Godzilla: Gojira, Stripped

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Julie Y. Moon
ANTHR 2560
Paper 2: Godzilla vs. Gojira
Prof. Hirokazu Miyazaki

Godzilla: Gojira, stripped

The film Gojira, released in 1954 by Toho Studios, was a tremendous success to the Japanese public and the first postwar film to gain an international audience. Gojira is a science-fantasy film about a mutant creature from the Jurassic period with nuclear powers, brought to life as a result of the atomic explosion and nearby nuclear bomb testing. In 1956, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was released in the U.S. as an American version of the original Japanese movie. This version was heavily edited with English dubbing and the deletion of various scenes, altered strategically in a political fashion for the American audience as a cheesy monster film. Whereas Gojira addresses Japan’s postwar trauma such as the atomic bombings, destruction, and defeat, the portrayal of such crucial messages are lost in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The original movie sends a strong anti-nuclear message and educates the audience of moral obligations behind scientific and technological advancements. Importantly, it serves as a reminder to the Japanese audience not to forget the atomic bombing and the aftermath of the bomb, not to forget that they are all survivors thus to act with courage and responsibility as individuals. It serves to remind the nation’s people to unite and work together as a nation for the security of Japan’s future.

The large discrepancy between the sequence of events that lead to Godzilla’s initial appearance in Gojira and Godzilla may account for the difference in the depiction of the creature. In Godzilla, the scenes are rearranged so that the movie begins by showing the hospital, crowded with injured people from Godzilla’s destruction in Tokyo. The narration starts with an ominous tone that build suspense and horror while suggesting that what had happened was a direct attack to the human population by an unknown force that is not only extremely powerful, but merciless. Godzilla continues by rewinding back to the first Godzilla incident, the explosion of the ship. Subsequently, more ships and rescue ships continue to meet the same fate without any knowledge of what had caused it. The American version prolongs the suspense by not revealing any clue to the audience of Godzilla. Unlike Gojira, which introduces to the viewers Godzilla’s footprints and evidentiary information of its origins and radioactivity before the creature’s first appearance, Godzilla keeps Godzilla as a mere rumor of a ‘monster’ by the islanders. Whereas Gojira portrays Godzilla as a rather neutral creature and explains the science behind its awakening (which humans are responsible for and Godzilla was unknowingly exposed to), Godzilla terrorizes the audience with the image of a vicious, merciless monster straight out of a horror movie. Shown only in large-scale scenes of hospitals bombarded with wounded people, the impersonalized portrayal of the victims creates a distance with the viewer and gives the impression of merely the aftermath of a large disaster. Whereas Gojira emphasizes the creation and awakening of this monster and explains the science and technology behind it, Godzilla oversimplifies this aspect and portrays Godzilla just as this terrible creature that appears out of nowhere and brings destruction upon the world.

The emphasis on scientific research and technology is left out in the American version of the film. For example, in the newspaper pressroom, the reporters discuss Dr. Yamane’s argument for prioritizing scientific research on the existence of Godzilla. Godzilla is focused on its part as a monster-film genre – the suspenseful, loose, monstrous creature destroying the world and a sudden solution out of nowhere to kill it. The American film does not consider the scientific aspect at all and is just casually mentioned enough to string the plot along. Gojira is significantly more sensitive in...
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