Upon release, the Godzilla vs. Kong trailer is breaking records already and leaving a massive effect on genre fans, but some fans are voicing concern over Godzilla’s seemingly new role as Titanus Badattitudus. In a few key scenes, we see Godzilla wreaking havoc upon humanity, and the question is why.
To be fair this wouldn’t be the first time Godzilla acted as humanity’s destroyer, and, as a virtue of such, does not mean he is evil in doing so.
The original Godzilla film introduced us to the ‘sacred beast of the apocalypse.’ Godzilla rose as the son of the atomic bomb, a reflection of the darkest secrets rooted in man’s soul. A nearly indestructible embodiment of mankind’s capacity for self-annihilation. That first film, Gojira, served as a metaphor for the wrath of God upon the nuclear age. That does not mean Godzilla, acting as man’s destroyer, was in any fact evil. No more than a tornado, a volcano, or a hurricane is evil.
To be honest I was surprised when Godzilla – back in 2014 – acted as our defender! I was expecting the opposite given his cinematic track record. Godzilla acting as hero has way more to do with his recognized role back during the Showa era of the franchise. Even as recently as 2016, in Shin Godzilla, he’s been the antagonist for the most part of his legacy. Well, an antihero is more fitting a title.
It might be upsetting for newer fans of the genre to suddenly see their titanic hero out there causing so much devastation but this wouldn’t be anything new out of Godzilla’s history. Fuck’s sake, in a comic book Godzilla’s the one who sank the Titanic with his dorsal spines. Godzilla has been rather rambunctious in the past.
However, I beg to differ. Yes, in the trailer we’re told that ‘Godzilla is out there hurting people.’ We’re shown scenes of Godzilla attacking facilities for seemingly no good reason. We see him tearing through battle cruisers as he propels himself through the ocean on a hell-bent course – assumedly – to attack Kong and nothing can stand in Godzilla’s way.
Something is provoking Godzilla, sending him into a violent frenzy. None of that makes Godzilla the ‘bad guy’ though. It means there’s way more going on than we know. The director even claimed we’ve only seen the very uppermost peak of the iceberg in this trailer. There’s still far more for us to see.
And let’s settle this right now: I do not think this is Mechagodzilla we see throughout the trailer. I ran that theory by as a possibility, but, theory or not, I believe we are seeing the real Godzilla battling it out with Kong in the trailer.
What Could Have Pissed Godzilla Off?
I covered this a little in my last article but it’s worthwhile to cover a bit more. At the end of King of the Monsters, we are left with the foreboding words that Godzilla is on our side ‘for now.’ Leaving a frightening cliffhanger that leads way to Godzilla turning against humanity.
It’s easy to see why Godzilla would though. If he is the natural order’s answer to calamity upon the planet then given our abuse of the planet we would quickly turn into Godzilla’s enemies and need to be dealt with. We wage war against the ecosystem, against nature, and, without a doubt, against the Titans if given the chance (be it if they were real.) Consider how many people hunt down big game hunt, not for food, but for sport. There would be people eagerly waiting for the chance to mount a Titan’s stuffed corpse on their property if they could.
That would easily piss off Godzilla. If we attacked Titans he’d be within his right as king to defend them.
(On a side note I just finished a Gamera marathon with my gf and mentioned an idea for a Godzilla vs Gamera possibility. Imagine Godzilla acting as defender of the planet against humanity’s ongoing destruction of the earth in the name of profits or whatever. Meanwhile, Gamera would rise up as defender of humanity, putting both defenders on a collision course to battle one another to the death. Now that could be interesting.)
Could this be what leads Godzilla to fight Kong? Could be, but I’m not sold on that just yet. It’s later (now) been revealed that Mechagodzilla will have a clandestine role in the movie which leads us to my final idea on the matter.
Why Would Godzilla Attack?
I don’t think his attacks are unprovoked or mindless. Something (or someone) is in the background pulling the strings and orchestrating the events leading to the apocalypse.
