Godzilla is returning to the big screen next year. The teaser trailer for the movie is out, and it looks like the film will have many of the elements that have made the Godzilla franchise a classic: a city laid waste, terrified running crowds, commuter rail cars ripped to smithereens — and Godzilla’s trademark shriek.
Of course, among the things that will be lacking are the stunt guy in the rubbery suit who portrayed Godzilla, the clearly fake buildings being stepped on and destroyed by the King of Monsters, and the cheesy special effects as Godzilla encountered and fought giant moths and other oversized and bizarre creatures. One of the delights of the original Godzilla was the spliced-in footage of Raymond Burr playing a reporter covering the carnage caused by Godzilla’s emergence, which was added as an obvious afterthought in a studio effort to make the movie more palatable to American audiences. All of that will be gone now, replaced by state of the art computer-generated images and devastation.
The Godzilla films have been interesting for a lot of reasons. Godzilla helped to reintroduce Japan to America after World War II and led the way for the much more significant cultural and business interaction that was to come in later years. Godzilla also tapped a core fear of atomic power in the post-nuclear age, and was the first true environmental disaster film. And the enduring power of Godzilla himself became clear when, in later movies, Godzilla morphed from a mindless engine of destruction into a sensitive and sympathetic defender of Japan who was as much a victim of technology run amok as the poor wretches on the subway trains who were crushed in virtually every Godzilla movie.
And then one day Godzilla met Bambi in one of the greatest student films ever made.