Directed by Ishiro Honda, “Gojira” bears the mark of two Hollywood films. The first was “King Kong”, whose main character (created by stop-motion animator Willis O’Brien) is a amazing feat of special effects design that still holds today. The second was “The 20,000 Fathom Beast”, the creature of which was designed by O’Brien’s student Ray Harryhausen. The producers shed light on “Gojira” on the strength of “Beast”‘s box office numbers in Japan. But it was “King Kong” that the creators of “Gojira” really loved. Eiji Tsuburaya, who led the team producing special effects for “Gojira”, has repeatedly studied the movements of the great ape. He sought to bring some of that life to his own creature. But while Tsuburaya’s team consisted of smart and resourceful miniature designers and effects makers, they didn’t have the time or budget for high-quality stop motion.
The creators of “Gojira” turned to a less glamorous solution: rubber suits. Their monster would be a man in a suit destroying tiny buildings from a low angle. The result was technically inferior to what O’Brien achieved in “King Kong.” A jumpsuit does not have the range of articulation of a stop motion model. His face is made of modeling clay, not malleable. Despite these limitations, “Gojira” was a success. Its miniaturized rubble depicted scenes of bombing and horror that audiences at the time recognized from real life. The story remains relevant today, touching on nuclear testing and scientific ethics. Even the solidity of Gojira himself adds something to the film. He’s certainly not as expressive as King Kong, but he’s fully compelling as an insurmountable god of destruction and fear.