Godzilla: King of the Monsters – A Christian’s Review

Godzilla: King of the Monsters – A Christian’s Review June 21, 2019
Photo IMDb

I just got home from watching Godzilla: King of the Monsters. There were a few things that stood out to me as a fan and as a Christian. So for today’s blog I thought I’d provide my own brief review of the movie. Then I’ll share a couple of thoughts on themes in the movie from a Christian point of view.

My History with Godzilla

I’m a pretty big fan of Godzilla. Not as big as some. I don’t collect books or figurines of the guy. Nor have I committed large volumes of Godzilla trivia to memory. Nevertheless, my appreciation goes beyond the general pop culture acquaintance.

My relationship with the king of the monsters began when I was a kid in the 70’s. Back then, from time to time, at 4:00 in the afternoon, a local station would run a week of classic Japanese monster movies. If you’re a geeky Gen X’er you know exactly what I’m talking about. These creature features were my introduction to Gojira and the rest of the Toho catalogue (as well as the knock off versions, like Gammera). As cheesy as they look by modern standards, I still get a kick out of watching these monster classics.

Of course, no pop culture retrospective of Godzilla can fail to mention Blue Oyster Cult’s homage to the big guy. The song still rocks decades later, though I think Racer X’s cover is great.

The Latest Incarnation

After Godzilla himself, my favorite monster was king Ghidora/Monster Zero. So when I saw that the latest addition to the franchise would revolve around the battle of these two titans, I knew I’d have to see it.

(Warning: Mild Spoilers)

I went in with no real expectations about the story, the science, and the human characters. These are just vehicles for bringing the real stars, the monsters, to the big screen. This element of the movie was about what I expected. It was just enough to make a story and not much more.

Now the monsters, well they were pretty cool. I appreciated the numerous homages to the original movies. King Ghidora is still an alien. There were even twins loosely associated to Mothra, though they didn’t sing to her. These are the kinds of things fans of the original movies will appreciate.

Of course, in the end it’s about the monster fights. These really were visually stunning. They really should be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated. I liked that they were interspersed throughout the movie, rather than left to the end. I mean, this is why we go to these movies. It makes me think of when I went to see Alien v. Predator. The story was a big meh. At points it was even ridiculous. But that wasn’t the point. Just let me see aliens and predators fighting at regular intervals and I’m fine. The same was true for this movie. The monsters received considerable screen time, so I’m happy.

Nature as God

As I already suggested, the plot was at best a secondary consideration. However, there were a couple of things that stood out to me as a Christian viewer.

Beginning with the original movie, environmentalist subtext has been part and parcel of the Godzilla mythology. This continues in the latest incarnation. However, it is no longer a matter of sub-text. In this movie, environmentalism is wielded with all the subtlety of blunt object bludgeoning.

In Rom 1:25, the apostle Paul comments on the popular religions of his time. “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator.” The gods of the ancients were images resembling mortal human beings, birds, four-footed animals and reptiles. Modern westerners scoff at such religious superstition, but how far have we actually come?

At one point in the movie, the monsters or titans are called the true gods of the world. They represent the power of the nature (consistent with the original). On the one hand, no one in the movie offers a sacrifice to them, though one character lays down his life in service to Godzilla. On the other, the attitude expressed by the protagonists suggests that the writers have moved from the worship of nature to its fetishization. Would the apostle Paul see much of a difference?

Nature as Agent of Renewal

The biblical story points to a future in which God renews and restores all of his creation. Jesus will one day return. When he does, he will bring God’s kingdom in its fullness. This will correspond with God’s renewal of the earth.

Under the end credits of Godzilla, the viewer is treated to a number of news headlines. The reoccurring theme is that the environmental destruction humanity has brought upon the earth is being reversed by the intervention of the monsters. Apparently, they are the agents of renewal in this mythology. Again, in my assessment, this appears to be another example of the fetishization of nature. Nature itself unleashes the titans, the monsters, to combat environmental abuse. The agent of nature’s renewal is nature. Again, would Paul see this as all that different than the religions of his own time?

