Godzilla

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History shows again and again
How nature points out the folly of man
Godzilla! ~ Robert Groser
I was never a big Godzilla fan, they were just the weekend matinees you saw as a kid, like Hercules films and the really bad Italian westerns. You’d go with all your friends and just laugh. ~ Roland Emmerich
Godzilla absorbed massive amounts of atomic radiation and yet it still survived! What do you think could kill it? Instead, we should focus on why it is still alive. That should be our top priority! ~ Dr. Kyohei Yamane

Godzilla is a monster originating from a series of Japanese films of the same name. The character first appeared in Ishirō Honda's 1954 film Godzilla and became a worldwide pop culture icon, appearing in various media, including 31 films produced by Toho, three Hollywood films, and numerous video games, novels, comic books, television shows. It is often dubbed the "King of the Monsters", a phrase first used in Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, the Americanized version of the original film. Godzilla is depicted as an enormous, destructive, prehistoric sea monster awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation.

About[edit]

Godzilla is really frightening. I mean, Godzilla is much more dangerous and menacing than say King Kong, because King Kong is recognizably humanoid, he's recognizably a primate, an animal like ourselves. Godzilla isn't; Godzilla is a gigantic, fire-breathing reptile. ~ Alex Cox
I thought of Godzilla as the embodiment of violence and hatred for mankind, because he was created by atomic energy. He carried this rage within him because of his origins. He's like a symbol of humanity's complicity in their own destruction. He doesn't have an emotion. He is an emotion. ~ Jun Fukuda
Period films are enjoyable because they feature sword battles. Westerns are enjoyable because they feature gun battles. The recent Godzilla movies are like period films without swords and westerns without guns. - Haruo Nakajima
Although movies are, more or less, in some ways unreal or complete fabrication, Godzilla seems like the biggest fabrication of them all. - Kazuki Ōmori
He was my hero as a boy, and even now his roar has been my only ring tone any of the cell phones I have ever had. - Aron Ra
Godzilla is a creature that seems to embody the view—perhaps distinctive to Asian religions—that an atmosphere of quiet calm and tranquility follows the outbreak of something destructive or fearful. - Ken Watanabe
From the beginning [Godzilla] has symbolized nature's revenge on mankind. ~ Tomoyuki Tanaka
Probably the most difficult aspect for Westerners to understand is that at heart Godzilla is considered a force of nature by Japanese and not an oversize radioactive lizard. Lizards can be killed; but nature can only be dealt with. It was one of the reasons the Roland Emmerich-directed Godzilla [1998] was such a failure with the fans. Like a lot of Westerners, he just didn’t get it. ~ Norman England
The first Godzilla film was a very dark, deep piece of filmmaking - almost disturbing in a way. But the love the country and the kids felt for the creature literally evolved Godzilla into a national hero. ~ Guillermo del Toro
  • Godzilla is really frightening. I mean, Godzilla is much more dangerous and menacing than say King Kong, because King Kong is recognizably humanoid, he's recognizably a primate, an animal like ourselves. Godzilla isn't; Godzilla is a gigantic, fire-breathing reptile.
    • Alex Cox, as quoted in "Godzilla: King of the Monsters", BBC 2 (July 11, 1998)
  • I was never a big Godzilla fan, they were just the weekend matinees you saw as a kid, like Hercules films and the really bad Italian westerns. You’d go with all your friends and just laugh.
  • Probably the most difficult aspect for Westerners to understand is that at heart Godzilla is considered a force of nature by Japanese and not an oversize radioactive lizard. Lizards can be killed; but nature can only be dealt with. It was one of the reasons the Roland Emmerich-directed Godzilla [1998] was such a failure with the fans. Like a lot of Westerners, he just didn’t get it.
