Welcome back to the 2014 finale to Shocktoberfest, and our final monster is one of the most iconic monsters ever. He needs no introduction, so I won’t even bother trying to give him one. Let’s take a look at the King of the Monsters, Godzilla.
Some of you might have already read my article on the 2014 Godzilla movie and may already be familiar with my feelings on it. To reiterate, I was entertained by it and liked how they stuck to the character’s origins better than some other filmmakers have done in recent years, but there were a few details that stuck out to me that made it difficult for me to give it more praise. Rather than go back over that film, I’ll refer you to that article and spend this one focusing more on Godzilla’s inception and development into a pop culture phenomenon throughout the entire world.
Godzilla made his first appearance in the 1954 Japanese film bearing his name, directed by Ishiro Honda. Less than a decade removed from the end of World War II, Japan was still recovering from the horror of the nuclear attacks from the American military, and Honda’s depiction of Godzilla’s rampage was meant to reflect nuclear holocaust. Honda has been quoted as saying, “If Godzilla had been a dinosaur or some other animal, he would have been killed by just one cannonball. But if he were equal to an atomic bomb, we wouldn’t know what to do. So, I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla.”
While his species is never really specified, he is part of a class of Japanese monsters known as Kaiju [translating to “strange creature”] made famous by an action-based subgenre called tokusatsu. This style translates to “special filming” due to the blending of live action shots blended in with practical special effects such as model sets, makeup and full-body suits.
His name is the Anglicized version of the Japanese portmanteau of “Gojira,” a blend of “gorira” (gorilla) and “kujira” (whale). In fact, during the development of the first film, Godzilla was meant to be a cross between a gorilla and whale in allusion to his immensity, power and aquatic origin. Changing the “go” in his name to “god” only adds to the majesty and might of his nature. The 2014 movie even suggests that Godzilla may even be an old god akin to Cthulhu.
Although having the King of the Monsters duke it out with the Great Old One wouldn’t be much of a stretch because in just about every movie he’s in, he fights other monsters. His resume includes fighting…
While Godzilla doesn’t seem to really have much in the way of motivation for his attacks, there are times when he will cease his terror on humanity if they each find a common enemy, typically another Kaiju. His abilities also seem to change depending on the demands of the script, including fireballs, magnetism, super speed and even flight…with his tail dragging on the ground for some reason.
Since 1954, Godzilla has appeared in 30 films, 28 Japanese and two American. (That averages to a movie every two years, yet it doesn’t always feel like it.)
Outside of the movies, Godzilla has been featured in books, television shows, video games, songs and was even given his own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 2004.
Besides being a sheer bad ass monster, it’s easy to understand Godzilla’s success. He represents both the terror of the atomic age as well as humanity’s futility against the forces of nature, but frightening as he might be, anyone can enjoy his adventures no matter how silly they may get. He’s even been riffed on a few episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and if you make it on that show, your camp value skyrockets. His popularity has become so ubiquitous that many have made a false assumption that he is part of the public domain. The Toho film distributor has filed many lawsuits against portrayals of its copyrighted Kaiju without its permission. The French death metal band Gojira was once called Godzilla but changed to the Japanese pronunciation in 2011 due to legal pressure from Toho. Oddly enough, Toho never sued American rock band Blue Öyster Cult for their 1977 song, “Godzilla.” (Thank goodness too because that song is awesome!)
If you love the King of Monsters—and I’m sure you do—you can rest assured that he won’t be gone for long. Gareth Edwards has been contracted to direct Godzilla 2, set to be released in 2018 and will also feature Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah. As long as we never get subjected to the botched experiment that was Roland Emmerich’s 1998 film, I think we have a lot to look forward to in the future. Even though he isn’t humanoid, Godzilla has earned his star amongst the galaxy of monster icons like Dracula and Frankenstein, and with his popularity being as strong as it ever was, we can expect to continue running away in horror every time he re-emerges from the sea. Until then, we’ll be waiting.
I appreciate that!
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