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YMMV / Godzilla (1954)

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • In the first two acts, Godzilla destroys multiple boats, destroys a village during a typhoon, and attacks Tokyo twice, thoroughly destroying the city in the process. In the final act, Godzilla is... resting in peace. To him, it may be the fact that Humans Are Bastards and conducting nuclear tests which may have scarred him for life. His successors even see humans this way. Even the decidedly more benevolent Legendary Godzilla treats humans with passive indifference and would rather stay away from them.
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    • Godzilla, having vented his revenge and left his message to man, is now content to live in the sea. But humanity cannot be sure he will never return, and so must destroy him.
  • Angst Aversion: Initially, this happened when the film came out in 1954, where the source of that angst was the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Daigo Fukuryū Maru incident in March 1 of that year. This later became subverted in recent years, and it has garnered enough sympathy for the audience, both Japanese and western fans of the franchise, as a post-war commentary of Japanese life after World War II, but its effects weighs heavily as life went on. Even modern fans starts to see what the the film was famous for.
  • Anvilicious: This is a film about the bomb, and it's not at all subtle about it. Godzilla is born from reckless nuclear testing, and, like the atom, proves a dangerous and unstoppable force far outside man's control. Furthermore, Dr. Serizawa's anguish over potentially developing the next superweapon and struggle over using it has obvious overtones for the atomic age. The film closes with Dr. Yamane solemnly predicting that future atomic testing and brinkmanship will only create more monsters.
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  • Critical Dissonance: The original film wasn't well-received by critics and moviegoers at the time due to various reasons, but after 50 years after its theatrical debut in the US, it's become a classic film of the franchise.
  • First Installment Wins: After over thirty films, almost all of which have at least some fans, the original is still almost universally regarded as the finest entry in the series.
  • Genre Turning Point: King Kong (1933) was the first giant monster movie where Kong was Tragic Villain rather than a mindless monster out to cause mayhem. 1950s giant monster movies had the basic premise of a monster being either mutated by a nuclear weapon or awaken them, and it often dies swiftly due to scientists figuring out how to kill it. This film turns all those things combined into a Japanese post-war tragedy and the main monster isn't a peanut-brained wild animal on a rampage. It is a literal Tragic Monster whose own tragedies isn't sugarcoated. Godzilla is a prime example of a monster who is a victim of the same nuclear warfare.
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  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Due to its North American premiere in 2004, several fans love this film more than Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956). And according to the director, the film (in its americanized version) reviewed better in the US than it did in Japan in its initial run (likely due it being considered Too Soon), which he suggests likely contributed to the film being Vindicated by History later on.
  • Growing the Beard: This is perhaps the first, if not, only film in the franchise where it takes a typical giant monster movie involving nukes, and deconstructs it in a way that it feels more of a post-war tragedy (which it actually is). While later Kaiju films attempt to emulate the Tragic Monster formula, it does not have the same effect this film does, where Tragedy and the consequences that follow affects on a major scale that it includes the monster itself. This is actually the point of the film.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Dr. Yamane expresses the doubt that this Godzilla was the only one after the Oxygen Destroyer kills him. The following year proved him right.
    • Two, thanks to Godzilla vs. Destoroyah:
      • The last thing Serizawa says to Ogata and Emiko is to be together. As we found out in Destoroyah, she did not marry him, as she chose to be Serizawa's wife posthumously.
      • From the same film, Serizawa destroyed the plans and notes for the Oxygen Destroyer so that it could never be used again. The weapon ends up creating one of Godzilla's deadliest opponents, Destoroyah.
    • In a similar vein as mentioned above, but in a different continuity, the Oxygen Destroyer does get used as a weapon by the military. One to stop the Kaiju, but it further shows that Serizawa’s greatest fear has become a reality.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Dr. Yamane, the benevolent scientist who discovers the truth about Gojira's origins, is played by noted Japanese thespian Takashi Shimura, who was famous at the time for his role as a middle-aged family man dying of cancer. Sixty years later, the second American reboot would use Dr. Joe Brody in an almost identical role. Brody, of course, would be played by noted American thespian Bryan Cranston...who was best known for his role as a middle-aged family man dying of cancer.
