From time immemorial, humans have remained fascinated with monsters and right from the time of epics to the modern times, all forms of art, including literature, sculpture, painting or movies, reflect this trend. The movie, “Godzilla” (1998), co-written and directed by Roland Emmerich, is a classic example of the human affinity towards monsters. Though received poorly in terms of critical acclaim, the movie has been a grand box office success.
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This illustrates its mass appeal and, in turn, indicates that the monster in the movie, Godzilla, has had a strong impact on the audience. The movie, through the depiction of a monster called Godzilla, expresses the anxiety of the modern world about the adverse impacts of technology, especially in the context of nuclear testing, on human race.
The movie owes its audience appeal to its deft and subtle treatment of the monster. Right from the beginning, the work ignites the curiosity of its viewers by showing only parts of the monster or the impact it creates on its surroundings. This is especially noteworthy in scenes like when the monster appears from the sea the audience does not get to view it. On the other hand, they see an old man, fishing on a bridge and something pulling away his fishing gear.
Then the movie presents the raising sea water surging towards the shore, in the process ripping apart a whole bridge. This, in a way, alludes to the fact that humans are unable to visualize the evil effects of technology. The monster portrayed in the movie, thus represents certain specific anxieties about technology but by depicting the monster in a subtle manner, the movie portends the fact that humans are, in fact, not able to fully recognize how monstrous a beast technology can turn into.
Similarly, when the monster, Godzilla enters the city, the audience does not get to see it as a whole being. At first, the viewers see the tilting police car, part of a building breaking into pieces, and get the impression that an enormous thing is on the prowl, stamping the earth and squeezing through buildings in an alley.
Then it races across the main street, wreaking havoc, stamping down cars. The audience, here, is presented the view of its enormous paws and scaled talons, but not the monster as such. Again, the historical significance of the theme dealt here is that humans do not recognize the full impact of calamities that technological advancement brings.
The historical construct of monsters encompasses the concept of evil incarnation, which poses a huge threat to humanity. Epics in all religions contain the depiction of such monsters, in the form of social as well as political evils. On a similar vein, the monster in the movie, “Godzilla,” also represents evil in a political as well social context. It proportion is on a scale so huge as to consume the entire humanity, deftly depicted by showing the marks of its paws on the earth.
When the protagonist, Dr. Tatopoulos, is recruited to investigate the monster, the colonel takes him into its foot mark. When he asks the colonel for the sample, the latter responds, “We’re standing right in it” (Godzilla, Film). The camera then pans out to offer an aerial view of the footprint.
This is when the protagonist as well as the audience really recognizes the enormity of the mark. In other words, this is an inference that humans never understand the enormity of the calamity when they indulge in certain activities that are hazardous to the environment and nature.
In this context, it is relevant that technology brings many advantages to the human beings. However, sometimes out of greed and sometimes out of over enthusiasm, they try to exploit technology for ulterior motives, pushing its capabilities beyond all limits. This entails the generation of a problem, which finally culminates into a disaster.
This theme is eloquently presented in the movie, where the audience sees footages of “French nuclear tests with shots of lizards emerging to observe” (Emmerlich). Consequently, one lizard undergoes a genetic mutation, which transforms it into an enormous monster. In a political context, the French uses the test facility to gain mileage in scientific and defense fronts. This becomes the cause for environmental problems in a region, which is a social issue.
Thus, it transpires the ulterior motives of a government become the cause for environmental problems and it also results in the creation of a monster that becomes a social menace in another country. The root cause of the problem here is the selfishness of humans, who misuse technology. To avoid any political embarrassment, the French sends their envoys to cover up this secret.
As the monster continues its rampage, the US military, French secret service agents, the protagonist Dr. Niko Tatopoulos etc chases it around. The US military colonel is hell bent on killing the monster while Dr. Tatopoulos does not want it killed. Subsequently, Godzilla becomes pregnant, hibernates in a building, and lays a large number of eggs.
The final choice for the humans is to kill the monster and destroy the eggs. The protagonist with the SDECE man and his girlfriend, who come to investigate, are also trapped inside. However, they escape and the military bombards the building just as they get out. But the monster rises from the dead and chases the protagonist and his associates.
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Finally, the monster gets trapped on Brooklyn Bridge and the USAF fires missiles at the monster, which eventually kill it. The whole story revolves around the monster, which in fact is the result of a human folly.
The nuclear testing by the French has both political as well as social relevance. Politically, the country wants to gain a superior hand in scientific and defense matters. The social impact of their act derives from the fact that the nuclear testing done by them causes environmental hazards apart from genetically mutating a lizard and transforming it into a monster, which wreaks havoc in another country.
The movie, Godzilla, through the depiction of this enormous monster, thus illustrates the carnage that technology can bring into human lives. By depicting how a nuclear test has affected the environment and the living beings in it, the movie attempts to reveal to viewers the risks in stretching technology too far. Progressing from subtle hints about the monster and showing in smaller details at first and then in its enormity, the movie creates an impact in the audience and forces them to recognize the adverse results of misused technology.
Emmerlich, Roland, 1998. Cinema Marquee Generator. Mildperil.com. 1998.
Godzilla (1998 Film). dir. Emmerich Roland, 1998. Film.