What is Godzilla? To break his character down to the most basic level, Godzilla is a physical representation of the nuclear bombs; he is a walking atomic weapon. That threat is now outdated, even if mutual nuclear annihilation still exists, thus Godzilla itself as a concept is outdated and is not relevant in modern culture.
Whenever I hear a suggestion for a new Godzilla film, the first sentences usually consist some form of Godzilla going against another monster. I understand where these people come from, as these people mostly think with what is their iconic image of Godzilla, and thanks to the vast majority of Godzilla movies, it’s the Big G battling against something else. There’s no denying it that only three movies really do represent Godzilla as he should be; Godzilla, Godzilla 1985 and Godzilla (1996). The American movie gets loads of respect from me because it tries to put Godzilla into 90’s with the era’s own frame, but fails. I don’t hold the design change against the film nearly as much as other people do because the film has other more significant problems.
It is very hard to take one of the 50’s greatest threats and put it into a modern frame. The Godzilla we saw in the original film, if taken directly and set into modern Tokyo, would be decimated by the modern army. Weapons technology has taken massive leaps since then, and we’ve moved from raw nuclear bombs to tactical nuclear weaponry, which are largely used these days. There is no use in destroying cities nowadays, when you can pin point the target with satellites and nuke the desired site with smaller, more accurate yield. To be more accurate, we’ve built tactical nuclear weapons to contrast strategic nuclear weapons’ everything-goes effect that we saw in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We as a population are less scared of them than we are interested in them. These weapons, that have killed thousands and could end the world, have taken very different image. To add to this, these nuclear weapons could be potentially replaced by beam weaponry and railguns. There’s no use in shooting missiles anymore, when a laser beam intercepts the moment it peaks behind the horizon. Railguns on the other hand can shoot objects that can cause damage as large as tactical nuclear weapons. These slugs that railguns use are harder, if not impossible, to intercept. Hell, they’ve been making lasers that evaporate incoming meteors.
Then what modern threats we have that humanity has made? Biotechnology could be one threat, but it’s already an overused cliché as is nanotechnology. Artificial Intelligence is also a modern threat, but Godzilla is not a mechanical threat like Skynet. In this sense, Skynet is 80’s take on the most modern threat. Nowadays we’re mostly afraid of viruses and bacteria. Could Godzilla be represented as a form of viral infection? Well, we have too many zombie movies based on that, so that’s a definitive no. We can’t use terrorists/freedom fighters as sources of Godzilla either, as the threat is directly human, not human made.
Perhaps Fukushima Daiichi’s nuclear disaster is actually the best bet on putting Godzilla in modern frame; rather than a walking weapon of mass destruction, Godzilla would represent the same nuclear fire when it has slipped from human hands. This Godzilla would be a reminder that we still have this fire very near us and we barely have control over it. Simply being near a nuclear source causes all sorts of problems. While radioactivity has been with Godzilla all times, this Fukushima Godzilla would play more prominently than any other as simply the presence of Godzilla can snuff life out, and the trail he leaves is just as lethal. If you check radiation effects from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on Wikipedia and its sources, you’ll soon notice that it has some long lasting effects and not very positive ones. Now take a massive creature that carries all of these effects with it wherever it goes. That’s just the physical being of it walking. Godzilla’s blood would be highly toxic to flora and fauna, unless they would be forced to mutate and withstand the raging effects. Godzilla’s famous Nuclear Blast was originally just nuclear steam, but that’s enough. A hot stream of steam is very effective on many levels on pretty much anything, and the radiation properties it has makes it a tactical nuclear weapon itself. If we were to make it a beam as it is more commonly depicted, then it’s a literal directed nuclear explosion. There’s nothing funny about that, and the movies have always downplayed the blue stream to a high degree. It’s being called Light of Destruction sometimes, and for a good reason.
These are some heavy elements to a film to carry. A Godzilla film is never about just the monsters, and whenever it is, it’s usually a bad one. Godzilla films are mostly about the people who are trying to survive against this force of nature they have indirectly created. Modern Godzilla film needs to tackle these without making them pretty or downplaying the situation. Because of Godzilla, people will be peril; they will be eaten, they will lose their homes and loved ones, they will lose their limbs and vast majority will be infected with radiation poisoning. Not only that, but the place where Godzilla stops for too long time will be poisoned with radiation, making the place unsuited for living for years to come not unlike Chernobyl’s surroundings. Not only that, but what are the after effects in the following decades, when children bear the scar Godzilla’s radiation has left on their parents, what kind of wildlife will be born from the poisoned forests and what sort of hideous plants could survive in its wake? Nevertheless, I recommend everybody to read on radiation poisoning, it’s a thing to know in a civilized world, even if it’s not a pretty thing at all. It’s grim, gruesome and real. In this Godzilla’s context, add various levels of flash burns and what Godzilla’s blood and feces are doing to these people. 1984 Godzilla had it right in mutating ticks that were feeding of its blood. Now imagine people with all latent sicknesses and then slowly mutating body that’s barely holding together. No, I don’t mean anything Resident Evil style bullshit. All the mutation human DNA go though under radioactive radiation are damaging and the mutations are just hideous, and in later generations will feel and see it.
