Godzilla’s Epic Cinematic Journey: A 70-Year History Explained

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Introduction

Do you know that Godzilla is an official citizen of Japan? It is an integral part of Japanese pop culture. And also, it’s a pop culture ambassador for the rest of the world. Recently Godzilla also collaborated with Jujutsu Kaisen.

People may think that Godzilla is a fairly new character with few movies based on it. But they are wrong it’s a 70-year-old character with a very well-written origin story and background.

So, in this article, I will provide a comprehensive overview of Godzilla’s cinematic journey over the past 70 years.

Origin of Godzilla

The creator of Godzilla is Tomoyuki Tanaka. He created Godzilla in 1954.

Godzilla’s original name is a portmanteau of the Japanese words for “gorilla” and “whale.”

For origin, Tanaka took inspiration from the real events of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings (that explosion that was shown on Oppenheimer, you can say that Oppenheimer gave the idea for the creation of Godzilla). Godzilla is a prehistoric creature who has been sleeping for a very long time. And was awakened by the radiation of the atomic blast in Japan. And by absorbing the radiation Godzilla grew larger and bigger and also got his iconic Atomic Breath. And started creating havoc in the overworld. It appeared not as a hero or a villain, it was an absolute beast who wanted the destruction of humanity.

Using this origin story Toho released the first movie based on Godzilla in 1954 in Japan. It was directed by Ishiro Honda and Co-written by Takeo Murata and special effects were given by Eiji Tsuburaya.

This became a massive hit overnight and became an integral part of the Japanese Pop culture. In this movie, Tanaka used Godzilla as a metaphor for the Atomic bomb. Which was reason for the destruction of Japan, at that time. The condition of war-torn Japan was horrible at that time. This was the reason the audience connected it with very much.

After the massive success of the first movie, a sequel was released in the next year 1956. It also gained moderate success compared to its prequel. So, after the second movie, the producers started to make movies on different types of monsters and kaiju.

In the third movie in 1962, Godzilla clashed with King Kong. And then many more monsters like Gigan, Ghidorah, Rodan, Mechagodzilla.

Although movies related to kaiju are not new to Japanese film, but they don’t get the same popularity as Godzilla.

Godzilla’s evolution

With time, many transformations took place in the character of Godzilla. Size-wise, every filmmaker has made changes in this character. But the biggest change was that initially Godzilla was shown as a dangerous beast, but slowly many filmmakers started experimenting with it, and with each experiment, Godzilla also became a light-hearted and kid-friendly character.

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Godzilla was giving flying kick to his enemy in a fight

But yes, you can say that Godzilla originated from a very tragic event in Japan. As Japan slowly recovered from the tragedy, the demand of the audience also started changing. The audience wanted to see something fun and light-hearted in the movie. Which would make them happy and hence Godzilla also had to be light-hearted.

But once a monster, will always be a monster. As soon as this comedy phase ended, the audience again wanted something deadly and once again our Godzilla changed on the demand of the audience. In 1984, The Return of Godzilla was released where we got to see a deadlier Godzilla than ever before. Its size was increased even further. The look has been made more deadly and realistic. But yes, the concept was still the same, where monsters were fighting each other. This trend continued till 2004 when Godzilla again faced many monsters.

Finally, in 1998 the first Godzilla movie was released in Hollywood. The film was released theatrically on May 20, 1998. After seeing the success of the Jurassic Park franchise the producers spent a lot of money on Godzilla. But rather it became a box office disappointment because the American audience did not like the movie. Due to this unsuccessful performance at the Box office, the makers halted future projects on Godzilla for around 15 years. Seeing the failure of this popular Japanese character in Hollywood, its original creator said, “They took the GOD out of Godzilla”. From this statement, you can imagine how bad this movie would have been.

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The body structure of the 1998 Godzilla was like a bent-over theropod, just like the Dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

Godzilla’s movie was released again in 2014, starting the Monsterverse, and this time it was very successful.

Godzilla is an amazing character who has been forcing filmmakers to make movies about him for the last 70 years. Look-wise, not much change has been made in the character but yes, in some filmmakers’ stories he is a villain and in others, he is a hero.

Leaving American movies aside, Godzilla’s cinematic history can be divided into four eras:

  1. Showa Era (1954 – 1975): 15 movies
  2. Heisei Era (1984 – 1995): 7 movies
  3. Millennium Era (1999 – 2004): 6 movies
  4. Reiwa Era (2016 – Present): 4 movies (Upcoming: Godzilla Minus 1)

Godzilla’s impact on pop culture

Godzilla has a big influence on pop culture all around the globe. A new genre was added to the Japanese film industry, where entire movies were made based around the fights of two giant monsters. Other film industries also followed this trend which we have seen many times in Hollywood movies.

Godzilla has been featured in more than 30 movies. Due to such a long history, Godzilla also has a Guinness Book of World Records.

Godzilla has even been used as a mascot for various products and services, such as toothpaste, energy drinks, and insurance.

Conclusion

Godzilla, the King of the Monsters, has been a cultural icon for over 70 years. From his humble beginnings as a metaphor for the nuclear threat of the 1950s to his modern-day role as a protector of humanity, Godzilla has evolved with the times, remaining one of the most popular and enduring movie monsters of all time.

Godzilla’s legacy is more than just his films. He has also inspired countless works of art, literature, and music. He is a global phenomenon, and his impact can be felt in all corners of the world. Godzilla is more than just a movie monster; he is a cultural icon.

FAQs

How many Godzilla movies are there?

As of 2023, there have been 36 Godzilla films produced.

What is the difference between the Japanese Godzilla films and the American Godzilla films?

The Japanese Godzilla films are typically more serious and dramatic, while the American Godzilla films are more action-oriented and campy.

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