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Godzilla King of the Monsters
It is common for any reference to Godzilla movies to have an element of ridicule to them, focusing on poorly synced dubbing, rubber suits and painfully obvious strings.
True as this may be, it is a cynicism that misses the point. For Godzilla, greatest of the daikaiju or 'giant monsters' still endures, an iconic and even heroic figure in our consciousness.
Perhaps it is because the movies do so many things poorly it is difficult to establish what they do well.
First introduced to the world in Ishiro Honda's classic 'Godzilla' in 1954 Godzilla is a massive, unstoppable city destroying menace, born of man's nuclear folly. Less than a decade after nuclear bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Godzilla can be seen more succinctly as a morality play and an expression of post nuclear angst rather than the more facile interpretation of nothing more than a giant monster running amok.
As much as this more serious historical context of Godzilla's creation is often glossed over or missed altogether, it is true that the role and purpose of Godzilla evolves, going from being a purely destructive force, to a heroic one. Most specifically a hero to children.
As much as youth can be a time of simple pleasures and few responsibilities, it is also a time spent all but powerless in a world of adults. Perhaps Godzilla, as both a destructive force, and as a friend of children creates an appeal rooted in the unfulfilled desire of children to be able to exert their will.
It is in view of this progression of the Godzilla persona that due credit must be given to the excellent acting done in the movies. This sort of statement may cause a bit of a surprise reaction, as the Godzilla movies have been anything but famous for their acting, however a strong case can be made for Haruo Nakajima, the man in the suit.
More than simply 'some guy they stuffed in a rubber suit', Nakajima was and is considered a master 'suit actor' and from 1954 up until he retired in 1972, he was Godzilla.
With no dialogue, unable to show any facial expressions and inside a suffocating , awkward and heavy suit, Nakajima is still able to imbue the character with a distinct and consistent persona.
To put this in perspective, consider another iconic suit character in Darth Vader, and how much the character relies on the voice talents of James Earl Jones to fully convey Vader to the viewer.
In fact, it may be difficult to think of more iconic and identifiable suit characters that Nakajima's Godzilla, that is well known to North American audiences other than perhaps Sesame Street's Big Bird, and even then dialogue is used to convey the persona of the character.
This may very well be what the 1998 American remake got so incredibly and comepletely wrong.
Their hubris was that they thought that Godzilla was about a big giant monster running around and knocking things over, and that by portraying that with a higher level of sophistication, replacing old rubber suits with modern day special effects and CGI, that they would have a winner.
Instead, they missed the point, as well as the persona of Godzilla and gave the world a mostly forgotten forgery devoid of any charm or magic.
Despite whatever other spectacle it might have delivered on, it failed to deliver on it's main promise, and that is Godzilla.
Instead they gave us a giant lizard running around breaking things.
Godzilla, is much more than that.
Godzilla is king of the monsters.