  • Homegrown Hero: The film has an all-Japanese cast. When it was dubbed and reedited as Godzilla: King of the Monsters! for American audiences, a subplot was added about an American journalist reporting on Godzilla's rampage.
  • It Was His Sled: Serizawa kills Godzilla with the Oxygen Destroyer.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Initially, this is where people wanted to see: The Big G himself. The other side is where it's a completely different story.
  • Lost in Imitation: It was a horror film. Prior to this and Godzilla Raids Again, all the other films become a sci-fi Kaiju movie with each of their own themes and perks.
  • MST3K Mantra: As the commentary brings up, there are several aspects of the film that you have to ignore in terms of reality for it to work, like the following.
    • If a giant dinosaur got hit with a hydrogen bomb blast, it would probably just kill it.
    • Why would a hydrogen bomb give a dinosaur atomic breath and invulnerability to weapons (remember, this was made 9 years before the first X-Men issue, so the idea of mutant superpowers wasn't in common consciousness yet)
    • A weapon that destroys oxygen doesn't kill everything in the water, it just creates a lot of hydrogen.
    • You can't destroy an element, so the weapon in itself is impossible. Well, you theoretically can, either be splitting the atoms into lighter elements or creating an explosion far worse than any nuclear weapon ever made. But to do either is not possible outside of a laboratory at a minuscule scale.
    • The fact that the weapon simply stops working within Tokyo bay instead of spreading and affecting all water in the world as it logically would.
    • And finally, why the monster seemed compelled to keep attacking Japan when other islands are relatively nearby.
  • Narm: When Emiko is shown Serizawa's experiment, she looks away and is accompanied by a sound that is supposed to sound dramatic but sounds more like the composer fell asleep on the piano.
  • Narm Charm: Despite the comical music when Emiko is shown the Oxygen Destroyer, it is still easily the most terrifying entry in the series it ended up creating, and even today can be seen as pretty scary.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Has its own page.
  • Nightmare Retardant: Despite the often primitive effects, the scary parts of the movie work remarkably well, except for... Godzilla's hand-puppet closeups. His unmoving, shriveled arms are in a constant "about to give a hug" position, and he has Fish Eyes. Combined with the low angles that sometimes make his mouth look like a smile, he looks like all he wants is to hug every building. In another occasion, he turns his head to the side, and ends up looking like one of The Muppets. It also didn't help that Haruo Nakajima could hardly walk in that heavy suit.
  • Older Than They Think: When people think of Godzilla, they refer to the Showa era films, only to overlook this film, which is made in 1954. And thus, any articles about this film will usually be referred as Godzilla (1954).
    • The famous "In Pursuit of Godzilla" theme stems back further in Ifukube's courier, as part of his 1948 violin concerto. This early rendition can be heard in the main titles of this film:
    • Unlike the later sequels where oftentimes Godzilla gets Denser and Wackier due to Characterization Marches On, nope, not this one. The film has an unusual amount of Nightmare Fuel and TearJerkers (hence its own page) that consequences is actually the main theme of this film. No amount of consequences could amount its level. Not even its second remake.
    • Emiko Yamane, surprisingly, is the first female protagonist, if not the very first in a Godzilla movie. Fans assume it's either Ogata, Serizawa, or her father, but Ogata's role is actually played with and is the Decoy Protagonist. Serizawa's importance only happens near the end of the film, and Kyohei Yamane is Mr. Exposition. While she is no Action Girl like other females leads had, if she didn't actually try to find a way to stop Godzilla for good, Japan would have been a nuclear wasteland.
  • Realism-Induced Horror: The reason why this film is a horror film. Godzilla destroying Tokyo is depicted a lot more realistically than later films (with thousands dead and hospitals full of burned and otherwise injured people.) Most of the later films were a lot Lighter and Softer, and rarely showed people actually dying due to monster attacks (with the implication being most of the buildings are unoccupied).
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Kenji Sahara is one of the background characters in the boat scene (he's the guy smoking).
    • Jun Tazaki plays as a politician wanting to keep Godzilla's existence hidden.
