Shin Godzilla has already made 7.5 billion yen at the box office in Japan, and it’s still on a roll since its global distribution has just started.
It has been 62 years and 31 films since this creature named Godzilla first appeared. It has inspired a whole generation of kaiju (giant monsters) and it’s recognized from the Guinness World Records as the longest continuously running movie franchise.
Have you ever considered what Godzilla, the monster, really is? Let us try to explain it by going over some facts!
What is Godzilla?
Godzilla is a fictional giant monster that first appeared in the 1954 film Godzilla (aka The First Godzilla). The film described the monster as ‘a creature that evolved from an ancient sea organism into a terrestrial animal that was disturbed from its deep underwater habitat by repeated hydrogen bomb testing.’
Its origin setting has been changed after the first original Godzilla series. In the franchise series era from 1984 to 1995 known as the Heisei Godzilla, the creature was originally a dinosaur called Godzillasaurus that had survived on the fictional Lagos Island and was mutated by hydrogen bomb testing. Human weapons had no effect on it, and it was called the King of Monsters for its invincibility.
On the other hand, the American production GODZILLA (1998), explained the creature as a mutated iguana exposed to the radiation that came from a nuclear test (it always has something to do with nuclear energy), while another American film, GODZILLA (2014) said that the creature was an alpha-predator that survived since the Permian period.
Description by Era
The Japanese Godzilla series are categorized into three different eras: Shouwa, Heisei, and Millennium. The American films, on the other hand, are often coupled with the director’s name, and Japanese fans call the 1998 film the ‘Emmerich version’ (commonly known as ‘Eme-goji’), and the 2014 film the ‘Gareth version’ (commonly known as ‘Gyare-goji’.) There have been 31 Godzilla films in total, including the American films.
Let’s first have a look at the Japanese Godzilla series.
The Shouwa Era
The series started with the original 1954 film. Godzilla was the first genuine ‘Costumed Kaijuu’ movie in Japan, and it criticized as odd one when it was first released. Despite such critiques, its featured techniques of tokusatsu (any live-action film or television drama that features considerable use of special effects) and the intereting scenario drew the attention of the public and the movie set an attendance record of more than 9.6 million people. The original Godzilla was put to sleep by human hands, and many were sympathetic to its death. The film was distributed worldwide. In America, it was released as Godzilla, King of the Monsters! in 1956 but it was heavily re-edited for American audiences; it starred an American actor!
As it happens, after a record-breaking hit you need to have a sequel. Godzilla Raids Again was released in 1955. Godzilla was not the only monster in this movie as he had to fight a fellow kaiju called Anguirus. Because of the film’s success, the monster-fighting scenario became standard and a trend of the kaiju genre in general.
In 1962 Godzilla fought an international threat, the American King Kong from the titular movie. It was a Japan vs US monster fight show, and the movie broke all records making over 11 million. This is the standing record for all movies featuring Godzilla. The American version of the film was also heavily altered; they added new scenes starring an American actor, just like in the original Godzilla film.
In 1964 Godzilla fought against Mothra from the 1961 film Mothra. Mothra is a recurring character in the Godzilla franchise. The American version was renamed in Godzilla vs The Thing and gad additional scenes where the United Nations special fleet fought against Godzilla.
1964 was a busy year for our monster, since he starred in a second film where he fought Rodan (ラドン) from the 1956 film Rodan (Radon: The Giant Monster of the Sky) and Mothra in one of the first multi-crossover films. This type of crossover would later become standard in anime as well, especially in shows featuring giant robots. In the same year, King Ghidorah, the three-headed monster that is one of Godzilla’s main rivals, debuted in the film Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.
In 1965 the movie Invasion of Astro-Monster featured alien invaders from Planet X who used Godzilla and Rodan to fight King Ghidorah. Godzilla showed his humorous side in this movie with his famous victory dance that was based on the sheh gag pose, a trademark of the popular comic Osomatsu-kun.
In 1967 Son of Godzilla introduced Minilla as the creature’s son. In 1968 Destroy All Monsters featured many monsters together on the screen, and 1969’s All Monsters Attack took a more child-friendly approach that set the franchise ready for special events like Touhou Champion Festival. Since children like heroes, this is the time when Godzilla was portrayed as one.
