With the countless number of sequels, remakes, updates, reboots, it is easy sometimes easy to overlook the original “Gojira” as your standard “Godzilla destroys, been there down that” type feel to it, fairly or unfairly. Most people, when they think of Godzilla, they think of the many versus films that pits the creature against countless foes, that became increasingly campy in their approach. Or they will think about the 1998 Ronald Emmerich disaster of a movie . Since the release of the new American version of “Godzilla”, I decided to go back and re watch the original 1954 “Gojira” and review it. This version still holds up today, maybe not effects wise but in tone and a strong script that carries along many themes that are still topical to this day, “Gojira” is a dark, destruction filled film with filmmaking that stands the test of time and one of the best inductions of a movie monster ever.
Off the shores of Japan, a terrifying new beast has been born. Thanks to nuclear testing by the American military, this beast has mutated to over 160 feet tall and is heading straight for Tokyo. The locals call him “Gojira” (Godzilla) and there doesn’t seem to be any way to stop him.
First off I want to point how well paced this film actually is. It never drags or slows, or gets too fast and speeds up. We get the introduction of the monster followed by a good dose of character interaction and development. In many proceeding “Godzilla” films, it becomes very monster heavy and loses characters worth rooting for. In this we have three central characters and a fourth that plays a pivotal role in the movie. All very developed and well rounded, with one being particular interesting that helps flesh out the movie’s thought provoking themes. Which is allowed because the movie never jumps ahead to just get to the monster but takes enough time to get to the characters and introduce the monster at the correct moment.
The monster itself is the best appearance of the creature by far (the jury is still out in this new remake). The filmmakers play it straight and none of the campier or goofier aspects of the character are present. Instead it is a monster that is truly terrifying. Comparable to the way King Kong was treated in his film back in 1933. Of course the special effects are dated by today’s standards but that’s not the movie’s fault and shouldn’t be counted against it in the slightest.
The acting the movie is nothing short of excellent as well. The four leads, Akira Takarada, Momoko Kôchi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura. All four deliver great performances from the beginning frame to the surprisingly emotional finale, which is helped brilliantly by the film’s outstanding score. Each actor brings their a game which is something that is sometimes overlooked when talking about this classic film.
Beside the introduction of Gorjira, or better known in American as Godzilla, the part this film is most remembered for is the topical themes that were relevant then and still are today. It’s always spoken of but I’m not sure how many people are aware of just how powerful and well done these are actually presented in the movie. It’s never beaten over the head of audiences or heavy handed. It very well present throughout the movie but delivered in smart subtle way. This is still a movie worth discussing in even a social studies classroom. A disaster with a point and brains.
Through all the sequels, remakes, reboots, reimagining , and parodies this movie still stands the test of time. I’m not talking about special effects wise, but through the carefully crafted story, the solid character development, terrific acting, prolific themes and terrific work behind the camera. People should check this out before the remake, this is a masterpiece.