Given that Gojira was so popular in Japan because it allowed the country to deal with the terrifying, very real memory of events like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the aping laughter should probably make us a bit uncomfortable. Inside that original rubber suit was . . . the West (well, technically it was this guy, but you get it).
The filmmakers acknowledge this contradiction in a scene between Strathairn's Military Dude and Watanabe's Scientist Dude, making explicit reference to Hiroshima. But at the same time, this is a movie about American soldiers stepping in to kick butt and save the day. It's a paradoxical commitment to hand-wringing over dark moments of the past, and still asserting American power abroad. There is a similar tension in the environmental overtones to the film.
Oddest of all, though, is the movie's overtly religious tone. On the way to the theater, I mulled over the phrase "puts the God back in Godzilla"—as a parody of Where's Waldoesque spot-the-biblical-themes writing.
But, bizarrely, that tagline is quirkily appropriate for Gareth Edwards' take on the classic giant monster franchise.
Godzilla is the weirdest Christ figure I've ever seen. I'll avoid spoilers, but suffice it to say that the movie honestly portrays a giant lizard with blue atomic breath as a divine figure. The director has been open about this in interviews, and Godzilla is explicitly compared to a god in the film's dialogue.
Some have written about how Westerners, with respectable modes of thought left quite secular, have displaced the numinous into mass entertainment. Godzilla may be a symptom of that. It does somehow work—particularly as a symbol of the terrifying power of God. The tagline for church marketing could be "Godzilla, even less safe than Aslan!" The movie comes out as a sort of Book of Nahum reenacted with action figures from the future, or something. None of this is bad—it's just a major head scratcher.
Critics will point out the cardboard nature of some of the characters, and they're right. Sally Hawkins especially should have had more to chew on (but at least it's nice to see a bit scientific researcher who doesn't moonlight as a Swedish supermodel). But despite this and a few other missteps, Godzilla is a terrifically fun blockbuster that goes great with popcorn, Coke, and the big screen. And, however awkwardly, it could serve as the starting point for some interesting conversations.
Godzilla is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem, and creature violence. Many, many, many buildings are destroyed. The monsters are giant and overwhelming, but more likely to thrill than terrify. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how family friendly this movie was. It does not throw itself into "dark, gritty take on classic story" territory. It is a PG-13 movie that 12 year olds of stout constitution could watch and love. The married couple do make out, with one slight butt-grab thrown in.