Anna – I’m not entirely sure what we’re talking about today.
Zach – Didn’t you watch the movie I assigned.
Anna – I tried to. I didn’t understand it very well. Something about a giant monster. I didn’t watch all of it.
Gaspar – (sighs) Anna, if you’re going to be a real historian like me you have to be willing to stare that old monster in the face and say ‘you know, fella, give me your best, I can take it.’
Anna – The last thing I need is a lecture by this troglodyte.
Zach – Let’s get started here. Today we have me, Anna Komnene, Gaspar Correia, Buffalo Calf Woman and Scipio Africanus.
Scipio – I was surprised to say the least at the popularity of such a thing. There have been 28 Godzilla movies from 1954 to 2004. That’s more than James Bond.
Buffalo – I thought it was 29.
Zach – We don’t count the Mathew Broderick one.
Gaspar – Nor should we.
Buffalo – I’d like to start with the director. If we’re going to give a detailed history of such an iconic beast, we should start with its creators. First, Ishiro Honda. he was the director of the original Godzilla 1954. In WWII he was drafted into the army and was taken prisoner. At the end of the war he was released and went back to Japan. Upon arrival he saw first hand the devastation at Hiroshima and was horrified. The scene of a death stayed with him for the rest of his life and as such his films often have a strong anti-war message. This was a man that saw the worst of war and used his talents to fight against it. Yes, he was making sometimes goofy giant monster movies, but he was doing his part to make the world a better place, something we should all try to do.
Anna – I did research Eiji Tsuburaya. He was the other c0-creator of Godzilla. While Honda engineered the idea of Godzilla, Eiji Tsuburaya brought the beast to life. He was a special effects artist at Toho studios and was also drafted into the war. Like Honda he hated the war and was a gentle man that loved children. He did not put blood in the monster fights because he didn’t think children should be watching such violence. During the war he also made propaganda films for the Japanese Empire. One of them got him into trouble. He made a film about the attack on Pearl Harbor. The American occupation thought he had used real footage and he was blacklisted for a few years. He went on to design Godzilla for the 1954 movie. He wanted something powerful like a gorilla but monstrous like an alligator. “Gojira” is a cross between “Gorilla” and “Whale” in Japanese. Also, the iconic Godzilla roar was created by running a gloved hand over the strings of an upright bass and the sound slowed down. Very neat. He also used dinosaurs as inspiration, notably the iguanadon…
Gaspar – My personal favorite dinosaur!
Anna – …and the stegosaurus. He later went on to start his own special effects company and created Ultraman, a Japanese super hero that grows big and shoots lasers.
Gaspar – and he flies. And fights monsters.
Zach – So they made the movie and it was a message about the horrors of atomic warfare. The destruction Godzilla causes is a vision of Hiroshima that Honda saw nearly a decade before.
Gaspar – Then came the sequel, Godzilla raids again. Next was Godzilla vs King Kong. This set Godzilla up as a superstar.
Scipio – This period is called the Showa era of Godzilla movies. This established many of the famous Godzilla monsters
Zach – Showa series ended with my personal favorite, “Terror of Mechagodzilla.” It was the swan song of the original godzilla series. The series had turned mostly campy and comedic and had lost all of the original meaning and significance. Godzilla had turned from a personification of the atomic bomb to the white hat hero fighting alien monsters to save the Earth.
Gaspar – But then Godzilla returned in 1984 with “The Return of Godzilla” or “Godzilla 1985” in America. This was the start of the Heisei era. This had many movies with “Vs” in the title. Godzilla vs Biollante, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, Godzilla vs Ghidorah. Godzilla vs Space Godzilla and Godzilla vs Destroyah to name a few.
Zach – Honestly, most of the heisei era movies kinda sucked. G vs Ghidorah had some appalling plot twists and the lamest android ever. Also, there was like five seconds of action in it. Biollante was filmed in my beloved Fukui and Space Godzilla was an maelstrom of kaiju awesomeness.
Scipio – But then Godzilla died in Godzilla vs Destroyah. But do not worry, Godzilla came back in Godzilla 2000. This started the Millennial series. Godzilla 2000 was a great reboot and set the tone for the entire series. Godzilla’s breath attack was upgraded from a tickle spray to a megabeam that blows everything up in a rather impressive display.
Buffalo – Many of these Millennial movies have a message. For example in Godzilla vs Megagirus, Godzilla is attracted to nuclear power so Japan is forced to go to alternative forms of energy. Sounds nice to me. Wait, in many Indian religions there is talk of evil serpents with horns that live in the water. I wonder if one if one of these were the first kaiju. I want to see a Cheyenne kaiju kicking an American kaiju’s but! In Giant Monsters all out Attack Godzilla is there to punish Japan for its crimes in World War II. Most movies in this series are unrelated and approach Godzilla like it was a direct sequel to Godzilla 1954. (Yes, some mention other movies, but in a loose manner. And Godzilla S.O.S. is a sequel to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.) There’s a lot of action, a lot of fun and a lot of cheesy special effects.
Anna – Okay, hold on…I just read this. The Millennial series ended with Final Wars which was an homage to the Showa era movies with the many monsters battling aliens for the fate of the world. It was the 50th anniversary of the first Godzilla movie. (1954 – 2004.) In Byzantine terms, that’s a very short time. See, I still got it!
Zach – So, this catches us up to present with the release of Legendary’s Godzilla in 2014, the 60th anniversary in which it takes Godzilla back to its “punishment for mankind’s folly by nature” theme. Godzilla is no longer a campy cheese fest, but a terrifying nightmare of destruction.
Gaspar – Oh, and lastly, please leave a comment with your favorite kaiju or Godzilla suit.