by Reality’s Frank
Recently, as I progressed through the marathon of my entire DVD collection, I’ve come to the “G” section and watched every Godzilla movie in order of production with only three exceptions: “Godzilla King Of The Monsters,” “Godzilla’s Revenge,” and the 1998 American Godzilla. I skipped Godzilla KOTM because it’s just “Gojira” with a few new scenes featuring Raymond Burr added in. “Godzilla’s Revenge” was skipped because frankly it’s embarrassing to watch, being more focused on some stupid kid who fantasizes about being friends with Godzilla’s son, Manilla (pronounced “Meen-ya”). And finally the American Godzilla was skipped because if it were a food, it would be Campbell’s Cream of Asshole Soup.
Now interestingly enough, watching the entire Godzilla franchise reveals no less than four separate continuities or timelines. This is played out with time travel, re-launches, and flat-out mistakes. And so, in the interest of fun and completely wasted time, I thought I’d explore this.
The first movie, “Gojira,” was released in Japan in 1954. It was groundbreaking stuff. Naturally there were many giant monster movies in that time period, such as “King Kong” and “Earth Vs. The Spider,” but “Gojira” revolutionized the genre. Before, the monsters had always been obvious visual effects: Kong was a puppet brought to life with stop-go animation, while The Spider was literally just close-up footage of a normal spider superimposed in the movie alongside the rest of the actors and backgrounds. But “Gojira” was completely different. In “Gojira,” the monster was a guy in a rubber suit tromping around a fully detailed miniature city which ensured two things: the monster would always be in scale to his surroundings, and the monster could really interact with his environment.
Now the most important fact to take away from “Gojira” in regards to this piece is the fact that at the end of the movie, Gojira is clearly killed and completely destroyed. I mean he’s gone, wiped out, finito. Elvis has left the building. One year later, (and Toho was good at turning out a new movie on a yearly basis) Toho released a sequel called “Godzilla Raids Again.” Blah blah details, blah blah plot, and in the end Godzilla is lured into a box canyon on a glacial island and buried under hundreds of tons of ice, end of movie.
After GRA was released, Toho decided to give this particular monster a break to focus on other movies such as Mothra and Rodan. But one noteworthy thing happened during this time: “Godzilla Raids Again” was re-titled “Gigantis the Fire Monster” for the American release, even though this was clearly bullshit. The new dialogue written for the English dubbed version suggests that Gigantis is a different monster than Gojira with a completely different origin, with a bunch of crappy stock footage thrown in to back up the history of the monsters, but fortunately this was overlooked and never mentioned again.
Seven years later, Toho remembered that they really liked making money, so they decided to go back to what they knew worked and produced “King Kong Vs. Godzilla.” This movie was primarily stupid, especially considering the original script was actually supposed to be about a gigantic Frankenstein monster, but was changed at the last minute to Kong. But it did set the tone of the movies from then on. Every Godzilla movie that came out over the next thirteen years, from “King Kong Vs. Godzilla” to “Terror of Mechagodzilla,” was done according to the funky 60’s and 70’s film making style, with ridiculous music and some really idiotic camera work. However, the continuity of the series remained fairly constant, with a few slips here and there but no glaring contradictions.
After “Terror of Mechagodzilla,” Toho once again decided to put Godzilla on hiatus for another ten years until 1985, when they released a movie alternately called “Godzilla,” “Godzilla Returns,” or “Godzilla ’85.” This movie kick-started the second continuity in which every movie since the first “Gojira” was completely forgotten about, much like how “Superman Returns” disregards parts 3 and 4. In “Godzilla ’85” the new monster goes back to his roots, he’s no longer the protector of the Earth who frequently teamed up with other monsters and performed victory dances, instead he’s once again a terror who appears from the sea to destroy Tokyo and to feed on the energy from the nuclear power plants.
So now Toho had finally deleted the lasting embarrassment of the films from the 60’s and 70’s by striking them all from the record, just like pretty much everything in the “Highlander” franchise after the second movie, and yet they STILL never mention where this new Godzilla comes from as the first Gojira was still quite dead.
This new Godzilla lasted until 1991 when Toho released “Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah.” This is the movie that not only kick-starts the third continuity, but also further confuses the series. In this movie, time travelers from the 2200’s come back to present day Japan to warn of an impending attack by Godzilla that will completely destroy the entire country, so they convince the nation’s leaders to let them take a small group of scientists and journalists back in time with them to 1945 near the end of the second world war. It is here for the first time that we see Godzilla’s true origin: he was an actual T-Rex that defended the Japanese soldiers by scaring away the American troops, although he was badly injured in the process.
The Japanese soldiers were then recalled from the island, and the time travelers, now able to work unnoticed, transported the dinosaur to another island, theorizing that if the dinosaur were on a different island further from the testing site of the A-bomb, he wouldn’t be subjected to the radiation that caused him to mutate into Godzilla. The time travelers, in the process, leave behind three little monsters called Doraks that are intended to receive the radiation instead and turn into Ghidorah. Upon returning to the present, Godzilla appears to no longer exist (so how do they even remember him?) but now Japan has been terrorized by Ghidorah all this time.
It turns out the future people can control Ghidorah and intend to use him to destroy Japan because in the future, Japan has become so prosperous that they’ve bought up nearly half the countries in the world. BUT (I told you this would get confusing) the people in the present decide to try to find the dinosaur and subject him to a new dose of radiation to make a NEW Godzilla, only to discover that the dinosaur has already been irradiated by a sunken submarine and become Godzilla anyway. This is where all of the previous continuity goes to shit. According to this new timeline, this third Godzilla is actually the first Godzilla because now even the first Gojira never happened. Also, because he was mutated with modern radiation, Godzilla is even bigger and meaner than ever before.
