Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Evolution of Godzilla

The original 1954 Godzilla film was a very serious take on the fallout of nuclear weapons. With the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki less than a decade prior, the idea of nuclear war was still fresh in the minds of the Japanese. Godzilla was a representation of nature's revenge for the atomic bomb, and man's utter futility in dealing with it. This version of Godzilla was all about destruction and he was definitely the enemy of mankind. For the next 10 years, Godzilla would rise from the sea in three more movies to lay waste to Japan for no apparent reason. Humans even enlisted the help of King Kong and Mothra to help defeat the big guy. But the following decade marked a big change in direction for the Godzilla franchise.

From 1964 to 1975, Godzilla began evolving into a lighthearted anti-hero. The movies began targeting younger viewers and by the end of this era, he turned into a full blown good guy. His look even evolved over that time to evoke his more friendly personality. All of these films (11 in total) would feature a monster such as King Ghidorah, or Gigan, or the Smog Monster, or my favorite, Mechagodzilla attacking Japan, and Godzilla would arrive to save the day.

Godzilla even got allies to fight along side like a returning Mothra, the mythological dog-lion King Caesar, and the Ultraman ripoff Jet Jaguar. But the thing that really took the cake was Godzilla had a son named Minilla! He blew atomic smoke rings, and even as a child, I knew he was kinda lame.

Keeping in line with the targeted younger audience, these Godzilla films became increasingly campier. Here you have Godzilla defying physics and drop-kicking Megalon.

And here's something you don't see everyday. Godzilla flying to some really patriotic music?!?

And finally, what does Godzilla do when he's happy? He kinda jumps around like an idiot.

These were the films that were featured on monster movie marathons on Saturday afternoons in the 80's when I was growing up. Even though they don't reflect how menacing Godzilla is supposed to be, I remember them fondly.

After 1975's Terror of Mechagodzilla, Godzilla went into an almost decade long hibernation and returned in 1984 quite literally with Return of Godzilla. The following 11 years, dubbed the Heisei Period, saw Godzilla return to a more destructive presence. His look even changed again to reflect his more menacing nature. I'm admittedly unfamiliar with these films and should really find some time to watch them. After 1995, Godzilla took another small break. And in the meantime, Sony did their best to screw up the American Godzilla.

The only good thing to come out of the 1998 Godzilla was the titular character's easy demise in Godzilla: Final Wars.

In 1999, Godzilla would again be revived by the Japanese with the Millennium series. Godzilla's history was again rewritten using the original 1954 film as a starting point and ignoring all the other films in the franchise. Godzilla was again slightly redesigned with a little more menace, and larger bony spikes on his back. And seriously, the big guy looks buff. No wonder the Japanese recently called the American Godzilla "fat" and non-menacing. Of course you only have to point out the films of the 60's and 70's to counter that point.

The series started with a bang but ended with a whimper with 2004's Final Wars. The six films in the series suffered from declining revenue and popularity with each successive release. Even the threat of no new Godzilla movies for 10 years, and a crap ton of kaiju in the last installment did not help its box office numbers. Final Wars was the worst performing Godzilla movie in almost 30 years, and forced him into another hibernation.

Warning: Minor spoilers for Godzilla (2014) are below.

It seems like Godzilla has had more reboots than James Bond and more lives than your average house cat. The current release rocked a $93 million opening weekend and sits at about $320 million worldwide. It would seem that the appetite for Godzilla has finally returned. He definitely contains elements from his previous incarnations. His look is actually pretty similar to his Heisei and Millennium appearances which goes to show, why screw around with a good thing. And his temperament is reminiscent of the era I am most familiar with as he actively doesn't try to hurt any humans and by the end is seen as their savior. He just wants to beat the crap out of those other monsters. Which of course brings up this observation. The MUTO's, while completely destructive were only trying to get laid. Godzilla interfering makes him the biggest cock-blocker you've ever seen.

This is the fifth time in 60 years that Godzilla has been reinvented. Which just proves you can't keep this guy down! Anyway, Godzilla was a ton of fun. If you're a fan of the franchise or monster movies, you should probably go see it. Meanwhile, I'm gonna go find some of the older movies and relive my childhood one monster at a time.

No comments:

Post a Comment