In the trailer, we’re given a very brief glimpse of a map linking a mysterious company known as APEX to the Godzilla attacks. We’re also given a brief glimpse of what can easily be presumed to be Mechagodzilla charging up in the background. Brilliant! These two little clues are connected I think. As in APEX serving as the company that built Godzilla’s mechanical counterpart.
Now why they would do that is anyone’s guess. We do know the military was eager to be more involved with controlling these giant monsters, so much so that they fired an untested superweapon – the oxygen destroyer – into the ocean with a hope and a prayer to destroy the Titans. Would they be willing to build a weapon to match Godzilla’s strength? Oh fuck yeah they would!
I think APEX is a counter organization to Monarch who are entirely dedicated to discovering, studying, and defending the Titans. Again, it’s not like there weren’t secret organizations in the older movies, organizations hell-bent on crushing or controlling Godzilla.
Now, given this is true, it could explain why Godzilla is destroying APEX facilities. He’d see them as a threat against his kingdom and the world entire. It could be APEX has some way of manipulating Godzilla, something like the orca used in KOTM, and could be setting Godzilla up.
Could they be gaslighting Godzilla? Are they provoking his attacks and turning him into the (convenient) threat they need? A convenient threat only they, with their Mechagodzilla weapon, could come in and stop? It would make them look like saviors and could give them the global support they need to then police the rest of the Titans?
Something the government and military have been pushing for?
Fuck I hope I’m right. I hope they’ve put some thought into this movie.
One thing we know about mankind: it hates to share. APEX could be acting as a radical group out to rid the world of monsters humanity now suddenly must learn to coexist with.
Why Would Mechagodzilla Be Such a Threat?
In my last piece, I mentioned a few ways Mechagodzilla could be built, chiefly being a bio-mech by blending Titan DNA into the construct of the machine. Something like we saw in Toho’s Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. Then I gave it more thought and it fucking dawned on me!
What if they are doing the exact same thing! In GAM Kiryu, aka Mechagodzilla, is built from the bones of Gojira. In Godzilla (2014) Monarch discovers the bones of a Godzilla species. Godzilla bones! Those bones are out there and ripe for the picking. What if we’re getting a Kiryu type Mechagodzilla?! Now that possibility has me excited.
Wouldn’t that be reason enough to agitate Godzilla? The profane use of Titan bones – bones of his ancestors nonetheless – used as a manmade machine to destroy Titans?
That would be a good enough reason for him to seek and destroy every operational APEX facility around the globe.
We have to keep in mind that in the trailer Maddison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) says “There’s something provoking them that we’re not seeing here.” I think that’s key to the whole riddle. I really hope they use those bones to build an abomination of science and nature, something Godzilla would sense, be enraged by, and seek to purge.
Like so many other instances the Godzilla franchise offers up a few examples of Godzilla’s DNA being used to create new monsters that Godzilla must stop. The whole plot in Godzilla vs. Biollante can be summed up like this. “Lol! Let’s blend Godzilla’s DNA with a flower and see what happens.” Boom! Godzilla Flower! And it’s one helluva cool looking monsters.
Spacegodzilla was created from Godzilla cells carried into space by Mothra. Well, at least one side of the story claims that. And we already mentioned how Kiryu was built around the bones of Godzilla. If we’re lucky we could be getting a Legendary version of Kiryu.
It’s all speculation at this point, but I love it. I can talk about these monsters and movies all day long. I keep my gf up till 3 in the morning going over theories for the upcoming film. So let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
“Godzilla is the son of the atomic bomb. He is a nightmare created out of the darkness of the human soul. He is the sacred beast of the apocalypse.” Tomoyuki Tanaka, Gojira
Flawlessly capturing the core essence of who Godzilla is and his irradiated roots, the above quote should be the criteria for any film maker given the task of bringing the world’s biggest monster to life cinematically.
Godzilla’s come a long way since first appearing in Tokyo to leave a radiant wave of horror and destruction in his ineradicable path. The film was handled with effulgent respect and care for it’s subject material. That’s what sets it apart from other monster movies of its time and has given a timeless quality that new generations of fans come to discover and embrace.
Gojira is a masterpiece and cinematic legend.
