New to the website in 2015, this is a guest post by Maria Ramos.
Godzilla: Reigning Again
Godzilla is the king of all monster movies and with recently confirmed rumors that Toho (the company that produced the 1954 original) will be making a new Godzilla film in 2016, there are high hopes and standards. In preparation for the release of the new movie, it’s necessary that we take a look back at the original and examine some important aspects that really made the movie and the creature’s ongoing reign so legendary.
Giant Strange Creature
Gojira (or Godzilla in English) first appeared in Japan in 1954 and was produced by Toho, who later made many sequels and spinoffs. Godzilla is a “daikaiju,” – “dai” meaning “giant” and “kaiju” meaning “strange creature” – and is one of the first of its kind. Some other prime examples are Mothra and Mechagodzilla, both of whom co-starred with Godzilla in different Toho films. Kaiju is often used to refer to “tokusatsu,” a Japanese term that applies to film or television that uses special effects. Literally translated, it means “special filming.” Kaiju often includes monsters attacking Japanese cities or engaging in battle with other monsters, both of which Godzilla has been and remains an expert at.
A Nuclear Weapon
In 1945, during the final stages of World War II, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 120,000 people. Come 1954, the Japanese were still left with an open and festering wound and it was an accidental hydrogen bomb testing in Japan that inspired Godzilla. In Godzilla, the monster is said to be awakened as a result of repeated nuclear tests, evident in his atomic breath which releases nuclear blasts. In the original film, we can see that Godzilla is a strong metaphor for nuclear weapons, destroying everything in his path and killing all those he can. In some later movies, however, this important metaphor was dropped in favour of portraying him as a hero.
King of the Monsters Worldwide
An altered version of Godzilla, renamed Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, was released in American theaters in 1956. This version was heavily re-edited and lacked the political and anti-nuclear themes that the original so clearly presented. The American film lost the significance of Godzilla and what it represented entirely and erased evidence of the monster being a symbol of the United States’ nuclear weapons. Possibly the most significant change in this American version was that it featured a new protagonist, an American journalist named Steve Martin (Raymond Burr), who investigates a series of disasters happening in Tokyo. Later he discovers Godzilla, who was awakened by repeated H-bomb testings. Despite the completely revamped way it was presented, it was a big success in the United States and earned positive reviews. It remains immensely popular throughout the US, from marathons on DirecTV in Pennsylvania to matinee screenings in Chicago.
The Godzilla Franchise and Future Movies
Sequels such as Godzilla Raids Again, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Mothra, and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla are only a few of the films spawned from the original. It has been one of the longest running movie series since the fifties, with 28 officially released Japanese productions and six American ones, one of which was the 1998 disaster movie (in all senses of the word) so hated by the Japanese that they made a film, Godzilla: Final Wars, in which the proper Godzilla fought and defeated the weak Americanized version by throwing him into the Sydney Opera House!
In addition to Toho’s new film in 2016, Warner Brothers will be releasing a sequel to their successful 2014 Godzilla remake – currently entitled Godzilla 2, although I’m sure they will add a colon in there somewhere – in summer 2018 with director Gareth Edwards reportedly returning. It will supposedly feature other giant monsters such as Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. However, it is Toho’s Godzilla that monster movie fans are especially excited about. This is not a surprise considering the company created one of the best monster movies of all time.
It seems like Gojira will very much reign again!