The well-known trend adopted by creators to seamlessly pepper fictional narratives with real-life incidents generally turns out intriguing due to the fact that it adds a certain seriousness and relatability factor to the story itself. This aspect is especially noticeable in Godzilla lore, where the primeval behemoth is often associated with a real-life nuclear crisis, symbolizing a cautionary sign against it. Adhering to the lore’s history, Legendary’s “Monsterverse” integrated the Castle Bravo nuclear testing incident with its version of Godzilla’s first documented appearance.
Historically speaking, Castle Bravo was the first of its kind thermonuclear weapon—an H-bomb that incorporated a combined fission-fusion technique of detonation—and it was tested in Bikini Atoll, around the Marshall Islands, as a vulgar show of the United States’ nuclear might. Gareth Edward’s brilliant first entry to the Monsterverse, Godzilla (2014), alludes to this incident through the introduction of the titular monster, and in the third episode of the ongoing series Monarch: Legacy, the incident is revisited as well. We will try to delineate the connection, compare it to the real-world implications of Castle Bravo, and try to answer some of the questions it might have raised.
The Caste Bravo Connection: Did Godzilla Survive?
Monarch: Legacy moves back and forth between two timelines: the past, the late 1950s, during the inception of the eponymous monster research organization, and the series’ present timeline, post-G-Day 2015. In the past timeline, Dr. Keiko Miura, ex-Navy turned cryptozoologist William Randa, and Lieutenant Lee Shaw joined hands as part of Monarch’s first crew in tracking primeval behemoths known as Titans, and after finding initial success by tracking radioactivity patterns to locate Ion Dragon in 1952, efforts were made to make large-scale exploration possible. By 1954, the team had another major discovery in the form of a footprint of Godzilla recovered from Indonesia, which prompted the trio to seriously consider reaching out for outside help to expand their organization’s reach worldwide. Shaw proposed the idea of asking the United States government for funding, and accordingly, his superior, General Puckett, was invited to witness the proof of Titan’s existence—the recovered Godzilla footprint. To make their appeal for funding even stronger, it was proposed that radioactive elements could be used to lure Godzilla from seclusion, but much to the researchers’ dismay, the government took this idea and turned it on its head by planning to use a hydrogen bomb, Castle Bravo, not only to lure but also decimate the monster.
As planned, Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands was chosen as the detonation spot, where the 140-pound uranium-laced Castle Bravo drew out Godzilla from the depths of the ocean, and it was detonated with a radio signal transmitter. Keiko desperately tried to stop the detonation, as unlike the insecure trigger-happy military knobheads, her scientist ethics dictated that she believe in the sanctity of life, especially of such creatures whose existence defies time itself. She laments the consequence, as information regarding the creature’s biology or movement pattern through the globe while still remaining undetected remains forever unknown—just to suit the ego of a power-hungry nation that considers global safekeeping its divine responsibility. Shaw stops Keiko in her tracks and allows the procedure to take its course. The devastating mushroom cloud engulfs the surrounding area, and the spectators believe the monster to have been incinerated with the impact of the nuke, but fans will surely know that the reality is quite the opposite.
The opening credits of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (1954) showcased a version of the Castle Bravo bombing on Godzilla, and in the movie, Dr. Serizawa explained the background context to Lieutenant Sam Brody. He remarked that prehistoric titans like Godzilla, who fed on nuclear energy, went closer to Earth’s core to sustain themselves as the planet gradually became less radioactive. In 1954, a nuclear submarine from the United States ventured too deep into the oceanic depths, which awakened Godzilla from its million-year slumber and eventually brought it to the surface world, prompting the government to try to kill it. But the nuclear weapons actually empowered Godzilla subsequently, as seen multiple times in Monsterverse lore. In Godzilla, after battling two M.U.T.O.s, a nearly energy-depleted Godzilla was replenished after a nuclear explosion in San Francisco. Even their army tried to kill the Titans using a nuclear explosion, despite knowing previous attempts to do so had failed (seems like they didn’t learn the first time). Once again, Dr. Serizawa used a nuclear warhead to help a battle-damaged Godzilla recuperate in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and while manually delivering the warhead in submarine depths, he sacrificed his life in the process.
Therefore, the Castle Bravo incident only strengthened Godzilla, providing him with enough nuclear might to remain in a rather unbothered phase until Monarch unwittingly activates one of the M.U.T.O. spores, sending the creature to Janjira, Japan, to destroy and feed on a nuclear power plant, and eventually bringing Godzilla, the apex prehistoric predator, out in the open once again.
The Significance Of The Castle Bravo Bombing
However, aside from in-universe technical jargon and causality, there is a rather grim, deeper significance to the allusion to the Castle Bravo bombing. In a real-world scenario, the thermonuclear test, which was almost a thousand times more devastating than those of Fat Boy and Little Man, was met with much criticism and public outcry, and it resulted in horrible implications as well. The radioactive fallout area had spread through a 250-mile-wide area, engulfing Ronglep and other surrounding atolls and a Japanese fishing boat named Daigo Fukuryu Maru, which resulted in generational radiation poisoning on the hapless victims, aside from the obvious environmental degradation impact. The US government was even accused of using the Marshall Islanders, who still exhibit a higher than normal incidence rate of cancer, as guinea pigs, and it was not until the late 1980s, almost thirty years after the testing, that the affected islands were declared unsafe to inhabit. While Monarch: Legacy still hasn’t mentioned Castle Bravo’s human connection, Gareth Edward’s movie showcased glimpses of horror by reminding us about the islanders in the opening credits montage.
Godzilla’s inception is rooted in man-made tragedies, a critique of human egocentrism and the horrible impact we as a species wrought on the planet, and Castle Bravo incident inclusion is a conscious reminder of the same. Co-incidentally, the testing happened in the same year when the first Gojira movie directed by Ishiro Honda, Godzilla (1954), was released. Therefore, Monsterverse establishing the connection between a deliberate nuclear catastrophe and the first documented sighting of Godzilla turning out to be a monster-hunting expedition isn’t arbitrary at all. Rather, it’s a morbid reminder of the creature’s origin, a mockery of our vainglorious worldview and all-consuming greed and hatred, and a step in the right direction by using the mythology of the colossal beast to serve as a reality check.