I covered Gojira, in Part I which you can catch up on by clicking here.
Now the movie we’re talking about today lacks both respect and talent. And even though I’m sure most of us would much rather prefer drinking a big steaming cup of nuclear waste than revisit this film ever again, we’re still going to take a look back at the Godzilla movie that enraged fans, disgusted Toho, and keeps popping up like a turd that just won’t flush.
(Sigh) let’s buckle in and just brace ourselves. Because if I have to do this I’m not doing it alone. You all are coming with me!
But wait. I’m sounding harsh. Let’s get this out of the way. “Do I hate this movie?” I know a lot of my readers are assuming I do and those of you who go way back with me and my early days of writing, you’re probably expecting this to be the newest article of me Manicing Out.
Surprisingly I don’t hate it. It genuinely feels like a ’90s blockbuster. It has that ’90s look and feel. But I’ll save my final thoughts, well, until the end. Let’s Time Warp in the meantime.
Coming of Age
It was the 1990s and us ‘80s brats were nearing adolescence which meant our world was changing. We were growing up and so were our toys as well as entertainment. We were big kids now and it felt like everything we loved was maturing right alongside us.
Thanks to McFarlane Toys our figures were going from badass and fun to badass and wicked! Our comics became darker with introductions of new anti-heroes spawned from Hell, The Killing Joke made Joker scary again, and Spidey had to deal with some Maximum Carnage due to an asylum out break in New York. Things were bloodier and more violent and we were not complaining!
Cartoons got edgier too thanks to Ren and Stimpy and Beavis and Butthead. Video games exposed us to Mortal Kombat and Doom where we bathed ourselves in blood.
So I still say the ’90s was a great time for coming to age and we were lucky enough to be part of it.
Everything we loved was getting bigger, better, and way badass(ier). But what about Godzilla? After all, you’d think this decade would have been the radioactive-rich culture for a proper Godzilla resurgence.
From 1985 to 1998
For us US fans the last time we ever saw any sign of Godzilla was back in ‘85. The movie was released theatrically in US theaters, something that seldom ever happened, and I remember getting a copy of it on VHS and wearing that poor thing out.
Godzilla 1985 was an updated take on the classic monster and the beginning of the Heisei era. It was darker, bigger, and a brilliant return to formula. Godzilla felt intimidating and, well, scary! I LOVED IT!
Humanity could do nothing against this newly risen (or resurrected) beast of the apocalypse. Godzilla was back and I couldn’t be happier. The effects were updated and the story was dead serious, perhaps to a flaw. But Hell I didn’t care. My Godzilla had returned!
And then … there was nothing!
Without a single rumor of any follow-up films it seemed as if Godzilla would just stay buried at the bottom of the volcano that swallowed him up. Godzilla might as well have been dead.
Little did I know – during this dry spell – Toho was still actively making Godzilla movies. But with no internet back then fans like me had no idea the King of the Monsters was still around.
In that time my family moved us to Russia and I was completely out of the loop. I still had a copy of Godzilla 1985 though and watched regularly, and introduced my fans to my love for kaiju.
And then dinosaurs walked the Earth!
Dino DNA and Godzilla Comes to America!
We got one helluva great movie that revived dinosaurs for all of us little brats and made kids want to go dig up dinosaur bones. And that movie was Jurassic Park!
Kids were excited about dinosaurs again and studios took note. It wasn’t long after we explored that dino-raging park that it was announced a new (NEW!!!!) Godzilla movie was being made with the same special effects that brought those dinosaurs to life!
Please keep in mind I had not seen a new Godzilla movie since the mid ’80s. So I was besides myself when I learned that not only was a new movie in the works but it would have state-of-the art special effects backing it up!
This was the first time an American studio would have the honor to interpret Japan’s greatest monster for, what would doubtlessly be, a fresh new beginning for Godzilla.
This would be the Godzilla movie to define all Godzilla movies to come. We just knew it… what little we knew though.
The Showa era had ended before many of us were even born but we grew up in the radiant shadow of those films and their greatness. The battles Godzilla had with King Kong, Monster Zero, Gigan, Megalon, and MechaGodzilla were forever branded in our minds.
