Ishiro Honda’s 1954 monster movie Godzilla isn’t scary any more (and maybe it never was), but it possesses a certain eerie power because of its context. You’re watching two of Japan’s deep cultural fears (the deep ocean, and nuclear weapons) collide on the screen like magnets, in the form of a huge mutated creature rising from the sea with a death wish. Some forty years later Roland Emmerich got it into his head to resurrect the franchise and shoot it full of steroids with a modern remake.
What part of this movie is most successful? CGI, baby. This film is downright pretty. White-hot tracer bullets rip at Godzilla as it sways and lurches, cars fly like dominoes, whole buildings shatter, and fishing trawlers get pulled under.
The monster itself benefits greatly from computer enhancement. The movie caught some flak for only partially showing the monster in a lot of shots. Yet this is an effective touch. It gives the impression that we’re looking at a beast of uncontainable size, a beast too big to film.
I guess this movie caught me at the right time, when I was getting into kaiju shit (Mothra, etc) in a big way, and was really keen on seeing a Westernised version of the same thing. Emmerich’s remake is far from being a kaiju movie, but I nevertheless found it entertaining and exciting.
What kneecapped Godzilla for me then and ice-picked Godzilla for me know is believability. This is not a low-budget Japanese monster movie starring a guy in a lizard suit. This is something with a genuine aspirations towards credibility.
And I don’t believe that Godzilla could shake entire city blocks when it walks, yet in some scenes nobody knows it’s there until it pokes it head around a building. I don’t believe a helicopter pilot would let Godzilla chase him all around a city, and never once think to fly up and escape into the sky. And I don’t believe that Godzilla would breath fire in one scene and never do it again. These are monster movie holdovers from a genre where nobody cares about believability, and they make no sense here.
But hey, we didn’t get a cheesy “humans are the REAL MONSTERS!” sermon a’la every other monster movie ever made, and that is a wonderful thing.