There is Nothing New Under the Sun

In Genesis 3, humanity turns away from God and toward creation to find wisdom. Rather than follow the instructions of the creator, the first humans listened to a created beast. It seems that the pattern continues right up to the present. Rogue humanity may not build temples and populate them with images of humans and animals. Nevertheless, it continues to look to nature as its god. The writers of Godzilla went so far as to make this explicit. The new mythology is little different than the old.

So did I like Godzilla: King of the Monsters? As a piece of popcorn entertainment, I did. I like it for the same reason I like movies about dragons and aliens. They’re just fun. That’s all I ask of them.

What about the other stuff, you might ask. Well, I expect as much from pagans. Biblically, how could I expect anything else? To get monsters on the screen and provide them a reason to fight, you need some kind of story. So the writers created a myth that grew naturally out of their world. Had I wrote it, the story would certainly have been different.

Hmmmm… maybe I should give it a try.

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  • dave L

    Agreed on the new Godzilla flick, I also grew up watching the 4:00/4:30 movies during Godzilla week, and have been kinda bewildered by some reviews I’ve read that indicate the reviewer also used to watch those movies as a kid but didn’t like this movie. Outside of the first Gojira movie from the 50’s, none of the other Godzilla movies are as good as this recent one to me.

    Not quite following the ‘fetishization’ argument though, although that word has a few different definitions. To use the definition I think you are referring to there really isn’t anything irrational about the reverence the protagonists had towards Godzilla; he did step up and save cities/humanity from the creatures in the last film, that itself earns reverence and is very rational.

    To put it another way, if you think this film fetishizes nature in what way do believers not fetishize God/Jesus, what’s the distinction?

  • Ron Peters

    One of the definitions of fetish, according to Merriam-Webster, is “an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion.” This is the definition I’m using. In the most recent movies, including Kong: Skull Island, the monsters symbolically represent nature itself and are frequently referred to as gods. Thus, nature itself is characterized as a god. I’m sure that some people might argue that Christians have an irrational reverence or obsessive devotion to God, but I would disagree. God is revealed in scripture as the creator. If this is true (and I believe it is), then reverence and devotion are neither irrational nor obsessive. Rather, they are the logical and proper response.

    By contrast, reverence of nature, particularly the deification of nature, strikes me as irrational and obsessive. As a Christian, I look at the world as God’s creation and his property. I should treat it with corresponding respect. It is not mine to do with as I please. I am a steward who will give an account of how I treat God’s possession. Fetishization replaces respect with reverence. I would respond to this by asking, what is the rational argument for this?

    Another definition of fetish is “a material object regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence.” If the monsters represent nature and are gods, then the movie producers seem to exhibit an extravagant trust in nature to take care of itself. As human beings, apparently we should listen to nature and follow its lead. Let nature be our guide. For me, this sounds like a call to follow the lead of the creation rather than the creator.

    Obviously, this is my interpretation. I’m certainly receptive to additional analysis that might help me see holes or flaws in my interpretation.

  • Max

    You’re only speaking to people who already share your faith. And Godzilla is a cultural symbol, NOT a deity. Some of us identify with Godzilla, others with King Kong, but you have to be a fan in order to make any kind of identification whatsoever. Where is your review of the movie?

  • Ron Peters

    Thanks for your comment Max. I have to disagree with your assertion that Godzilla is a cultural symbol and not a deity. While he may, in fact, be a cultural symbol, in the movie, he is specifically called a god. Within the movie universe itself, this is well established (see also Kong: Skull Island). I am a long time fan of Godzilla and the Toho Studios franchise. I’ve enjoyed the recent incarnations as well. Nevertheless, as a Christian, I engage what I see in light of God’s revelation. I find a surprising (or maybe not so surprising) parallel between these movies and Paul’s interpretation of idolatry in Romans 1.

    The review I posted above is the only one I’ve written.

  • Max

    I was referring to the black and white original, and the cheapie sequels that began to appear in the mid-1960s.

  • Ron Peters

    Gotcha

  • Ron Peters

    Interesting take, Danny. I see the connection you’re making.