Nathan gatten’s review published on Letterboxd:
Watching Marwencol (as well as my own history nerd sensibilities) has definitely elevated my appreciation of this film. It's hard not to see a kinship between the Godzilla franchise and the small town that Mark Hogancamp built and photographed. They both are a way of therapy. Trying to make something, anything, out from a horrible trauma.
Godzilla is a movie about catharsis. It is a very safe assumption that virtually everybody involved in the making of this film lost someone they knew in the Atomic bombings or in the great firebombing campaigns on japanese cities. In 1954, Japan was still technically under american occupation at the time and the japanese military's own war crimes were only then just coming to light for the average citizen. However, america’s nuclear arms production was accelerating in the 1950’s and it seemed very clear that they were looking for tortured rationale to use that same war crime again, (not to mention that having nuclear weapons is a great way to passive-aggressively threaten other nations to follow american interests, which is what America did to my home country of canada during the cold war).
The movie Godzilla is about coming to terms with this while also sending a powerful message. To confront history. So I will briefly speak about those who are afraid to confront It. It greatly concerns me that still to this day there are American historians that think it was okay to drop the bombs on Japan. Even more concerning is that their reasoning often condones Revenge and escalation. It also avoids the actual xenophobic reasoning used at the time by the then President Harry Truman, that he considered the Japanese to be barbarians that only understand violence. Such historians also ignore that there was large groups on both sides that desired peace ASAP without shows of violence. Even the emperor of Japan himself was under increasing pressure from politicians and the population of Japan to be open to a conditional surrender of Japan. However the military eagles within America wanted an unconditional surrender of Japan, and combined with Truman's views, the rest is history.
Regardless of reasoning, every excuse of past use of a weapon is an excuse for the weapon to be used again. This is the entire basis of the moral quandary of the Dr Serizawa character. That once the oxygen destroyer is used once it will be used again beyond his control. In the 21st century, where nuclear weapons have become antiquated, we are now seeing our own "oxygen destroyers" in the form of drones and information Warfare, and even the environment itself with things like ecological destruction and climate change. The end of the cold war has not ended this films point.
Yet another fascinating history tidbit is this: When the movie was first released it actually received mixed reviews by the Japanese press. Despite it selling massive amounts of tickets, A lot of critics thought that the film was exploitational and making money off of the horrors of the war, and were confused by the idea of a giant monster that breathes fire.
However a year later the American version was released in the USA, and not only was it a big success, but it changed a lot of minds and opened discussion. American film critics spoke out against nuclear weapons in their reviews of the movie, which was still a very taboo topic. And despite the American version downplaying the political elements, still helped create a platform to properly discuss the horrors of such warfare. This in turn created a huge reappraisal of the film in Japan, and the result is now the longest running film franchise of all time.