  • During the U.S.-led occupation, which lasted until 1952, there was a moratorium on any press coverage dealing with the atomic aftermath in any in-depth way. The thinking was that too much attention to the atomic bombings would derail democratization efforts and would undermine U.S. authority, particularly since the U.S. had already begun using Japanese territory as a base from which to launch bombing raids on Vietnam. With the end of the occupation, some activists and journalists started to deal directly with the atomic bombings, but they were not getting much traction. People were more interested in trying to rebuild. But then there was a real game-changer. The U.S. conducted a nuclear test over the Bikini atoll and a Japanese fishing ship, the Lucky Dragon, its crew, and all their fish were exposed to the fallout radiation. When this hit the newspapers, it ignited an enormous scare, as people throughout the country feared that they had been exposed to nuclear radiation through consuming tainted fish. That was in March 1954, shortly before the release of Gojira, the opening scene of which features a fishing crew exposed to an unexplained, destructive flash of light. So, when that hit the big screens, it touched a real nerve with the Japanese public.
  • Godzilla’s most dominant features are that it acts out of self-protection or rage and that it has superhuman strength and that, a result of atomic testing in the Pacific, is a product of science and technology going very wrong. Its destruction of cities and its inhabitants seems “understandable” in this light given her favorite status.
  • So where Western audiences sometimes see camp, B-movie destruction, those in-the-know experience something more profound. One can even read Godzilla as a contemporary take on the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita, that emphasises atonement and selfless service. The giant lizard and a stable of fellow outlandish terrors mirror the Indian god Vishnu when he takes on his multi-armed form and says: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." All to persuade the hero-prince of the Indian epic that he should "do his duty".
  • I thought of Godzilla as the embodiment of violence and hatred for mankind, because he was created by atomic energy. He carried this rage within him because of his origins. He's like a symbol of humanity's complicity in their own destruction. He doesn't have an emotion. He is an emotion.
    • Jun Fukuda, as quoted in "Godzilla: King of the Monsters", BBC 2 (July 11, 1998)
  • The nuclear metamorphosized giant monster genre was in its infancy when Godzilla was first born. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, the first movie to associate nuclear weapons with giant, destructive creatures, premiered a little over a year before in 1953. But unlike the monstrous ants in the similarly themed Them!, Godzilla and The Beast were monsters awakened, not created, by atomic testing.
    The distinction is small but indicative of broader international trends among genre films as the advent of satellite imagery, and the Second World War’s geographical exploration of necessity, shrank formerly undocumented parts of the globe.
  • It was the burgeoning TV markets that most influenced the American public’s perception of Godzilla not as destructive force, but as heroic monster with an appeal to children. Google’s nGram viewer shows recorded instances of the word “Godzilla” appearing in English language books starting only in 1970, one year after the 1969 Americanized version of Son of Godzilla was released directly to TV. The ability to remove large sections of the movies without sacrificing any of the over-simplified story made Godzilla a perfect fit for the few existing channels looking to maximize ad space in sparsely populated programming blocks. In 1977, NBC gave Godzilla vs. Megalon an hour long network television premiere with over twenty minutes trimmed from the film.
  • He's a product of civilisation. Men are the only real monsters. Godzilla's more like a nuclear weapon... A living nuclear weapon destined to walk the Earth forever. Indestructible. A victim of the modern nuclear age.
    • Professor Makoto Hayashida, portrayed by Yosuke Natsuki, as quoted in Godzilla 1985 (1985), directed by Koji Hashimoto
  • It must be very hard for Americans to fully understand the significance of the Hiroshima bombings to the Japanese. The closest parallel in American history of that lasting fissure in the national psyche resulting from a military defeat would be the Vietnam War. Americans still have not healed those wounds, and perhaps it is presumptuous to expect that the Japanese would be any different. In a way, the endurance of Godzilla's popularity suggests that those wounds have not healed at all. For some reason, Japanese popular culture still feels the need to discuss the issues in the coded context of giant monsters.
    • David Kalat (2010), A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series, McFarland, p. 214.
