Director: Ishiro Honda
Writer: Ishiro Honda; Takeo Murata
Cast: Akira Takarada; Takashi Shimura; Momoko Kochi; Akihiro Hirata; Haruo Nakajima; Katsumi Tezuka
Duration: 96 minutes
So everyone knows this movie and everyone knows this monster I hope, the monster who destroyed Tokyo for the first time in 1954 prompting America to take revenge by destroying its image along with the city of New York in 1998 prompting Toho to take away the rights away from TriStar and make sure the 1998 monster was forever remembered as just “Zilla” Godzilla’s younger foreign retarded cousin.
But is the original movie worth all the fan base it has gotten over the years? The answer is simple a resounding yes. I watched this movie again just this afternoon and I loved it all over again.
Because the story is really good. I mean it gives you everything you’ve seen in many monster particularly Kaiju movies, which is normal since it is the first Kaiju, japanese monster, movie ever, the monster attacking or moving through the city while the authorities and the army try to stop it, the people terrified, a scaled down version of 1954 Tokyo and also some small coastal fishing town (all really well-made) being mercilessly destroyed by the King of the Monsters and of course of course it gives you the good guys (humans) to find a way to deal with the threat. Whether it’s a success or not you’ll have to see for yourself if you haven’t already, or if you haven’t already guessed (they do defeat it). The story also has a romantic subplot but if you don’t like that kind of thing don’t worry, it doesn’t distract from what’s important and I’d say it adds something to the movie and is not a waste of time.
The Monster even if it’s a man in a suit, it’s great, despite of what you may think of its appearance when it is on Screen it does seem like a monster is destroying Tokyo, an unstoppable force of Nature laying waste to everything it comes across, this force of nature thing is especially present at the beginning of the movie when you don’t see the Monster yet but see the destruction it causes, the music does help this a lot and so do many other elements of this movie.
The Characters are likeable, I mean you can have your issues with some of their actions, but they are normal human beings affected by something that surpasses all of them, and it’s easy to root for them. Everyone does what needs to be done in helping taking care of the problem the city is facing, you understand their struggles and dilemmas both related to and unrelated to Godzilla, especially the dilemma of the scientist Dr Serizawa. You could say what I like the most about them is that they feel human, three-dimensional and are not just one-note characters something not found in every Godzilla movie.
It’s possible that while watching the film you don’t agree with some of the decisions they made but you can’t say they are silly, it has very few groan worthy moments because of what I said at the beginning of the paragraph of Godzilla being something that surpasses all of them an almost unstoppable force like nothing humanity has encountered before.
However after watching both the Japanese and the American version I have to address the Elephant in the room. Mr. Martin. From what I’ve read or heard the position of the Godzilla fan base on the foreign journalist, the first Gaijin (foreigner) to see and have contact with Godzilla, is divided. There are some who like the character, there are some who don’t and my position is more with those who don’t but not because I dislike the character or the actor. It’s because I don’t think he is necessary to the story, for me the original Japanese movie was good enough, there was no need for them to edit it so that we could have an american as part of the Main Characters, because yeah whether you think they succeeded or not the idea was to turn this man into one of the main characters of Godzilla, he is friends with Serizawa, he interacts with most of the other main characters and actively tries to end the monster and also narrates what it’s doing (in the Japanese original there is already a Japanese journalist (who is not a Main Character) doing the narrator job but he is not in the american product). Also because his scenes are shot in California when he interacts with the “main characters” he interacts with american extras not the not the original actors and it shows, some scenes stick out like a sore thumb because you can tell they were not part of the original movie.
And finally the message, the message of the movie is clearly anti-nuclear weapons. It should be obvious why coming from the country it comes from especially since only 9 years before 2 of their were destroyed by 2 nuclear bombs. Godzilla is treated as a consequence of human action and after defeating it the movie makes it clear that the actions that created it should be avoided so that monsters like it don’t appear again. I believe it was (and still is) a good message to have, about how the use of nuclear weapons always had (and still has? nefarious consequences and nations shouldn’t really use or test those weapons or they could really end up inviting disaster.
That being said I award Godzilla 1954 with Four stars out of Five, it’s of course a High four, almost but not quite Five Stars (9/10). And taking into account I’ve also talked a little about the american version of the 1954 movie, particularly Mr. Martin, and I believe it deserves to be given a separate grade I’ll grade it too. I give it Three stars out of Five because I don’t consider it as good as the Japanese version but it’s still pretty entertaining to watch