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Giant, 150 foot tall, radioactive, ancient dinosaur attacks Japan seemingly at random.
What I never realised about this film is that it's such an anti-war/nuclear/h-bomb film. I was expecting almost a typical 50s sci-fi creature feature: man-in-rubber-costume-pretending-to-be-giant-lizard fights man, man fights back, lizard has a trick up its sleeve, man wins in the end. But it's so much more than that. So much more than I was expecting. So much more than I was planning on giving it credit for.
It's so emotional. It's just a bit overwhelming at times, to tell you the truth. It has a bit of silliness initially and starts off a bit standard-fare with a small fishing village and some boats off the coast of Japan being attacked by something, an old man in the village spreads the rumour that it's the mythical Godzilla. Fair enough, it's not all that different to what I was expecting up to this point.
A team of scientists reach the island and find out the creature that's doing it is actually Godzilla, but that he's radioactive and even more of a threat to Japan than first anticipated. The head scientist wants to keep him alive for research purposes as he thinks it's millions of years old and could hold the secret to life, yet everyone else thinks it should be destroyed as it's going to wreak havoc on Japan. Still finding it quite enjoyable at this point, but it's mostly what I was expecting. It's another "how much is knowledge of the unknown worth?" sort of sci-fi film, like The Thing From Another World or War of the Worlds and so on.
Then things get a bit more interesting. There's an underlying theme starting to develop about why Godzilla is attacking, and why exactly it's radioactive. The logical conclusion they reach is that it's from the H-Bomb testing in the Pacific by the Americans. A short, throwaway conversation on a train by a few people talking about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and suddenly it's starting to become really clear just what this film is really about.
Yes, it's a good story about a man in a giant lizard costume attacking a replica model village of Tokyo, but it's also about nuclear weaponry, the extraordinary loss of (or lack of care for) life; and it's quite stunning. I'm not going to give away the ending, because if you haven't seen it, or if you've only seen the American remake from the 90s (it's not that ending) then you might think you know, but you probably don't. It took me a little by surprise (the execution of it, not so much what ultimately happens in the end) and left me feeling slightly uncomfortable.
Absolutely a classic and much better than I was expecting.
On the dvd of Godzilla, there was also a documentary from the 50's about the h-bomb testing by the American's and what happened to the fisherman/southern regions of Japan as a result and it's just utterly depressing, mind blowing and yet almost incomprehensible to my soft, slightly left leaning sensibilities. It's just so senseless It's always devastating hearing about the loss of life from Hiroshima and Nagasaki anyway, and seeing the damage it caused, but this was just... I dunno. Heart breaking.