Tag Archives: Godzilla

National Cinemas: Gojira (1954)

Update late 2018:

With all the claims about the 2014 American update inaugurating the “post-human” blockbuster, I was reminded on a re-watch of the original how salient Ishiro Honda’s crisis-ridden cinematic creature is. Charged with atomic energy, Honda conjures not only a hundred-foot paleolithic behemoth but a reckoning with a past come to haunt us, a vision of pre-modernity wreaking havoc with our pretensions toward teleological progress into the future.  In its vastly more noirish, pugnacious way, Gojira plays like the B-side to the prior year’s Tokyo Story, Yasujiro Ozu’s take on the crisis of modernity and the dialectics of the private-public divide. Although punchier and not as meditative, Gojira, perhaps no less than Ozu’s film itself, is fully aware of its own paradoxes, and, especially in its final anti-cathartic gesture – science immolating itself to correct its own mistakes – fully aware of the paradoxes which construct modernity itself.

Original review:

Watching the original 1954 Japanese version of Gojira (or Godzilla, its American title) brings haunting, caustic visual poetry to the collective suffering of a post-war nation still reeling from World War II and the H-Bomb Drop. The film is an exposed wound, a lesion on a collective consciousness. It has the big man, of course, in the titular character, but it has much more: humans fending for their lives, running around in total chaos not only from an attack but the impression of an attack leftover from a previous life. Godzilla bestows its titular figure with a looming presence – he towers over the film even when he’s not on screen that often, going beyond the physical object and into the doom lying down on the hearts and souls of Japan. He is an idea more than a physical presence. The film is draped in a malaise of human inactivity on the eve of assured destruction, and a realization, after all, that there is little to be done against a force so impenetrably inhuman. And yet so penetratingly human he is.  Continue reading


Review: Godzilla


If Godzilla is primarily a test of filmmaking prowess, it proves Gareth Edwards’ big budget credentials. Especially in its first and final quarters, the film borders on awe-inspiring as a work of visual and aural construction. Edwards retains the essence of the project which got him the job here, Monsters. Godzilla is a slow-burn affair – Edwards knows how to tease.  We witness Godzilla in glimpses here and there for most of the film, only for Edwards to let loose with aplomb during the final 30 minutes. It avoids monster overkill by presenting the titular character and his opponents through human eyes throughout. Edwards uses POV shots and shoots images through various obscuring mirrors to reflect humanity’s dangers back upon itself. He ruthlessly shoots from low angles, his quite literally subjective camera tilted upward to capture the mass of destruction from the eyes of his puny characters. Above all, this is the Godzilla film about the big man as he exists as a force of nature, a chaotic being unable to be approached by mankind. He’s an oppressive fact, whether present or not, and Edwards absolutely nails the horror-infused imagery of the film as he moves away from violence and destruction as exciting and toward violence and destruction as fire-and-brimstone human containment.  Continue reading