Context isn’t everything, but it’s a long way ahead of what comes second in the arts in general – cinema in particular. The original Gojira (1954) was made by Ishirô Honda at a time when the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have still haunted the collective Japanese memory.
The subject of a city and its population being annihilated was too real to be seen as just another offering in what has evolved as a quasi-comic, gonzo-hysterical genre.
It’s more difficult to ascertain how audiences back then might have reacted to the screen monster, but to punters these days such CGI creations are a dime a dozen – nobody is scared of them.
Director Gareth Edwards’s reworking of the story doesn’t break any new ground as far as structure and development go – there are the usual mysterious events leading up to the revelation of what’s going on, the mandatory scores of hapless soldiers firing into the impregnable hide, head-banging noise etc. He has, however, revived its relevance by having the monsters’ (there are more than one) survival dependent on a diet of the nuclear waste and radiation that our civilisation has inadvertently produced for them.
Man’s activities’ being responsible for his own eradication from the planet is not an uncommon theme, but when the point is hammered home as hard as it is here there is at least some chance that the question of clean, renewable energy might be taken seriously by the Mob.
Edwards also strokes the prevailing cynicism by (of course) having the authorities not release the truth of the disaster that is looming until the reality of Godzilla is self-evident to the howling masses.
Needless to say, it is expertly done, with plenty of great visuals – the monster swimming under the aircraft carrier, like the shark under Robert Shaw’s boat in Jaws, is beautiful, and it was a sight to savour when it ate the submarine – but, as a fan of Juliette Binoche, I was terribly sad to see her cark it in the first five minutes.
~ John Campbell