Godzilla is a kaijū (fictional Japanese monster) from the Godzilla series of science fiction films. He was first seen in the 1954 film Godzilla and has appeared in 28 films to date, all of which were produced by Toho Company Ltd. As one of the most iconic characters in film history, Godzilla has also appeared in numerous comic books, video games, novels and popular culture.
In 1998, TriStar Pictures produced a remake set in New York City, starring Matthew Broderick; the film's name was simply Godzilla. Despite critical reviews and negative fan reaction, the film was a financial success, taking in nearly $380 million worldwide and spawned an animated television series called Godzilla: The Series.
Gojira is a combination of two Japanese words: gorira, and kujira}, which is fitting because in one planning stage, Godzilla was described as a cross between a gorilla and a whale," alluding to his size, power and aquatic origin. A popular story is that "Gojira" was actually the nickname of a hulking stagehand at Toho Studio. The story has not been verified, however, because in the 50 years since the film's original release, no one claiming to be the employee has ever stepped forward and no photographs have ever surfaced.
There is disagreement as to how the monster's name should be pronounced. Purists use the Japanese pronunciation [godʲʑira] About this sound listen (help·info), but most favor the Anglicized rendering of its name, [gɑd'zɪlə] (with the first syllable pronounced like the word "god", and the rest rhyming with the last two syllables of "gorilla"). When Godzilla was created (and Japanese-to-English transliteration was less familiar), it is likely that the kana representing the second syllable was misinterpreted as [dzi]; in the Hepburn romanization system, Godzilla's name would have been rendered as "Gojira."
Godzilla's character has changed. To date, there have been eight distinctive versions of the monster (12 versions, if the depictions in Hanna-Barbera's Godzilla, Marvel's Godzilla, Dark Horse's Godzilla, and TriStar'sGodzilla are taken into account as well). His iconic design is composed of various species of dinosaurs: he has the body structure of a Tyrannosaurus rex, the dorsal plates of a Stegosaurus, and the arms of an Iguanodon.
Godzilla is the primary hero and antihero of all of the Godzilla films, though there are numerous different incarnations of the monster. The silver screen is not the only place Godzilla has appeared; there have been literary sources that have expanded the universe of Godzilla. The Godzilla universe, and the character itself have also starred in comic books, manga, guest-starring in Japanese television series', and a cartoon series.
- Main article: List of films featuring Godzilla
Godzilla made his first appearance in the 1954 film Godzilla.
Godzilla is awakened and mutated as a result of the testing of the hydrogen bomb. Godzilla rampages through Odo Island, causing the deaths of natives when scientists' inquiry into a boat incident lead them there. The American version, Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, contained scenes from the Japanese film with narration by and reshot footage of Raymond Burr's character Steve Martin. The original 1954 movie is also the first film to feature Godzilla destroying everything in his vicinity and marks the debut of his theme music and trademark roar, both composed and created by Akira Ifukube. Godzilla is killed at the end of the film by the Oxygen Destroyer.
Due to the success of Gojira, Toho quickly produced a sequel released in 1955 called Godzilla Raids Again. In this film, a new Godzilla battled another monster, Anguirus, and was the first film in which Godzilla fought another monster. He played a villain in King Kong vs. Godzilla and Mothra vs. Godzilla, but in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Godzilla took on the heroic personality which he would wear for the remainder of the series. A translated conversation between Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan in the film reveals that Godzilla's anger towards humanity is due to what he perceives as unprovoked attacks towards him. At various point through the series, Godzilla teamed up with Mothra, Rodan, Anguirus, Baragon, Kumonga, Manda, Varan, King Caesar, Jet Jaguar, and Gorosaurus to battle such monsters as Ebirah, Kamacuras, Hedorah, Gigan, Megalon, Mechagodzilla, Titanosaurus, Gabara, and King Ghidorah. Godzilla even gained a son, in the form of Minilla. The series ended with Terror of Mechagodzilla in 1975, though the last movie, according to the plot, is Destroy All Monsters, which was set in 1999.
