Godzilla to right of them,
Godzilla to left of them,
Godzilla behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
Do we live in a society where you can make “Charge of the Light Brigade” references and it works? I sure hope so.
Maybe a more up to date reference?
I miss the old Godzilla, straight from the Go Godzilla
Stomp up Tokyo Godzilla, set on destruction Godzilla
I hate the new Godzilla, the heroic mood Godzilla
The always true Godzilla, champion in the news Godzilla
I miss the scary Godzilla, wipe out Japan Godzilla
I gotta say, at that time I’d like to watch Godzilla
See I respected Godzilla, It wasn’t any joy in Godzilla
And now I look and look around and there’s so many helpful Godzillas
I used to fear Godzilla, I used to fear Godzilla
I even had nightmares, I thought I was Godzilla
What if Kanye made a song about Godzilla
Called “I Miss The Old Godzilla”? Man, that’d be so Kanye
That’s all it was Godzilla, we still love Godzilla
And I love you like Kanye loves Godzilla
I had been really excited for the Legendary 2014 release of Godzilla. Mr. Lizard looked huge and awesome. The first teaser trailer made it look like we were going into hell, with Godzilla at the center.
I was ready for this force of nature to arrive on American shores then cause supreme devastation. I was ready to explore and think about the criticisms it offered on humanity in the 21st century.
The 1954 Godzilla, the original Godzilla, had been such a shocking and powerful metaphor for the unintended results of military and science, of experimentation and technology. Had the military not been testing hydrogen bombs in the ocean, Godzilla would never have woken up. If he had never woken up, Tokyo wouldn’t be demolished.
That was 1954. In 60 years, a lot has happened. Godzilla could not and would not be the same thing now that it was then, especially when put into an American context. What kind of social commentary would Godzilla represent this time?
The answer was….strange.
I went into the Legendary film thinking the film would be reimagining the old school Godzilla. Instead, the Gareth Edward’s film made two generic Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms into the villains. And Godzilla’s appearance wasn’t the disastrous result of human endeavor. Instead, Godzilla acted as a corrective force, actually helping humans clean up the MUTOs. Without Godzilla, humanity may have ended. The 2014 Godzilla had more in common with The Avengers than it did the original 1954 film.
That’s not a bad thing, mind you. Not everyone thinks of Godzilla as the embodiment of consequence. Nor does everyone want that from a Godzilla movie. In fact, between 1962 and 2004 there were like 30 Godzilla movies where every plot was Godzilla fighting other massive monsters that threatened Earth. For a lot of fans, this “defender of earth” Godzilla is what they think of when they think of the character.
Personally, I’ve been waiting for another Godzilla movie with some bite. A Godzilla movie that had political commentary that made me think about the world I live in. A Godzilla movie that critiqued even as it condemned.
Thankfully, that’s what Shin Godzilla delivered.
Hideaki Anno’s (Neo Genesis Evangelion) and Shinji Higuchi’s (Attack on Titan) Shin Godzilla focuses entirely on figuring out what the monster is and what can be done about it. There’s no secondary enemy that Godzilla can fight in order to prove he’s not that bad of a kaiju. This isn’t about the spectacle of kaiju. It’s not even really about Godzilla. Really…Shin Godzilla is very much a chastisement of government systems.
Specifically, it’s about the need for government to evolve. When Godzilla first shows up, wreaking havoc, the Japanese government follows its normal chain-of-command procedures. And it’s slow. SLOWWWWWWWW. They have to have meetings with one department, then with another department, then with another.
Where some might say Shin Godzilla is too concerned with the minutia of government, I’d say the minutia is the purpose of the film. In large-scale scenarios that threaten not just a city but a country…government matters. Government procedure matters. The ability for the government to evolve in order to properly respond to a threat…that’s important. Shin Godzilla has the courage to show what doesn’t work, and the daring to suggest what does.
This exploration of government, to the point where every character who speaks gets a title card with their name and role, is one of the most thorough and fascinating that I’ve encountered. While Godzilla is terrifying and intimidating, the idea of a government that’s overweight, unorganized, closed-minded, and thus impotent, unable to save us not because the situation we’re in is impossible but because it’s impossible for them to do anything to solve it…that’s in a lot of ways scarier than Godzilla.
So after 60+ years, the 1954 Godzilla finally has its true heir, one that’s as much Godzilla as it is Dr. Strangelove.