Godzilla: Pacing That Magnifies an Indifferent Savior by: Blaine Grimes

Posted: May 29, 2014 by jperritt in Uncategorized

[Spoiler Alert: I am going to discuss this movie as if you have seen it.]

We all know that Godzilla is the King of the Monsters, and Gareth Edwards’s film does an excellent job of presenting him as such. However, as Ian Olson points out in his excellent review over at Mockingbird, the titular kaiju, insofar as he saves humankind, is also portrayed as a sort of Savior/Christ figure[1]. One concrete example of this imagery occurs toward the end of the film, where Godzilla, having defeated his enemies, returns to the sea. A jumbotron linked to a live news feed reads, “king of the Monsters—savior of our city?”Instead of focusing on how Godzilla is presented as the savior figure in this film, however, I am going to highlight why this depiction is so powerful and awe-inspiring. In other words, there is something beyond theme and plot that makes Godzilla a uniquely effective picture of Christ: the film’s deliberate pacing.

Godzilla-Teaser-Poster-2 Compared to the majority of summer blockbusters, Godzilla is a relatively slow movie[2]. Viewers expecting non-stop Godzilla mayhem—those wanting to watch the giant lizard destroy city after city—will likely leave the theater disappointed. Sure, there’s enough MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) mayhem to get us through the first and second act, but Gareth Edwards’s genius is that he makes us wait breathlessly, as the tension steadily increases, leading up to the big reveal—the appearance of Godzilla. Edwards gives us glimpses of our kaiju hero throughout the first and second acts, to be sure; but he does so in a veiled and strategic manner—enough to whet our appetite but not overwhelm. We get fleeting glimpses of Godzilla in the opening credits. One hour into the film, we get our first good look, as the camera pans up in a Hawaii airport to reveal the towering beast. Still, this shot is brief—only a few seconds—and only heightens our anticipation as audience members. Edwards allows the enemy MUTOs to roam the earth for the bulk of the film, bringing destruction and disaster, while giving the audience a few precious glimpses of Godzilla. The effect of this gradual reveal is that we, as a collective audience, feel the desperation of the film’s characters; we long for the suffering and destruction to cease; we long for the arrival of Godzilla, for he is the only one who can save us from the MUTOs. Military efforts to stop the monsters fail miserably; and because Edwards deftly uses low angles—grounding the audience in human perspective—we feel helpless and hopeless apart from Godzilla. When the King of the Monsters finally shows up for the showdown, you want to cheer—to clap. Godzilla is finally here. Edwards’s slow and deliberate pacing may frustrate some viewers, but those who wait patiently are rewarded. Godzilla’s arrival is marked with power precisely because he has come at the right moment.

The Christian parallels should be obvious by now. We see in Godzilla a pacing that mirrors, in a small way, the storyline of redemptive history. The story of the Bible is a slow build to the coming of Christ. We see Christ, not in full, but in shadows and types in the Old Testament. When Christ comes, there is great rejoicing; Mary exclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior”(Luke 1:46b-47); the stones threaten to cry out (19:40). The picture of Godzilla coming to the rescue when there is no other hope is dwarfed by the reality that “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly”(Romans 5:6).

These correspondences between Godzilla and the biblical narrative shine through because Gareth Edwards makes his audience wait patiently for the arrival of the film’s eponymous protagonist. The slow and deliberate pacing makes Godzilla a uniquely effective Christ figure. In addition, seeing and savoring (borrowing from John Piper there) the fact that the narrative structure of Godzilla mirrors that of the biblical storyline should affect the way we think about watching movies as Christians. It is easy to get caught up in a movie’s plot and dialogue; and all too often, those are the only aspects of a film in which we look for interaction with a Christian worldview. Godzilla, then, is a timely reminder that how a story is told can glorify God. Think about form and content the next time you watch a movie. In Godzilla, for instance, the pacing is as important as the plot.

I would be remiss if I failed to add an important caveat about Godzilla. There are many ways in which Godzilla is not a picture of Christ. He an insufficient savior. Far from being benevolent, the film’s ancient hero is largely (pardon the pun) indifferent to humanity’s plight. He battles the kaiju not because he cares about the fate of human existence but because they are evolutionary rivals, threatening his position at the top of the food chain. We can easily affirm with the author of Hebrews that Christ is better than the angels, the prophets, and Moses (See Hebrews 1). And Christ is much better than Godzilla. The point is that Christ-like figures in films (especially when done by unbelievers) will always be flawed, imperfect, and insufficient; they are but shadows. Nevertheless, the type, the picture—no matter how dim or flawed—is present in Godzilla. Let the picture point you to the reality.

 

_______________________

[1] To read Olson’s review visit http://www.mbird.com/2014/05/the-right-hand-of-godzilla/

[2] I do mean relatively. Godzilla is by no means a character study.

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Comments
  1. lukegranlund says:

    Great article! I am so glad that someone finally noticed the writing on the TV monitor at the end of the film because it has some major world view implications. But I might take this a step further and say that Godzilla could be seen as an anti-Christ figure. He is an “ancient reptile” (does that remind of us of another ancient reptile) who is exalting himself over all the Earth. He did not come from above, but below. He is ambivalent to human life. He is fierce, ugly, and of the world. In my opinion, we will see more and more films that openly and boldly give glory to Satan. That make good look evil, and evil look good (i.e. MALEFICENT). That is the natural progression of a cultural that spurns the truth and becomes more and more pagan.

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