11 March 2024

How Godzilla movies reflect scientific research

Leonard Maltin
I have a very specific memory of film critic Leonard Maltin on Entertainment Tonight reviewing Godzilla 1985 (the first American release of 1984’s Gojira or The Return of Godzilla). Maltin said something like, “Many remakes fail because they stray too far from the original. Godzilla 1985 doesn’t have that problem.”

It’s still the same cheap Japanese monster movie.”

That stung so much that here I am remembering it almost 40 years later.

I can’t think of anything that summarized the attitude towards Godzilla for so long. 

So last night’s Oscar win for Godzilla Minus One feels like vindication for a lifelong fan like me. 

Godzilla -1 effects team with Oscars

For decades, Godzilla movies were the butt of jokes. And deservedly so, I have to say. As much as I count myself as a Godzilla fan, I have no desire to watch Son of Godzilla or All Monsters Attack (Godzilla’s Revenge) ever again. (Shudder.)

But fandom is a funny thing. You love the things you love and it still kind of stings when you you hear them derided.

But somewhere in the years after Maltin snubbed the 30th anniversary movie, something shifted in people’s attitude towards Godzilla.

Those of us who watched a few dubbed movies as kids remembered Godzilla as we grew up. I heard in the 1990s that there was a new “high tech” series of Godzilla movies being made in Japan. The Internet removed friction for finding out fannish stuff. You could find retrospectives about the making of the series in English.

And say what you will about the American Godzilla made in 1998, Hollywood wouldn’t have shelled out the cash to try to make that movie a big summer blockbuster if there wasn’t some sort of name recognition.

After all those years in the wilderness, what films could show was finally catching up with the visions of Godzilla that fans held in their heads.

And it occurred to me that this is sometimes how science works.

You have an idea. You get it out there. 

Maybe it’s derided as cheap and mostly dismissed. But you try again.

And other people pick up some aspect of it. And maybe sometimes the results are embarrassing, with the offshoots are not as good as the original was.

And sometimes, if you wait and keep trying, that original idea somehow stands the test of time. Other people come around and start to recognize that idea was a good idea. And you end up with something that gets better that you ever though.

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