Gojira, the king of all monsters, truly came stomping in back in 1954 and helped to change and redefine the genre.
First there was King Kong, then for a couple of decades nothing, until Ishirô Honda, Shigeru Kayama and Takeo Murata came up with a new giant and all powerful monster, that would dominate the kaiju genre for decades to come.
And I said that before "Gojira" there was nothing but there of course were plenty of other monster movies around at the time already though. Only difference with "Gojira" was that most of those movies were nothing but some cheap, lame and simple mindless entertainment. "Gojira" is a different movie though, in the sense that it also has some far more underlying themes and layers to it that help to make this movie such a classic and incredibly powerful one, still to this very day. It therefor also truly feels that "Gojira", along with the 1933 "King Kong", are the movies that truly started it all and made people take the genre a bit more serious as well.
Thing I truly love and appreciate about the movie is how it treats and portrays its titular character. Rather than simply villainize him, he's a victim as well. I also don't remember anyone ever gets mad at Gojira, not even after he destroys cities and presumably kills hundreds- if not thousands of people. It's just a small but very effective little detail. He's a product of humanity and now we have to pay the price for our own actions. He's also just as much a character in the movie as any of the human characters who are in it. At times you'll even sympathize with him, which was an obviously very deliberate choice by the film-makers.
Also rather than taking an entertaining approach to its concept, it's actually a pretty serious movie. The fact that all of the characters approach the problems in a scientific and rational way all add to the realism and effectiveness of the movie. Of course nothing realistic about seeing a giant lizard like creature emerge from the sea and destroy buildings with his fiery breath but due to the approach of the movie it actually manages to work out as something credible. Instead of running around and flapping their arms, people are quick to accept the situation and instead of asking questions, they almost immediately start to look for some answers instead, to resolve the, 164-foot-tall, problem as quickly as possible. Again, this all adds to the 'realism' of the movie and besides helps to make it a very engaging and interesting one to watch.
In some ways it doesn't even feels like a typical monster movie. The character of Gojira literally is a force of nature, rather than just a mindless and destructive monster. The movie therefor in some ways also feels far more like a natural disaster movie than an actual monster movie.
And it's easy to make fun of a guy in a rubber suit but is it truly that obvious that Gojira in this movie gets portrayed by a person in a suit? In my opinion really not. It's at least nothing ridicules or terribly unconvincing to look at and the same can be said about all of the movie its miniatures. The special effects for this movie are simply good, especially for normal 1954, Japanese, standards of course.
One of the other things that's of course really worth mentioning is the musical score by Akira Ifukube. It's still a classic and memorable score, that truly adds to the movie. it can be heroic, it can be dramatic and it can be threatening. A perfect score for a movie that features so many different themes, such as indeed drama, heroism and danger and fright.
Also really enjoyed seeing Takashi Shimura, one of Akira Kurosawa's regulars, in this movie. It also shows how serious they were about making this movie and how they were trying to not just let this movie turn into yet another mindless and just entertaining monster movie from the '50's.
Still one of the best and most effective movies that the genre has to offer.