Godzilla is one of the most famous monsters in the entire world. He has reigned as the king of monsters on the big screen, cartoons, and comic books. (We won’t mention the video games). But are Godzilla movies ‘horror’ movies. And how would a giant monster truly fit into the literary world?
Godzilla (1954) was an incredible film, full of despair and the full realization that the threat of radiation and nuclear weapons was ever-present. Godzilla, was terrifying because he represented the specter of Japan’s powerlessness in the face of the nuclear bomb, as well as the crippling of their rights as a nation after WWII. It is about the dangers of an arms race and the loss of humanity that must go hand in hand with developing horrifying weapons.
Many of the movies that followed lost the nuance of these monsters as parables, either ignoring the idea altogether in favor of a giant monster melee or being so obvious as to be cartoonish and garish (I’m looking at your Hedorah). These fights are much beloved, including by me, the spectacle of giant monsters fighting filling the silver screen fills me with adrenaline, it allowed Godzilla, and his cohorts in Gamera and the Ultraman mythologies to all flourish. Beneath these fights, there is always some sort of message. Some lessons to learn, but it’s often drowned out by explosions and, let’s be honest, for many of us, bad dubbing.
Shin-Godzilla changed that. The movie has action, sure, but Godzilla is the lone giant monsters and spends much of the movie standing still and resting, or just moving forward. The action is on the red tape and panic of the Japanese government. The contrast between the older generation maintaining the status quo and the younger who seek to make Japan better. All the while the rest of the world threatens Japan with nuclear weapons if they cannot stop the Kaiju. It is an amazing film and deserves every award it has received.
This is where the kaiju fits into literature. Yes, it’s a set piece of action against which our protagonists can flee or try to fight. But to truly to the strange beasts justice you have to remember their original purpose: parable. Kaiju should be used to represent some implacable danger, something that man cannot fight with weapons or military. Something that, without some type of adaption. The kaiju is a force of nature that must be addressed by changing as a species. That, in my opinion, is the kaiju’s place in modern horror.