Overview: The classic giant monster raids Tokyo. Toho. 1954. Rated PG. 96 minutes
Good: The original depiction of the legendary King of all Monsters is a deep and emotional tale. The acting is sound and the narrative, as dark as it is, stands the test of time. Godzilla, the monster himself, can be viewed as an analog for atomic warfare and testing. And while the portrayal of the beast is commonly remembered as villainous, this movie also frames him as a victim of said experiments, and in so being, a tragic character. The monster is also an event; his attack is a direct allegory for the bomb drops of Hiroshima and Nagasaki thus, making the somber feeling of the movie even more resonant.
Godzilla, a Monster Movie Standard: The 50 meter tall irradiated dinosaur has been a standard point of monster designs for years. He has the overall shape of a tyrannosaur, the fins of a stegosaur and the arms of Iguanodon. He is a terrible force of nature, always marching forward, never retreating for combat. He attacks with his massive tail, claws and his trademark Atomic Ray (which varies in power). Being completely impervious to modern weaponry, Godzilla stands as a god among men.
Acting: All the humans involved in this tale feel fleshed out and the actors give it their all, selling the chaos of the cataclysmic event. From to the Professor to the military men all the actors commit fully to their roles to convincingly sell the apocalyptic panic. However, the standout performance comes from Akihiko Hirata who, as Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, delves into the anguish of what all scientists deal with: Is there an imperative to move forward with science, even if that science presents moral complications? His personal character struggle is amazing and Hirata does an awe inspiring job at presenting a man torn by this conundrum.
Bad: Though not a true hit against it, the movie’s gritty tone may come as a shock for those introduced to Godzilla through the lighthearted series that came after this installment may be a bit surprising watch the sequels first. Also, the suitimation here is well done but a few scenes use sub-par puppet work and the contrast in quality of the two methods of monster-presentation is jarring for the viewer.
Finishing up: Godzilla is considered one of the greatest movies ever made and it’s clear why. With superb acting, realistic effects for its time, and a message about the horrors of atomic warfare, Gojira will always remain an important film piece.
Rating: A –