In the Heisei era, Godzilla not only returns after more than a decade's absence, but marks a transition between the Shōwa era (the reign of Hirohito) to the Heisei era (the reign of Akihito). This would be the first of many times the Godzilla film series would see a continuity reboot.
1984's The Return of Godzilla, excluded all previous Godzilla films save the original, and featured Godzilla, much larger than the previous series. The Godzilla of the Heisei era would be portrayed in a less anthropomorphic manner than the Showa Godzilla, but as a violent, insatiable force of nature and the personification of the Atomic Bomb, rather than a campy superhero. However, Godzilla would continue to fight other monsters, battling Biollante, Mecha-King Ghidorah, Mothra, Battra, Fire Rodan, Super Mechagodzilla, SpaceGodzilla and Destoroyah over the course of the series, and adopted a son named Godzilla Junior. The Heisei series builds toward a conclusion with Godzilla vs. Destoroyah where Godzilla dies after suffering a meltdown after defeating the titular villain. Godzilla Junior mutated to full-size from the radiation produced by his father, becoming the new Godzilla and roaring in thrumph as the film ends.
The Millennium series comprised a number of discrete narratives, using the original Godzilla film as a backdrop.
The Millennium series consisted of Godzilla 2000, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, Godzilla: Tokyo SOS and Godzilla: Final Wars. Each film featured its own incarnation of Godzilla (save Tokyo SOS, which was a direct sequel to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla). Throughout the series, Godzilla fought both new opponents such as Orga and Megaguirus and classic opponents such as Mothra and Mechagodzilla. The Millennium Godzilla design had a wilder appearance, with spikier skin, more massive, jagged dorsal fins, and a faircer, more saurian face. With the exception of GMK, variations on this design would be featured in each millennium Godzilla film. Due to the disconnected timeline of the Millennium series, Godzilla has been a hero, villain, and antihero.
Overall, Godzilla has starred in 28 films (excluding the American remake). Toho has planned to revive the Godzilla franchise in 2013-14 (around Godzilla's 60th anniversary).
In Japan, Godzilla was a frequent guest star on the tokusatsu series Zone Fighter. He fought alongside the titular hero against other kaiju, including Gigan and King Ghidorah. Since the Zone Fighter series lasted only through 1973, its events that feature Godzilla exist in the Showa series between Godzilla vs Megalon and Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla.
Godzilla made his American series debut in the 1978 Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning show The Godzilla Power Hour, in which he gained a nephew, Godzooky. In addition to his trademark atomic breath (which simply changed to fire in the cartoon), he was given the power to shoot laser beams out of his eyes. He was summoned by his human friends, sea-explorers on the ship USS Calico, with a signaling device or by the cry of Godzooky. Godzilla cartoons were paired with cartoons featuring Jana of the Jungle. The series ran, both as part of the hour and with the Godzilla segments airing as a separate half-hour show, until 1981.
The second cartoon series, which aired on Fox Kids, was based on the events of the 1998 American movie. Godzilla: The Series featured a juvenile Godzilla from the 1998 American remake which had grown to full size. Godzilla traveled around the world with a group of humans called H.E.A.T, including scientist Nick Tatopoulos (which the new Godzilla believed to be its parent), battling monsters. The offspring had the abilities and physical forms of his parent, but the creators of the show gave him more powers and an attitude more resembling the Japanese Godzilla.
Main article: Godzilla (comics) Godzilla has been featured in comic books, most often in American productions (from Marvel Comics in the mid-1970s and from Dark Horse Comics in the 1980s and 1990s). Japanese Godzilla manga comics are also available.
The Marvel series told original stories and attempted to fit into the official Toho continuity, while avoiding direct references to it. It integrated Godzilla into the Marvel Universe. It was published from 1977 to 1979, fitting between the Showa Period movies and the Heisei Era. This series described the adventures and confrontations of Godzilla in the United States.