Oh but we’re not done yet! In 1993 we got “Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla 2” where now MG is built by humans instead of aliens, and a new Manilla is introduced, although he’s now just referred to as Baby. This movie sets the stage for “Godzilla Vs. Spacegodzilla” the following year. Baby has gotten a lot bigger and the appearance of Spacegodzilla confuses the timeline even more because he’s supposed to be caused by one of two possible ways in which Godzilla DNA made it into space: either by the destruction of Biollante (a plant monster created by combining a rose with Godzilla DNA), or it was carried into space by Mothra who was on his way to deflect a meteor that would destroy the Earth in 1999, neither or which happened now because that particular Godzilla had been erased from history.
In 1995 “Godzilla Vs. Destroyah” tried to once and for all bring some closure to the whole mess by killing off the new/original Godzilla with a surprisingly brilliant idea: Godzilla’s heart, which is basically a nuclear reactor that powers his atomic breath, is starting to melt down, causing his body to glow red with the nearly 1200 degree (C) heat. The danger involved with this is that if Godzilla’s heart finally does melt down, the heat generated would be sufficient to ignite the Earth’s atmosphere and destroy the planet. Unfortunately there’s one more problem with the timeline that the writers overlooked: Destroyah is supposed to be some microorganism mutated by the oxygen destroyer used in the first Gojira, even though the timeline had been changed in “Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah” so that the oxygen destroyer was never used.
Anyway, in the end Godzilla finally does melt down, but the military manages to cool him down just enough with a new type of “0 degree laser” so he doesn’t destroy the Earth, and Godzilla jr. is now set to take over.
Four years later, “Godzilla 2000” came out with a brand new looking Godzilla which I refer to as “Beefcake Godzilla” because of his thicker, more muscular neck. This begins the fourth timeline. Nothing of any major importance happens in this movie except to establish the new monster design, which carries over to the next movie, “Godzilla Vs. Megaguirus” which again is of no major importance except to sell tickets for another monster fight.
Oddly enough the next year Toho shifted gears and gave us a movie with the long-winded title of “Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Giant Monsters All-out Attack.” It’s hard to understand where this movie fits in with the rest of the series because so many things have been blatantly changed. First off we have a different looking Godzilla from the last two movies, more like the classic Godzilla style except he has completely white eyes. Next they took Baragun and King Ghidorah and arbitrarily changed their origins, so now they’re guardian monsters alongside Mothra, even though in the past, Baragun was an enemy of Mothra; and Ghidorah was, of course, an enemy of the entire planet, first coming from space, and then from the future.
In the end, all three guardian monsters are defeated and Godzilla is destroyed in a very clever way with a drill missile fired from inside his body causing his atomic breath to blast through his own neck and blow up his body. I guess this must be a stand-alone story because none of it is ever mentioned again and the following movie goes back to the Beefcake Godzilla.
This time, in “Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla,” Toho puts the final nail in the coffin of the series’ continuity for anyone who was blissfully unaware of the timeline seperation (which confused the hell out of me for quite a while until I started this analysis.) A new Mechagodzilla is built with the bones of the first Godzilla that was killed with the oxygen destroyer in “Gojira.” Unfortunately, during the first confrontation, Godzilla’s roar awakens the original Gojira’s DNA that was used to make the DNA based computers in Mechagodzilla, causing him to go wild and attack the city until his power supply runs out.
This leads directly to the next movie, “Godzilla: Tokyo SOS” in which the two fairies from Infant Island come to tell the humans that Mothra is pissed that Godzilla’s bones were disturbed and that they must be returned to the bottom of the sea or else Mothra will destroy the city himself. Blah blah fighting, blah blah twin Mothra larva, blah blah Mechagodzilla becomes sentient doesn’t want to fight anymore, and Beefcake Godzilla is finally defeated and carried to the bottom of the sea tightly strapped to Mechagodzilla.
Lastly of course, until “Shin Godzilla,” the big 50th anniversary movie, was “Godzilla: Final Wars,” which is FUCKING AWESOME! Aliens from Planet X come to Earth, brainwash all the monsters and set them on a rampage, so the remaining humans have to free Godzilla from his icy prison at the South Pole and lead him around the world to defeat the entire roster of his enemies, including the American Godzilla from ’98, now called Zilla. Zilla dies like a bitch.
Finally, we have a new series of American Godzilla movies, dubbed the “Monsterverse” which in all honesty I don’t care for, and as before Toho responded with something incredible: “Shin Godzilla.”
“Shin Godzilla,” or “Godzilla Resurgence,” has an amazing premise: what if Godzilla appeared for the first time today? The new design is outstanding, Godzilla has some amazing new abilities, and the story is a cutting critique of the Japanese government being hopelessly mired in policy and red tape. SEE THIS MOVIE!
I’ve always enjoyed Godzilla movies, with the goofy monster costumes, the hokey music, the wanton destruction of innocent pagodas in nearly every movie, and the sappy morals; it’s always fun to just let myself get drawn into the story and suspend disbelief. People today are a little too cynical for their own good, myself included. There’s no shame in admitting, even to ourselves, that there’s nothing wrong with putting on a movie or a show with no intellectual value and throwing a bag of popcorn in the microwave. So go watch something stupid, it’s good for you. As I always say, when you can truly appreciate and enjoy bad movies, it allows you to more fully appreciate the good ones.