  • Godzilla is the original radioactive superhero — or antihero, in this case. The reptilian giant was born out of a genre of Japanese film called Hibakusha Cinema, developed in the unique cultural climate of post-war Japan.
  • The fact that Godzilla is a giant Hibakusha should not go unnoticed. He’s a reminder of the destructive power of radiation, and the transformative properties of the atomic bomb’s devastation.
  • Humanity has long had a twisted fascination spawning from deep-seated fears of a destructive monster, one so great as to annihilate whole societies indiscriminately. The Hindu religion expressed this idea in the form of the god Shiva, who is the destroyer of the self, of negative aspects of an individual, and ultimately of the Universe. In popular literature, the concept is commonly associated with the fiction of Lovecraft and his Cthulu mythos. Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, famously recited a line from the Bhagavad Gita uttered by Krishna, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu (himself a creator and destroyer). Upon witnessing the destructive power of the bomb, Oppenheimer paraphrased the deity: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” The religious climate of Japan owes a great deal to its forerunners in BuddhismIndia and China — who, in turn, owe a great deal to Hindu teachings. In some cases, Hindu pantheons have been completely adopted by Buddhist sects, ensuring the propagation of certain concepts into future generations of practitioners. Godzilla could very well represent one such concept, in the form of a destructive and indiscriminate deity born of Hindu philosophy and adopted into Buddhist thought.
  • Bringing our own species to the brink of extinction has long been a favorite subject of science fiction stories, and Godzilla is a prime example. Technology either awoke the monster from its slumbers deep beneath the ocean or outright created it. We know that, at the very least, Godzilla’s exposure to radiation increased his destructive power; the blue flame he spews is known as his “atomic blast.” And the creature rejuvenates his powers by sopping up the electromagnetic fields harnessed by crashing through electrical lines and power stations.
  • Godzilla has roots as a mythic personification of natural destructive forces: the earthquakes, tsunami and typhoons that have regularly struck Japan over the centuries. He’s a dragon-cum-dinosaur after all, not a human being or even a creature with recognisable emotions à la King Kong. So there’s a spark of the divine there, the ‘God’ in Godzilla, if you will; indifferent to the ant-like humans that inhabit this planet, [he] can easily become wrathful or a bringer of death.
  • Godzilla's like a hurricane or a tidal wave. We must approach him as we would a force of nature. We must understand him. Deal with him. Perhaps, even, try to communicate with him. And, just for the record, 30 years ago they never found any corpse.
    • Steve Martin, portrayed by Raymond Burr, as quoted in Godzilla 1985 (1985), directed by Koji Hashimoto
  • Nature has a way sometimes of reminding Man of just how small he is. She occasionally throws up terrible offspring's of our pride and carelessness to remind us of how puny we really are in the face of a tornado, an earthquake, or a Godzilla. The reckless ambitions of Man are often dwarfed by their dangerous consequences. For now, Godzilla - that strangely innocent and tragic monster - has gone to earth. Whether he returns or not, or is never again seen by human eyes, the things he has taught us remain.
    • Steve Martin, portrayed by Raymond Burr, as quoted in Godzilla 1985 (1985), directed by Koji Hashimoto
  • When I was playing Godzilla, we would show him wrestling with the other monsters. These days Godzilla and the other monsters only are shown firing their rays at each other. Period films are enjoyable because they feature sword battles. Westerns are enjoyable because they feature gun battles. The recent Godzilla movies are like period films without swords and westerns without guns.
  • Although movies are, more or less, in some ways unreal or complete fabrication, Godzilla seems like the biggest fabrication of them all.
    • Kazuki Ōmori, as quoted by Steve Ryfle (1998), Japan's Favourite Mon-star: The Unauthorized Biography of "The Big G", ECW Press, p. 254, ISBN 1550223488
  • I wasn’t really a fan of kaiju, (giant Japanese monsters) only Godzilla himself. He was my hero as a boy, and even now his roar has been my only ring tone any of the cell phones I have ever had.
