô Honda’s 1954 cult classic “Godzilla” takes standard monster fare and makes something unique. The film is a brilliant allegory for nuclear weapons and their impact, using emotional depth and then current events such as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, despite at first gaining negative reviews in Japan for exploiting these same themes.
Godzilla itself, despite being a traditional movie monster, takes on a more powerful meaning. It symbolizes the nuclear weapons the movie criticizes. Like the weapons, Godzilla is a man-made beast from H-Bomb testing in the Pacific, and even has the radioactive material from said testing. Through these numerous tests, the Pacific lost control of the weapons by disturbing the creature’s environment. This forces Godzilla to adapt to its surroundings by consuming the nuclear waste and turning into the living hydrogen bomb.
Once Godzilla emerges, citizens are helplessly frantic. Some characters such as Professor Yamane feel sympathy for the creature and want to understand how it came to be, while most want it to be destroyed. Throughout the film, we get to see the grave impact of Godzilla’s rampage through the human drama, which takes up most of the film. Honda uses this impact and fear to show how destructive nuclear weapons are not just physically but also emotionally. As the monster’s presence grows closer, Tokyo becomes more devastated and afraid. Everyone is asking Professor Yamane questions and the stress takes him away from his family when his daughter’s boyfriend, Orgata asks for her hand in marriage. This scene best shows the stress Tokyo is under because of the beast. The fear Tokyo displays in response to Godzilla perfectly explains the emotional and mental devastation of nuclear bombs in Japan at the time.
Critics in Japan claimed “Godzilla” was exploiting the events that occurred during World War II, when really that is far from the truth. The movie is a strong protest against the weapons that successfully demonstrates the physical and mental impact behind them by showing Tokyo in ruins as the monster destoys the city and devestated in fear. Because of its powerful ideas about nuclear weapons at the time, Ishirô Honda’s film is a masterpiece that still proves that Godzilla is “King of the Monsters”.