In 1971, the serious concerns about environmental pollution gave birth to Hedorah, a monster born from pollution and sludge. Godzilla fought the creature in the movie Godzilla vs. Hedorah.
The franchise went on a decade-long hiatus in 1975 after Terror of Mechagodzilla.
The Heisei Era
The Return of Godzilla was released in 1984, nine years after the last film. It is most commonly known as ’84 Godzilla’ in Japan, and it was a direct sequel to the original 1954 film, ignoring all the previous Shouwa era films. Godzilla returns 30 years after the first encounter and the Japanese goverment has to use various fictional weapons including the mysterious ‘Super X’ to defeat him.
In 1989, Godzilla fought against Biollante, a monster genetically created by splicing the monster’s DNA. The movie was called Godzilla vs Biollante.
Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991) had a strong science fiction theme and tried to change the orientation of the series. It featured a group of time-travellers from the future who appeared in 1992 Japan.
This was the new golden age of the franchise, and as a result there were movies every year until 1995. The difference between the Shouwa and the Heisei era was that in the latter all films were direct sequels of the 1984 film.
The Heisei Era came to an end with the Godzilla vs Destoroyah film in 1995, where our monster died a magnificent death (see the movie and you’ll know what we are talking about.)
The Millennium Era
The millennium era began in 1999 with the film Godzilla 2000: Millennium. This era is unique in its own right: each of the films has a different origin story for the monster.
Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack in 2001 featured a full-white-eyes Godzilla and an eerie setting full of vengeful souls of people killed during World War II.
MechaGodzilla, an abomination built from the original Godzilla’s skeleton, fought against Godzilla in Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla (2002).
2004 marked the franchise’s 50th anniversary and Toho, in commemoration of the milestone, released Godzilla: Final Wars. The movie set Godzilla against a new monster sent by an alien race called the Xiliens to invade Earth. The movie features some heavy special effects as the Earth Defence Force fought against the aliens.
Godzilla in the 2010s
This is the dawn of a new era for Godzilla and it still doesn’t have its own name. It has already started with Shin Godzilla rebooting the franchise and some Japanese fans started calling it the Shin Era after Shin Godzilla, but it has not been established well enough to spread as the official name. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Shin Godzilla is the first Japanese Godzilla production after twelve years of hiatus. Up until now, none of the films had described the world where Godzilla first appeared. They were all set in a world where people recognized the existence of Godzilla. This Shin Godzilla is a modern reboot of the series and it features its own original monster. It’s already a box office success, ranking fourth in the whole franchise. It has received positive receptions, and attracted a new fandom with its tremendous momentum.
In 2017, the famous monster is going to be animated for the first time in GODZILLA. Gen Urobuchi (a popular writer known for Puella Magi Madoka Magica) wrote the screenplay. The animation production will handle Polygon Pictures who has won various awards including Daytime Emmy Awards. Not much has been revealed about the film yet.
GODZILLA, released in 1998, is known as the Emmerich version among fans in Japan. It was the first American Godzilla film, but the design of this Godzilla was far different from the traditional one. The film was heavily criticized for the lack of similarities. The creature didn’t even have its trademark attack, the atomic breath.
GODZILLA, released in 2014, is known as the Gareth version. In contrast to the 1998 version, it received positive reviews by the Japanese fans. Unlike the Emmerich version, Godzilla looked exactly like Godzilla. It was nearly invincible and no ordinary human weapons could harm it. It featured an original monster, M.U.T.O., a first for the American productions.
The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in our control and not the other way around.
The Legacy of Godzilla
Godzilla is loved from fans all over the world. It is the only fictional character from Japan who has its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is for Japan what Mickey Mouse is for the United States.
Godzilla has a lot in store for us: An animated film in 2017, the sequel to the American Godzilla in 2019, and a monster mayhem in Godzilla vs. King Kong in 2020. Godzilla will not succumb to anything and it will continue to rampage the world. Long live the King of Monsters!