We chomp and tear our way through the American Godzilla films to find out what’s the big deal.
Foreword on this page: as there are thirty-two films in the Godzilla series, we’ve decided to focus our energy on just the three American films for the time being. There’s also another film that is considered an American release, but we decided it wasn’t appropriate as it was just a re-edit of a previous Japanese film. Don’t worry; when we have more time we’ll do them all. Pinky promise!
Godzilla as a franchise has been going for over sixty years, and it’s had some ups and downs along the way. The very first Japanese film from 1954 was adapted by an American studio and released in 1956; that was called Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, and it took twenty more Japanese films and forty-two years for Hollywood to have a real go at it themselves. 1998 saw the release of the much-anticipated Godzilla by Sony/Columbia, which brought in over $379 million over its lifetime. For such a popular and huge series of films, it’s surprising that it took a further sixteen years until America had another crack at it. 2014 saw the release of Godzilla (again) by Warner Bros. Upon writing this, Godzilla has scored the highest opening day of 2014, which is impressive with the hard hitting competition at the beginning of the year.
It’s no surprise or secret that the animation, monsters, and in turn believability, get better and more established as time goes on and more modern and superior technology is available. There’s no longer need to use puppets or people in suits in the twenty-first century and this massively improves how the film is delivered. As with many productions, the higher the budget the more convincing these visual treats become, but this doesn’t always have a direct correlation with how good the film is; except in this case it does. With the film centred on the monster, it’s very important to allow the viewer into the world and convince them of the fantasy, which has directly improved each film as the technology became more available.
Lead characters are obviously always necessary for the viewer to engage with, even if they end up playing a fairly minor role in the grand scheme of things. But what can be said, is that each film takes a different approach. Godzilla, King of the Monsters! presents Steve Martin as a journalist who tries to figure out how to stop it, 1998’s Godzilla offers Niko Tatopoulos, a scientist interested in the background of the creature, and finally 2014’s Godzilla gives a more familiar military action hero to save the day. Each do well at the helm, but it’s no doubt that the monster is the real star of the show.
It’s evident that Godzilla is the main driving force in each film, or at least for the amount of destruction and violence. In fact none of the lead characters ever kill anyone and there are no physical fights between humans. Instead we see 79 explosions and guns being used 16 times, usually by unseen military soldiers or tanks. This isn’t all that obvious when actually watching the films, but upon reflection the lead characters don’t have too much bearing on the outcome of events but they do offer a point of contact for the audience to root for mankind.
As mentioned in the review, the 2014 Godzilla film really takes its time to get going, with a forty-five minute wait before we Godzilla is even shown for the first time. This is helped somewhat by having the two baddie creatures stealing the limelight and showing their destructive skills before Godzilla presents himself. Throughout the trilogy, Godzilla makes an obvious scream 33 times, destroys property or an object with his mouth, feet or tail 30 times and kills someone with his mouth, feet or tail only 2 times. This reinforces the idea that Godzilla acts as a saviour in the most recent film and was less violent and restricted by fifties technology for the first American release. Despite containing most of the stats just mentioned, Godzilla in the 1998 version is rather tame cancelling out most of the serious damage she could have done in the films action scenes.
Godzilla is a slightly strange franchise as each of the stories is a reboot and therefore never follow on from each other; there are introductions showing past nuclear activity, but none of the films actually reference each other or any previous history with the monster. Each film does well to go back to the beginning and start again, but surely it’s time for America to make a sequel rather than another reboot?
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