We were way-passed starved to see the new era of the King of the Monsters…and now looking back it makes perfect more sense why the ’98 disasterpiece left so many of us feeling kicked right between the legs.
It was a betrayal of our innocent trust.
This was one of the most anticipated movies of the decade. Toho was thrilled by the deal and couldn’t wait to see their prized monster introduced to a larger audience. For many American viewers, Godzilla was just a rubber suit and bad dubbing so this would be the first time to prove the might and majesty of the Child of the Apocalypse.
This project was a big deal to all of us… and it tripped on its own two feet and fell face-first into a pile of rat dicks.
Actually, it didn’t trip because that would imply it was an accident. No, this thing purposefully jumped headfirst into that dick pile and then dared to try and convince us it was some misunderstood masterpiece. And we weren’t buying what it was selling.
If you really wanna get mad you should just look and see what the movie almost was. But would I put you through that? I’m Manic Exorcism, of-fuking-course I am! So come on.
The Movie That Almost Was
Tristar purchased the film rights from Toho in 1992 with an elaborate plan to make a three-part Godzilla saga. Ambitious but not unobtainable. Today we’re seeing Legendary building a successful Godzilla trilogy of their own and fans praise their efforts.
The difference is Legendary, unlike Tristar, has respect and appreciation for the colossal task of bringing Godzilla to life. Their movies feel like fan-made monsterpieces and Tristar’s movie was nothing but a cash grab. One that never saw any future after its first film.
Originally the picture was set to release in 1994 with a lore steeped in Atlantian mystery. Godzilla would have been a magical product of Atlantis, a creature created to be the protector of the Earth.
Godzilla would have battled a brand new terror to the planet, a shape-shifting beast from the depths of outer space called the Gryphon.
One can imagine the Gryphon undergoing different evolutionary stages that would challenge Godzilla’s wits and might to find a way to ultimately defeat his newest foe. It sounds like a classic Showa Era showdown.
I especially like that Godzilla would have dealt with aliens again. Some of his greatest enemies come from other planets. So far so good.
It would seem the project was in safe hands with Jan de Bont set to direct. Godzilla may have gotten away from his atomic roots but overall the movie sounded like a hit waiting to happen.
The man in charge of bringing Godzilla to life was none other than Stan Winston!
That’s right. That guy! The man who brought the Alien Queen to life in Aliens. The artist behind the menacing presence of the T-800 from Terminator. And the very guy who made dinosaurs walk in Jurassic Park.
Stan Winston was going to design Godzilla and bring him to life for Western audiences. This was a big fucking deal!
Luckily concept art and designs still exist for this lost project.
And looking at the Godzilla designs Winston had in mind, well he looks damn good. You look at this and know you’re looking at Godzilla.
This movie would have worked and most likely would have inspired a franchise. This could have been just what we all needed.
(I wish it could at least have a comicbook adaptation. I would still like to see this project come to life somehow. It just sounds cool.)
So what went wrong? It really boiled down to budgetary issues. The project cost more than the studio was willing to pay and a new director and a new story were demanded.
And that’s where it all goes to shit.
Roland Emmerich was called in as director and since he had no more ideas as to how he could rip Star Wars off anymore (at least at that particular moment) he took over the most ambitious monster movie of the decade….yaaaay….
It was later announced that Emmerich had not grown up with Godzilla and admitted he had no passion for the project.
No passion and no respect. That’s a real nice attitude to have while directing a franchise that’s adored by millions across the globe.
A studio wanted money and the director wanted the same thing. What could possibly go wrong?
The New York Lizard
Whereas the Gojira serves as a catastrophic warning of impending doom at the hands of mankind’s carelessness, the 1998 film serves more like some big-budget sitcom episode. It has no political statements to make, there’s no philosophy behind it, and the human characters aren’t facing any kind of judgement-day peril at the hands of a beast born of atomic energy.
It’s only recurring message is French people can’t find good coffee in America. That and we see a lot of tuna as if any one of us gave a shit.
