Hail to the King: A review of the entire Godzilla franchise Part 1
I originally wrote this for a start-up website from my college that focused on films and television. Obviously Godzilla isn't exactly a huge topic for college kids so it never got published. I've decided to finally put the first part up on here. I also put it up on the sub reddit, but it didn't get any traction. I wrote it for people who weren't familiar with the franchise, so I'm wondering what you guys think of my opinions of the films and how I did on maybe introducing someone to the films.
I would also like to point out that the only change I've made to this since I originally wrote it was my thoughts on Godzilla's Revenge aka All Monsters Attack.
With Shin Godzilla, aka. Godzilla Resurgence, coming out in less than a week at the time of writing, there’s no better time than now to go down memory lane and look back at all thrills, spills, kaiju smack downs, and metaphors that have followed the King of the Monsters across a sixty career. For this article, we will go through the Showa era of Godzilla, the original series between 1954 and 1975. Typically, it’s best to start at the beginning, so that’s where we’ll start. The masterpiece that started it all.
Gojira: Gojira, the true Japanese name for Godzilla, was film directed by Ishiro Honda, Produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, with music written and composed by Akira Ifukube, and special effects done by Eiji Tsubaraya. When I call this money a masterpiece, I am not embellishing it like some do for “classic” movies. This movie, for the time, is incredible achievement of metaphorical storytelling, using a creature like Godzilla to illustrate the nuclear fear that the Japanese experienced firsthand was a bold move for the filmmakers. During the 1940’s, in the aftermath of WW2, the Japanese were not allowed to produce any media criticizing the U.S. occupation in Japan, but literally as soon as they left, films like Godzilla, not even ten years after the bombs dropped, came to life. To add the relevance to the Japanese people in 1954, the film came out mere months after the Lucky Dragon 5 incident, where a Japanese fishing boat was exposed to nuclear fallout in the Bikini Atoll. The special effects of the film were unprecedented, as no film ever used the techniques used here, stop-motion animation used in the original King Kong, were simply impossible for the production, so Tsubaraya had to literally develop this new technique of portraying a giant creature on screen. I can literally go on all day about the original film, but the point of this article is to talk about all 30 movies, so I’d personally like to move on, but if there is one thing you get from reading this, go see the original Gojira movie sometime during your life. Not the American dub, Godzilla, King of the Monsters either, the original Japanese cut.
Godzilla Raids Again: Produced merely a year after the release of the original classic, Godzilla Raids Again makes you question why the franchise continued on after this movie. Pretty much everything that made the original film such a great film is lost in translation and it became your standard 50’s movie warning about nuclear energy. Everything from the story to the monster fights, everything doesn’t feel as polished and fine-tuned as the original. The only things about the film that are note-worthy are the introduction of Anguirus, establishing the tradition of destroying the pagoda, a traditional Japanese structure, and of course the ending which saw Godzilla being forced into hibernation by an avalanche. This wasn’t the only thing to go into hibernation, the franchise also went into hibernation.
King Kong vs. Godzilla: Nearly 7 years later, Japan decided it was not only time to bring back the Big G, but it was time to put him against the most famous monster in the United States. That’s right, Frankenstein’s monster was chosen to fight Godzilla! Thankfully, the producers realized that this wasn’t a great idea, and changed it King Kong, an actual giant monster. However, many elements of the production from the time Frankenstein was the opponent still lingered. Putting it simply, King Kong got stronger from electricity, a trait that could be associated to Frankenstein’s monster. That should give you an idea about how seriously the movie took itself, but I’d be a big liar if I said the movie wasn’t damn entertaining.
Godzilla vs. Mothra: I’m going to try and move through this at a more rapid pace now. Arguably one of the best films during this era, this film introduces Mothra, another popular kaiju that TOHO, the production company behind Godzilla, created and placed into the Godzilla universe. Putting it simply, Godzilla films start showing signs of becoming Marvels films but starring giant monsters instead.
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster: This is the film that has Mothra, introduces Rodan, one of Godzilla’s most popular allies, aliens, who became typical villains for the human characters to deal with, and King Ghidorah, whom many people consider to be Godzilla’s nemesis. A giant three-headed golden space dragon, Ghidorah certainly has earned that title. This film is significant because this is the first time Godzilla becomes a hero, marking a continuing shift in the character where he becomes more and more heroic as well as gearing toward a more child centric audience.
