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Ciaranred's Tokusatsu reviews : Gojira (1954) (Godzilla)
Today i take on a smybol of monster films, ther film that started a era, a genre and a franchise
Okay before I begin I want everyone to know that this film is actually called Gojira but i felt that it would be better that I use Gojira's american name Godzilla, to make this review better to understand, so yes i know its technically called Gojira (1954) and the Amercian version was called Godzilla, but i just find it easier to say Godzilla so look i am going to call the film Godzilla.
Hello Ladies and Gentlement and my fans. Today I am here to take on a world icon and a smybol of not only a new Genre of Japanese films, but also a new age for Japanese television and movies.
First off let me just a brief summary of Godzilla. The film is based around whats starts off as the mysterious disappearece of a Japanese freighter in the Pacific, but then all the rescue boat mysteriously disappear, ands tension start to build up in Japan espeacially after a village on Odo Island is devasted by a mysterious force. Many of the superstitious people of the island beleive that it is the legendary beast Godzilla come back after a long rest that was inturrupted by a H bomb testing and has come to attack the civiliized world and is going to start by attacking Tokyo and leaving it a wastland of atomic ash, fire and rubble. Now then Japan is left at the mercy of this unstoppible creature and now two lovers Emiko and Ogata and thier friend Doctor Serizawa may hold the key to Godzilla destruction but the weapon may cost them more then they could imagine.
Alright Godzilla is a 1954 Japanese monster film that was created and directed by Ishiro Honda and is Japan's first monster movie as well as the first notable film in the Tokusatsu (special effects) genre. The Idea for Godzilla came about after an incident of the Hydrogen Bomb tests on Bikini Atoll. A Japanese ship called the lucky Dragon 5 was caught in the fallout of a hydrogen bomb that was meant to be 6 megatons but turned out to be 15 megatons which of course meant many people including much of the ships crew developed radiation posioning. This scared the Japanese people and gave Ishiro the idea to make his Film Godzilla into an anti atom nuclear film. He succeded and even has the scene where Godzilla attacks Tokyo look like the effect a nuclear bomb would have except far slower.
Now let me say this, my points of good and bad things about this film are going to contain a hell load of spoilers and so just to say it now, I love this film, if you love Giant monster films or Godzilla films at all, then go see this film, see the creture that started a genre of his own, a creature that not only began Japans desent into Sci fiction, but Godzilla also helped to plant the seeds for many live action superheroes that we know of today for instance, Eiji Tsuburaya who did the special effects from working on the early Gdzilla films to develop one Japan's earliest television superheroes Ultraman, which in turn would lead to huge expansion of many live action Superheroes series as well as the development of many monster movie or Kaiju movies as well as the start of the Tokusatsu genre.
Anyway onto the good and bad of this film.
The story. Of course any good film must have a good story. I mean a film cannot hold itself up on visuals alone. Godzilla thankfully has a good story. That follows a nation under attack from a creature that may be of myth that is pissed off about humanity using forces that it can not control, or else is a bi-product of nuclear testing and shows the consequences of what happens when you can,t control the results of nuclear weapons. Also this film manages to fit the anti nuclear weapon message by having the undertones present but not bashing you other the head with it ethier.
Godzilla. Okay seriously you cannot have a good film without a good monster in it. I mean think about it. Would anyone have gone to see Friday the thirteenth or Nightmare on Elm street if Freddy Krugar or Jason were both useless and not scarey or imtimaditing in anyway. Of course not. Thankfully Godzilla here is protrayed as a unstoppible killing machine that leaves nothing standing in its wake. I mean i know Godzilla isn't a horror filmn but watching the things that this monster does in the film and destruction, is quite horrofying i found myself hard pressed at points to continue watching because it was just so shocking. That proves that Godzilla is one hell of a strenght here. Also the look they give him of a sort of mutant dinosaur really helps sell the mystery surronding the monster. The costumes looks quite good for something made back in the fifties and amazes me.
The people. The people of Japan, be they the main characters or just extras were amazing. I mean everyone did thier part well. I mean you could be an extra who all he has to do is run away from a collapsing building and looked horrofied but they do it so well. One small scene suprised me with a mother and her 3 children. Okay better set the scene. Godzilla has finally hit Tokyo. The city is a blazes with atomic fire and buildings are collapsing left right and centre as Godzilla advances unopposed. People are dying right left and centre, while the sky is brightened from the fires that rage accross the city. In the middle of it all is a small square of the city that is cut off and is about to be engulfed in flames and in the middle of it is a mother holding her three children crying hysterically going “Its going to be okay, its all going to be okay. We will be with your father soon”.
