Godzilla 1985

By Kelan Young

Mailed on May 14, 2014

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Dear Noboru Ikeda
Assistant Sound Technician

Dear Noboru,

One year, in grade school, we were asked to design posters that would be displayed in the hallways during parent-teacher interviews. The specific parameters of the project elude me, but nearly all of my classmates incorporated messages of religious faith and optimism into their drawings. Come the big night, one particular poster was the cause of a great deal of amusement amongst the visiting parents: it was a depiction of a ruined city skyline, and, scrawled above it, "GODZILLA MUST BE DESTROYED!"

It was signed by yours truly.

Godzilla 1985 was the first film starring the Big G that I ever saw, and the impression it left I think, speaks for itself. Revisiting it as a (only slightly more) mature adult, what I think makes the movie work so well - aside from the obvious delight that comes from watching a dinosaur-like beast rampage across the screen - is your masterful use of sound. Take, for instance, the build-up to our first glimpse of Godzilla: the camera takes on a perspective hundreds of feet high, moving through the fog, accompanied by rumbling, bestial growls. Then we hear the thunderous footsteps. BOOM, BOOM. Cue some poor sap investigating the ruckus, and we get one of Godzilla's most thrilling entrances. Thanks largely to you.

Thanks to the amped up sound effects - like those footfalls, and a roar that is greatly reduced in pitch from previous incarnations - Godzilla was given a weightier screen presence than he'd ever had before. If not for some slightly awkward cuts from the classic suit to the animatronic stand-in that bears only a passing resemblance, one can totally buy into the illusion that there's an enormous creature in the midst of Tokyo. But it's not all about intimidation. You're able, as well, to make the audience feel sympathy for the monster, as his vocalizations become increasingly desperate and even panicked as he's lured into a trap that (only temporarily, of course ) disposes of him; a nice little reminder that he's not completely evil but instead operating on animal instinct.

There's also a pleasing oomph to the action sequences, particularly when the entire defensive line assembled along Tokyo Bay is eradicated with a single blast. Awesome, and totally unlike anything I had ever seen as a wee tyke. However, this leads me to the only area where the sound design falls a little short: the conclusion to the battle with the Super X (granted, the script does you no favors with its abrupt deus ex machina introduction). The confrontation begins pretty phenomenally: after scoring an early knockout blow, the nameless crew are forced to fight for their lives as a revived (and seriously disgruntled) Godzilla looks to commence round two. It's a shame, then, that the rumble ends with a sound effect not unlike an insect getting swatted with a rolled up newspaper. A fitting metaphor perhaps given the diminutive nature of Godzilla's opponent, but I can't help feel that a nice hearty KABLAMMO (or something like that--you're the expert) would have felt a bit more satisfying.

But as much of a treat as this movie is for the ears, it's interesting that one of its most effective moment is also its quietest. The Cold War tension of the mid-80s provides a tone that's unique among all other entries. It all comes to a head when American and Russian diplomats pressure the Japanese Prime Minister to allow the use of nuclear weapons against Godzilla, even if it means endangering the lives of countless Japanese citizens. It's a nicely introspective scene, as numerous members of parliament discuss the pros and cons of using such technology, as well as addressing their own fears as to what kind of precedent such action could set. Great stuff which harkens back to the moral themes of the very first Godzilla film.

It's difficult to be completely unbiased towards Godzilla 1985 given the special place it holds in my heart. You helped create a sensory experience that was totally unique to my six-year-old ears. You brought to life my childhood hero, and for that I cannot thank you enough.



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