Cloverfield and Gojira

>> Sunday, January 20, 2008

Having just finished the first part of my Cloverfield-inspired double-feature, and re-watched Gojira, I feel obligated to re-visit something I wrote in my last post. I wrote:
I'm not totally sure that the most interesting thing about Cloverfield was deliberate. See, the thing with Gojira and its sequels, Cloverfield's obvious inspiration, is that the monster is actually the hero of those movies. The destruction of Tokyo may be unpleasant, but honestly, it's our own damn fault for inventing the atom bomb in the first place. And in later movies, of course, the monster is explicitly the hero, saving the Earth from other giant monsters, from giant robots, and from aliens.

Well, that's not really accurate. It's accurate as far as the various Godzilla sequels go, but it's not really accurate as far as the original movie itself is concerned.

Just as Cloverfield can be regarded as capturing a little of the post-9/11 American zeitgeist, Gojira (made less than a decade after the end of World War II) captures something of the post
-WWII Japanese zeitgeist. There are plenty of crying and grieving victims in Gojira, turning to their TVs for answers. And just as images in Cloverfield consciously echo photos from New York in September 2001, images in Gojira deliberately mimic photographs from Hiroshima in August 1945.

All of which is to say that I somehow managed to give both movies insufficient credit with my comment. I momentarily forgot that Gojira--the original, not the butchered American edit starring Raymond Burr--is an intensely political film stuffed full of references to the firebombing of Tokyo, to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to the Lucky Dragon incident of 1954 that was one of the direct inspirations for Gojira (the incident is recreated in the first scene of the movie). And because I forgot this critical thing about Gojira, the most important thing about the movie itself, I didn't give Cloverfield enough credit for the very smart way it takes pages from Gojira's playbook: Cloverfield is the true Americanized remake of Gojira (in contrast to the 1998 attempt--perhaps one of the fortunate faults of the '98 Godzilla was that we Americans hadn't bled recently enough to really make a viscerally-connecting movie about a monster destroying a city).

Go get the original Gojira if you haven't seen it--the 2004 "Deluxe Collector's Edition" is only $14.99 from Amazon, and your fifteen bucks gets you both a sometimes-undervalued classic and the Raymond Burr version most of us have seen (along with tons of other goodies). And go see Cloverfield (which, ironically, will cost you more than the Gojira collector's set if you get popcorn and a soda when you go to the theater... wow).

Alright, enough chatter--I'm off for the second part of my double-feature: Escape From New York. Snake Plissken? I heard you were dead.




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