Godzilla (ゴジラ Gojira) is a 1954 Japanese kaiju film featuring Godzilla. The film is directed by Ishirō Honda, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya and stars Akira Takarada, Momoko Kōchi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, with Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka as the performers for Godzilla.
Before the film starts, you hear Godzilla stomping and roaring. Then, the film really begins:
In the south Pacific Ocean on August 13, 1954, people on a cargo ship known as the Eiko-Maru are calmly listening to someone playing clarinet until, they hear something and the boat is mysteriously attacked and destroyed by an unseen force, killing most, but not all of the people. The burning vessel thank sinks into the ocean as we cut to Hideo Ogata, a sailor in the Japanese Coast Guard. He gets a phone call, telling him that he should the investigate the Eiko-Maru's disappearance along with his girlfriend Emiko Yamane. News start reporting about the 7500 ton freighter, which is owned by the Southern Sea Steamship Company.
Meanwhile, the unseen force attacks, destroys and sinks another boat known as the Bingo-maru, which is owned by the same company as the Eiko-maru, the Southern Sea Steamship Company. Three people have survived either Eiko-Maru attack or the Bingo-maru attack, who are picked up by a fishing boat and being taken to Odo Island, but unfortunately, it is reported that the boat from Odo Island has met the same fate while at the island, youngster Shinkichi Yamada and the others find a raft, which contains one of the survivors named Masaji Yamada, Shinkichi's biological brother who mentions that a monster is responsible for destroying the ship. The Odo Islanders believe this attack to have been caused by their ocean god, dubbed Godzilla, whom they used to sacrifice girls to, in order to prevent him from feeding on them all, back when fishing days where poor.
At night, while the natives on Odo Island have an exorcism ceremony in order to please Godzilla and while Shinkichi, Masaji and their mother are sleeping, a powerful storm strikes the small island and something destroys the house, killing Masaji and his mother, but Shinkichi is the only one who makes it out alive. 7 other people have been killed during the attack, along with twelve cows and eight pigs. One day later, Shinkichi informs to the Odo Island mayor Mr. Inada at the Japanese parliament that he saw a giant monster attacking the island and his adoptive father, a paleontologist named Kyohei Yamane, says that they're going to take an expedition to the island to examine the destruction and see if it was in fact, a giant monster.
During the expedition trip to Odo Island, Dr. Kyohei Yamane is accompanied by his biological daughter Emiko Yamane and her boyfriend Hideo Ogata. She is seen by the scientist Daisuke Serizawa, whom was promised to marry her, but instead started dating Ogata. When the expedition team, consisting of both Kyohei and Emiko Yamane, Ogata and the others, finally arrive to Odo Island, they see all the destruction around the island and and the radioactive footprint of the giant creature, as well as an actual trilobite that was long believed to be extinct over millions of years. The Odo Islanders and the expedition team are alerted that their ocean god, Godzilla is arriving, and they run to Mount Hachiba, where they finally discover Godzilla, who turns out to be a gigantic dinosaur-like monster and his appearance causes the immediate evacuation of Odo Island, but before they evacuate, the research team discover the beast's footprints in some areas of the island.
Meanwhile in the National Diet Building, Dr. Yamane, while teaching about dinosaurs and the Jurassic period, proposes that Godzilla is some of sort of prehistoric amphibious reptile from the following geologic period, the Cretaceous, in which marine reptiles evolved into terrestrial reptiles. He estimates the creature to be approximately 50 meters tall and explains that Godzilla, along with other members of its species, survived by eating deep sea organisms for millions of years, hibernating underwater in the South Pacific ocean. However, in the present time, the creature was disturbed during repeated thermonuclear bomb tests which destroyed his habitat, killing the rest of his family and horrendously mutating him in the process (It was not said, but it was implied that is an American hydrogen bomb test). Professor Yamane says that sediment from Godzilla's footprints indicate the presence of Strontium-90, a radioactive product of nuclear fission and harmful isotope of strontium. However, member of the parliament, Mr. Oyama, says that the report of Godzilla must not be made public and if they don't tell anyone about the enraged creature, it would cause the deaths of thousands of citizens. He is called an "idiot" by a woman, which causes chaos to break loose in the building.
Later on, the public are starting to be aware of Godzilla's origins and that there is a giant mutated monster around, so the anti-Godzilla frigates are sent in an attempt to destroy the irradiated terror in the South Pacific once and for all, sending a few depth-charges at him, while Ogata and the Yamanes are watching it on TV, but Dr. Yamane wants Godzilla to not be killed because he feels the creature must be studied. After Godzilla is declared dead, the Japanese people are now glad to hear this report until Godzilla emerges from Tokyo Bay, completely uninjured, which causes the people on a boat to panic. Dr. Yamane informs to the government that Godzilla is invulnerable to conventional weaponry and even though the monster has absorbed incredible amounts of atomic radiation, he still survived. It is revealed that Dr. Serizawa wears an eye-patch because of the injures he got during World War II and the reason why Emiko didn't marry him is because she always thought of him as an older brother rather than a lover.
Why It Rocks
- One of the first kaiju and tokusatsu films ever made, it effectively kickstarted both genres. This film also introduced a new animation technique known as "suitmation", which was extremely rare at the time.
