Godzilla (Gojira)

Critics Consensus

More than straight monster-movie fare, Gojira offers potent, sobering postwar commentary.



Total Count: 72


Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,812
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Movie Info

One of the longest-running series in film history began with Ishiro Honda's grim, black-and-white allegory for the devastation wrought on Japan by the atomic bomb. As his visual metaphor, Honda uses a 400-foot-tall mutant dinosaur called Gojira, awakened from the depths of the sea as a rampaging nuclear nightmare, complete with glowing dorsal fins and fiery, radioactive breath. Crushing ships, villages, and buildings in his wake, Gojira marches toward Tokyo, bringing all of the country's worst nightmares back until an evil more terrible bomb -- capable of sucking all the oxygen from the sea -- returns the monster to its watery grave. The original film is chilling, despite some rather unconvincing man-in-a-suit special effects, and brimming with explicitly stated anti-American sentiment. All of that was removed for the U.S. release directed by Terry Morse. It was replaced with bad dubbing and tedious added footage starring Raymond Burr. The resulting edit was just another monster movie, but was still popular enough to assure future Toho Studios monster films a wide American release.

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Takashi Shimura
as Dr. Kyohei Yamane
Momoko Kochi
as Emiko Yamane
Akira Takarada
as Naval Salvage Officer Hideto Ogata
Akihiko Hirata
as Dr. Daisuke Serizawa
Fuyuki Murakami
as Dr. Tabata
Sachio Sakai
as Reporter Hagiwara
Toranosuke Ogawa
as President of Nankai Shipping Company
Takeo Oikawa
as Chief of Emergency Headquarters
Miki Hayashi
as Chairman of Diet Committee
Seijiro Onda
as Mr. Oyama/Member of Parliament
Toyoaki Suzuki
as Shinkichi
Kokuten Kodo
as Gisaku--Oto Island Patriarch
Frank Iwanaga
as Security Officer Tomo Iwanaga
Kin Sugai
as Miss Ozawa/Member of Parliament
Tadashi Okabe
as Reporter Killed in Tower
Ren Imaizumi
as Radio Operator
Junpei Natsuki
as Power Substation Engineer
Kenji Sahara
as Man aboard Ship
Katsumi Tezuka
as Godzilla/Hagiwara's Editor
Haruo Nakajima
as Godzilla/Newspaperman
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Critic Reviews for Godzilla (Gojira)

All Critics (72) | Top Critics (25)

  • It's a terse, lean terror with a big, swinging tail.

    May 8, 2014 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
  • While the acting is hit-and-miss and the story jumps around somewhat confusingly, Honda's film is a one-of-a-kind experience all the way through, one that stands the test of time better than I had expected.

    Apr 18, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Clever storytelling manages to confront tragedy from any number of angles, and sometimes swinging at it from the side can be the most affecting.

    Apr 16, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Honda's satire is cutting, with several characters resigned to living with the threat of constant cataclysm.

    Apr 15, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Keith Uhlich

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The special effects for this re-released 1954 film by Ishiro Honda may now look a bit creaky, but the storytelling is muscular and the post-nuclear parable it offers is passionate and fascinatingly ambiguous.

    May 30, 2007 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Seen afresh in this cut, with Honda's pulp poetry restored, this ballad of destruction reveals itself as one of the most exciting, enjoyable and moving of them all.

    Oct 13, 2005 | Full Review…

    Wally Hammond

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Godzilla (Gojira)

