So, yeah, that’s me as a kid dressed up like Godzilla for Book Week at school. We were supposed to dress up as our favorite book character, and I looked and looked until I found a Godzilla book just so I could dress up in this awesome costume at school.
I was a super-cool kid.
I’m sure you know by now that a new Godzilla flick is upon us. I have to admit when Godzilla was released back in 2014, I was pretty excited about it, even though I was skeptical. American movie studios had not, to that point, proven that they could understand Godzilla. I know I sound like a whiny teenager (but mom just doesn’t understand me), but this much is true. That 2014 film would strive to make Godzilla a huge CGI monster. He was to be much more “realistic,” and through the magic of CGI, his devastation will look as much like real devastation as possible. There are a few things I was worried about, though.
Original Japanese Godzilla carried a bit more weight when it premiered back in 1954. That monster was a metaphor for atomic weapons. His capacity for destruction and his radioactive breath were symbolic of the atomic threat (and reality) that the world (and especially Japan) was forced to live with after WWII. That’s what made him a great monster. Just like Stoker’s Dracula, Shelley’s Creature, and Romero’s zombies, Godzilla represented a legitimate cultural fear.What, ultimately, would all of that radioactivity from Hiroshima and Nagasaki do to the people of Japan? Godzilla was the physical embodiment of that cultural anxiety.
Now, anybody who stuck with the Toho Godzilla films for very long knows that it didn’t take long for those movies to get CAMPY AS HELL. But even at its campiest, these movies captured my child imagination. These movies taught me that, if you are willing to put in the work, you can tell any damn story you want to. Even if it looks like this:
The American version couldn’t have him represent the same threat in the same way. If he ends up being the same symbol, his meaning changes. He then represents something that we are doing to ourselves, not something we had done to us. That could be interesting enough, though. At the same time, there is nothing AT ALL wrong with leaning into the absurdity of the kaiju genre. Let’s have a little fun!
Honestly, the loss of the symbol was the least of my worries. I would be happy with watching a giant monster movie for entertainment purposes only–especially now that I see Godzilla will feature a second monster (or group of monsters) that the Internet tells me is called Muto. The single greatest thing about the original Godzilla films was the scenes where two ridiculous-looking monsters just slugged it out in a good, old-fashioned fist-fight. As we know, Godzilla was usually a man in a suit fighting other men in suits (or animatronics) in little, miniature cities. The cheesier and the campier, the better. It’s the same thing, in my opinion, that made the original Star Wars trilogy far superior to the new trilogy–it doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t use CGI as a crutch. I was quite certain that the 2014 Godzilla will be less 1977 Star Wars and more Michael Bay Transformers.
Then, it was released, and it was exactly what I wanted. Anyone who complained that the movie didn’t have enough monster action never saw the original 1954 film (which is more of a horror film in its tone and pacing). What Garreth Edwards gave us in 2014 was a film that felt like that original. I was happy.
But, as we know, after that original, things got crazy. So, I’m hoping Godzilla: King of the Monsters gets a little crazy. It looks like it will.
When I was a kid, I was fascinated with the world that was created in these movies–a world populated by monsters. I was enthralled with the giant moths and the three-headed aliens that Godzilla fought. In the franchise, I was introduced to my first anti-hero: the monster that saved Japan as often as he destroyed it. It was a complex and magical fiction that was written in a culture that was foreign to me. I wrote my own giant monster stories and made my own giant monster videos.
In many ways, Godzilla made me curious and inspired me toward creative pursuits. Sometimes, I still catch myself doodling the monster’s profile in my notes at meetings.
So yeah–I’m kind of excited about the new film. But if I’m honest, I’m even more excited that Godzilla vs. Mothra is streaming on my TV right now. Man! That shriek that Godzilla lets out when he comes out of the ocean for the first time–it still gets me.
What were your unique inspirations as a child? What was the first book/ movie/ series you remember being way excited about?
Until next time!