Does it seem like a strange choice for round two of my movie series where I write about morals on camera? Once I get into it, you’ll see the answer is no.
Filmed in 1964, Godzilla vs. The Thing (as the amusingly dubbed version is titled) is more than just a tale of two big critters in a battle for dominance. It’s a morality play. I’ll be pulling the plot points from Wikipedia’s entry about the film as a memory aid.
The film opens with a journalist and a photographer on site to record the flooding of a wealthy entrepreneur’s seaside project. There’s some debate, I think, about whether or not the project should go ahead at all, but they’re promising to restart once they get rid of the floodwater, and it’ll never matter what the media might want to write about them – any publicity is good publicity for Happy Enterprises.
Then the egg gets found by the locals (hell, the thing is so massive, the Man in the Moon could have pointed to it easily). Relying heavily on the well known case of Finders vs. Keepers, the entrepreneur buys the thing out from under them, intending to keep it as a curiosity at his resort or whatever he’s making and charge a mint for people to see it – including any scientists that want to study the thing.
Not long after, these greedy buggers are visited by a tiny pair of twin girls begging for the return of their egg. They’re even more of a curiosity than the egg is, so their pleas go unheard while these guys chase them around the hotel room in the hopes of capturing them. The girls get away easily and try their luck with the other gang of players outside the hotel; the journalist, his photographer, and a scientist who’d been trying to do research on the egg before he was ousted.
The girls try to explain that this egg belongs on their island and if it hatches away from home, it’ll wreak havoc trying to get home – not because it wants to do bad things, but because it’ll be freakin’ hungry and everything in its path will be at risk. The girls have to know this is a pointless request anyway – how are these three going to convince Happy Enterprises to release the egg? No bloody way. The girls return to their island with the help of Mothra itself and all are disappointed by how this is turning out.
So where the hell is Godzilla in all this? Turns out he’s been under the dirt at the construction site sleeping off one hell of a bender, judging by the way he stumbles around once he’s up, at any rate. Godzilla wanders around blindly, breaking things left, right, and center, and roaring like he’s never been more pissed off over anything in the whole of his life. He probably wanted to sleep in today and now can’t. Everyone’s up in a panic and running around trying to avoid the collateral damage. The military (including the Americans) are at a loss as to how to deal with him. They have the germ of a plan but it’ll take a while to get it going. The journalist and the rest realize they have time to go to Mothra’s island to see if they can get that big bugger’s help with this.
The villagers are less than thrilled over that idea. Mothra’s old and doing battle of any kind would likely kill it. Plus, screw you guys! You’re the ones who bombed the piss out of this place as a atomic testing site however long ago and ruined the beauty that was this island. Go fuck yourselves. We’re not helping! And you still haven’t given us back our egg, you bastards.
Obviously I’m paraphrasing there. But, IMBD’s page about this movie thankfully has the very quote I wanted to put in here, the photographer’s response to their behaviour:
Please listen, we all understand. But do not blame every one of us of what has happened. The monster is killing everyone. The good are being killed, as well as the evil. Are you going to let innocent men died [sic] along side guilty men. You have no right to decide that, that right is sacred. My friends and I appeal to you with the utmost humility. Our people are unable to stop Godzilla. We truly like to help you, but we need your help first. Refuse us then, and everyone will die!
In the end, the villagers put the plea to old Mothra who’s really the one who’ll have to decide if it wants to get involved anyway, no matter how much those tiny girls might sing to it. In a wasted effort, it chooses to sacrifice itself to save everyone, and Godzilla stands undefeated. Of course, that’s not the end of the film. The military gets their act together and deals a few good blows before Godzilla gets a third wind and storms off. Then the egg finally hatches and two giant critters wriggle out of the remains of the shell, follow Godzilla out to another island and lay waste to him before his actions there kill some children. The journalist’s team gets to the island in time to help with the rescue, and they all watch the grubs swim away, home to their own land. Movie ends.
Moral of the story, at least for me: at some points, grudges have to be set aside for the greater good. No wonder the monster movie genre got so popular; in a film like this, the greater good is pretty obvious. In our world, it’s not always that easy to determine or define.
It’s far easier to deal with a problem when it’s a very big and noticeable stomping-around-flame-shooting problem. And then everyone can shout hooray once they’re victorious. And they’re always victorious, no matter what they have to fight against.
In our world, people get sacrificed for reasons other than a greater good. It’ll be for a border, an oil field, a dollar value, because it’s Tuesday. The enemy isn’t large and green and scaly, often it’s just an idea that’s set up shop in the “wrong” head — and not like the idea itself would be better in the mind of somebody else. Some thoughts are just plain poison and some people think death can be the only antidote.
And sometimes they might be right.
We always have to be responsible for what we do in this world, the good and the bad. This tendency we have to shift blame around will bite us in the ass at some point. We need more people willing to stand up and admit they fucked up. More who’ll stand and face the consequences of their actions with aplomb and maturity instead of all this sissy finger pointing like the world is one big Kindergarten.
At some point, the grudge match has to be set aside for the greater good.