Whenever people ask me to name my top ten films, I can’t do it. How do you narrow down hundreds of exceptional motion pictures to a measly top ten? I’m sure if I thought long and hard enough about it, I could make it work – but I just don’t have that kind of time.
I am, however, always able to answer the question: “What’s you favorite movie?”
King Kong – the original 1933 stop-motion special effects film starring Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot; directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. I don’t know how young I was when I first saw it but I have watched it countless times since. It, more than any film, impacted my sense of creativity and my desire to tell stories.
This past summer, I went to the movie theater and watched Ant-Man and the Wasp. I remember thinking that it was a fun way to pass two hours. It came out in July – only three months ago – yet ask me to remember anything else about it and I’d have to think for a minute. I know there was action and cool scenes of things changing sizes…but as to what actually happened – it’s a bit of a blank. Again, it’s only been three months. Ant-Man and the Wasp is a terrific example of what happens when stories lacking theme, or execute that theme in a really superficial way.
I had some debate this morning as to what post to write. Should I write the Godzilla-related post that I had planned or should I instead pen a piece about the Montreal Canadiens, and the glorious level of hypocrisy they set for the rest of the NHL? As writing about the Canadiens now could be seen as a “sore-loser” move (seriously, the Bruins would have lost to any quality team… doesn’t matter who you’re playing when you can’t pass and you can’t shoot), I will put it off for a later date, simply finishing with: go Rangers. Anyway, now that I got that out of the way, let’s get back to Godzilla.
As has been stated before in other posts, Godzilla began his creation as an antagonistic force. He terrorized Tokyo and ruined lives. An unstoppable metaphor for the nuclear holocaust that was visited upon Japan at the end of World War II, Godzilla was nothing less than terrifying in his first appearance and played the villain in the following three movies. Yet as most out there already know, Godzilla is famous for more than just being a nuclear metaphor. In many of his films (particularly in his first series of movies, the Showa Era 1954-1975), Godzilla is the hero. The brave monster fighting for humanity against other threats. It should be noted that it was not simply the arrival of these ‘other threats’ that turned Godzilla into the good guy. In his three films after the original, Godzilla faced off against Anguirus, Mohtra, and even King Kong. In all of those movies: Godzilla was the bad guy.
It wasn’t until 1964, in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, that Godzilla turned protagonist. For the record, this is not one of the better Godzilla films. It is not horrible, but it is far from the most entertaining. Essentially, it feels like a prototype for the far superior Invasion of Astro-Monsterthat would be released in the next year. Nevertheless, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster was the film that introduced Godzilla to traditional, 1960s science fiction themes: namely, aliens. Alongside this introduction to beings from outer space came the unveiling of Godzilla’s greatest nemesis, King Ghidorah (pronounced GE-door-ah or Gi-dora, depending on the movie).
King Ghidorah comes from an unspecified area of space to destroy the world. According to the plot of the film, Venus was once a nice place to live before Ghiodrah got a hold of it. At this point of the movie, Godzilla is still the bad guy. He and Rodan (Row-dan) have been fighting and destroying cities. Mothra shows up to convince the two to put aside their differences and save the Earth. Godzilla and Rodan refuse and it isn’t until they watch Mothra fight Ghidorah alone that the two monsters put aside their differences to stop the evil Ghidorah.
How is that communication-heavy scene of monster interaction accomplished? Quite well actually, thanks to the help of Mothra’s two fairy girls (don’t ask), the Shobijin (I have no idea how to pronounce it). Apparently, Mothra’s priestesses speak very good monster-ese. Regardless, the scene showcases and in-depth look into Godzilla’s psyche. He doesn’t hate people per say… he just doesn’t think much of humanity’s greatest achievements. By giving Godzilla a less pure evil personality, the film is able to transition him to a creature that can (and does) decide to fight for good. By creating Ghidorah as a nemesis, the series insures that there is usually a creature on screen that is far more evil than Godzilla.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Godzilla film series is its commentary on culture. I am not only referring to the original here, but to the entire series. Godzilla can be seen as an allegory to more than just the atomic bombings, he can also be seen as America. Godzilla’s relationship with Japan begins as one of oppression but transforms into a mutually beneficial arrangement. This reflects Japan and the United States changing relationship as the two grew economically closer.
For Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster in particular, Mothra can be seen as Japan: a smaller, weaker force that nevertheless strides for good. Godzilla and Rodan represent America, larger and more powerful but currently indifferent to the plight of the Japanese people. Ghidorah, well that’s easy. This movie was made in the sixties and deals with a threat from outer space. What space-racing nation was challenging the U.S. and its allies at that particular time?
Is the analogy 100% proof, no but it does highlight that there was more to some (definitely not all) of these movies than just people in suits beating each other up. Transitioning Godzilla into a good guy reflected a changing attitude in Japan. It wouldn’t be until 1984, with a desire to return to the dark tone of the original, that Japan would abandon the benevolent image of Godzilla. He would return to good guy status in later films (notably Godzilla: Final Wars) and it is said that the Big G even sports several shades of hero in the upcoming Gareth Edwards movie.
The review for said film will be going live tonight at midnight, I hope you will check it out.