Today’s science fiction film is also the oldest film on my list, the very first Godzilla movie.
Overall, I ended up enjoying it . . . but man, it started off slow.
A radioactive dinosaur-thing starts trying to eat Japan. The Japanese vehemently disapprove.
1. Mek and I started watching Gojira at 11 pm. Ten minutes in, I was already bored. Twenty minutes in, my eyes were burning. And after 36 minutes, I did the unthinkable: I asked Mekaela if we could stop the movie and try it again the next day because it was putting me to sleep. This may not seem unthinkable to you, but you have to understand that I despise starting movies and then stopping them halfway through because of something as silly as exhaustion. I will also not leave a movie in the theater unless my bladder is literally about to explode, and I can’t fall asleep when a movie’s playing unless I’m actually feverish and miserable. I have many moviegoer idiosyncrasies.
You also have to understand that I work the graveyard shift, which doesn’t even begin until eleven pm. I often don’t go to bed before five in the morning, even on my days off. So my starting a film at eleven is hardly setting myself up for failure. That’s the time when I’m alive. For a movie to make me so bored and so tired that I just give up a half hour in?
Yeah, that’s pretty bad.
2. One of the reasons Gojira is so slow, I think, is that the craft of filmmaking presented seems very, very outdated. The special effects are one thing. I can usually get past bad special effects, and actually, I thought most of them were fine, considering the time period. (Although, there is one shot where Godzilla’s eating, like, a train or something, and it’s kind of hysterical. The train in question is so clearly a toy, it’s hard to believe anyone could ever take it seriously.)
But in terms of editing, Gojira seems much older than the fifties. If pressed, I probably would have guessed that it had been made in the thirties. Admittedly, it’s been a while since my film history classes, but I don’t remember Seven Samurai (which also came out in 1954) looking anywhere near this dated. A lot of the scenes in the beginning of the movie seem choppy and amateurish. There are a few very odd bits that show nothing significant and clearly should have ended up on the cutting room floor. There’s also a weird lack of sound in certain parts of the movie where you would expect some kind of score. The overall effect leaves the film feeling slow and sluggish . . . until about forty-five minutes in, when it suddenly and inexplicably decides to get ten times better.
3. I’ll be honest: before seeing this movie, I never really thought of Godzilla as a dinosaur. I always just thought of him as an overgrown lizard, I guess, which isn’t too terribly different from a dinosaur, is it? I also had absolutely no idea that Godzilla was radioactive. He even has radioactive breath.
. . . okay, so the radioactive breath looks a little silly. Still, I think I’d like to see some more superheroes with this power. Superman could set Lex Luthor on fire by blowing him a kiss!
4. Turns out, Godzilla is radioactive because of the bombs we dropped in World War II. I have not seen Gozilla: King of the Monsters with Raymond Burr yet, but I wonder if America’s role in creating the monster is downplayed in the American edit of this film.
5. Thematically, Gojira delivers in a big way. I don’t always like watching movies for historical context—I really do believe Invasion of the Bodysnatchers plays fine without making it an allegory for Communism—but there is no separating this movie from WWII, and I think how the story deals with the practical versus the intellectual pursuits of a scientist, his ethical responsibilities in regards to his invention, and the troubling question of weapons of mass destruction and if there’s ever a time when they can be used for good as well as for evil. . . it’s masterful, really. There are some really intriguing ideas in Gojira that are even more fascinating because of the historical background that inspired them, and they really elevate this monster movie to something else entirely.
6. Of course, the acting does its best to bring the film back to shlocky monster movie again. Pretty much everybody involved overacts the shit out of this film, particularly the actress playing Emiko, who can’t even be trusted to throw herself weeping to the floor properly. Every time she breaks down in tears (it happens a lot), she looks like she’s desperately trying not to giggle.
There’s a very small child who manages to outact her in this film. It’s fairly sad.
7. The fellow in the eyepatch above? That’s Daisuke Serizawa. He’s my favorite character.
I was surprised by this guy. I was sure I knew what direction they were going with his character at first, but I was wrong and glad for it. Also: lab coat, black gloves, and an eyepatch? Easiest Comic Con costume ever. Though it’d be helpful if you could sucker your friend into dressing up as radioactive dinosaur. Maybe offer him onion rings and garlic fries in an attempt to produce that radioactive breath.
8. If you do get your friend to dress up as Godzilla, I hope his costume is lighter than the one the filmmakers used. According to imdb, the original costume was 200 pounds. They made lighter ones, eventually, but they were all supposed to be ridiculously heavy, which explains why Godzilla destroys the city at .0000000000000005 miles per hour.
9. There will always be that one guy who doesn’t want to kill the giant monster that’s eating everybody. In Gojira, that man is this guy:
At least in Gojira, this guy is given at least a halfway legitimate reason for not wanting Godzilla dead. (You know, other than the whole killing-is-wrong morality. Cause, pah. Who cares about that?) Still, at some point, dude, I think we need to take a look around and realize that maybe murdering the monster before he sets fire to the entire country might not be a bad idea.
10. It is hard to take a weapon seriously when people refer to it, non-ironically, as the Oxygen Destroyer.
11. In my dream home, I will post a sign on my front door. It will be in Japanese, and for the very few visitors who can actually read Japanese, they will know that it says “Anti-Godzilla Headquarters.”
12. Finally, I mentioned before that there’s a lack of background noise or music at some points in this film. I hold to that, but I must say that when they do use music in Gojira, it’s awesome. I’m posting a youtube link here because it really is quite the kickass theme song. I’m actually considering looking for it on iTunes.
I’m really having trouble judging this one. Thematically, I think it’s one of the better films I’ve seen this year. Technically . . . not so much, even taking the time period into account. Gojira has a strong conclusion and really left a lasting impression on me, but the poor acting and dry-as-dust beginning . . . that needs to be considered, too.
Akihiko Hirata, the guy with the eye patch. Okay, he overacts too, but I like how he handles a decent chunk of his dialogue, and he plays my favorite character.
Weapons of mass destruction are not to be taken lightly. There are far-reaching consequences for scientific progress. Responsible decisions must be made, or consequences will bite you in the ass. Literally.