Godzilla and mankind’s reign of terror

DeAnna Hettinger, Staff Writer

For you spring chickens, Godzilla may not register as an iconic figure of science fiction movies. But for those of us who grew up with Godzilla movies, or at least for me, Godzilla still rocks my world.

I am referring to the old Godzilla movies, the original ones, the good ones.  Not the 1998 remake where Godzilla looks like a giant velociraptor making its way through the streets of modern day New York City. The original Godzilla breathed radioactive rays and looked like what it was, a giant nuked dinosaur. A monster deformed from radioactive materials terrorizes Japan and leaves an indelible mark on its psyche.

Mankind’s reign of terror in the wars preceding Godzilla’s infected orgins are much more hideous than Godzilla could ever be. In “A Brief History of Godzilla, Our Never-Ending Nuclear Nightmare” Brian Merchant writes, “Godzilla isn’t just the best monster flick I’ve ever seen. It’s arguably the best window into post-war attitudes towards nuclear power we’ve got.”

The first Godzilla film was made in 1954. The atomic bombs American armed forces dropped in ’45 on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in left an open, festering wound in the fabric of Japanese society that inspired Godzilla.

As time went on Godzilla movie creators added more monsters to threaten Japan, Godzilla then became the protector of the Japanese people by fending off the new monsters.  As a result, a growing compassion for Godzilla became apparent in the movies characters. I could identify with this. For me the attraction to Godzilla movies was of an emotional nature. While watching these old movies again, I too developed compassion for what Godzilla endured for all the battles it fought. In the end, Godzilla would always retreat to the ocean leaving the viewer, me, sad and feeling sorry for it. Also heartbreaking for me, Godzilla had a baby that blew smoke rings in one movie, a baby that didn’t understand nuclear fallout, but just wanted its mom, Godzilla.

The 1998 remake ended up with a Godzilla who was far from the iconic figure in the original. Basically it looked like a borrowed monster mix from movies like “Jurassic Park.” This 1998 Godzilla with its not-so-special effects was devoid of feelings audiences could not bond with. Due to a purely digital personality, it took the heart out of the king of monsters. Why mess with a classic creature that bands like Blue Oyster Cult wrote songs about? One of the lines in the lyrics states the importance of Godzilla movies impact on our society. It says, “History shows again and again how nature points up the folly of man, Godzilla.”

I would watch an old Godzilla movie versus a newer one any day. The original ones with the Japanese actor’s voices dubbed over with English subtitles and dialogue are extremely tacky I admit. Although it makes the films somewhat disjointed it adds flavor to the fun, and nevertheless remains popular. After all, it’s Godzilla. Thirty Godzilla films have been produced since the original. As Hiroshima and the H-bomb slid further into the past, the monster’s radioactive genesis faded from view. The real Godzilla can’t and shouldn’t be modernized, even though the upcoming 2014 Godzilla movie is supposedly going back to its roots, we’ll see.