There is a new Godzilla movie. Last month the posters that were slapped up around Los Angeles on plywood fences around vacant lots employed as background elements the Japanese katakana characters: Go-Ji-Ra.
This was an attempt to harken back to Godzilla’s origins in Inishiro Honda’s GOJIRA (1954).
I first saw this movie (in its bastardized but still wonderful Raymond Burr version known as GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS!) in the early 1960’s, late one night on the Million Dollar Movie on KHJ-TV 9 in Los Angeles.
I could not believe my eyes. I was paralyzed in the presence of this creature. I also thought about Japan: a country which had been A-bombed had created for itself a nuclear nightmare in the form of Godzilla. Which made no sense to me.
At around this same time, we started duck-and-cover drills under our desks at school. JFK was assassinated. For a few years, the world seemed full of things that were simply too large—and horrible—to be stopped.
My concept of terror is linked to the idea of the inexorable. Something that cannot be stopped, an outcome that cannot be altered.
Godzilla’s origins were clear to me: he was the direct descendant of Frankenstein and The Mummy. He was large, he was slow. And he could not be escaped. You should be able to outrun these inexorable monsters. But you can’t. Because they operate in the realm of dreams and nightmares. You can’t make your feet go fast enough, they are set in concrete, you look back, you trip, you just can’t get away.
Godzilla has the patience of death. He has all the time in the world. His head appears over the crest of an island hill. He trudges down a boulevard, his cold dead gaze scans the upper floors of department stores and apartment buildings.
I wonder what it must have been like to have grown up with The Xenomorph from ALIEN, The Predator, the raptors from JURASSIC PARK … these lethal blink-of-an-eye creatures from whom even the idea of escape is ridiculous. There is nothing elemental about them, nothing that nags at the subconscious the way that a plodding prehistoric beast operating with dream-logic does. You should be able to get away from Godzilla; it should be possible; you just can’t.
Godzilla has the patience of Death. He will be there, waiting, at the end. He is not an athlete, a fast-twitch raptor; he is a nightmare.
No matter how we distract ourselves along the way, Godzilla is our inevitable death. He is a monster. A nightmare. He is slow, inescapable, inexorable, and his is the logic of dreams.