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Lunch » Tags » Movies » Reviews » Godzilla (Gojira) » User review

A masterpiece in Japanese cinema. 94%

  • Nov 23, 2012
Rating:
+5

 

Since this is my first review with anything related to Godzilla, I'd like to say that I was a big Godzilla fan from 1997-2002 since at the time, I thought there was hardly anything as fun as seeing big monster fights with a huge dollop of cheesy English dubbing from the Japanese actors in the numerous Godzilla sequels. In my initial fandom, I thought Godzilla: King of the Monsters (the American, English-dubbed and edited version of Gojira starring Raymond Burr) was the most serious and somber of the bunch, and considered it the best. Rewatching Godzilla: King of the Monsters recently, I'd say that it's a decent 50's monster movie, but after watching Gojira, I consider Gojira a masterful film that can compete with acclaimed arthouse Japanese films like Harakiri and The Seven Samurai.

 

STORY

 

Near the coast of Tokyo, ships are reported as being destroyed by mysterious flashes of massive fire. The natives of Odo Island, the island near the ship accidents, claim that a giant monster named Godzilla has destroyed the ships. Upon further research from scientists and the government, they find out that a giant, destructive creature from the prehistoric era has come back...and is seemingly unstoppable. A scientist makes a horrible discovery that just might kill Godzilla, but could bring another global threat if ever revealed.

 

CHARACTERS

 

The characters in this movie were pretty well done, as just about all of them felt like real people. I thought the character with the most interesting personality was Dr. Serizawa (played by Akihiko Hirata). Dr. Serizawa was convincing as a scientist who's discovered something he wish he never did, and when asked to confront Godzilla with this, really shows the inner-conflict he faces. The legendary Takahsi Shimura played Dr. Yamane, an archeologist determined to find out why Godzilla is alive. I was intrigued by the fact that he wants Gojira alive since it's among the only creatures alive on Earth from the prehistoric era. Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada) is a marine patrolman who wants Godzilla dead, much to the dismay of Dr. Yamane. Ogata's character feels pretty realistic, and I like the fact that the love triangle between him, Emiko, and Dr. Serizawa doesn't get sappy or take up too much screentime from everything else. The only criticism I feel comfortable in saying is with Emiko Yamane's character (played by Momoko Kochi). Her acting was good overall, but in some scenes that she screamed or cried (such as when Dr. Serizawa revealed his “horrible discovery”), they seemed a little melodramatic, but nowhere near being on the verge of bad acting.

 

SPECIAL EFFECTS

 

If you've read Roger Ebert's lousy review for Gojira, you'd know that he smashed the “poor quality” of the film's special effects. I have to disagree with him on this because what he doesn't take into account is that Gojira was one of Japan's first movies heavy on special effects, and therefore, was a groundbreaking movie for its time in its particular nation. Even though this movie is 58 years-old, I think the special effects have dated pretty well, even if the shortcomings are noticeable in some areas. The gritty black and white cinematography and engrossing atmosphere make you forget that Godzilla is really a man in a rubber monster suit. The miniatures made for the buildings, tanks, and so fourth look good for the time, and the only scene where you can see an obvious special effect fault is that in a scene where you see Godzilla's tail through a destroyed building's window, you can see the string holding up Godzilla's tail. Though all in all, the special effects have aged pretty well after all these years and their shortcomings don't damage the viewing experience.

 

SOUNDTRACK

 

Akira Ifukube's music for Gojira is magnificent. The main theme of the movie is easily among the best main themes in the whole Godzilla franchise. The main theme of this movie would be really well suited for military marches. There's other musical compositions, like “Godzilla Comes Ashore,” that have a really dark, brooding atmosphere to them that really give me the chills. There's even some tracks like “Prayer for Peace,” that have a sad yet chilling feeling to them. The emotional diversity and good use of dynamics throughout the compositions in this movie really show that Ifukube was a masterful composer.

 

DIFFERENCES FROM US VERSION

 

This category will also cover the themes of Gojira.

 

Besides a different language track and the absence of Raymond Burr, there's some pretty drastic changes in the original Gojira compared to Godzilla: King of the Monsters. One of the big changes that stuck out to me the most is the opening credits. In the US version of the movie, it's a simple, flashy title card with the movie title written in a font typical of American monster/horror movies from the 50's with Godzilla's roars and foot stomps in the background. In the original Japanese version, the opening credits immediately let you know that you're in for a totally serious movie. The opening consists of credits for the title, cast, and crew scrolling upward with the Gojira main theme playing in the background, along with Gojira's roars and foot stomps.