Suddenly, listening to Akira Ifukube’s theme for Godzilla makes it somewhat scary. The disaster, then the looming threat coming forth, the passing of a storm, and the sadness it leaves, until people rise against it. When Ifukube said that his music needs to be heard with the visuals on the screen, he knew what he was talking about. In Godzilla’s wake the Grim Reaper cuts down its harvest and plants seeds for the future.
It was an easy road to take really. What could have been better entertainment than having two titans duking it out and completely forgetting Godzilla’s hideous effects on everything around him? I still blame Eiji Tsuburaya for making Godzilla damn kids’ hero, because that image is still stuck with people, and while Heisei era Godzilla managed to bring him back towards his roots, the Vs. film series further solidified that we would never see a “real Godzilla movie” anymore. It’s easy to write a fantasy script about two giant monsters mashing through a city with explosions, but it’s hard to write a monster movie that shows the suffering this monster leaves in its wake.
Let’s assume that Fukushima inspired Godzilla is a real movie, and we’re getting a sequel that would have another monster in it. Regardless what the monster is, now the humanity has two problems; a walking nuclear disaster that is still spreading death on a global scale even when its now moving (wind and ocean currents carry radiation and fallout with them) and now another being that causes Godzilla to be agitated. If this monster would be another radioactive monster, then it would be basically a Game Over for humanity unless they manage to bring them down somehow. It would still have two monsters duking it out, but also on the effects and aftereffects of such thing.
But what would be able to kill Godzilla? Oxygen Destroyer, the fictional weapon that I can say still terrifies me after all these years. While never explained in full detail how it works, I always assumed that the chemical compound basically burns oxygen away, be it cells or in free form floating in water. Sometimes I have mused myself on idea of what would happen if the Oxygen Destroyer was released as an airborne agent. Total worldwide annihilation of oxygen, I’d assume. That’s the irony of the original movie; a disaster caused by a weapon is removed by an even more terrible weapon.
Just as Oxygen Destroyer was a sort of representation of a weapon more terrible than the nuclear bombs in the era, modern Oxygen Destroyer would represent the concept of weapons technology; even to this day we are making weapons more simpler and more effective on killing each other and everything around us. Oxygen Destroyer is in my mind a sort of absolute weapon of total annihilation, where one thing can cause a chain reaction and remove flesh from all things on this planet. Even with our lasers and railguns, we’re still designing weapons that resemble this. I hope salted bombs will never be utilised in actual combat. Actually, I hope never to see them used anywhere in any situation.
I have very high doubts on what kind of Godzilla film Legendary Pictures are producing. While they have said that this Godzilla is tied to a contemporary issue rather than on atomic bombs of the original, which is good. I just hope that they will be making a complete separation from the existing films including the first one. However, this seems unlikely. Following one soldier and having compelling human drama through his eyes isn’t a bad bet at all, as Raymond Burr’s role in the Godzilla; King of the Monsters! was pretty much just that, and I do like the localised version just as much I like the original. However, it seems that they are using the original film as its basis again, which just questions why they’re even trying reboot this whole thing this way again. Godzilla will not be relevant if he is stuck to his 50’s origins. While the Fukushima Godzilla example is very similar to the original origin, it’s more contemporary than nuclear testings. Then again, we have had nuclear testings during last few centuries as well, so the issue is not as old people generally think. That, and some countries are trying amass nuclear weapons of their own. Still, I’m looking at Legendary Pictures’ tracklist of films thus far, and there’s barely handful good or decent movies on the list. I’ve yet to see Pacific Rim, as it’s hitting the local theaters 2nd of next month. Even if Legendary Pictures is approaching this with utmost seriousness we might end up having yet another monster smash. The last Godzilla movie was the best multiple monsters on screen melee mayhem we could’ve asked for, so following the more campy roots of Godzilla may not be the best bet to re-introduce the Big G to the modern audience.
