Review: ゴジラ / Gojira [1954]

a review by the Azure-Winged Magpie (WARNING: I get really really angry in this one).

GOJIRA!

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INTRO

Note: Apologies to anyone who saw the messed-up version of this post. I have no clue what happened and am a little embarrassed that I didn’t catch how the older draft got published.

Further note: This post has been edited down a little for strong language. 

I’ve been a big Gojira fan ever since I was just a teeny bitty chick.

Now I’ve just some days ago reviewed the only (and I mean the only onethere aren’t any other ones!) Hollywood adaptation of His Nuclear-Scaliness God-King Gojira the King of the Monsters.

And oh boy… the Crow wanted to do this one. But I beat him up and chased him away.

(X‾X)  … … *POW!*  ᕕ(◔◡◔)!

(Although I should really stop doing that for certain… reasons…)

And what better way to prep you lovely lot for our upcoming team review of Shin Gojira than to talk about where it all started from? Gojira, the original.

Now… people who’ve never seen the film or know anything about it other than the twokills me to admit to that it does! Hollywood versions(YUCK! to one. YAY! to the other!) might have found the new Gojira film (review in just a few days!) a bit weird. And you might only think of His Nuclear-Scaliness as some dude in a rubber suit swangin’ and bangin’ (a line I also used in my Kong review… so don’t be surprised when it shows up again) with other dudes in similar get-up.

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But no… There’s a LOT more to the King of the Monsters than just that. And a lot to be respected as well. If you’ve just come into this film after just having seen 2014’s Godzilla… well… you’re going to be surprised.

At 63 years old, of course Gojira looks dated. But it’s just as awesome as another film released the same year: Seven Samurai. And the two movies share an actor too! AND Ishirō Honda (the director) went on to work with Kurosawa in his later years.

And oh yeah… I love me some good old rubber battles. But this one? This is a whole different class o’ criminal. And it’s the kind of class that hurts.

And a bit of a warning to the wise: I might get very angry when I start talking.


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NOT THE FUCKING BOMBS AGAIN

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS CONSIDERABLE SPOILERS AND A VERY ANGRY AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE

Ever heard of Daigo Fukuryū Maru?

In English that means: ‘Lucky Dragon 5′. When the good ol’ US-of-A dropped the thermonuclear warhead on Bikini Atoll (1954. Just some months before this film’s release) the ship was outside the so-called “Danger Area” and STILL the people on-board caught the fallout.

Some distant (and I mean very distant – I haven’t met them myself) relatives of mine lived through the Bombs. And one of them was caught in the blast according to my mum. If you don’t know what Bombs I’m referring to in this context… get out and never come back. Swear down.

Let me tell you: Even as more of a Brit than a Japanese person. I know exactly how bad that shit was for the nation my mum comes from. Yes. Japan was a horrible nation during WWII. Yes. I see the need to stop the War early. What I don’t see is the sheer suffering that the country had to endure (and that was pretty much completely Oppenheimer’s doing). You hear horror stories about those times. And they’re not nice.

The Crow wrote a series of replies on Reddit at some point to a post about the “survivors” of the bombs. If he lets me when he’s around next, I’ll copy-and-paste them here. He speaks my mind better than I do sometimes.

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And I get it. Everyone gets it. The USA is not happy about it either.

But then (with the fallout from Bikini Atoll)… to fuck up this bad?! I mean me and the Crow help build things which (if not made right) could kill tons of people any hour of the day. That’s how we make most of our dough. The whole point of us having slaved through all those fucking years of school and Uni and homework and sleepless nights is that we don’t.fuck.up.

And the fallout fiasco from Bikini Atoll was a HUGE FUCKUP. These things should never happen.

Doctors take the oath to make sure a patient is outside mortal danger or at least better of than they were at first arrival. Engineers have an unspoken oath to make sure what we’re helping build is the best version there can be. No other scene’s acceptable. And it shouldn’t be. When the people behind the scenes half-ass their jobs. This is the kinda shit that happens.

Some months after the real-life incident… (note: even though I’ve watched some really fucked-up shit in the many years I’ve been watching fucked up shit, “survivors” of nuclear-weapons radiation? That’s shit’s hard to get through.) out comes Gojira.

And it starts with a familiar scene. The Eiko-maru (which shares her name with a real cargo ship torpedoed just under 10 years before the film was released) goes through the same treatment as the Daigo Fukuryū Maru did.

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Every rescue effort sent out to get them doesn’t come back. The Bingo-Maru doesn’t and neither does the fishing boat from Odo Island. People shack up outside government offices. They mob the doors and demand to know what’s happening.

