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.