  • Oct 06, 2014
    "Oh no, there goes Tokyo; go-go-gorilla-whale!" Godzilla's original name is Gojira, deriving from the Japanese word for gorilla, "goriria" (Oh yeah, that's not supplementary to racist stereotypes), and the Japanese word for whale, "kujira". Oh yeah, nerds, I just went there, and if you thought that was a slightly uninteresting stretch, well, just wait until you see the rest of the "Godzilla", or "Gojira", or "Gorilla-Whale", or whatever franchise. He literally is a god among lizards, a king among monsters, and yet another over-the-top horror to hit Japan that derived from working with nuclear stuff. I don't know about Tokyo, but this lizard sure is doing a number on people's comfort zones, because he's a nuclear disaster in Japan not ten years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki got bombed, and then he comes over to the States with some sort of sacrilege trailing his new name. It was sacrilege to Japan, too, because when he showed up in the States, almost two years after this film was released, it was heavily re-edited and Americanized, with less emphasis on social and political themes. Shoot, while I do like this film a fair bit, maybe it does need to dial a few things back a bit. Actually, subtlety issues aren't that enormous of a deal here, at least when it comes to the allegorical themes, which are nonetheless laid on a little thick at times, largely by overdramatic moments that are typical with Japanese cinema, particularly at the time. Sure, the effects, while impressive at the time and still admirable to this day, are pretty decidedly more dated than anything in this film, but as surprisingly serious as this film feels in so many ways, the dramatic writing gets a little overblown, and the atmospheric tension tends to bear down a bit, as well. Tonal contrivances, courtesy of director Ishiro Honda, are actually few and far between, and that's because there's a surprising amount of delicacy in this film's storytelling, which I can appreciate for its providing a sense of importance and weight to a potentially stupid film, but can't really embrace it when material for Honda to draw upon with his thoughtfulness lapses. Pacing and structure are ultimately the film's biggest problems, because there are times in which the film gets a little boring with all of its dry talk, dragging its feet on its way to showcases of the titular iconic monster, who goes underused for a whole lot of nothing. Looking at this basic premise about a prehistoric monster wreaking havoc, and at the lame-brain simplicity of very many of the Kaiju films this classic inspired, it should come as a surprise that this film's subject matter is fairly intelligent and dramatically weighty, but the plot is still a little straightforward, no matter how much they bloat it with aimless chatter and exposition which only stress certain inconsequentialities in this promising, but underwhelming film. So much is done very well here, and I can understand why this classic has resonated and reward so many through the years, for it has a lot of rewarding elements, although it doesn't quite stand strong, getting a little too ambitious, especially with sensibilities of the time, to stay subtle, and getting a little too problematically paced for natural shortcomings to be overlooked. The final product falls short of rewarding, but just barely, because, again, a lot in this film is done very well, even when it comes to technicality. Glazing some handsome bleakness over a black-and-white palette, and having some hand in the dynamic visual scope that ranges from tightly intimate to sweeping, Masao Tamai delivers on excellent cinematography that compliments the tone of this heavy and broad-scale thriller, more recurrently than Akira Ifukube's powerful score, whose subtleties are racked with tension and, at times, piercing resonance, and whose sweep is occasionally monumental. Aesthetic and technical value stand strong in this film, which is best-remembered for its effects, which have become dated, often terribly so, yet were actually pretty incredible at the time, so much so that you still kind of buy into the unique design of Gojira/Godzilla, and into the illusions utilized to simulate the monstrosity's overwhelming scale. The beast is chillingly enormous, and when he wreaks havoc, while you can see the seams in the miniatures and superimpositions, it makes for spectacle that is still genuinely worth waiting for, through all of aimless plot. Again, this film doesn't use Gojira/Godzilla all that much, and between his raid is a whole lot of social, political and scientific mumbo-jumbo, thus making for something of a thin plot, but not as much of one as you might think, for this film does, albeit sometimes a little heavy-handedly, take on audacious and worthy themes regarding the dangers of working with radioactivity, and the political and social instabilities chaos can bring, backed by a plot that doesn't focus too much on contrived subplots, and takes an extensive look as a society's handling of a grave situation. The human qualities of the film are actually brought to life by a large, very talented cast, whose members project human charisma and chemistry, as well as a genuine sense of fear and a great deal of emotion to define the dramatic significance of this kind of an event. It helps that screenwriters Ishiro Honda and Takeo Murata provide quality material to the characterization, which fleshes out most everyone in his or her respective role, without getting uneven, in spite of all of the aimless chatter that is still smart in its complimenting adequately buyable, fictional science, and plenty buyable allegories, with a generally solid degree of subtlety that is capitalized on by Honda's direction, which may get a little subtle for its own good, as well as occasionally a little manipulative, yet is engaging in its thoughtfulness when working with intriguing material, until broadening enough to establish genuine tension. The film is gripping at times, and much more often than that, it is fairly compelling, flattened too much by pacing issues and natural shortcomings, though not to where the final product can't be admired for having intelligence to accompany the originality and intrigue of a story that is handled well enough to come to the brink of rewarding, even if it is only the brink. Overall, there are a few thematic and dramatic subtlety issues, which are just a part of the fair deal of dated aspects that is challenged by thoughtfulness that largely only emphasizes bland dragging that in turn emphasizes the natural shortcomings of a somewhat underwhelming, but still intriguing story, whose original flare is brought to life by excellent cinematography and score work, and by once-stellar and still-admirable effects and action, while substance goes complimented enough by worthwhile themes, strong performances, intelligently well-rounded writing, and generally effective direction to secure Ishiro Honda's "Godzilla" as a true classic that, for all of its shortcomings, compel reasonably well. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • May 12, 2014
    There ain't nothing like watching a guy in a rubber suit squashing cardboard buildings. But as silly as its special effects may be in 2014, Gojira is a timeless masterwork. The 650 foot monster is never portrayed as purely evil. Because it evolved out of misguided nuclear testing, the creature becomes a complex metaphor for the anxieties that plagued Japan in the wake of the H-bomb and World War 2. The film captures this in dark and honest fashion.
    Edward B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 11, 2014
    Godzilla not only was the father of giant monsters flicks, as it was the grandfather of social critique desguised as entertainment. The story starts out a bit messy and inconsistent with awkward editing and bad acting but once the main cast is introduced, things improve tremendously. It's an easy to follow story, with bleak but beautiful black and white cinematography, ingenious destruction sequences and chilling images, like the sight of a mother holding her children, pretty much telling them to prepare to die. Focusing not just on the destruction of an atomic and unstoppable force, we also spend time on the aftermath of the destruction with some very powerful imagery of a makeshift shelter, that felt real and dramatic as if some natural disaster had indeed ocurred. Funny enough, for a movie that deals so heavily with human ignorance, it pretty much ended the series with the death of our beloved monster but countless sequels and spin-offs came right after...
    Francisco G Super Reviewer
  • Nov 21, 2013
    Yeah its influential and spawned a gigantic franchise, but I'm more interested in how the film references the atomic destruction of Japanese cities in WWII. There isn't any attempt to make it metaphorical or subtle and, more importantly, it never feels like a cheap trick to elicit an easy emotional response from the audience.
    Alec B Super Reviewer

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