And no one has a single clue what’s happened.

I originally had a pretty long rant here about how the scenes shown in this part of the film are looked at like ‘oh look at these funny people lol’ by some idiots online. I’ve taken it out because I think that I was going off the rails a little too much and going completely off-topic. All I’ll say is the reaction of the people is just what they would’ve been in any other part of the world.

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Anyway… moving on.

We see a reporter land on Odo Island. The locals aren’t catching any fish and he wants to know why. An old legend of a sea monster named Gojira sparks up. Way back when, the locals used to appease the monster by sacrificing YOUNG FUCKING GIRLS. And this is another thing that pisses me right the fuck off.

I mean… how long did it take humanity to evolve into decent people? Always in these stories (just consider the story of Yamata no Orochi) it’s always young girls. Is it just that the people who’ve written these stories have a view of young girls being the tastiest of the human meats? In Gojira it might be just a reference. But just look through history.

And here we go again. I’m mad all over…

If any one of you think that young girls are the ‘tastiest’ sacrifices for some reason… In the immortal words of Nate motherfucking Diaz: Imma fight YOUR FUCKING ASS!

And I mean that. (Personal side-notes available on request. I finish my rant in them.)

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After the reporters inquire into the story of Gojira and hang around for a dance held to calm the sea monster down… a storm hits. And SOMETHING wrecks the island. No one knows what exactly wrecks the island. But a lot of damage is done.

Dr. Yamane Kyohei (Kambei from Seven Samurai) comes into the picture with some other sciencey-types. They investigate Odo Island. They find evidence of giant ‘footprints’ which are chock-full of radiation. And they find a trilobite. Dr. Yamane hypothesises that there might just be a large creature from out of the prehistoric era about.

And just as he makes his hypothesis… they see it.

And fuck me sideways… does it look horrifying.

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The film’s dated and all. But that first time you see Gojira… it’s not hard to keep yourself from wincing. Not only is the fucker HUGE. But he’s also covered in sores and scars. And does that remind anyone of anything specific?

Dr. Yamane presents his findings in Tokyo. He suggests that a 50ft-odd ancient sea creature has evolved into the monstrous figure we just saw. And it’s underwater atom bomb experimentation that’s disturbed it and made it surface.

While people argue whether or not to release this information (complete with a photo of Gojira) to the public (it is)… ships keep going missing. And it’s decided that the JSDF should respond.

In the first act of aggression since WWII, the JSDF launch depth charges to kill Gojira. And this sets Dr. Yamane into a bad mood. He wanted to study the creature and doesn’t believe Gojira should be killed.

And all those depth charges? They barely scratch Gojira. In fact… they just make him angry. VERY angry. But more on that later…

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We next meet Dr. Serizawa Daisuke (played by Hirata Akihiko in the original and a version of him is played by Ken Watanabe in 2014’s Hollywood remake). He’s facing a break up that he has no idea is coming and is being hounded by reporters who want to know what’s he’s exactly doing right now.

It’s his fiancée who gets a reporter (played by someone kinda important – so keep an eye out!) into his private spot. And after shooing the reporter away, Daisuke agrees to show Emiko (his about not-to-be fiancée) what he’s working on. It’s something which the film initially keeps under wraps. But it kills a shit ton of fish in a tank the minute we see it.

It’s some form of weapon. It upsets Emiko so much that she pretty much up and flees the scene without mentioning to Daisuke that she’s about to call off their engagement.

She returns home to her dad (Dr. Yamane of all people!) and her new shiny boy-toy Ogata Hideto. Hideto suggests to her before Yamane appears that he intends to ask him for permission to ask for Emiko’s hand in marriage. But the two lads get in a fight over the nation’s decision to kill Gojira. And Kyohei tells Hideto to GTFO and never come back.

(U _ U)poor boy! WHY did you get into a fight with your bae’s dad?!

(I actually have a funny story related to this starring the Crow.)

Paleontologist Dr. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) and his daugh

And just as Kyohei stomps off all angry and everything… Gojira surfaces near Tokyo Bay.

In the span of just some hours. He fucking wrecks EVERYTHING in his path. NOTHING the puny humans do even scratches him. From here on out (I guess I shouldn’t spoil the WHOLE DAMN THING), the film switches between epic scenes of Gojira just ambling through Tokyo and exacting vengeful retribution on humanity AND the puny humans scampering about to save their hides.

And it’s… GLORIOUS. And it’s HIDEOUS.

The reason I get so pissed off at people who laugh at Gojira is that I hate how they don’t understand what this particular bastard stands for. It’s not just some guy in a rubber suit stomping on paper/cardboard models that this film shows.

