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Life Matters: Finding God in Godzilla Minus One

Life Matters: Finding God in Godzilla Minus One

It can be argued that the original description of Gojira as ape and whale can be interpreted as a similar description given to the biblical Leviathan. Leviathan is described in several places in the Bible, (Psalms 74:14, Isaiah 27:1, and Job 41) and an allegory for chaos and human sin. Both monsters are man-made, but no weapons made by man can destroy them.

By John Wallis

In the original 1954 Godzilla film, the plot dissected the current government’s political policies and to have an alternative voice in those policies. However, over the franchise’s seventy-year history Godzilla has evolved into something other than an allegory for Japanese anxiety after the war. That is until recently, when writer/director Takashi Yamazaki brought Godzilla back to his roots with the fascinatingly human story of Godzilla Minus One.

Godzilla vs. Leviathan

This most recent story, written by Yamazaki, returns Godzilla to the allegory of human anxiety, fear, shame, and guilt that grows larger and more uncontrollable in parallel to emotions that are not dealt with. It can be argued that the original description of Gojira as ape and whale can be interpreted as a similar description given to the biblical Leviathan. Leviathan is described in several places in the Bible, (Psalms 74:14, Isaiah 27:1, and Job 41) and an allegory for chaos and human sin. Both monsters are man-made, but no weapons made by man can destroy them.

Returning to Godzilla’s roots, the story of Godzilla Minus One (one level below ground zero) begins at the last days of World War II. Where failed Kamikaze pilot, Koichi Shikishima, (played by Ryunosuke Kamiki), feigns mechanical failure of his plane to avoid dying and ultimately “failing” his mission as a suicide pilot. His plane is assessed by mechanics on the Odo Islands and, of course, nothing is found wrong with the plane. Godzilla, a mixture of local folklore and mythology appears that night on Odo Islands.

The monster is a giant sea creature similar to Leviathan found in Psalms 74:14, “It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.” In this example Leviathan is seen as a means of feeding the “creatures” of the desert, exhibiting the power of God as provider or Jehovah Jirah.

In Isaiah, Leviathan is used as an example for God’s destructive power and shows how he protects his people in the form of Elohim Shomri, or Jehova Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts and our protector. “In that day, the LORD will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea” (27:1). In Job, Leviathan is used once again as an example of God’s omnipotence and one who controls all creation:

Who dares open the doors of its mouth, ringed about with fearsome teeth? 1Its back has[c] rows of shields tightly sealed together; each is so close to the next that no air can pass between. They are joined fast to one another; they cling together and cannot be parted.

Its snorting throws out flashes of light; its eyes are like the rays of dawn. Flames stream from its mouth; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke pours from its nostrils as from a boiling pot over burning reeds. Its breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from its mouth.

Strength resides in its neck; dismay goes before it. The folds of its flesh are tightly joined; they are firm and immovable. Its chest is hard as rock, hard as a lower millstone. When it rises up, the mighty are terrified; they retreat before its thrashing. (NIV Bible, Job 41.14-25)

It is this description from Job that depicts Leviathan as a symbol of man’s sin and chaos; a supernatural force that only God can dispatch.

Godzilla Returns (again)

Back on the Odo Islands, Kamikaze pilot, Shikishima, is afraid to engage the monster. It is as if he knows beforehand that the creature is supernatural and cannot be killed by the hands of a mere man. In the aftermath, all but two of the island’s inhabitants are killed and Shikishima endures more guilt and shame as he feels responsible for the deaths of his compatriots.

Arriving back in his village, Shikishima thinks about his deceased parents and their words of returning from the war alive. However, he is still blamed for the destruction and loss of lives in his home village. At night, in the rubble of what was once his home community, Shikishima finds himself face-to-face with a young girl running from a group of people. She is carrying a baby in her arms and hands it off to him as she runs by. However, the girl only found the baby and promised the dying mother she would care for it.

Here is yet another example of a prolife statement that is echoed throughout the movie. The young girl and baby girl begin staying with Shikishima in the burned-out hovel of his childhood home. However, Shikishima is unable to form a romantic relationship because of survivor’s guilt and ghosts of dead compatriots. He even has nightmares of Godzilla attacking his village and is helpless to do anything about it. In the meantime, nuclear testing in the vicinity sparks mutations in Godzilla and he becomes increasingly powerful.

In the days following his arrival back home, Shikishima does his best to provide shelter for the young woman and baby girl. He assumes a “provider” role even though he does not want to be in a relationship. He gets a good paying job clearing mines but is still haunted by the idea that he had died in the war and that everything he was experiencing was an illusion.

Nowhere to Turn

Shikishima’s guilt, shame, depression, and anxiety grow – so too does Godzilla. Nightmares of the creature continue, and he actually loses his female friend to a particularly destructive Godzilla attack in Tokyo.

He knows now he must confront his fears/phobias and resolves to kill Godzilla with “Kamikaze” tactics because he feels he has nothing to lose. His depression and suicidal intent to kill Godzilla reaches a zenith and he is given an opportunity to apply his particular skillset with an experimental, prototype airplane. He is so depressed and suicidal that he decides it would be better for his neighbor to raise the little girl.

In essence, Shikishima is willing to lay down his life for his friends in an effort to keep them safe from this marauding beast. However, he is secretly made aware of ejector seats placed in his experimental plane and he successfully slams his plane into Godzilla’s mouth.

The plane and the bomb it was carrying explode, rendering Godzilla helpless as he is torn apart and begins the slow descent through the sea. The audience is given a glimpse of the monster beginning to regenerate itself as it slowly falls into the abyss. “And on that day were two monsters parted, a female monster named Leviathan, to dwell in the abysses of the ocean over the fountains of the waters” (Book of Enoch).

A Supernatural Encounter

            It is evident that by the sight of Godzilla regenerating his body and tissue he is a supernatural creature in the same realm with Leviathan and Behemoth but whom only a supreme, supernatural force can destroy.

The threat of a giant gorilla-whale kaiju is out of the picture for the time being, but history dictates that it is only a matter of time before it resurfaces again. This has been the modus operandi for Godzilla over the last seventy years and maybe that is because there is no recognition here for God to play a role.

Even though the story behind Godzilla Minus One is touchingly human and supports a pro-life agenda, there is no acknowledgement of a supreme being who could destroy the monster once and for all. Therefore, if the folklore/mythological creature called Godzilla actually did exist, it would have to have been created by an omnipotent God, responsible for all creation. (God created man and the sins of man, disobedience, rebellion and subsequent chaos animated the terrible beast).

Our Great Commission: Opening Doors

Hence, it only stands to reason that by acknowledging an all-powerful, supernatural being, the creator of all life, and the only being capable of destroying the kaiju monster, a doorway to a conversation about God could be opened to a culture devoid of monotheism or Christian ideology. Just as God explained to Job how he created a creature as powerful as Leviathan, He is also the God who could destroy it.

The presence of Godzilla and its proposed supernatural “invincibility” should be an opportunity for us as Christian evangelists to step up and say, “Hey, I know Someone who can help you with that.” Maybe then we could not only find a touching and masterfully written story about the human condition for Godzilla Minus One, but also one for glorifying God as well.

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