Invasion of Astro-Monster: This film includes more aliens and science fiction elements than all the previous films, which may turn off some viewers, but the goofy storyline married with the increasing light-hearted monster fights, which is the same line-up as last time minus Mothra. One of the best child friendly films in the franchise and a personal favorite of mine, Invasion of Astro-Monster is one of the best films in the series. Side-note: This is one of the few movies where the English Dub is the better version of the film.
Ebirah, Horror of the Deep: This movie was originally meant to be a King Kong movie, however, Godzilla was switched in last minute in order to have more box office draw and it shows. Big G seems to have a romantic interest in a human, which is a King Kong thing, but hey no one will notice right? Godzilla uses a boulder to tennis with a giant lobster and that should really explain everything I need to say.
Son of Godzilla: Like Frankenstein and Dracula before him, the Godzilla franchise entered where all franchise that run out of ideas go, parenthood. Minilla, Godzilla’s son, is just awful. It looks like used playdough clumped together into a shapeless form. The film is about weather experiments creating giant insects, Kamacuras, giant Praying Mantises, and Kumonga, a giant spider. The ending is actually kind of heartwarming, as Godzilla, who’s been pretty abusive up to this point, embraces his son as they go into hibernation due to the weather experiment covering Monster Island in snow.
Destroy All Monsters: This was meant to be final TOHO Kaiju film, the one to end them all. As such, every monster they could afford with the larger budget was included in a true Avengers style movie. Set in the FAR DISTANT FUTURE OF 1999, this movie takes the science fiction goof factor to 11 and is an enjoyable romp. However as a movie called Destroy All Monsters that was meant to be the finale for all the monsters, there’s a surprising lack of monster action in this film.
All Monsters Attack: Oh boy…you either love this film for being what it is, or you hate it. I appreciate this movie a lot. It’s a about a young boy who’s being bullied imagining himself on Monster Island and befriending Minilla who can talk in his imagination. The boy watches Godzilla try to teach Minilla to fight other monsters, and in turn, finds his own strength in facing his bullies after being kidnapped by criminals. Some would say the use of stock footage is lazy, but in the context that this child sees himself in “Godzilla movies” just feels really imaginative in its own right.
Godzilla vs. Hedorah: This movie can best be described as a fever dream from a drug overdose, a cartoon, a call to end world pollution, and a Godzilla movie all rolled into one. I personally love this because of how weird it is. Hedorah is a space tadpole thingy that has mutated in our waste and will alter the Earth’s atmosphere to suit itself, which is very bad for us. Godzilla arrives as the defender of nature, comedy and a not so subtle message ensue.
Godzilla vs. Gigan: Another strange entry into the franchise, but not nearly as memorable, Godzilla vs. Gigan sees giant alien cockroaches, yes: GIANT. ALIEN. COCKROACHES. Their plan is take over the Earth after their own was destroyed by nuclear fallout, which they see humanity coming dangerously close to. This movie includes a weird comic book motif and introduces one of the most badass Godzilla monsters to date. Gigan is a cyborg space monster with metal hooks for hands a giant saw blade on its stomach. It also includes King Ghidorah and Anguirus, which gives the finale of the film a good old fashion kaiju throw down.
Godzilla vs. Megalon: All I have to say about this movie is watch the gif provided. Cinematic gold was made here. http://televandalist.com/post/86382466979
Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla: As the 20th Anniversary of Godzilla, the producers wanted to do something special. So the evil robotic doppelganger of Godzilla was introduced. This badass comes equipped with eye lasers, a chest laser, finger missiles, toe missiles, rocket feet, an energy shield, I mean this guy is armed to the teeth to fight Godzilla. One of the best Godzilla movies stars rejects from Plant of the Apes who try to take over the Earth with their robotic monster. This movie also has a new monster called King Caesar, a giant lion looking monster, resembling those statues of Chinese guardian lions.
Terror of MechaGodzilla: The final movie for this round, it’s the rematch between Godzilla and MechaGodzilla, but the tables have turned when an ancient dinosaur, Titanosaurus, is under the control of aliens using both MechaGodzilla and Titanosaurus to take over the Earth. Unfortunately, by this point in the series, it was clear that Godzilla had run out of steam and it was time to put the character to rest. However, that doesn’t mean Big G didn’t go out with a bang. MechaGodzilla packs a few new tricks up its sleeve and the final battle was one to remember.
This is as far as we’ll go today, but be sure to stayed tuned as plan to go through the Heisei, Millennium, and the current period of Godzilla movies as well as what’s to come in the future. Hope you enjoyed!
I'd really appreciate your guys thoughts on this and if you'd be interested in seeing the other three parts.
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