The picture above conveys something I have wanted to see in Godzilla for a long time now; city on fire, burned buildings, radiant bluewhite colour raging in the middle of it all radiating death everywhere. The destruction is both willful and just from its presence. We’ve had large amounts of different Godzilla films, and it’s time to bring the Big G back to its roots and reinvent them for the modern era the franchise sorely needs. Making him battle yet another monster would be just playing it safe and unremarkable.
However, there is an undeniable fact that Godzilla also has an innate attraction towards children. Give any child tiny toy soldiers, and they’ll find a toy dinosaur to smash them. However, the stigmata of Godzilla being for children is one of the reason the films after Godzilla VS King Ghidorah just went downhill and ultimately doomed the franchise for the time being. The Godzilla Vs -monster name- films use the original intention of Godzilla as a footnote that had to be there, and later on was almost completely dropped. While I recognize that the monster mashes were that made Godzilla popular in the west in the 60’s and 70’s, I don’t have to like it. I don’t blame Toho either on this, it’s just business. This is why Godzilla itself doesn’t lend itself for a sequel without making the monster survive at the end. I’d also argue that the fact that there’s three different Godzillas; the original nuclear catastrophe and it’s descendants in Heisei and Millenium era, the Showa Hero and his super friends, and the Evil Ghost from Giant Monster All-Out Attack; Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah. Actually, scrap that last one. It’s not Godzilla, just a bunch of ghosts of dead World War II soldiers that pose as Godzilla. Then again, King Ghidorah is a goddamn protective deity in the film and that’s just wrong.
I don’t believe dumbing down Godzilla is necessary, nor do I believe that Godzilla film needs to be comedic. Kids’ Godzilla has its place in the annals of film history and these films will always be there rightfully so, and yet there’s a reason why the first film is the only one that manages to get on Top 100 film to see lists. Reason for this isn’t just because the film is serious and bleak in its nature, but because it is about something and it’s intelligent about it. The original Godzilla reminded the people of the time what nuclear weapons are capable of and that we should never use them again. Godzilla is not only a preaching film about that, but also about hope and that we humans have created something wonderful but also something very dangerous. There exists hope in original Godzilla that is missing in other films of the franchise; there exist notion that despite everything that we manage to screw up royally, we have the will and want to fix these things even if it takes our own lives. In real life, we have people like the Liquidator of Chernobyl and Fukushima 50, who really are heroes of modern era. Then we have single people like Masao Yoshid, who played their own part on making these incidents smaller than what they could’ve been. In fiction, Dr. Serizawa of original Godzilla barely can stand up to these people, but incidentally Dr. Serizawa has been one of the characters have inspired me. Despite the man’s take on humanity and on the weapon he has created, he carries hopes and wishes of all those around him and beyond, only to ultimately give these people a chance to live by taking matters at his own hands. This eye-patched guy who acts like an asshole ends up being the unwilling hero by his own choice, when it could’ve been anyone else.
The Fukushima Godzilla I described would be there to remind people that we need to remember what nuclear power is able to do if we’re not careful with it. Fukushima’s incident was not due to human fault, and that would be a key element; while the first Godzilla is a direct result of atomic weapons testing, Fukushima Godzilla is a result of atomic power that slipped from human control due to nature. Modern film makers who grew up with giant monster movies don’t seem to mind dismissing intelligence from their films. What I believe in is not underestimating the audience. Doctor Who has managed to discuss heavy issues in ways that is for all ages across the board without dumbing the content down, and Godzilla has the same potential. I do recognize that films like MothraVS Godzilla do have a level of intelligence in them, but sometimes it’s a scene or two with no other adding elements to the film overall. Sadly, even these elements are missing in certain films, and then we have the likes of Showa Gamera that are just outright bad films.
A Godzilla film can be intelligent, engaging, action packed and emotional. It’s just much easier to make monsters punch each other. In general, there’s nothing wrong in that. What’s wrong is that the general public practically regards only a handful of monster films worthwhile. Then there’s practically two giant monster movies that people may not see as laughable; originals of King Kong and Godzilla. Even so… the truth is that giant monster movies, Japanese or not, are generally seen as laughable pieces. By going with this you’d think that monster melee would be a selling thing. It would be, if there would be more to the films than hamfisted message on nuclear threats, humanity and then the final battle. Even worse, almost all of Godzilla fans I’ve met want this. Rarely I meet a person who is willing to clean the slate and to make unpopular decision in order to make Godzilla relevant and successful again, we need to get back to the basics and bring The Big G to the 2010’s. Otherwise there’s no future. After this we can return to the monster war films, where we can be less serious on subjects if applicable.
Reinventing something by returning to its roots has its own flavour of irony innit.