Ok, so I get it. It’s not always easy (I suppose) to have a powerful message driving your movie project. It could be argued that all the best ideas have already been used up. Gojira’s message was powerful and frightening.
So if it doesn’t have a message it had better have some badass destruction, right? And…no it doesn’t. Whenever the monster is on the screen it’s not ripping a path through New York’s plenteous skyscrapers. It’s not crumbling businesses, endangering lives, or burning the city to the ground. You know, like we’ve come to expect out of Godzilla movies!
In fact, the damage that is done is caused mainly by the military as they chase the big lizard through New York. That’s right, the monster doesn’t even fight the military but runs away like a wimp!
Such wasted opportunities! Could you imagine seeing the monster wreak havoc across New York? It was a chance to bring Godzilla to the States to do what Godzilla is known for. But instead, we got a scared lizard who was too busy laying eggs than actually living up to its titanic name.
Now let’s talk about the look. Yeah, there actually was some thought put into this thing’s appearance. Like they tried extra hard to fuck this up.
So ya know how Stan Winston was originally behind the project? Yeah, they let him go and Patrick Tatopoulos was brought in. Tatopoulos says Emmerich gave him specific direction for the monster’s look too.
Firstly, the monster was to run really, really fast. You know, like Godzilla always does. I mean you look at Godzilla and just think fuck! He must run so fast! Like I always think of Godzilla as a big-time runner. Like I mean Godzilla must jog, right?
Emmerich was also adamant that this wasn’t a monster but an animal. I mean it’s not like the guy was directing a monster movie or anything. And not just a monster movie but the most famous monster of all time! But Emmerich in his brilliance decided we deserved a movie about a very big animal lost in a bigger city. OooooOOOOoooooOOOOoooh!!!!
Not only that, but the monster’s stupid looking jawline was based on the tiger’s face from Disney’s The Jungle Book.
(Moment of silence) *pouring drink*
So never mind the fact there was a rich library of films to base your Godzilla movie on. Not to mention all the creative hands behind the Toho legacy who gladly would’ve aided their advise and input to help further this big-budget project.
Oh no, Emmerich thought it much too bothersome to look into the lore, look, and temperament of Godzilla. His team chose Disney as inspiration instead.
And those assholes knew the look sucked. They kept that shit hidden as best they could before the movie was released. Even though the advertisement for this film was ridiculous they only dared to show us the monster’s eye, or foot, or hands and claws. They knew they made a big mistake and it was way too late to take it back.
A week before the movie released I remember opening a magazine and seeing the first full glimpse of ‘Godzilla’ and thinking to myself, ‘are you fucking kidding me?!’ I thought maybe I was seeing a monster the real Godzilla would fight in the movie. But oh no, I was seeing a thing Emmerich thought was Godzilla.
If you’re disappointed in the monster’s stupid look you’re not alone. Every veteran Godzilla suit actor hated the Emmerich look. Haruo Nakajima, the original suit actor, said “Its face looks like an iguana and its body and limbs look like a frog.”
Shusuke Kaneko, the Heisei Gamera director had to say about it: “it’s not Godzilla, it doesn’t have his spirit.”
Bottom line: none of the kaiju masters of the past approved of ’98.
This monster can’t even breathe fire. It doesn’t rampage across New York City. It runs away from the military. It’s just a useless kind of beast. It is not Godzilla and Japan took care of that for us.
The Final Nail in Zilla’s Coffin.
Toho, the studio who owned the rights to the Godzilla franchise, was appalled by the movie Hollywood puked out. Toho was so pissed off by this American embarrassment that they set the record straight and removed the God from Zilla.
They even went out of their way to address this.
In the movie Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), it’s mentioned that a monster attacked New York and Americans confused it for Godzilla. But the monster who hit New York was a different monster called Zilla, not Godzilla. I’m hammering this in I know, but you get the picture.
Toho further erased Zilla’s dignity by forcing it to fight the real Godzilla in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). In that film, Zilla is straight away hit by a radiant blast of Godzilla’s atomic breath and explodes into little fried atoms. The end.
I know you want to see that. Here you go.
