September 16, 2004

Cornell Cinema

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Watching the original version of Godzilla is like chancing upon some hidden link of movie evolution. Before the ominous water ripples and muted pounding of footsteps in Jurassic Park, there was the sequential thunder of Godzilla’s march as he slowly made his way closer and closer. Ishiro Honda’s Godzilla is a movie about building anxiety, and never is this purpose so apparent as when audiences are treated to the measured beat of the monster’s walk.

When several ships disappear from the exact same location, the Japanese government begins to suspect something far worse than just a seasonal case of bad weather. Intrepid researcher Dr. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) places the blame on a creature from the Jurassic Period, who due to continuously irresponsible H-bomb testing has become invincible. The true problem manifests when the terror in question begins stomping through Tokyo, leaving nothing but death and destruction. Hope lies in the hands of Dr. Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), who has unintentionally stumbled upon the Oxygen Destroyer, a weapon more powerful than anything previously conceived by man. In the end, the dilemma no longer only concerns Godzilla, the monster of the sea. Will Dr. Serizawa reveal the secret of the Oxygen Destroyer to save future victims of Godzilla in a world obviously unready for such power? Despite the blatant “thrilling monster movie” premise that Honda’s movie is primarily packaged with, it is also a message of warning from the director towards world issues of the day. Godzilla as a product and consequence of H-bomb testing is an obvious assertion against the practice. In a similar vein, Dr. Serizawa’s dilemma in unveiling the Oxygen Destroyer is a warning against future applications of such weapons of mass destruction. Although its use was strictly for the sake of saving lives, introduction of such an invention into the public realm meant that it could be exploited for less idealistic purposes.

Being accompanied by a veiled political message does not exempt Godzilla from being victim to several aspects of the ridiculous. The morally ambiguous Dr. Serizawa is not only solemn faced and sweaty in every scene, but also wears an eye patch. An eye patch! There also exists a formulaic love triangle involving the leading lady and daughter of Dr. Yamane, Emiko Yamane (Momoko Kochi), who is the fianc