Godzilla pretty much set the standard for Japanese monster movies as we all know. Essentially a Japanese remake of Hollywood’s 1953 classic ‘The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms’, ‘Gojira’ took the same formula and became so much more than simple giant-monster entertainment. Story-wise, its pretty similar to any irradiated monster movie of the 1950s. However, what all the other movies lack is the gripping images of destruction. Gojira is depicted as an evil force of nature – instead of wanting to see cities get crushed, we see Tokyo in Gojira’s wake. Unlike some sci-fi flicks, all the elements in this movie are throughly connected, leaving no room for loose ends and plot holes. Above all, this film is not just a “monster-on-the-loose” movie. It’s a true classic, one that stands out above many sci-fi movies in cinema history. It is also interesting to see the television pictures of the Japanese schoolgirls singing their hymn for peace in the face of Gojira’s violent annihilation of the city, which provides a moment of strong emotion.
For one thing, even looking on it now from 2012, it’s still got some things to marvel at technically. For the first time Japanese filmmakers used the kinds of storyboards used by Disney and his people for animated films to construct the main centerpiece of Godzilla’s attack of Tokyo. Another factor to be recognized is Ifukube’s wonderful music, which enhances the film’s emotional impact. What I can say about the series is just please, no more remakes after the disaster and tragedy of the Emmerich remake.
The one thing I didn’t like about Gojira was the lack of screen time Gojira actually got. I waited about 70 minutes to get a nice good glimpse of the beast for only a short period of time. The scenes inbetween however were still a visual treat as Criterion’s presentation of this classic Japanese film is leaps and bounds ahead of Classic Media’s presentation, because not only is the detail improved, but there are entire sequences where it literally feels as if a filter of some sort has been removed. However, the importance of this piece’s impact on Japanese culture is lost in the translation. It is quite interesting to view the original version of this movie. It allowed me to pick up on a lot of the cues that made the movie impactive.
The frustration is very apparent of the people. In fact many of them give up in out running the monster and pray with their families as he kills them. The movie comes to an epic finale with the inevitable death of the island monster. All in all, an excellent film, subsequent Godzilla films are indeed rather comedic, but this original film is a dark, serious and unforgettable film. This Criterion Blu-ray set should finally debunk claims to the contrary and let Godzillaphiles come out of the closet and proudly proclaim themselves what they are. I am one; long live the roar!