Movie Review – Gojira

Japanese movie poster for the 1954 Release of Gojira
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My review this week is of another film that Bureau42 has already reviewed – the first Kaiju movie ever, Gojira. In case the fact that I’m using the Japanese title hasn’t clued you in, I’m reviewing the original Japanese version, instead of the US theatrical release that included new footage featuring Raymond Burr.

The Premise:

A nuclear test in the Pacific Ocean awakes a pre-historic creature which begins attacking shipping, before venturing onto land and attacking populated areas.

The Good:

Godzilla’s attack on Tokyo in it’s entirety. I’ve seen other Godzilla movies aside from this, but this is the first Godzilla movie I saw which emphasized the impact of Godzilla’s rampage at the human level. All the other Godzilla films, generally, introduce a new creature for Godzilla fight, with the Japanese military’s attempts to fend off Godzilla generally being a weak and pathetic footnote, and basically no civilians underfoot. Here, Godzilla’s just going on his rampage, and we see the effects of that rampage, the destruction, the death, and the terror. Yes, the movie is over 50 years old, and the effects are dated, but the film still works. Hell, in our post 9/11 world, the depictions of the destruction and general cataclysm are still relevant today.

The Bad:

The death of Dr. Serizawa is very heavily telegraphed. The only way they could telegraph it more is to say outright, “I’m going to kill myself after I use the Oxygen Destroyer!”

The Ugly:

I had some problems with the presentation of the film’s political message. Now, it’s not that I’m in favor of proliferation of nuclear weapons, or nuclear testing, or anything like that. However, the film beats you about the head and shoulders with the “politicians are incompetent” bit, and it beats you about the head and shoulders with the one of the political viewpoints I see often in Japanese cinema that object with the most – scientists shouldn’t invent anything without considering possible future outcomes (as exemplified in the dilemma over the Oxygen Destroyer.

The Verdict:

This probably is one of the significant films in the Kaiju genre. I would recommend anyone who thinks they know anything about the Godzilla series but hasn’t seen the original version give this a viewing.