  • The original 1954 Japanese film, Gojira was iconic, and only made a couple mistakes of any significance. (1)They killed him in the end, and we saw his body turned to skeleton. Not the best way to begin 60 years worth of sequels. (2) Godzilla was depicted as a dinosaur, and was associated with living trilobites. Even if there was some sort of ‘realm that time forgot’ out in the Pacific somewhere, Trilobites were already extinct before the first dinosaurs, and Godzilla was clearly no dinosaur. The conceptual artists reportedly referenced illustrations of dinosaurs, but that’s not what they rendered. All bi-pedal dinosaurs [Therapods] were digigrade, walking on their toes, like birds, and usually only three or four digits. Godzilla was plantigrade and pentadactyle, (having five digits and walking on the whole foot) just like lizards. It even looks like a lizard, apart from the fact that no reptile has an actual nose or external ears. In a sense, what Toho pictures created was actually an oriental dragon. These tend to mix reptilian and mammalian traits. Amusingly in 1954, Toho made a giant lizard and called it a dinosaur. In 1998, Tristar re-designed Godzilla as a dinosaur, but called it a lizard. Of course that wasn’t the only thing Tristar did wrong. They tried to ruin the monster completely. They took away the only thing that worked in decades of sequels, the look of the monster itself. Then they took away everything that made Godzilla appealing to Kaiju fans, then they tied it down and shot it. Such disrespect. If you’re going to make a movie that already has a fan-base, and they are the ones who will decide whether your film will pay off, respect those fans and the story they’re paying to see.
  • I think that the best science fiction is where the story is fiction but the science is real, or at least as real as possible. If you’re going to write a good sci-fi, and you want me to believe the one wholly implausible idea that your story is about, then every other aspect of the film should be as seemingly reasonable as it possibly can be. That’s what Jurassic Park tried to do. If I am to believe that an impossibly huge reptilian monster is destroying the city, then the back story of it’s origin ought to sound realistic enough to counter-balance that. That’s what the first Godzilla movie tried to do. After that, filmmakers adopted the opposite strategy; so that everything else in the subsequent sequels had so many outrageous absurdities, each so insanely stupid, that the monster in the middle was the most reasonable element by comparison.
  • The outlandish metaphors of the science-fiction and horror genres are useful vehicles for imagining the unimaginable, speaking the unspeakable. In pop creations like "Godzilla," the blunt metaphors, like the monsters themselves, tend to develop minds of their own: they run rampant, flattening even the sturdiest intentions. The most peculiar thing about Godzilla as a metaphor for the bomb is the creature's simultaneous status as a legendary beast of Japanese islanders' mythology: surely a more precise representation of the disaster that befell the country at the end of the Second World War would be an agent of destruction from far away, unheard of even in legend, not this native, almost familiar monster. Is Godzilla, then, also on some subterranean level a metaphor for Japan's former imperial ambitions, which finally unleashed the retaliatory fury that leveled its cities?
    Maybe. But the the runaway metaphor of Honda's Godzilla isn't nearly so easy to pin down. It's more ambiguous, more generalized and perhaps more potent than that. And its significance can be glimpsed only in the Japanese version of the movie, because what Honda's "Godzilla" is most fundamentally about, I think, is a society's desire to claim its deepest tragedies for itself, to assimilate them as elements of its historical identity. The world of the uncut, un-Americanized original "Godzilla" is literally insular. There's no occupying army, no heavy-set Caucasian reporters, no United Nations representatives, nothing but Japanese people, screaming at, worrying about and ultimately vanquishing their Japanese monster. By the end of the picture, Godzilla himself seems already on his way to becoming a beloved figure. Dying, the beast sinks into the sea with one last plaintive roar, and Honda gives him the sort of send-off our westerns used to reserve for those stubborn old gunfighters that history kept leaving behind. All that's missing is "Shall We Gather at the River."
