ByMusashi Singleton, writer at
Musashi Singleton

Godzilla 2014 is a spectacle of a movie, but lacks the substance to warrant being remembered. The decisions made regarding its characters and structure reveal Eurocentric and imperialist attitudes disrespectful to the spirit of the Japanese original.

The movie starts us off in Japan and it must be said in case anyone was confused. No. Japanese elementary schools are not designed like feudal era mansions. Is that design really necessary when they have a title give us the location in large letters in the middle of the screen? Later in the film, there will be a battle between monsters and the camera will come down to reveal swaying festival lanterns in San Francisco’s China town. As if it's a cool offsides reference to something. To what? I didn't know Godzilla was Chinese. The film then takes us to the residence of our central character. Characters? It's not quite clear for a while. Anyway, for some reason the camera is dancing around the figures. Are they trying to surprise us with something? Oh! The family is white! So even though we're in Japan, we have a white, American instructing the Japanese scientists at the nuclear facility because, of course, the Japanese are imitators. Never innovators. They can't handle this technology without the direction that can only come from an American-born white man. Honestly it's as if Hollywood thinks American audiences are incapable of empathizing with non-white faces. As if we must go to whatever lengths necessary to alter the environment of the story in a way that provides us room for a white protagonist. There was a graphic novel released in which Dr. Serizawa (Ken Wantanabe) , a Japanese scientist who's father was killed by the atomic bomb, leads the story. He's in the film as well, but only barely. And so the message we're given is that Asian protagonists are ok for comic books, but in order to have truly mainstream appeal, the face must be white.(Bryan Cranston, in portraying the Scientist, Joe Brody, added a rasp in his voice whenever he spoke Japanese. His accent makes me cringe even as a semi-fluent non native speaker and I'm sure the difference in his tone is noticeable to those who don't speak Japanese. But I can't rightly critique that.) And of course, the problem isn't that the characters are white. The problem is that they are imposed on the story for no other reason then their having that trait. They aren't even characters. The filmmakers are simply throwing white bodies at us an expecting us to empathies. They seem to think that writing white character's buys them a pass from revealing what's universally human about these people. The wife apparently thinks her husband may be dead but she doesn't act like it until he calls her on the phone, what feels like an hour of screen time later. There are corny one-liners that lead to smash cuts and great opportunities for building the characters are ignored. When the father takes off his mask and says the air is clean, the son should keep his on and say he doesn't trust him. Instead we cut away awkwardly and return to him with his head exposed. As with any monster movie, it's a good idea to build tension and hold off the reveal but that doesn't mean the audiences appetite is never fulfilled. Don't show the monster in a POV and have double doors slam in front of us just as the fight begins!!! You can not have under developed characters in a two-hour Godzilla movie if you’re going to show the monster for less than seven minutes. After Ford's mother dies in the accident at the power plant, he and his father have grown distant. When his father ridicules him for his work in the military his response is " I stop the bombs." That is a great line for this movie. At least it would be if Ford didn't spend the majority of the film trying to detonate an atomic weapon or if, when he was approached with the plan, he showed at least some reluctance given what had been established of him before.


2014 suffers from the same disease that killed

Pacific Rim

: random-white-guy syndrome. Unlike the original


of 1954, the monsters in this film are not awakened as a direct result of American nuclear testing. We're not at fault for the destruction of the two cities in Japan and the lasting psychological and health effects. In striving to remove politics from


, a political stance is taken. The plan of the United States military is to kill the monsters with an atomic bomb. It's bigger, they say, then the ones used before. Despite the fact that these monsters feed on radiation, we somehow think we can kill them by giving them the itis. There is no strong critique of this plan in the film. And Dr. Serizawa's passing disapproval means nothing because he's given no power or importance. And why do the filmmakers seem to think that the corny cliché of a more powerful organization taking over operations (like the FBI to a police force) extends to the United stated military exercising authority over an INTERNATIONAL organization? Do the audiences think the same? No one seems to have found fault with this. So not only is our reliance on nuclear arms not in question but our supremacy over the other peoples of the world is absolute. In the original Godzilla, the scientist Kyohei Yamane (portrayed by Takashi Shimura of Kurosawa's

Seven Samurai

) wants to study Godzilla's resistance to the radiation. The film is a tragedy about the community's resolve to destroy the endangered monster rather than understand it. They are only able to do so by using the Oxygen destroyer, a invention that rivals the atomic bomb in destructive potential. And by the way the inventor, Daisuke Serizawa (played by Akihiko Hirata and apparently the father of the doctor from the current story) knows this and guilt ridden, commits suicide as the weapon he helped developed kills not only the monster but also all the fish in the surrounding sea. This film is much more like a Japanese equivalent of

Invasion of the Bodysnatchers

, a dark , sci-fi social commentary. The last words spoken before a call to salute the fallen creature are, "I can't believe that Godzilla was the last of it's species. If nuclear testing continues, then someday, somewhere in the world, another Godzilla may appear." So what do we understand from how Godzilla 2014 played out? The whole movie is about a useless human plot that has no outcome on the battle. Had the film followed Dr. Serizawa, the plot could have had relevance to the ending. It could have chronicled his struggle to prevent the use of nuclear weapons and perhaps when the American general illegally confiscated the equipment of the Doctor's international organization and ignored his advice, as he was prone to do in this film, the nuclear weapons could have strengthened the monsters and created an even greater problem. Then the film would take a turn as Dr. Serizawa gained more power and he was aided in assisting Godzilla. If this were a film truly inspired of paradigms in Japanese literature, the final battle would have a scene of the people of the city or even the world watching Godzilla and giving him their strength. That way when Godzilla appears to be dead. It has weight. That way when Godzilla awakens, returning to the sea, and the monitors of the football stadium declare him the people's savior and the King of the Monsters, it means something. As things are the there were absolutely no repercussions faced by anyone for the decision to attack the monsters with the substance that brought them about to begin with and these beats which are meant to be highly emotional, are not because they lack proper setup. What this film severely needs is a theme. And for all of you who think a film can be memorable without theme, for any reason other than being so bad it's camp, for any of you who think theme can't make DOLLA DOLLA BILLS Y'ALL!!! here is a list:

Thelma and Louise

: freedom

Captain America 2

: big brother and corruption


: hero's journey

The Matrix

: belief Goodfellas: rise and fall

Wolf of Wallstreet

: conspicuous consumption


: Crime doesn't pay

Boyz in the Hood

: finding normalcy amidst violence


: Love

The Shawshank Reemption

: Hope


: Self reliance

The Karate Kid

: a time an a place for everything

The Karate Kid 2

: the old and the new

Big Fish

: What is real?


: Imperialist vs Native

Invasion of The body snatchers

: conformity


: Skepticism vs naïveté / sibling true love

Peter Pan:

growing up is necessary




: friendship


: Ogres (and people) have layers


1954: technological advancements may come at a price Just a few that come to mind.


2014: Boom boom boom!!!! And I repeat: Godzilla 2014 is a spectacle of a movie, but lacks the substance to warrant being remembered. The decisions made regarding it's characters and structure reveal Eurocentric and imperialist attitudes disrespectful to the spirit of the Japanese original.


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