GOJIRA (1954) | Culturally Important For Everyone, Not Just Japan


Everyone has their own motivations for creating a film. From sitting down to write it to finalizing the last cut before its release, there is a reason people do what they do Once the artwork hits the wall, or in this case the screen, art takes on almost exclusive meaning for everyone. Sometimes, we all share in meaning, we all see the GOJIRA is a film about the dangers and effects of nuclear war, but the film has personal meaning to the people who experience it as well. As a youth, I saw GODZILLA many times over. Growing up with a movie is an interesting thing because the view of the film changes based on how you change. GODZILLA was first a scary movie that I hid my face in my moms hands while watching. Then, it became a relic on a shelf as I began watching the other films and as I got older, they got sillier, and I enjoyed them for that aspect. GODZILLA, now as an adult is a film that I never watch anymore. It’s been more than a decade since the Gojira / Godzilla, King of the Monsters release and upon owning “The Original Japanese Masterpiece” I have never gone back to watching the US theatrical release.


I can’t really recommend the original film enough. It stands the testament of time, I guess, as long as you are willing as an audience in present day able to accept the process from 70 plus years ago. The themes are important to the film and the US version does not do the job as intended. It is cut around to make it more culturally relevant, thus losing the one of the best things Americans could have learned from the film, some humility.


The film’s director Ishiro Honda recently saw how Hiroshima’s people had been devastated after the US dropped a nuclear bomb on their city. After the destructive spree of the beast, he used this experience to show innocent people both dead and dying and the emotional effect is no less than catastrophic. All of the choices for these films were political. Atomic bomb tests in the Pacific Ocean after the end of the war awaken a monstrous beast that later threatens to lay waste to civilization, civilization being Japan and its neighboring islands. The monstrous beast of course being the United States. After the war the United States government stepped in and stopped the Japanese people from making war and propaganda films. As the occupation settled down films began being made again and GOJIRA was an expression of a fear that many in Japan still had.



The original film tells a more cautionary tale of the use of weapons and war. The end of GOJIRA has the line, “I can’t believe that Gojira was the only surviving member of its species. But, if we keep on conducting nuclear tests, its possible that another Gojira might appear somewhere in the world, again.” Two years later, when it was released in the United States, significant changes were made to the film. It essentially lost everything that remained in its original incarnation with its allegorical influence and symbolism. The line at the end of GODZILLA is “The whole world could wake up and live again.” It can seem like a minor line change but it is significant and changes the themes of the film. Hollywood’s role in this regard was clear here, WE WON WITH THE NUKE AND THEY COOL OKAY!



I can’t really recommend the original film enough. It stands the testament of time, I guess, as long as you are willing as an audience in present day able to accept the process from 70 plus years ago. The themes are important to the film and the US version does not do the job as intended. It is cut around to make it more culturally relevant, thus losing the one of the best things Americans could have learned from the film, some humility. If you can’t watch THE RETURN OF GODZILLA or SHIN GODZILLA to get some more modern takes. We will get to those films in due time. For now, crack open whatever it is your crack open, and enjoy the shit out of GOJIRA.


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