If you dont know who I’m talking about then sit back and get schooled. Though I suspect many of our readers here know that the King of the Monsters is Godzilla, or Gojira (pronounced “Godjeeda, the ‘j’ much like a soft ‘d’ sound. Listen closely during the scenes in which throngs of Japanese citizens are running hysterically away from the mayhem, you’ll hear it.)
No, it has nothing to do with barricading yourself in a bunker or gettig a hazmat suit. It’s about what to watch to get aquainted with the Big G himself.
If you dont know who I’m talking about then sit back and get schooled. Though i suspect many of our readers here know that the King of the Monsters is Godzilla, or Gojira (pronounced “Godjeeda, the ‘j’ much like a soft ‘d’ sound. Listen closely during the scenes in which throngs of Japanese citizens are running hysterically away from the mayhem, you’ll hear it.) Those that don’t know will get a good sampling of what to watch to get some context into this legendary monster.
Lengedary, you say? Interesting, since it is Legendary Pictures that is producing this new U.S. Godzilla reboot for May of 2014. I’ve known for some time, like most of us, that this film was being made. The original Japanese company that produced all the Godzilla films, Toho Company, LTD., likes to take a break from producing them for a few years now and again. They are currently nine years into a ten year hiatus. This is the longest break Toho has taken making Godzilla films, but it looks like they’ll be back as soon as this one comes out next May.
Might be worth noting that Toho also includes the distribution of Akira Kurosawa films and Studio Ghibli as well. Seems they’ve kinda had the film market cornered in Japan for quite some time, yes?
Godzilla was basically my childhood hero. I was all about sci-fi, fantasty, and dinosaurs. And dinosaurs. Did I mention dinosaurs? Like, I wanted to be a paleontologist until I was about 15 or 16. First time I noticed women? Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. I was eight years old. She was mystifying to me, but still not quite alluring enough to take my complete attention away from the Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs battling on screen. And remember those snap together models from Monogram in the 70’s? No? Well, us “grown-ups” remember them. And I had just about all of them. When the T-Rex came out I almost had a fit. It was huge. I used to fight our cat, Max, with it. Until Max got bored and wandered off. Then it was all up to G.I. Joe to thwart the dino attack! He usually wound up a T-Rex dinner, though. I was much happier having the dinosaur win.
That monster-centric attitude was never more realized than when I was watching Godzilla movies. Living in West Chester, PA., on Saturdays at one pm, there was always a monster movie on of some kind and it was usually a kaiju movie. And if you didn’t see Pacific Rim this summer, the word “kaiju” means “strange creature” in Japan. Here in the states it sort of got the meaning “giant monster”. And it soon became a part of my standard vocabulary. Yes, while the other kids on my street were all out playing some kind of sports, or pummeling one another for no justifiable reason, I was sitting 18 inches from the TV set eagerly awaiting to see what kaiju challenge Godzilla would face for the next 90 minutes.
My love of Godzilla films would last, well, to the present, obviously. And when I found out that Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures would be doing a presentation at Comic-Con of the latest U.S. Godzilla film reboot (we simply don’t talk about the one in 1998 directed by Roland Emmerich), well I knew I’d be going down and trying to get in. Luckily our own Chris Mancini let me use his pass for that Saturday. That – and the gracious generosity of a kind couple already in line (Hi Julie and Andrew!), I was able to get into Hall H to see that very presentation. And I couldn’t be more excited. No, really, it’s not humanly possible. I am distraught that I have to wait another 10 months for this to come out. Pacific Rim was a nice taster of kaiju battle madness, but it still ain’t no Godzilla.
And let me assure those that haven’t heard yet, but this new Godzilla looks like he should look – like the Toho creation. None of this iguana-like looking thing that got our hopes up in 1998, no sir. And that thing was small, too. This Godzilla is going to be the Godzilla we are owed; the Godzilla that commands attention, and the screen. And he’s upwards of 328 feet tall. That’s just about 100 meters. I think the biggest ever.