 

One difference that may seem innocuous to most viewers but really stuck out at me is the hospital scenes. In the beginning of the US version, you see a little girl cry over her dead mother, but it's quickly transitioned to Steve Martin (Raymond Burr's character) recalling the attacks and being carried on a stretcher. In the original, there's more focus on this girl, and it had much more emotional power when you saw Emiko trying to comfort her by telling her that her mother will be okay.

 

Another key difference is the order of scenes and actions that occur throughout the film. In the beginning of the US version of the movie, you already know that Tokyo gets destroyed by Gojira, with Steve recalling what happened. In the original version, it starts off with a ship at sea getting attacked by Gojira (though shot to where you don't actually see or hear the beast), and it progresses as to how you see Tokyo get destroyed.

 

Among the most critical of differences is the emphasis of its central theme. Even if you've just watched the US version, you know that it's a warning about the dangers of nuclear warfare. However, in the original, it not only focuses on said warning, but also has strong reflections from its characters about how the nation suffered and is still suffering from the atomic bomb attacks nine years prior (Gojira came out in 1954, nine years after the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings).

 

I thought the execution of the message of Japan's suffering from nuclear bombings was superb, since Ishiro Honda lets you know that these bombings have really harmed the nation while at the same time, totally avoiding any nationalist sentiments to fully scorn America for the bombings while blindly praising his own nation. The focus solely on the suffering of nuclear attacks really gave this a personal, emotionally-powerful feel to the movie.

 

FINAL WORD

 

While I can't say that I've seen everything Ishiro Honda has directed, I'll still make a safe bet that Gojira is among the brightest jewels of his filmography. If you're looking for a Godzilla film that's totally serious in tone and serves as a harrowing reminder of the potential apocalyptic danger of nuclear warfare, then get yourself a copy of Gojira ASAP.

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December 11, 2012
Excellent write up, I actually love both versions.
December 11, 2012
Thanks, dude. The US version of this movie isn't bad at all (I'd rate it a +4), but I prefer the original.
 
November 25, 2012
I used to be a huge Godzilla fan when I was a kid. I remember watching marathons on the weekends. That was like heaven for me to watch 3 or 4 in a row on Saturdays or Sundays. I didn't even really care about the plots or characters either, I just loved watching the monsters fight. :D
November 27, 2012
With Godzilla's "cheesy" era in the 60's, indeed it was a riot to see such giant monster smackdowns. Just curious, do you plan on giving Gojira a whirl?
November 27, 2012
Hadn't thought too much about it really. I kinda have a pretty solid rental queue right now, but I will keep in mind for the future.
 
November 24, 2012
This is indeed Honda's shining moment. Great comparisons between the US version and the original. The effects also launched a brand new way of filmmaking in that country, despite what Ebert says....very nice review.
November 25, 2012
Thanks, William. I'mg glad someone else was able to see through all the muck in Ebert's review of Gojira (I think all Godzilla fans loathe that review, and rightfully so). Getting the Gojira/Godzilla: King of the Monsters double feature set was possibly the best $9 I ever spent.
 
November 24, 2012
Good detailed presentation!
November 24, 2012
Thanks. Are you a Godzilla fan by any chance?
November 24, 2012
Yes. I saw the older version of Godzilla when it first came out. The movie was very popular and the reruns are still popular.
 
1
More Godzilla (Gojira) reviews
review by . August 17, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****    The original 1954 version of "Godzilla" - AKA "Gojira" - evades the implications of its B-movie exteriors. Here we have a monster movie that is not really just a monster movie. If it were, it would not have been remembered. Instead, the film impacted those who saw it during its original run. It took a few years for it to hit overseas in America; and under an alternative name (with the subtitle "King of the Monsters") and different footage. But once the world …
Quick Tip by . May 28, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I just completed watching Gojira (1954), and while I still like its Amercan adaptation, Godzilla:  King of the Monsters, the original movie is much better.       I think Gojira is much better because the movie has a smoother flow from not being edited and that as a whole, it has a much stronger emotional punch (mostly thanks to the inclusion of subtitles and with more focus on some "darker" scenes).  The movie also makes more sense since there's clearer …
About the reviewer
David Kozak ()
Ranked #23
I'm a morbid cynic who thinks very, very differently from most other people. Chances are, if the majority says X is the greatest in its category, I'll disagree with that notion, because I tend … more
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Details

Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: May 7, 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 1hr 38min

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