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Godzilla: Nuclear horrors are the real monster... with or without the latex costumes

by Camila Royale
Issue No. 2404

The monster Godzilla

The monster Godzilla


Films with giant monsters have become so much a part of popular culture that there is even a Japanese phrase for the genre, Kaiju eiga. But Godzilla, first seen in 1954, is still the king of the monsters.

Gareth Edwards, director of this latest remake, points out that if you show most people a picture of Godzilla looming over a city they will recognise him. 

In the original film Godzilla was an ancient sea creature from old folk tales. But nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific causes it to mutate and attack Tokyo with radioactive breath. 

The film, released just nine years after the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, dealt with the prospect of humanity unleashing something beyond its control.

The producers wanted to create a monster that could crush cities with the same unstoppable force as a nuclear bomb. 

The threat of nuclear weapons is also a theme of the new film.

It opens with archive footage of weapons tests on Bikini Atoll, white coated scientists poring over maps, a dorsal fin of something huge rising from the waves—and a mushroom cloud. 

An early trailer featured the words of Robert Oppenheimer, one of the inventors of the bomb, quoting Hindu scripture. 

He said “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds”. 

But the 2014 version also deals with the dangers of nuclear power today. In a clear reference to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima disaster, a Japanese nuclear power station is destroyed early on.

We are also taken to a storage facility in the Nevada desert where the US state keeps the toxic nuclear waste it can’t get rid of.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of whether Godzilla is meant to be good or bad. 

Does he stand in for nuclear weapons—or “nature’s” retribution for them?   

Fans will be pleased to know that the look and sound of the monster is faithful to the original, although he’s no longer played by a man in a latex suit. 

And like the potential for nuclear disaster, Godzilla is bigger than ever. 

Godzilla 
Directed by Gareth Edwards
In cinemas now


 

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Tue 20 May 2014, 20:06 BST
Issue No. 2404
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