    Having claimed this monster as its own, Japan or at least, the Toho film studio was then free to export it. Toho cranked out dozens of prehistoric-creature features in the next couple of decades (many of them directed by an increasingly unengaged Honda), and the anguished resonances of the original "Godzilla" were never heard again. The metaphor had slipped its moorings and headed far out to sea, refitted as a tacky cruise ship. It's no wonder the jocular, mega-budget American remake landed with such a spectacular thud in 1998: even the Japanese hadn't believed in their metaphor for ages, and had long since turned their home-grown monsters into lovable entertainers.
    In Honda's berserk "Destroy All Monsters" (1968), for example, we find Toho's repertory company of scary creatures warehoused on an island called, none too imaginatively, Monsterland, where they live in slightly crotchety coexistence with each other, like retirees in a managed-care facility. For part of the movie, they're permitted to revert to their old, bad, global-destruction-threatening selves, but it's not their fault; they're being controlled by space aliens. And in the end, the Toho monsters, like tag-team wrestlers, get together to administer an old-fashioned scaly-tail whipping to the space creature Ghidrah. Godzilla, our hero, raises his stubby arms in triumph, while his son, who looks disturbingly like Barney the dinosaur, does a happy dance.
  • Godzilla and Biollante aren't monsters. It's the unscrupulous scientists who create them that are monsters.
    • Doctor Genshiro Shiragami, portrayed by Koji Takahashi, as quoted in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), directed by Kazuki Omori
  • Take Godzilla - from a narrative point of view, its origin was other giant beast movies, like King Kong or some of Ray Harryhausen's work. The first Godzilla film was a very dark, deep piece of filmmaking - almost disturbing in a way. But the love the country and the kids felt for the creature literally evolved Godzilla into a national hero.
  • Godzilla is an outrageous monster that is played by an outstanding guy! I am a little short, but in my heart burns the spirit of the samurai.
  • Be Godzilla. Don't do anything else. Write books about playing Godzilla, talk to reporters about playing Godzilla, but don't do anything else. Just be Godzilla.
  • I have now done seven films as Godzilla, and I believe I have achieved most everything I have wanted to do inside the costume... Most importantly, I have always felt Godzilla should express its emotions, which is very difficult given the range of movements and expressions the suit can make. So, whatever Godzilla does - roaring, spewing his radiation breath, communicating with Godzilla Junior - I always try to add little movements that will show his emotional state, like moving his fingers, or a short glance. The Heisei Godzilla [has] a very different personality than the old Godzilla. He is very animalistic, always in motion. But I believe Godzilla is a very emotional creature.
  • Of course, the newer films have superior special effects, because today they can build much better monster suits and miniature buildings, and computer graphics have been incorporated for some scenes. But the Heisei Godzilla series does not have the emotional spirit, that deep spirit that the works of Mr. Honda and Mr. Tsuburaya did. I think this was because Mr. Honda, and many members of the staff, had served during the war, and when the films depicted scenes of destruction it was a reflection somehow of their experiences in the war. There was a profoundness to those films that I do not think can be recreated.
  • Godzilla, both the character and the film, are a reflection on the Japanese experience at the end of World War II: destruction beyond imagining, and a lurking sense that “We brought this on ourselves” somehow, even without meaning to. In the film we see both the guilt, the feeling that the punishment perhaps outweighs the sin, and the striving for redemption, all of which are typical for such stories. In some ways, there’s a similar arc in the origin of Spider-Man: radioactive accidental origin, great power used without regard for consequence (personal profit for Spidey), punishment out of proportion (the death of Uncle Ben), and eventual redemption as a hero.
