The inspiration behind the original 1954 Godzilla film should be fairly well known at this point. The nuclear fallout of the atomic bomb as well as the tragedy of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru fishing boat were on the minds of the screen writers who crafted the tale of the horrors of nuclear powers on the Japanese citizens. It’s a tale of tragedy upon tragedy. Even in the more lighthearted films featuring Godzilla as the hero there still remains tragedy. After all, Godzilla, like the Japanese citizens, was also a victim of the bomb. This is so obvious that the recent American Godzilla films should be considered offensive. Oh yeah, spoilers ahead.
In the first film, there is quite a bit to be said about the romanticization of the US military industrial complex. This is a common feature of many American films — so common that it goes unnoticed to many people unless specifically pointed out. This is so prevelent that one could be forgiven for not realizing how atrocious it is in a film featuring a Japanese character whose background is all about the horrors of the American military. Then there’s the little fact that the film also tries to paint the thermonuclear testing that that was so damaging to the Daigo crew as not tests but instead heroic attacks on Godzilla. With no mention of the fallout, of course.
In Godzilla: King of the Monsters we see what I consider a full colonization of Godzilla. Before I go into that, there’s a hard to miss subtext when the lead character is brought onto the scene. He’s a white guy who has been off studying wolves for the past five years but feels comfortable telling the black female military commander that she’s choosing the wrong mission as well as telling the Japanese male scientist that he knows more about the titans and should be considered the expert. Sure, he eventually stopped worrying and learned to love Godzilla like the scientist said he would, but that doesn’t solve the problem of this outsider coming in and asserting himself as the wisest and most knowledgeable guy in the room. He even makes the right call later in the film when Godzilla is hurt. How do you fix a broken atomic monster? With an atomic bomb. In what should be considered a horrifying moment in the film, the Japanese scientist hand delivers a nuclear warhead to Godzilla. The Japanese man sacrifices himself with a nuclear weapon to revive embodiment of Japan’s national pain. And when Godzilla resurfaces, he is backed by the US military. The scene has Godzilla stomping toward the big bad with fighter jets surrounding him. Let me state this more clearly: Godzilla, the creature whose debut film is an allegory of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the American military, engages in a joint military operation with what appears to be the US Air Force.
The whole white American power pride thing really harms what is otherwise a decent special effects film. The monsters are rendered beautifully, and the action is what little kaiju fans have wanted to see for decades. It’s just a shame that it comes at the price of being yet another commercial for white people and the military.