The new Godzilla movie, *Godzilla* (minor spoilers in post)

by on June 1, 2014 at 8:15 pm in Film, History, Political Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

I know I am late on this one, but I thought it was pretty damned good, well above expectations.  I feel comfortable placing it in the top five Godzilla movies of all time.  The visuals are spectacular but not overdone, and it pays appropriate homage to its sources, including the Japanese original but also Hitchcock’s The Birds.  The movie also treats nuclear weapons use with the moral seriousness it deserves, which is rare these days.

And is there a Straussian reading?  Well, yes (did you have to ask?).  The film is really a plea for an extended and revitalized Japanese-American alliance.  The real threat to the world are the Mutos, not Godzilla, who ends up defending America, after the lead Japanese character in the movie promises the American military Godzilla will be there as our friend (don’t kill me, that is not a major spoiler as it is telegraphed way in advance).

The Mutos, by the way, are basically Chinese mythological dragons, and an image of two kissing Muto-like beings is shown over the gate of San Francisco’s Chinatown three different times in the movie, each time with greater conspicuousness.  The Mutos base themselves in Chinatown in fact.  Note that the Mutos can beat up on Godzilla because of their greater numbers, but as for one-on-one there is no doubt Godzilla is more fierce.  And the name of the being — Muto — what does that mean?  I believe loyal MR readers already know, and apologies for reminding you.  General Akira Muto led the worst excesses committed by Japanese troops during the Rape of Nanjing, perhaps the single biggest Chinese grievance against The Land of the Rising Sun, and thus the beings are a sign of the Chinese desire for redress and revenge.  Unless of course the right military alliance comes along to contain them and save the world…

The references to Pearl Harbor and the Philippines are not accidents either.

1 Kabal June 1, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Tyler, you need to break down what Straussian means to you, if you have not already and I just missed it. It is probably the 2nd largest in-joke on this blog other than “mood affiliation,” which you’ve done a post on.

2 Enrique June 2, 2014 at 12:19 am

Hasn’t Tyler already posted on “The worst philosopher ever?”

3 ShardPhoenix June 2, 2014 at 12:45 am
4 charlie June 2, 2014 at 8:45 am

Eco vs. Strauss; who wins in a death match?

5 Protagoras June 1, 2014 at 8:55 pm

OK, we need to know which other 4 Godzilla movies made your list of the top 5.

6 anon June 1, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Tyrone probably snuck that line in.

7 Tyler Cowen June 1, 2014 at 9:23 pm

The *neglected* one is *Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II*, the other picks are too obvious to mention.

8 Handle June 1, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Not as unjustly neglected as *Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla*.

9 Ted Craig June 2, 2014 at 6:44 am

I can just saw a DVD at Target featuring these two in a combo and I thought: “Those are too underrated movies.” And, no, I’m not being sarcastic.

10 andrew' June 1, 2014 at 11:46 pm

One simply does not ask a gentleman his full top 5 Godzilla movies.

11 Sam Haysom June 1, 2014 at 8:58 pm

It get the straussian is supposed to be tounge in check but if the messaging is really this blatant then basically this is just propaganda. Propaganda for the most important cause of this century but nothing like actual persecution-avoiding hidden messaging of Strauss’s interpretation.

Does Muto have another meaning in Chinese? Because Hollywood is notorious about kowtowing to China to the point where I assumed for blockbuster films they had consultants to avoid any even slight offense Beijing might take.

12 charlie June 1, 2014 at 10:22 pm

Or, when does Struassian just mean “the theme”?

13 Urstoff June 2, 2014 at 12:05 am

The implicit theme that is purposefully buried beneath a more conventional, socially acceptable theme.

14 dixie June 3, 2014 at 12:29 am

“Does Muto have another meaning in Chinese?”
Don’t try to go there, as the literal meaning is motherland, i.e. homeland ….
On the other hand the producers seemed to have taken great risks as Mu*to together with the mention of greater demographics might have other interpretations locally.
Anyways, in today situation the Multilateral Uralic Treaty Organization, natural nemesis of NATO, might be more appropriate.

15 Ray Lopez June 1, 2014 at 8:59 pm

A while ago I watched Godzilla on a pirated “shot in the movie theatre” DVD, complete with the pirate having to hide his camera when the usher came too close, and the sound was so bad I could not make out any plot, besides being 3-D without glasses. But it opened yesterday in Manila so I’ll have to see it again, and I also liked the fact Godzilla’s home was in the Philippines. The first time I saw it I thought the Mutos were female Godzillas (TC spoiled it for me, that’s OK). BTW I saw the revised Sleeping Beauty film Maleficent starring A. Joliet in 3-D with my 20 yo gf last night, it was good she thought (I thought it was weak).

16 TomT June 2, 2014 at 4:01 am

A monologue worth of Alan Bennett.

17 Chris S June 2, 2014 at 8:56 am

One might say that pirated DVDs are a lot like authentic ethic restaurants – can be jarring if you are not used to them, but quickly become habit forming.

My introduction was buying The Darjeeling Limited in Thailand. I thought it was a standard pirated copy – an illegal burn of a studio release. Video and sound wasn’t great but I was watching on a crappy Thai hotel tv.

I thought the movie was extra funny … some sort of just-below threshold laugh track.

An hour in, I had just convinced myself that it was, indeed, a poor dub of a studio release when the people in front of the camera man stood to use the bathroom.

18 TallDave June 1, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Haven’t seen that one yet, but Days of Future Past is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Of course, I’m firmly in the anti-snob camp so YMMV.

19 Jacob June 1, 2014 at 10:02 pm

By “anti-snob camp” do you mean you like seeing Bryan Singer movies with twinks in tights?

20 andrew' June 1, 2014 at 10:10 pm

If only.

21 TallDave June 1, 2014 at 11:50 pm

I believe in the wisdom of markets 🙂 I can only think of a few top-grossing movies that I didn’t find very entertaining, and I’m the guy they invented CGI for.

22 andrew' June 2, 2014 at 4:09 am

Reminds me of the guy who realized that every time he heard some survey result he was exactly in line with average Joe.

23 dixie June 1, 2014 at 11:58 pm

Muto is the anagram of MOTU, Master Of The Universe, which is already a registered trademark of someone else.
Thus it implicitly implies that US is not MOTU 🙂

24 Willitts June 2, 2014 at 12:00 am

Yet if we treat China like an enemy, that is what we will get.

Bring it.

25 Paul June 2, 2014 at 12:04 am

They’d name the beings after someone or something Chinese if the hypothesis was consistent…

26 David S June 2, 2014 at 9:19 am

In the spirit of Marginal Revolution, my take on the issue here:

27 Mike W June 2, 2014 at 10:02 am

Today, rather than Keynesian, G would be a Pikettyian force for resetting the growth of wealth inequality.

28 Sir Barken Hyena June 2, 2014 at 9:49 am

If they out so much deep thought into this movie, why did something headslappingly stupid happen every 3 or 4 minutes?

29 derek June 2, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Why do you see a contradiction? Isn’t headslappingly stupid a characteristic of deep thought?

30 HR June 2, 2014 at 4:19 pm

The score is excellent and Alexandre Desplat has mentioned that Jerry Goldsmith is one of Desplat’s favorite composers. Here is Goldsmith’s score to Chinatown; listen at around 14:50 to 15:10 and about 18:20 to about 19:20.
Here is Desplat’s score to Godzilla in San Francisco as they enter Chinatown: go to 1:38 and listen.

31 Eric June 3, 2014 at 3:17 am

Muto look nothing like Chinese Dragon, not even close. TC should try to use a new website site called “google”. I heard it is pretty good.

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