In 1956, I cowered in my seat in the State Theater on Main Street in Farmville, VA, and watched Godzilla destroy much of Tokyo.
The Japanese film, starring Raymond Burr, introduced the fire-breathing monster to American audiences. I went through a large bag of popcorn and a soda watching Godzilla wreak wrath on Japan.
Saturday night, at the Regal Cinema in Christiansburg, I watched Godzilla save San Francisco from two other nuclear-mutated monsters in the latest version of a monster movie series that goes back more than half a century.
This time, the monsters not only wreaked the usual havoc on Japan but also left Honolulu, Las Vegas and San Francisco in piles of rubble.
In the closing credits, it was good to see veteran special effects wizard John Dykstra among those who turned death and destruction into entertainment. Dykstra did the special effects on the original Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica.
If the relatively-small crowd at Regal was repeated around the country, the latest Godzilla film won’t be a blockbuster, even with $160 million plus in special effects.
While some might legitimately question the ethics of watching imaginary monsters delivering death and disaster on a grand scale, I ate my way through a tub of popcorn, slurped down a large Diet Coke and enjoyed watching the mindless mayhem.
It is also fascinating to see how Godzilla has evolved over a half century from a massive creature intent on destroying the world into one with a passionate desire to save mankind.
Either way, there is a perverse pleasure watching mindless violence on the big screen for an hour-and-a-half or so. While a subplot dealt with the dangers of nuclear testing and the always-present government coverup, the plot wasn’t that important. It never is in such films. We don’t go to a Bruce Willis “Die Hard” film for intellectual stimulation. We enjoy watching the good guys dispatch the bad ones in violent, sometimes graphic, ways.
Godzilla was also a return to mayhem without graphic depictions of violence. No gore, no shots of dismemberment, no expressions of profanity that would make even an obscenity-spouting actor like Joe Pesci blush.
Just mindless mayhem and a welcome diversion.