  • Sacred Cow: The sacred cow of the franchise. It's widely agreed that the original film is a masterpiece and criticizing it is rare at best. Even people who hate Godzilla movies tend to agree that it's good.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: The idea of a monster being created/awakened by nuclear weapons has long been considered a cliche, even by the end of the decade in which Gojira was made. Because of this, modern viewers are more likely to overlook just how different it was from its contemporaries, and how unorthodox it continues to be as a monster movie.
  • Signature Scene: Too many to count, but let's list them all:
    • The destruction of Eiko Maru and Bingo Maru. This is a direct reference to the Castle Bravo incident that occurred in early March when the US tested a Hydrogen Bomb in the Pacific. And it was on accident.
    • The typhoon scene is one of the intense scenes of the movie where Godzilla makes landfall during a typhoon. The film does not fuck around about the terror and intensity of this scene.
    • Godzilla's first appearance where he immediately scare the crap out of the humans trying to fight him with his signature roar.
    • Serizawa's then mysterious Oxygen Destroyer experiment gives out a new dread of a superweapon more deadly than a nuke. That's terrifying than it sounds.
    • Godzilla's first nighttime raid when he attacks Shinagawa at night. This is not a monster that can be stopped conventionally.
    • The most infamous (and very sad example) is a mother holding her young daughters and telling them “we will see daddy again”. Context? Their father is dead and likely died in World War II.
    • The aftermath. It completes the nuclear metaphor after Tokyo is shown destroyed with hospitals being filled with the dead and dying, and children afflicted by radiation poisoning. Again, this film does not fuck around with this context.
    • Prayer for Peace gets a special mention as it is not only a metaphor for Godzilla's attack, but asking to end the terror that plagued the country. Its symbolism was powerful enough for Serizawa to act.
    • Finally, Godzilla's death. This is important because this isn't a monster on the loose with a chip on its shoulder. This is a Tragic Monster affected by the same weaponry that gave the monster its powers. This context was powerful enough for Kyohei Yamane to give an Alas, Poor Villain eulogy for Godzilla. Serizawa was willing to give up his life to save the world, and to do it, he chooses to die with Godzilla to avoid making another Oxygen Destroyer.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Subtle? No. Effective? Fairly. Something the world needed to hear in the face of a new world war fought with nuclear weapons? Without a doubt. There's even an in-universe example on the main page.
  • Special Effects Failure: A few scenes. Scene one: A military platoon attacking Godzilla, a soldier oddly moves his head in a strange matter. Scene two: A window close-up shows Godzilla's tail. You can see the overhead wires near the tip. And scene 3: The Diet building is seen crumbling twice.
    • The use of toy fire trucks (manned by very obviously toy firemen) coupled with the sped up footage during the attack on Tokyo scene is very, very obvious.
    • The Circular Drive used to show the firetrucks marshaling to prepare for the attack is just as obvious. There's only one truck!
    • During Godzilla's attack with the train, during a close-up of the legs, you can see the suit folding while he's walking.
      • These failures could easily fall under Narm Charm as well, considering the crew were basically inventing techniques as they went along, and one can't help but feel admiration for a film with such an extensive and experimental use of effects.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • The politician played by Jun Tazaki actually made some key points that makes sense. Japan was in the middle of recovery after World War II and the country is still visibly haunted by the atomic bombs that were dropped 9 years ago. Considering Japan was an imperial empire before being defeated, their international affairs was already fragile as it is.
    • Ogata argues with Yamane that Godzilla is a monster born from the same nuclear warfare that still haunts him, but Yamane argues back that because of said warfare, he wants to study Godzilla and how he is still able to be alive. We are actually not supposed to be on his side, but Godzilla is responsible for many griefs for the country that makes it hard to argue against him. He also points out to Serizawa that because Godzilla is responsible for many tragedies that must be stopped. Serizawa's point is that because he found out a destructive force of energy that he does not want its secrets to be revealed and strongly refused to use it. Both men found good points of each others' arguments and it's Serizawa's decision to use the Oxygen Destroyer once.
