The original masterpiece from Ishiro Honda that inspired arguably the most enduring "franchise" in film history. I use the term franchise in quotations because in my opinion Godzilla is more like a genre than a franchise at this point, with films varying in quality from this (at the very top) to countless campy trash classics, and a few bloated and abysmal failures. This started the formula, and as such the story is much what you would expect from a Godzilla movie. Godzilla has awaken from the sea, and has come to inflict as much destruction as possible upon Japan. What sets this film apart from it's followers and is it's astute sense of social context. This film isn't just an entertaining monster movie, but also is greatly concerned with issues of ethics and atomic power. This film spends a lot more time on justifying Godzilla's presence, the back story being that he is monster of man's creation, as he is the result of atomic energy. When it becomes apparent that he is impervious to all known weaponry of man, it becomes obvious that a new form of weapon will be necessary. One doctor has developed such a weapon, an oxygen destroyer, but this doctor is a very ethical man, and knows that if he turns his weapon over to the military it will be used again for less humanitarian reasons. There is also the conflict of the zoologist, played wonderfully by Takashi Simura, whom I've grown to be a pretty big fan of, through his many films with Akira Kurosawa, who argues that the important issue is why Godzilla is unharmed by the atomic weapons of man, rather simply than how to destroy the monster. In short he feels it is more important to understand Godzilla and why he wants to destroy human society, than it is to destroy him, and continue on the course that man has taken. This film couldn't have been made anywhere but Japan, and there are obvious ties between the nihilistic destruction of Godzilla and that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. This social commentary is delivered very poignantly and is not exactly subtle, but those of you who don't have any interest in context or rationalisation won't be disappointed either. This is still a highly entertaining monster Sci-Fi/Monster film, just one that has more of a brain than is usually expected or possibly wanted by some. Effects wise this is more or less what you would expect, but the stark black and white removes the campy air that usually drags Godzilla films down, and overall it feels much more haunting and menacing than most of the films that followed it. In short required viewings if you've ever been even mildly entertained by any Godzilla film. If you haven't, you still owe it to yourself to see this, just check your preconceptions at the door, because this is so much more than what audiences have come to expect from the Godzilla name. 5/5.
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