Gojira is a walking metaphor.

How do you think people in Japan responded to the shock of having the Bombs dropped on them? After so MANY firebombs were dropped… they just didn’t understand what the these monstrous weapons were. They dropped and vaporised everything in their blast radius. They left poison in the air for years. It was something the nation at large couldn’t cope with. It was a monstrosity of a weapon that’d never been seen before.

And that… that’s what Gojira is a metaphor for.

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Gojira himself only hits the mainland twice in full. One time for each bomb.

And everything that we do to try and stop him? It fails. Time and again.

A lot of Japanese media centres around the Bombs. I’m so distanced from my heritage that I might as well just say I’m a weeb. But just look at Akira. Just look at Ghost in the Shell. You don;t have to be Japanese to see it.

THIS is exactly why I despise Holocaust deniers and their ilk to their very core. Fuck you lot. There is an anger that builds. It’s not (and should never be) directed at people who are currently alive. And to those of you (and I know you’re out there) who blame ALL AMERICANS for the Bombs and the old wars or ALL GERMANS for the Holocaust or ALL BRITS for the Empire… screw you right up the Khyber as well.

I’m a fucking Brit. Am I responsible for the atrocities the Empire committed? Am I? Say it with a straight face. And if you do… IMMA FIGHT YOUR FUCKING ASS TOO!

And I’m not fucking joking.


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WINDING-DOWN THOUGHTS ON GOJIRA

Back to full-spoiler territory.

Look… I’ve been told to calm down (nicely!) by the Crow and I’ve made most of my points already. I’m really happy he let me get away with this one because even I know I’ve crossed the line. Sorry for swearing so much. I got really riled up by this film and some ignorant opinions that I read about it online.

But it really riles me up when people bash the film for just being “another monster film”. Yes… Gojira isn’t really all that original. But in the context it’s shown in… it’s a masterpiece. The ending is at the same time triumphant and gutting. Poor Daisuke bites the dust in a heroic sacrifice. And if this were the only film to star Gojira… I’d be alright with it. I love me the follow-ups. But up until Shin Gojira nothing’s really reached the heights of this one.

This is nature fighting back. Making us feel puny and insignificant. Gojira is no mutated sea creature… he’s the living, walking embodiment of the Bombs.

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Some people say that the 2014 Godzilla is the first “post-human” blockbuster. I say THIS film is the first one. And it has better characters while still being “post-human”.

But it’s for different reasons than they argued. Gojira isn’t “post-human” because the humans were shoved aside. It’s “post-human” because it’s the kind of film that leaves us with a bitter taste about our place in the world and how insignificant we might be in the long run of things. Unless we fix our own shit. WE’RE the ones likely to make the Earth go post-human (and even if we start fixing our shit… there’s no guarantees with the damage we’ve already done).

Weirdly enough, both Seven Samurai and Gojira end on similar notes. There’s this whole feeling of triumph that gets smashed by the final lines of the films.

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It’s a great film. And it deserves every bit of praise it gets. It’s a scary look at what we could do. Science and technology are what they are. They advance as they do. But there are hidden dangers that we might never expect lurking around the corner.

And we are NOT prepared for nature fighting back.

Right now one of our BIGGEST problems is Global Warming. What the fuck are we REALLY doing to stop it?! That Orangutan in the White House is trying to do the opposite thing. SO MANY people in positions of power are trying to do the opposite thing.

Are we really prepared for when the effects get worse?

It was 38 Celsius some short while ago in the UK. And while there is yes a natural shift… DO YOU NOT SEE how bad we’re fucking the planet?!

And that’s what makes Gojira timeless. The rubber-suited ‘hero’ Gojira? That’s a different monster. This one is a menacing figure of doom. And it hurts me to see people laugh at the mention of it.


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CLOSING THOUGHTS

Look… I’m all yelled out.

I had a MUCH bigger post (and I mean MUCH BIGGER POST – text available upon request I guess…) that the Crow told me wasn’t appropriate because I was going off-topic too much. What you’re reading has been cut out of that and written-over.

A big shoutout to that dopey old corvid for keeping me in check and helping me brainstorm the end of this review. I lost the plot somewhere along the line.

I got really riled up when writing this out the first time because SO MUCH shit came back to my mind. And I din’t like any of it. But I think I’ve said enough of my piece. So I’ll leave it at that.


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FINAL RATINGS

THE CROW: 8.5/10

THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 10/10

Next up! 

Here’s my masterpiece drawing of Shin Gojira:

Shin-Gojira-Corvid-Review


Here’s a poster for Gojira:

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4 thoughts on “Review: ゴジラ / Gojira [1954]

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