Friday, September 26, 2014

"Godzilla" (2014)

A few critics have complained about the new Godzilla movie. Either they lament the fact that Godzilla barely features (His role, time-wise is only about as big as Sandra Brody, who dies in the first scene), or they grouse about the failed attempts to make this a “realistic” monster movie a la “Batman Begins.” Mostly, people have complained that there is no active, heroic character. And, admittedly, Ford Brody is a pretty passive—if mobile—hero.

(He reminds one of last year’s hero in “World War Z” a composite of multiple of characters in the book, who travels all over the world in unbelievably quick fashion. Here again we have a single human witness to a disaster spanning half the globe.)

I contend, however, that the real story here is exactly that… one of human limitations. This is a very un-Hollywood approach to disaster and survival. Sometime we humans have to sit and watch while the world around us becomes unmanageable. Some things are beyond us.

This is clearly conveyed in the opening scene. The power plant is breached and automated systems are about to lock away the dangerous radiation. However, Joe Brody (our apparent hero at this point in the film) orders them switched to manual override so that he can ensure his wife, Sandra (who is inside the plant) will get out.

Our Hollywood expectation would be for a close call, but a heroic rescue of the wife and the town. Instead, Joe is forced to do what the automated system would have done anyway. He helplessly must lock the radiation—and his wife—away. He cannot change the circumstances, the disaster that faces him. He is not powerful enough.

The whole film continues to explore this theme. When giant monsters threated town after town, the military and scientists are powerless to stop them. Any efforts they undertake to do so only make matters worse. In the end, the main scientist diagnoses the problem: humanity ultimately can’t control nature. In this case they have to let it run its course and hope that nature’s answer to the problem (a bigger monster) will leave humanity standing in the end.

This is a similar theme, on a spiritual level, to the fiction of Charles Williams. Williams repeatedly had his characters face problems too big for them to handle and had them have to trust God to take care of things in the end. Usually with a lot of sacrifice accompanying the trust along the way.

And, while this film is surely trying to be an environmentally-themed one like its 1954 forefather, this reading would say that it failed. At least from a global warming alarmist perspective. Or maybe it has an altogether different environmental message. Where many today are calling for political approaches to “fix” all the damage they claim we have caused, this story exposed the arrogance and naiveté such perspectives contain. Nature is a lot more powerful than we give it credit for—or can handle.

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