The original, 1954 Godzilla/Gojira film is much more of a science-fiction movie than a monster movie. Partially this is due to the movie codifying the monster genre, so there wasn’t a tradition to draw from yet, but also because it very much subscribes to the science-fiction convention of using outlandish yet at least seemingly semi-plausible scientific happenings as a vehicle for social commentary, here on the nuclear bombs dropped on Japanese cities in World War II.
As with the other 1940s/1950s Japanese cinema I’ve been watching lately (in the form of Kurosawa films), there’s a focus on melodrama and very emotive acting here. I was pleased to see frequent Kurosawa collaborator Takashi Shimura in a lead role, his character often espousing dialogue relating to the hubris of man and scientific achievement.
The characters all embody the post-war feelings of Japan as a nation, the paranoia, the discontent, the fear, but also the resolve, the drive to secure a better and safer future, and so on. The ending is surprisingly tragic for many of the human lead characters, but the film ends in a strong and cohesive manner, nothing like the sequel-hook endings of the later Godzilla films when it became a franchise unto itself.
It’s quite an affecting movie, and a great insight into Japanese cinema and mentality of the time. I give it three and a half diving suits, and an Oxygen Destroyer.