Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Origins of Godzilla

Hi everyone. I said last night that I'd be doing a post on Godzilla today, so let's gets to it.
Godzilla first appeared on the big screen in Japan in 1954. There he was originally termed Gojira. However a few years later America decided to show it and dubbed the creature Godzilla. In the original film Godzilla was a dinosaur that was sleeping when atomic bombs in the pacific awakened him. Godzilla laid waste to several islands and ships before making his way to Japan where he reduced Tokyo to rubble. It was only using a deadly weapon that Japan was able to take him down.
You wouldn't think that Godzilla was inspired by something from another movie, yet he was. Before Godzilla there was a popular film titled The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, about a dinosaur called a Rhedosaurus that is awakened by a foghorn and terrorizes New York City.
If I had to venture a guess, I'd say the people at Toho (the company that made the Godzilla films) liked the idea of a giant dinosaur coming back to terrorize a city. The designers then proceeded to create their own prehistoric kaiju. For Gojira they combined the qualities and attributes of Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Iguanodon. They also looked at the effects the atomic bomb had on people in designing Godzilla's skin. I think the whole concept of Godzilla originally was to show the harmful effects of nuclear testing. Godzilla's roar was done by slowing down the recording of the sound of a resin coated glove along the string of a contrabass. Pretty good choice in my opinion.
Over the years, in a period known as the Showa era, Godzilla was brought back and the films ended up portraying Godzilla as a hero of sorts, coming to the rescue to save Japan from some evil kaiju.
In the Heisei era Godzilla was reimagined back into a ferocious monster and in the films from that era Godzilla was usually a threat to humanity itself that constantly had to be stopped. Yes Godzilla still fought other kaiju that surfaced, though I think they were trying to go more for the approach of territorial protection instincts than trying to save humanity.
During this time Godzilla was given a new backstory as well. Rather than being some dormant prehistoric creature that woke up to the atomic bomb like a really loud alarm clock, Godzilla was reimagined as being a species of dinosaur that fans have termed "Godzillasaurus". The Godzillasaurus was living on an island called Lagos Island where a garrison of Japanese soldiers were about to be overrun by American Troops. The dinosaur, thinking the Americans to be invaders of its territory, came and killed the soldiers, but not before suffering terrible wounds. Years later the atomic testing in the Pacific mutated the dinosaur and turned it into Godzilla. This was all revealed in the 1991 film Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, where people of the future came back in time to stop Godzilla from coming into existence. They teleported the dinosaur to another part of the world and left their Dorats on Lagos Island to be mutated into King Ghidorah. Thankfully the dinosaur still got exposed to radiation and Godzilla still came about and vanquished King Ghidorah.
In 1998 Columbia Tristar tried to do a remake of Godzilla. They tried to design Godzilla to appear more like a dinosaur and behave more like an animal than a monster. The new origin was that he wasn't a dinosaur, but an iguana mutated by radiation. Fans of Godzilla hated the result and for years called the creature G.I.N.O. (Godzilla In Name Only). However in the 2004 Godzilla: Final Wars, Toho used the American remake as one of the monsters attacking the Earth and renamed him Zilla. I think to appeal to the fan hatred of Zilla they had Godzilla take him down in less than a minute.
Yes, that's the one called Zilla. Anyway, after the failed attempt to remake Godzilla in America Toho went back to making Godzilla films, which is often referred to as the Millennium series since they were released around the time of the new millennium. Interestingly each film didn't build off the predecessor and seemed to be more oriented to continuing where the films from the 50s and 60s left off as the films constantly referenced or alluded to characters and events that happened during those times. The only exception to the rule were the two films that had Godzilla face off against a new version of Mechagodzilla.
Now we are in a new era. Legendary Studios obtained the rights to do a new remake of Godzilla. Many fans were worried at first, but the people in charge of making the film said they wanted to do it right from every angle, and one admitted to being a fan of Toho's version. I still have yet to see the film, but I've heard that it's being received positively. I would say that we might be entering a new era for Godzilla. If I were allowed to pick a name for this era of Godzilla, I would call this the Legendary era.
Now you're all probably wondering why I like Godzilla. As I mentioned before one of the key factors is him being a dinosaur. However I do like other things about him. I like how he's designed and his seemingly indestructible nature. I also enjoy how he always seems to be a key to fighting off some danger to the planet, even if humanity's safety isn't on his agenda. I also like his fighting spirit, and how he refuses to back down from a fight. Godzilla seems like he never gives up no matter what. That determination is always something I enjoy seeing, that no matter how hard things get the character never gives up.
I've read online that people at Legendary have thought of doing a crossover between Godzilla and Pacific Rim. I'm not sure what to think of that. They ended Pacific Rim pretty well, although I have to admit it might be fun to have Godzilla fight off some of the kaiju from the film, and maybe a Jaeger or two. I just don't know how it would be done. I guess we'll just have to wait and see if Toho will allow Legendary to keep making Godzilla films.

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