At this point in time i was already shocked by the impact Godzilla's rampage was having on me. Up to this point i had being cracking jokes about things, butr when Godzilla begins his attack by attacking the Tokyo's trains. We can clearly see the people on the train trying to get off screaming as the train is picked up and smashed onto the ground killing not only those who were on the train but those who managed to get out in time. All of these things brought me to tears, I was suprised that how much emotion that this film had brought up in me. I must say as a method of story telling,that was brilliant and i haven,t seen a film that has done that in years. Also the site of Tokyo in fire must have been upsetting for the Japanese at the time. Remeber the end of the second world war was only 9 years ago for Japan and many would have remembered the feirce bombings by America and the untold destruction that brought. So yikes this must have really struck home with the Japanese, because if definintely something that hit home with me.
Also Doctor Serizawa is one of the finest characters i know, i mean imagine that you spend you intire lifes work develping a weapon called the oxygen destroyer that is meant to be a great deterent for war only to learn that you are actually help top develop weapons that could do untold destruction. Of course it turns out that the weapon is the only thing that can stop a superpowered monster before it kills everyone. So what do you do? Do you reveal you superweapon and hope that it isn,t mass produced and leads to further trouble for humanity or do you hide it and let your people die? That was the question Doctor Serizawa faced. In the end he produced the weapon, but burned all his notes and died making sure the oxygen destroyer works and kills Godzilla. In the end he succeds but to destroy his lifes work and potential legacy, throughly that was the stuff a good character.
The special effects: Okay the special effects in this film are brilliant. I mean I am impressed that a film that was made in the fifties has such great effects especially since this was the first film attepmted on this scale and subject matter. I mean sure alot of things are clearly models or the moving vehicals during the Godzilla attacks are toys that has been pushed just from off cameras, but still they are god effects and i emnjoyed looking at them even though they do look a fair bit dated by todays standards
The Music. Oh my god the music in this film is just amazing, the theme tune is a mixture of well its starts off with a tune similar to King Kong but swift changes to a imperaial drum beat then starts adding more instruments and the tension starts building, helping to repersent the power of Godzilla then slows down a little to shows the suffering of the people but then finally builds up once more for the epic conclusion of the song and in turn the film. Okay besides the epic theme, the general music is brilliant and i take my hat off to its composer Akira Ifukube for providing such a brilliant theme tune and general music to help this film especially the church chorus that sings during a montage of the destruction that has been left in the wake of Godzilla's rampage. That was amazing and shows the attention they took in making this film as unique as possible. Here is a link to the theme that helped forge a legend
Now to be honest the only negative thing that I can come up with anyway is that the filmmdoes indeed seem a little dated and that certain things by todays standards seem laughible. Fair enough they do and I won,t deny that, for instance when you first see Godzilla its clear that its a buch of people running away from nothing while the image of Godzilla rising is being projected onto the screen. Besides that I can,t really point out anything to say that this film is dated, but i am sure many will find something but you know, that happens, Citizen Kane is dated. Casablanca is dated, but they are still great movies that we can learn from and yes i am going to have the gaul to put Godzilla as one of ther greatest films ever made, and i would put it up their with Citizen Kane, because it effected me that much and really stood out as such a great film that was deep and complex, with many comments and messages but was careful not to bash you over the head with them.
So over all. I must say that Godzilla is one of the greastest films I have ever seen and it is clear that not only had deep messages about atomic weapons and the consequences of their unrestrained use. It also show a nation under deress and choas of such forces and the tragidy of such weapons usage on nations and the suffering it brings to people. It also remind us of the suffering of the people during such crisis. This is why i love the original Godzilla film so much, because its not just a Monster film, its so much more. So what do i given this film in the end of the day. 10 out of 10.
So now that i have taken on comcis and Tokusatsu i think its time to take us to the world of western Science Fiction, or Sci Fi as I call it, but where do i think i will go, hmmmmmmm. Maybe The American Godzilla (1998) hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. No! That comes far later. No we are going to go back to basics. We are going to look at a film that helped push a struggling franchise back into the mind of pop culture. Yes we are going to to take a look at Star Trek II The Wraith Of Khan.
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