Almost 70 years after Godzilla was created, the character’s original symbolism as a warning against nuclear proliferation still stands.
Godzilla has certainly come a long way since he terrorized Tokyo in the original 1954 film. Godzilla and its Americanized counterpart, 1956 Godzilla, king of the monsters! Godzilla, a gigantic, prehistoric, dinosaur-like amphibian creature fueled by nuclear radiation, began as a metaphor warning against the dangers of nuclear proliferation in the wake of WWII and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nearly seven decades later, not only does Godzilla’s original symbolism still matter, it is worth refocusing on the franchise.
No separation from 1954 Godzilla from its origins in the real-life horrors of nuclear war. The film’s plot is set in motion when underwater hydrogen bomb tests awaken the titular Kaiju from his slumber, leading him to wreak havoc on the inhabitants of the island of Odo. It was soon revealed that the creature leaves radioactive footprints and only grows stronger when attacked by nuclear weapons, leaving those who survive its attacks to suffer from radiation sickness. To further emphasize the links between the fantastic monster and the very real fear of a post-WWII nuclear holocaust, the film’s art director Akira Watanabe even modeled the texture of Godzilla’s skin after the scars. keloids that were seen in those who experienced nuclear bombardment. from Hiroshima.
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Like many other world famous movie monsters, Godzilla has evolved over the decades. The creature’s transformation from villain to antihero dates back to 1964. Ghidorah, the three-headed monster, a film in which Godzilla teams up with his companions Kaiju Mothra and Rodan to protect humanity from the three-headed dragon-like creature King Ghidorah. Since then, Godzilla has been back and forth between being humanity’s savior and his enemy, but he continues to function as an allegory for nuclear weapons. Ken Watanabe insisted that the core element of the character be carried over before signing to play Dr. Ishirō Serizawa in Warner Bros. ‘2014 Godzilla reboot, citing it as an ongoing problem in the modern world.
The MonsterVerse property launched in 2014 Godzilla has focused on the theme that humanity is its own worst enemy almost as much as the original Godzilla did in the 1950s. At the same time, the nuclear aspect of Godzilla has taken a backseat to the pressing issue of climate change, with 2019 Godzilla: King of the Monsters featuring Godzilla and his fellow Kaiju, AKA Titans, as the key to restoring balance to the natural world. To the film’s credit, he touched on the issue of nuclear weapons by having Dr. Serizawa sacrifice his life to manually detonate a nuclear warhead and increase Godzilla’s power to fight King Ghidorah. And yet, when this led to Godzilla causing a thermonuclear explosion from rising radiation levels, the consequences were largely unaddressed.
Monster kingThe climax gives MonsterVerse a new excuse to bring the issue of nuclear proliferation back to the forefront with the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong. While it appears the film will spend a lot of time exploring what life is like in a world where humans and Titans have learned to live together, there are indications that the battle of Godzilla and King Kong will touch upon concerns over nuclear weapons. The film will have Kong wield an anti-atomic ax and dive into the history of the ancient war on Titan, possibly exploring the role of nuclear power in Godzilla’s genealogical past along the way.
As much as Godzilla continues to serve as a warning against humanity’s attempts to tame nature and what can happen when they fail, the creature remains a potent metaphor for nuclear war and the terrors it can inflict. There are far more nuclear weapons in the world today than there were when the King of the Monsters first stomped on the screen, so if anything, the original symbolism of the Kaiju is just as haunting now as it was in the 1950s. It is the same reason why few entries in the Godzilla franchise have come close to bringing back the horror of the 1954 film.
Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein, Godzilla vs. Kong stars Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, and Brian Tyree Henry. The film hits theaters and at HBO Max on March 26.
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