The worst part about this imposter film is for many this is the one and only Godzilla movie they will ever watch. This was a monumental opportunity to introduce new viewers to the world of giant monsters and it failed so fantastically.
Gone are the scenes that echo the results of atomic weapons melting a city as the Beast walks slowly along the glowing skyline. Gone is the desperation of man battling a nightmare of his own making.
Perhaps as a direct result of Emmerich’s stupid movie Toho began making all-new Godzilla films which are now known as the Millennium Era. And one of my all-time favorites is part of this section, Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla!
And thanks to Legendary we’re getting quality American-made Godzilla films in the MonsterVerse.
The ’98 film was a missed opportunity but great things have come out of it.
It makes me wonder what kind of American Gojira remake we could have had if the team behind it had taken the project seriously. You can tell they were mimicking the original movie straight away. It’s opening credits show us atomic bombs blowing the Hell out of an island and an iguana basking in the neon light. We all knew where that was going.
Then a fishing ship, reminiscent of the Lucky Dragon and the opening of Gojia, suffers a fatal collision with the monster made of radiation. The monster later arrives on land and accidentally breaks up the harbor and fishing district, kinda like when Godzilla brought a typhoon to the village when he first set foot on land.
Was this an attempt to remake Gojira? Yes, even if it was nothing more than a subconscious one. It could have been great but the damage it caused is thankfully contained. And Japan would later give us the true successor to the movie that started it all.
I don’t hate the movie. Oh it’s a helluva lot of fun to hate on it, sure. But It has a stupid kind of charm about it. I can look back on it now (and with so many newer Godzilla entries since then) and nod with nostalgia at it.
As a Godzilla movie it’s just awful. It doesn’t work at all. It sucks, it sucks, it blows donkey balls. But as a monster movie it’s not all that bad. If you can view it as only a monster movie then you’ll have fun with it.
It’s good to watch for some ’90s feels I guess. But I strongly recommend any and all of the Hesisei era Godzilla movies to this one if you want GODZILLA from that decade!
So stick with us and stay tuned for Part III as we take a look at the award-winning Shin Godzilla.
Godzilla’s foundations are fortified beneath layers of deepest sorrow and tragedy.
March 1, 1954 A Date With Destiny
The neon haze of a new era was begun under the heated shadow of mushroom clouds. This marked a new achievement for man’s capacity to destroy his own kind and the atomic age was secured whether we wanted it to be or not. This date marked the first hydrogen bomb testing and – it would seem – Armageddon was right at Japan’s back door.
But this wasn’t the first time nukes touched down on their soil.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Previously, during WWII, a couple of bombs were dropped on two populated cities in Japan. The effects were catastrophic, although that is a puny word and pales in comparison to the trauma those unsuspecting citizens felt that day. It made history and shook the entire planet.
The homes of approximately 450, 550 people would be left in ruins due to the catastrophic effects of the bombs dropped on the unsuspecting population. When the clouds cleared, in the place where homes once stood, a wasteland had emerged where Hiroshima and Nagasaki once flourished.
The bomb had no pity. Women and children weren’t spared any more than the elderly. People melted into the sidewalk making it tough to differentiate where the people began and the cement ended.
Others who were far enough away to escape the initial blast would all-too-soon learn how cruel nature can be as they began feeling the sickly effects of radiation poisoning. Hell had been opened and there was no escape.
Now, just a few years after the a-bomb dropped on them, the same culture had hydrogen bombs being tested just a little ways off the mainland. It would seem nuclear horror inundated Japanese culture.
Some may say it was in poor taste for the US to go ahead with using Japanese land for a top secret testing ground (for nukes nonetheless). After all this was a nation already suffering the hazardous effects of radiation poisoning to last three lifetimes.
Some would also argue that this was American occupied territory and they had a right (maybe by some higher power) to do it. But the powers that be approved of the plan and the US started dropping nukes and playing like some Old Testament act of God.
The surrounding waters of the Marshal Islands were strictly off limits.
A new stroke of misfortune was on the rise though, as the crew aboard the Lucky Dragon set sail, dangerously close to the apocalyptic islands. The fishing crew hoped to make good on all the tuna just begging to be caught, and with no competition this seemed like a win win all around.
