If it’s summer movie season, that means it’s time for me to make some counterintuitive claims about the blockbusters in our midst. Last year, I made the case that Star Trek: Into Darkness was accidentally a pro-drone-strike parable and that Matt Damon’s Elysium was actually an anti-Obamacare warning. Let’s get things going this year by suggesting that Godzilla, which looks like it will open to a big box office debut, is actually a message to humanity to chill out about global warming, everything’s going to be okay.
(Some light spoilers for Godzilla below. My review is here.)
The film opens at a huge quarry, where humanity’s insatiable thirst for fossil fuels (or diamonds or platinum or something) has uncovered a terrifying secret: a pair of radioactive MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms). The point here, nominally, is that man brings about his own destruction by despoiling the planet. However, it’s worth noting that the one of the MUTOs immediately attacks a nuclear power plant, while the other, later, attacks a repository of nuclear waste. In this, the MUTOs feel like close cousins of the worst of the greens, those folks who demand action on climate change yet mindlessly attack nuclear power—the sole technology that could allow us to maintain our standard of living while reducing carbon emissions.
As the film progresses, the intellectual center of the picture is revealed to be Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), who takes an almost zen-like approach to the MUTOs. He believes that Godzilla, who he has been searching for his entire adult life, is not a threat to humanity but a part of Earth’s natural biosphere. The giant lizard exists to “restore balance.” Serizawa also laments the “arrogance of man” for thinking he can control nature; the good doctor believes that the only way to stop the rampaging MUTOs is to let Godzilla fight them and kill them, to let nature run its course. The leaders of men disagree, opting to try and gather all three of the giant creatures into the same area off America’s west coast, where they will be destroyed by a thermonuclear warhead. This plan backfires, leading to a nuke threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans.
There’s a lot going on here, but think about it this way: Serizawa, the only man who seems to grasp the true nature of the issue facing humanity, believes that the ecosphere will heal itself, will restore its own balance. He denounces mankind’s belief that we are able to drastically impact the environment in such a way that would make it uninhabitable. In other words, the Earth is a massively complex system, one that we can’t really damage by pumping a little excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We can, however, make things radically worse for mankind by arrogantly believing in our own ability to ruin, then fix, the world. The nuclear bomb that threatens to wipe out San Fran represents mankind’s fumbling attempts to fix a problem it has no ability to impact—it is a rather explicit denunciation of the urge to “do something!” even though we have no idea what to do. We can make things much worse for ourselves, but we can’t really stop nature from running its course. And nature will be just fine regardless of what we sentient apes believe—or do.