  • Wherever Godzilla goes, a mountain of rubble is left in his wake. We’re not dealing with a creature governed by logic. The first time Godzilla fully appears on the screen the audience hears a roar, setting off an indescribable vibration. It’s not like the sound of a growling dog; more like a wailing sound, something deeply heartrending. And you get the sense of encountering a force beyond human control—something even akin to a natural disaster or some sort of a divine revelation. It’s as if we are being chastised by something. As you know, human society is complex—and it gets more complex all the time, whether it concerns relations between countries or between people. And answers are not easily found. In that context, the vibrations triggered by Godzilla lead people to question their own ways of living—and vibrations, of course, can easily transcend national boundaries.
  • I think [Godzilla's appeal] comes down to fear and awe—a bit like the feeling evoked by the wrathful Buddhist deity Fudō Myōō. Godzilla is a creature that seems to embody the view—perhaps distinctive to Asian religions—that an atmosphere of quiet calm and tranquility follows the outbreak of something destructive or fearful.
  • Godzilla absorbed massive amounts of atomic radiation and yet it still survived! What do you think could kill it? Instead, we should focus on why it is still alive. That should be our top priority!
    • Dr. Kyohei Yamane, portrayed by Takashi Shimura, as quoted in Godzilla (1954), directed by Ishiro Honda
  • I can't believe that Godzilla was the only surviving member of its species…But if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it's possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.
    • Dr. Kyohei Yamane, portrayed by Takashi Shimura, as quoted in Godzilla (1954), directed by Ishiro Honda

Films[edit]

External links[edit]

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  Japanese films     Shōwa series     Godzilla  (1954) · Godzilla Raids Again  (1955) · King Kong vs. Godzilla  (1962) · Mothra vs. Godzilla  (1964) · Ghidorah, the Three-Headed
  Monster
 (1964) · Invasion of Astro-Monster  (1965) · Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster  (1966) · Son of Godzilla  (1967) · Destroy All Monsters
  (1968) · All Monsters Attack  (1969) · Godzilla vs. Hedorah  (1971) · Godzilla vs. Gigan  (1972) · Godzilla vs. Megalon  (1973) · Godzilla vs.
  Mechagodzilla
 (1974) · Terror of Mechagodzilla  (1975)
 
  Heisei series     The Return of Godzilla  (1984) · Godzilla vs. Biollante  (1989) · Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah  (1991) · Godzilla vs. Mothra  (1992) · Godzilla vs.
  Mechagodzilla II
 (1993) · Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla  (1994) · Godzilla vs. Destoroyah  (1995)
 
  Millennium series     Godzilla 2000  (1999) · Godzilla vs. Megaguirus  (2000) · Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack  (2001) ·
  Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla  (2002) · Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.  (2003) · Godzilla: Final Wars  (2004)
 
  Reboot series     Godzilla Resurgence  (2016)  
  Foreign films     Adaptations     Godzilla, King of the Monsters!  (1956) · Cozzilla  (1977) · King Kong vs. Godzilla  (1963) · Godzilla 1985  (1985)  
  Co‑productions     Monster Zero  (1970)  
  TriStar Pictures     Godzilla  (1998)  
  Legendary Pictures     Godzilla  (2014) · Godzilla: King of the Monsters  (2019)  
  Related films     Rodan  (1956) · The Mysterians  (1957) · Varan the Unbelievable  (1958) · Battle in Outer Space  (1959) · Mothra  (1961) · Gorath  (1962) · Atragon  (1963) · Dogora  (1964)
  · Frankenstein Conquers the World  (1965) · The War of the Gargantuas  (1966) · King Kong Escapes  (1967) · Latitude Zero  (1969) · Space Amoeba  (1970) · The War
  in Space
 (1977) · Gunhed  (1989) · Rebirth of Mothra  (1996) · Rebirth of Mothra II  (1997) · Rebirth of Mothra III  (1998)  
  Television     Zone Fighter  (1973) · Ike! Godman  (1972–1973) · Ike! Greenman  (1973–1974) · Godzilla  (1978–1981) · Godzilla Island  (1997–1998) · Godzilla: The Series  (1998–2000)  
  See also     King Kong