  • Tough Act to Follow: Averted with its popular third film, King Kong vs. Godzilla, but played straight as a genre as a whole. Other giant monster movies tried to emulate the "Giant monster is a victim of circumstance", but Godzilla is that tough act that eclipses even King Kong (1933) in terms of tragedy and the consequence of humanity's action. The main difference between this film and others is that characters do realize the monster they're trying to kill is a Tragic Monster. This film on the other hand, the audience finds out on their own, but the characters do not, and they ended up killing an innocent monster that is actually the victim of the same warfare as Japan did. The 2016 reboot, Shin Godzilla even ups the ante by giving it a sympathetic Godzilla that mutates out of his control. After all, the series as a whole was based on Japan's real-life post-war tragedies.
  • Values Resonance: The film's message remains powerful and almost universally accepted today. And to think that 60 years ago, humanity was on the verge of blowing itself up.
  • Vindicated by History: Prior to the debut of the film, the film received very negative reviews due to its Too Soon and Nuclear Weapons Taboo imagery. However like its American counterpart King Kong (1933) in Japan, the film was highly praised in America in 2004, where it gained two DVD releases by Classic Media and the Criterion Collection.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: One of the Scenery Porn scenes is when Godzilla heads to the ocean after being discovered is a well-executed map painting.
  • What an Idiot!: So Godzilla has been found out to be the cause of the ships gone missing.
    • You expect: The government officials to listen to Dr. Yamane when he clearly points out no conventional weaponary can kill Godzilla, and he absolutely hates lights.
    • Instead: They try to kill him in the sea (which clearly didn't work), ignore Dr. Yamane's fact of Godzilla being immune to conventional weaponary, have a small platoon to deal with him in his first raid, bombarding the thing when he crosses the electrical towers, and continue attacking him when he has a Breath Weapon. All the course of the second act. Let's not forget they were waving their lights when he surfaced, something Dr. Yamane told the military not to do.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Nope. Unlike the other Lighter and Softer sequels that were often gears towards children, this film is the total opposite, with its imagery of the tragedies Japan has fallen twice over and an ending that's still depressing to this day. This film points out the horrors of nuclear weapons and how that tragedy can create consequences, and how that consequences create tragedy.
  • The Woobie: Where do we even start?
    • Daisuke Serizawa: A horrifically scarred World War II vet who wears an eyepatch, Serizawa is a chemist who just wanted to study the element oxygen. However, in one of his researches, he created the Oxygen Destroyer by pure accident and feared its use as a new superweapon since the nuclear bombs. To say that Ogata wanted to use it against Godzilla proved his Humans Are Bastards viewpoint, but relents after seeing the utter destruction of Tokyo after Godzilla's raid. In the end, he willingly chooses to sacrifice his own life so that the woman he loved ends up with the man she loves and prevent being forced to make another one.
    • Kyohei Yamane, an implied widowed paleontologist, simply wanted to study Godzilla out of pure scientific discovery. But the government proves that they simply want to get rid of him. He ends up having to agree with the government's decision to kill Godzilla, and when Serizawa does kill him, he laments that either Godzilla is the last member of his species, or there's another one out in the world.
    • The entire population of Tokyo. Once living a normal life, the appearance of Godzilla causes them to fear him by simply existing. Godzilla's actions has already caused grieving families and friends, kills Masaji and his mother (mind you, he survived Godzilla's third attack at sea) leaving Shinkichi an orphan, and attacks Tokyo twice over, giving a grim reminder of both the Tokyo Fireraids, and Hiroshima. In the end, hundreds, if not millions, including children are dead or dying of radiation poisoning or burns, and their fear of Godzilla will follow them in decades to come.
    • Godzilla is a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds version. He was a once a simple Godzillasaurus living in underground caverns until one day an H-Bomb set off, giving him scars that resemble radiation burns, and powers that he had no idea he can use. Because of this, he vents his frustrations on the populace, and once he's done, he simply wanted to rest in peace. Unlike the 50's Nuclear Nasty monsters and an Anthropomorphic Personification of the weapon that gave him his powers, Godzilla stands out as the prime example of a Tragic Monster/villain whose mutation was not of his choice to begin with, and his death has no epic fanfare. It is nothing but Tragedy altogether.

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