New Godzilla and the Kid in Me

Little Shane, circa 1990

So, yeah, that’s me as a kid dressed up like Godzilla for Book Week at school. We were supposed to dress up as our favorite book character, and I looked and looked until I found a Godzilla book just so I could dress up in this awesome costume at school. I was a super-cool kid.

I’m sure you know by now that the new Godzilla flick is coming out in a couple of weeks. I have to admit that I’m pretty excited about it, even though I know I’m just getting sucked into the hype. American movie studios don’t understand Godzilla. I know I sound like a whiny teenager (but mom just doesn’t understand me), but this much is true. This new film will make Godzilla a huge CGI monster. He will be much more “realistic,” and through the magic of CGI, his devastation will look as much like real devastation as possible. There are a few things I’m worried about, though.

Original Japanese Godzilla was a metaphor for atomic weapons. His ability to destroy and his radioactive breath was the atomic threat. That’s what made him a great monster. Just like Stoker’s Dracula, Shelley’s Creature, and Romero’s zombies before him, Godzilla represented a legitimate cultural fear.What, ultimately, would all of that radioactivity from Hiroshima and Nagasaki do to the people of Japan? Godzilla was the embodiment of that anxiety.

The American version can’t have him represent the same threat in the same way. If he ends up being the same symbol, his meaning changes. He then represents something that we are doing to ourselves, not something we had done to us. That could be interesting enough. I just worry that they will strip him of his symbolism.

And honestly, the loss of the symbol is the least of my worries. I would be happy with watching a giant monster movie for entertainment purposes only–especially now that I see Godzilla will feature a second monster (or group of monsters) that the Internet tells me is called Muto. The single greatest thing about the original Godzilla films was the scenes where two ridiculous-looking monsters just slugged it out in a good, old-fashioned fist-fight. As we know, Godzilla was usually a man in a suit fighting other men in suits (or animatronics) in little, miniature cities. The cheesier and the campier, the better. It’s the same thing, in my opinion, that made the original Star Wars trilogy far superior to the new trilogy–it doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t use CGI as a crutch. I am quite certain that the new Godzilla will be less 1977 Star Wars and more Michael Bay Transformers.

But still, I will watch it. I will watch it and I will love it, at least at first, because of what Godzilla the cultural icon means to me. When I was a kid, I was fascinated with the world that was created in these movies–a world populated by monsters. I was enthralled with the giant moths and the three-headed monsters that Godzilla fought. In the franchise, I was introduced to my first anti-hero–the monster that saved Japan as often as he destroyed it. It was a complex and magical fiction that was written in a culture that was foreign to me. I wrote my own giant monster stories and made my own giant monster videos.

Ingodzilla 1 many ways, Godzilla made me curious and inspired me to creative pursuits. Sometimes, I still catch myself doodling the monster’s profile in my notes at meetings.

So yeah–I’m kind of excited about the new film. But if I’m honest, I’m even more excited that Godzilla vs. Mothra is streaming on my TV right now. Man! That shriek that Godzilla lets out when he comes out of the ocean for the first time–it still gets me.

What were your unique inspirations as a child? What was the first book/ movie/ series you remember being way excited about?

Until next time!

-Shane

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13 thoughts on “New Godzilla and the Kid in Me

  1. Well…now you made me want to watch it! It’s funny because just today I was talking to my cousin about how they are redoing Goonies. Now this may not have the same symbolism culturally, but it did define a generation in its own way. They will make it new and it will lose all of the campy awesomeness and I will cry. But, I might still watch it. Or not. I can’t decide.

    • I had heard they were re-making that one as well. It’s like re-making The Breakfast Club with new stereotypes. If the culture of today can’t appreciate it for what it is, I’m not sure we need to try to make them like it. Some things just need to be what they are and nothing more. Maybe?

  2. Hey Shane,

    Timely post. I caught my pseudo husband, Jeff, watching Space Godzilla last weekend. I watch it, and just thought, “WTF?”

    Now I LOVE monster and sci-fi movies. Star Wars, Transformers, X-Men, Averngers …BRING IT! But I have never understood the whole Godzilla deal. Until I read this post!

    How did I never realize that there was a message? And how did I never see that the monster was a metaphor for the fallout of atomic warfare? DUH!

    Now that I see Godzilla as more than just a weird, bumbling dude stomping around Tokyo for no apparent reason, I MIGHT actually be able to watch the movies without hoping to see King Kong show up and start kicking reptilian ass.

    Thanks for the education!

    As for my childhood monster moments – I owe them ALL to my very awesome father! Saturday nights were spent in his lap (he was in his big, orange, Naugahyde recliner) watching Shock Theater. I was six, and as long as I managed to stay awake during Star Trek, I was allowed to stay up late and watch my monster show! I learned to love both shows: And my Dad…even more than I already did!

    Great blog!

  3. I’m going to wait for the DVD, but yeah, that Godzilla roar gets me every time too!

    My unique inspiration was Logan’s Run. I never forgot that part when Francis 7 yells, “LOGAN!!!!” as his friend runs away with a Runner. Carousel was terrifying, the music was dreamy, the story was bizarre, and you never knew what was happening next. The wonder and hope at the end still brings a tear to my eye.

    “Logan… you renewed.”

    • Hey! What’s a great dame like you doing in a joint like this? (Gads, but I’m having fun this morning.)

      This post reminds me of when I was a kid living in Ottawa back in the ’72 – ’74 years. A local TV station had Ultraman Japanese sci fi re-runs late Saturday mornings after the cartoons were pretty much over, and I just lived to see the next episode of this fantastic (to a boy) show. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultraman

      Have to love grown men in suits pretending to be giant monsters and heroes battling one another while the fate of civilization hangs in the balance.

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