Were they simply ignoring the warnings surrounding the Marshal Islands and tempting fate or were there no real warnings laid down to begin with? It’s said that the project was so top secret that not even the Japanese government knew what the US military was doing out there.
Whatever the reason, the fishermen aboard the Lucky Dragon weren’t so lucky.
To their horror a second sun appeared before their eyes and set the sky aflame with unnatural light. A deafening boom clamored overhead like a storm and with it the crew were knocked off their feet.
The bomb had gone off and their fates were sealed under the swift lambent vapors of a very cruel destiny. Already the H-bomb was claiming its first prey and the Reaper emerged out of the smoldering air as the crew quicklyfelt the sickening effects of radiation poisoning.
This tragedy – along with the traumas of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – deeply affected the nation.
Art For Exorcism
The opening sequence of Gojira strongly echoes the terrible misfortune that befell the Lucky Dragon. Incorporating a national tragedy into the film’s prologue set audiences up for the right tone of the film and prepared them for a new kind of horror movie.
This wasn’t going to be just a giant monster film. This movie dared to tackle recent – terrifying – topics that scarred an entire nation; brazenly the film makers chose to exorcise their demons through means of art rather than hide from them.
Bold, daring, and distinctly Japanese, this was going to be one helluva’n experience.
For a lot of people when they think of Godzilla they think of the silly moments given throughout the franchise. Be it Godzilla dashing across the sky being carried by his atomic breath alone, or the tail-glide kick, or characters like little Minilla or Jet Jaguar.
Ok, there have been some fun shenanigans along the way, and that’s ok. That’s part of what’s embedded Godzilla into pop culture and made him accessible to younger audiences.
But Godzilla’s introductory film is far from campy. It is dark and very bleak, and not what many viewers expect it to be. It serves as both a metaphor for nuclear weapons and a warning against them.
Origins For Destruction
Sure there can be no denying that King Kong was also influential over the film project, as it was to all giant-monster cinema that followed it. And yet Godzilla was his own monster and became a hallmark for Japanese cinema. He rose from a fresh new Hell of mankind’s own making and stood as the devastating embodiment of humanity’s unbridled ambitions.
There’s no doubt about it. Godzilla is the monster of the atomic age.
The film opens with the iconic roar we’ve all come to love. It’s a bold statement letting us know this is a film that stands apart from any that’s come before it. In other words, it’s not ‘just another big monster movie.’
For one thing, Gojia‘s been called a Japanese ghost story and for good reason. His rampage across Tokyo does feel like a supernatural force risen up against humanity. He’s a phantasm of the deathly affects left behind from nuclear weapons and rapidly begins to repay death with more death and none are spared before him.
Others have called this a force of nature. For example: a tsunami ushers in Godzilla’s approach to land and a nearby village is completely flooded in the catastrophe, leaving survivors in a sodden ruin that was once their home.
Perhaps the planet has sent him with a mission to show mankind the dire follies of their careless handling of science and the destruction wrought thereof. The disaster Godzilla causes is no less effective than that of a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, or fire. In fact, Godzilla manages to embody each of those disastrous traits as he slowly looms over the city and crushes buildings and bones with equal ease. Steal, iron, and stone are impervious against his path and prevent nothing.
Not even the army has a chance at slowing him down.
So a living force of nature, a vengeful ghost, and the atomic monster. And this is still the opening of the movie!
Once we do finally get the first glimpse of the titular kaiju we see Godzilla’s head slowly crowning over a hilltop. It’s undeniable the haunting imagery bears an uncomfortable resemblance to a mushroom cloud ascending.
Even the design of Godzilla’s skin was based on the radiation burns victims of the bomb came back with. So rather than being a green lizard covered in scales, Godzilla is a coal-black body of radiation scarring.
This is some pretty heavy stuff for a kaiju film and is nothing short of a true horror story.