- It's the first movie featuring the classic Japanese monster Godzilla, who effectively became one of the most iconic monsters of both cinema and pop culture, being commonly known as the "King of the Monsters".
- The Godzilla suit looks surprisingly really good for 1950s standards. The suit featured small arms, a heavy lower body, black irises, tiny pupils, fangs, pointy ears and of course, Godzilla's iconic dorsal plates. Not to mention, Godzilla in the movie has horrified audiences. In fact, during one screening, audiences legitimately evacuated the theaters out of fear after the scene of Godzilla destroying the Toho theater played.
- The poster is iconic and one of the most famous movie posters ever made. The film's American poster is well-known and it's really well drawn.
- Godzilla succeeds at being a very scary metaphor for nuclear destruction. He wasn't portrayed as your average giant movie monster, he was rather portrayed as a force of destruction who seeks to punish humanity for the sins of his creation.
- Impressive special effects for the time that were made by Eiji Tsuburaya, such as when Godzilla first ever breathes his trademark Atomic Ray, everything that's hit by it melts like if it was acid and other times, the ray causes things to explode.
- Excellent acting, especially from Akihiko Hirata.
- A few taglines for the film are very accurate and really good, such as "A monster of mass destruction".
- Nice and clever cameos from director Ishiro Honda and actor Haruo Nakajima (the man who who plays Godzilla) who makes a cameo as a man inside the electric room.
- The Human characters are likable, especially Dr. Kyohei Yamane and Dr. Daisuke Serizawa. They don't act like stereotypical evil politicians or mad scientists who want to take over the world, these characters are rather written as three-dimension characters.
- Great soundtrack composed by Akira Ifukube, especially "Godzilla Under The Sea" and of course "Main Title", which although was known as the main title song on the soundtrack, it went on to become Godzilla's most iconic theme and in later films, was replaced with the "Godzilla March".
- It provides social commentary regarding Japan's experience in the aftermath of World War II.
- The ending is sad, but in a good way.
- Gritty and marvelous cinematography courtesy by Masao Tamai which sets the dark and depressing tone of the film.
- Great pacing.
- The opening scene is pretty good and it doesn't show Godzilla attacking the two cargo ships, which builds up the suspense. The scene also mirrors the Castle Bravo thermonuclear test that condemned the Daigo Fukuryū Maru (Lucky Dragon No. 5) tuna fishing vessel, which caused the 23 crew-members to suffer and die from acute radiation syndrome after being exposed to the fallout of a 15-megaton device nuclear device that was 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bombs ("Little Man" and "Fat Boy" respectively) that were detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.
- And when Godzilla does show up, making his first ever appearance, there is no music in the background, just his roar and people screaming in terror, which makes this scene more suspenseful.
- Pays tribute to King Kong, one of the main inspirations for Godzilla, such as when an elderly Odo Islander mentions that they used to sacrifice girls to Godzilla, similar to how the natives of Skull Island sacrifice girls to Kong.
- Amazing sound mixing, especially Godzilla's iconic trademark roar, which was the sound of a leather glove being rubbed against a stringed instrument, a double bass to be more specific. The roar's official onomatopoeia is "GYAOON" or "GYAOOOOOOOOOOOOON" despite several people describing it as "SKREEOONK".
- This film, specifically its 1956 American version, has inspired several filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, whom cited it as an inspiration for Jurassic Park, as well as citing its nuclear themes and Godzilla himself as the main inspiration.
- Amazing dialogue, such as "This creature, according to Odo Island island folklore is called... Godzilla".
- The movie's black-and-white coloration fits in with it's dark, gritty, and depressing tone. In fact, some scenes actually look downright unnerving solely because of the black-and-white colors.
- It handles it's message about the horrors of nuclear war and nuclear testing beautifully and incredibly well without being preachy or heavy-handed at all.
The Only Bad Qualities
- In the scene where Serizawa burns his notes for the Oxygen Destroyer, Emiko looks at the burning notes and then an awkward jump-cut happens when she bursts into tears.
- Some scientific inaccuracies: Dr. Yamane states that the Jurassic period was 2 million years ago, but in actuality, it was 201.3 to 145 million years ago. And also, trilobites did not live during the Jurassic Period, they lived from the Cambrian period to the Permian period, 521 to 251.9 million years ago.
- Godzilla's Japanese name "Gojira" is a combination of the words "gorira", meaning "gorilla" and "kujira", meaning "whale". "Gorira" represents his utter strength whereas "kujira" represents both his aquatic lifestyle and immense size. There is no evidence for the evidence of a big tough guy who worked for Toho with that nickname, or that Godzilla was nicknamed after him.
- Godzilla stands 50 meters tall, measures 122 meters long and weighs at 20,000 metric tons (22,000 short tons), making him 115 times heavier than the blue whale, the largest animal in the world, weighing at around 50-173 metric tons (55-190 short tons) when fully grown. He is also 3333 times heavier than the African bush elephant, the heaviest terrestrial animal in the world, with males weighing at about 6 metric tons (6.5 short tons).
- Godzilla stands at the same exact height as the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris, France. However, in the 1956 Americanized version, it is stated that he's over 400 (121.92 meters) feet tall since producer Joseph E. Levine felt that 50 meters wasn't "powerful enough".
- The Godzilla suit stood 6.5 feet tall and weighed 200 lbs, and was made of bamboo, metal mesh and dense latex rubber.