Now, for those of us familiar, we know the origin and best stories that are on film. But for those uninitiated, and have no idea where to start on your kaiju quest, I’m going to give you some recommendations. I mean, Hell, Godzilla was 50 years old in 2004. That’s a whole lot of kaiju to sift through. Godzilla alone has 28 films on his resume’.
1. Of course, the obvious starting place is the original Gojira, in 1954. However, it’s really two films. You really must watch both the Toho version AND the U.S. cut. They are very different films and the Toho original (sub-titled!) is about 20 minutes longer. But it’s well worth the viewing. The U.S. version, Godzilla, King of the Monsters, has additional footage starring a young Raymond Burr to appeal to American audiences. It’s a very 1950’s style American monster flick. But the Toho version, well, it’s a dark, cautionary tale of the horrors of the atomic age. Remember, it was made only 9 years after the Atomic bombs dropped in Japan. It still holds the weight of that event today. It is a bit of a masterpiece and has a very serious tone.
2. Next I would skip ahead to Mothra vs. Godzilla in 1964. This one still holds onto a bit a seriousness (a bit), and has the first appearance of those delightful/weird tiny singing girls that call Mothra, the giant moth monster. I know, just watch it.
3. Then jump into Ghidorah, the Three-headed Monster. Ghidorah (also called King Ghidorah) is basically Godzilla’s greatest and most powerful enemy. Think of a giant three-headed, fire-breathing, golden dragon. Well, sort of fire. It’s often more like crazy lightning shooting out of their mouths. But it’s classic. Also stars Rodan, the giant pteradactyl monster!
4. Then jump to Destroy All Monsters in 1968! There’s a ton of monsters in this, obviously. It’s an old school classic.
5. Things get weird with Godzilla vs. Gigan in 1972. But Gigan is one of the more interesting monster villains. Also includes various other kaiju in new footage, and stock footage which is one of the less respectable things Toho did after a while.
6. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, 1974. Aliens try to dupe people into thinking Godzilla is attacking Japan yet again, but it turns out it’s a giant robot facsimile and the Big G has to kick it’s metal ass. The 70’s really made it obvious that kaiju movies were mostly for kids. When we enter the 80’s, Godzilla gets a darker tone again.
7. Watch Godzilla 1985. It’s like a reboot that erases all of the movies after the original. Raymond Burr returns in the U.S. version. But at least it’s a new Godzilla with mildly better effects. They get even better in the Millenium series.
Ok, frankly most, if not all of these 1990’s Godzilla movies are worth the watch, but 8. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) and 9. Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992) are standouts.
10. Then just jump to Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995), Godzilla seems to be glowing and it appears that he is approaching meltdown staus. He must battle a monster that is connected to his beginnings. An interesting tie-in to the first original film. It’s the end, and the beginning, of Godzilla.
11. Godzilla 2000 aka Godzilla: Millenium (1999), Godzilla returns for the 2000’s and his redesign is cool. Ok, that’s plenty to watch to give you an idea of where Godzilla has been. If you want, throw in 12. Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) since it was his last Toho appearance. Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus, Midnight Meat Train) directs an acton-packed kaiju fest. It stars Don Frye, ex-wrestler, UFC fighter, etc. It’s delightfully ridiculous. Some of the music is by Keith Emerson. Yes, of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Go figure.
There are plenty of silly Godzilla movies, like Godzilla vs. King Kong, Son of Godzilla, and Godzilla’s Revenge. There is some bizarre entertainment involved, but mostly of the novelty sort. And of course nostalgia for some of us.
And if you think 12 films is too much or completely unwarranted, keep in mind you still have ten months before Godzilla 2014. Go on, have some fun. And please don’t take most of these too seriously. The art of man-in-suit monster movies is a nearly extinct form. Check out the documentary, Men in Suits, available right here on our site! Wow, that was actually an apropos plug.
Ok, I’ve blathered on long enough – or too long, perhaps. but suffice to say, this new Godzilla film looks amazing, directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, 2010), and starring Breaking Bad’s, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick Ass), and Elizabeth Olson, along with David Strathairn and Julliette Binoche. AND Ken Watanabe! This movie is so gonna rule. May 16, 2014 can’t get here soon enough.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, giving out the Godzilla homework.