After giving the film yet another re-watch I was struck by how easily this movie can stand alongside the classic horror heavyweights like Dracula and Frankenstein. But there’s something more to Godzilla that those other guys didn’t have – originality. More akin to his predecessor Kong, Godzilla didn’t have a graphic novel to inspire his lore. Gojira, like King Kong, is a work of imagination on the film makers behalf.
Audiences will sit through some uncomfortable moments. Like a recently orphaned little girl looking down upon her dead mother’s body. It leaves you with a cold sense of silent revelation. A revelation that even if humanity stumbles upon a means to rid Tokyo of Godzilla the lingering after affects of his titanic carnage will never be remedied for so many, many lives.
Everyone seems to pick up on another emotion-fueled scene as well. I’m speaking of the mother sitting in the shadow of all the destruction while encouraging her little ones that soon they’ll be with daddy again. It’s a fierce moment featuring a doomed mother who’s come to realize there’s no chance for her or her children. The only thing she has left to offer is the meager comfort that at least their family will be reunited again after death.
There’s a reason why we all focus on that scene. It pulls at the heart and brings to light just how dire everyone’s situation really is. And the film masters these sobering moments and tricks us into thinking we’re not watching a monster movie. It elevates what should be a B movie to A-list quality.
The tone and story lines of the ensuing films would lighten up significantly and Godzilla would evolve from his initial role of being mankind’s ultimate destruction to humanity’s conquering protector.
And that’s how I like my Godzilla most, as the protector. Nevertheless I admit there’s something imperially satisfying about seeing Godzilla wreck havoc across unsuspecting cities. At the end of the day, fans have a multilayered monster to adore which isn’t bad for a man in a rubber suit.
Speaking of which, actor Haruo Nakajima, the man who brought Godzilla to life (from inside the suit), said he based his movements on what he saw from bear behavior. It does give Godzilla a more natural feel, something organic and feral.
That beautiful man’s performance is what has kept Godzilla the ultimate King of the Monsters all these many decades later. Nakajima played the roll from 1954 all the way into 1972 and laid the unshakable foundations that none have strayed from as they fill his giant-monster shoes in later roles. His spirit lingers on and is felt even in 2016’s Shin Godzilla.
This master of monster art is responsible for bringing fans some of the most iconic battles seen throughout the entire franchise. His Godzilla was first to stand against the likes of King Kong, Rodan, Gigan, and his archenemy King Ghidorah! He introduced us to the gigantic world of larger-than-life fantasy! He suffered inside that hot, sweaty, bulky suit to bring us a beautiful film series to believe in and be enchanted by.
Lost in Translation
Unfortunately, many Western audiences associate the first Godzilla movie with Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956) which was – to be fair – technically the first Godzilla movie released in the US. However it suffers from a ton of re-editing.
The two films may share the initial concept story but they honestly couldn’t be further apart from each other. In terms of tone, atmosphere, and pacing Gojira wins hands down.
I’m not saying GKOTM (1956) is a bad movie but it does lack the very things that made Gojira a masterpiece. By purposely cutting out the political message and removing significant scenes of tragedy the American re-edit lacks the heart and soul of Gojira.
Because of this, the Americanized version feels more like a typical ‘50s nuclear monster movie akin to Them. And that’s not a bad thing…I love those kinds of movies. But compared to Gojira you see how malnourished the Western edit is.
So even if you’ve seen Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956), and not Gojira you’re missing out. Gojira is a cinematic achievement just as much as the original King Kong was.
Thanks to the Criterion Collection a very nice edition of Gojira has been made available to fans. Be sure to check it out here. There’s never been a better time to catch up on our favorite kaiju’s apocalyptic roots.
Sixty-six years later and still going strong, Godzilla’s adamant sovereignty is proven just as indestructible as himself! And given the success of his reintroduction to newer audiences – largely thanks to Legendary – his fame has hit an all-time high thus assuring his place in history… as if there was any doubt.
This has been Part 1 of a 3-part look into the three Godzillas. Next time we’re going to dare take a look at that, yes that, Godzilla movie that came out in 1998.
I’m Manic Exorcism and if you need to satisfy any further Godzilla goodness be sure to check out my previous articles both here and here. Don’t forget to give us a like and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
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