Godzilla: King of the Monsters is an unlikely climate change movie

How the iconic monster evolved from antagonist to eco-hero

(Image credit: Illustrated | Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

There's an ostensible comic relief moment in Michael Dougherty's Godzilla: King of the Monsters that accidentally recalls weather notices in today's headlines. "Bad news," declares a member of Monarch, the crypto-zoological agency formed to monitor the activity and habits of giant monsters around the globe. "You can just call it news," replies chief warrant officer Jackson Barnes (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) with a defeated pout. "It's always bad."

The reptilian colossus Godzilla was originally conceived by Tomoyuki Tanaka, Ishirō Honda, and Eiji Tsubaraya as a nuclear-powered bugbear; Honda's 1954 Godzilla film reflects Japan's acute fear of atomic obliteration, a shared cultural terror rooted in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings on August 6, 1945. In the 65 years since Godzilla introduced the radioactive behemoth to the world, he has gradually evolved from antagonist to eco-hero. Where Honda's original film taps into Japan's national trauma to give form to nuclear devastation, Dougherty's film recalls America's present-day anxieties over increasingly intense weather patterns tearing across the country from coast to coast. Tornadoes are tearing across Indiana to Ohio; temperatures are rising to 100 degrees in Jacksonville, Atlanta, Savannah, Macon, all the way up to Charlottesville, a high for the season; parts of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas remain under flood watches. Last year, wildfires raged over northern California, taking a $3 billion toll on its inhabitants. Climate change, 2019's collective boogeyman, is the monster whose name everyone knows but whose existence not everyone accepts.

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Andy Crump

Bostonian culture journalist Andy Crump covers the movies, beer, music, and being a dad for way too many outlets, perhaps even yours: Paste Magazine, The Playlist, Mic, The Week, Hop Culture, and Inverse, plus others. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected writing at his personal blog. He is composed of roughly 65 percent craft beer.