The general situations of the series were similar to those of the Showa Period movies, but other than Godzilla, all characters were new creations, albeit in familiar roles. Likewise, the JSDF are absent, but S.H.I.E.L.D. fills its role in the story, complete with a Behemoth IV Helicarrier in an eerie foreshadowing of the Super X.
Main article: Powers and abilities of Godzilla Godzilla's appearance has changed over the years, but many of his characteristics have remained constant. His roar has remained the same, only changing in pitch, as has his approximate appearance: a giant, mutant dinosaur with rough, bumpy charcoal gray scales, a long powerful tail, and jagged, bone colored dorsal fins.
Although his origins vary somewhat from film to film, he is always described as a prehistoric dinosaur, who first appeared and attacked Japan at the beginning of the Atomic Age. In particular, mutation due to atomic radiation is presented as an explanation for his size and powers.
Godzilla has abilities granted to him as a result of his irradiation and subsequent mutation. He is considered the most powerful of kaiju. Godzilla's atomic breath is his most powerful and distinctive weapon. When he uses it, Godzilla's dorsal fins glow, and then he releases a concentrated blast of radiation from his mouth, which can vary in intensity from a superheated vapor to a breath of radiation with concussive and explosive properties. Godzilla is also depicted as being resistant to damage thanks to a tough hide and an advanced regeneration or healing factor. He is strong and dextrous, utilizing martial arts techniques in combat. Described as a transitional form between aquatic and terrestrial vertebrates by Doctor Yamane in the original film, Godzilla is able to survive in the ocean for indefinite periods of time and is as adept a fighter underwater as he is on land.
These particular abilities are portrayed consistently among Godzilla's many incarnations, though he also possesses skills, often employed as weapons of last resort that are only seen on rare occasions, such as his spiral ray, nuclear pulse, magnetic powers, and even the ability to fly.
Despite his incredible strength, Godzilla has displayed a few weaknesses over the years. In King Kong vs. Godzilla and Mothra vs. Godzilla, he is shown to be vulnerable to electricity, shying away from even the smallest source; however, this is inconsistent with the resilience to electricity he displayed in the original Godzilla. This could probably be that this Godzilla was the second Godzilla and was not able to yet withstand so much electrical power. This weakness is apparently retconned and later films in the Showa series would portray Godzilla as being immune to electricity, or even drawing power from it.
In The Return of Godzilla, Godzilla was shown to be vulnerable to cadmium. Anti-nuclear bacteria has had an effect on him, though Godzilla's immune system was eventually able to overcome it. Later on, Godzilla is revealed to have a second brain in his spine, and Mechagodzilla was able to paralyze his lower body by destroying it; however, he was revived by Fire Rodan and further films seem to ignore this Achilles heel. It was also suggested by the character Yuki in Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla that Godzilla has a soft spot under each armpit. However, the validity of this claim was highly dubious and this weak point was never exploited.
To date, the only weapon ever shown to be truly effective against a Godzilla was Dr. Serizawa's Oxygen Destroyer, which disintegrated the original Godzilla down to the bone, and then into nothing. The technology for this weapon was lost forever when Serizawa killed himself along with the first Godzilla, in order to keep it from being used ever again.
In popular cultureEdit
Main article: Godzilla in popular culture
Godzilla is one of the most recognizable action/fictional symbols of Japanese popular culture worldwide and remains an important facet of Japanese films, embodying the kaiju subset of the tokusatsu genre. He has been considered a filmographic metaphor for the United States, as well as an allegory of nuclear weapons in general. The earlier Godzilla films, especially the original Godzilla, portrayed Godzilla as a frightening, nuclear monster. Godzilla represented the fears that many Japanese held about the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the possibility of recurrence.
As the series progressed, so did Godzilla, changing into a less destructive and more heroic character as the films became geared towards children. Since then, the character has fallen somewhere in the middle, sometimes portrayed as a protector of the Earth (notably Japan) from external threats and other times as a bringer of destruction though this happens rarely. Godzilla is also the second of only three fictional characters to have won the MTV Lifetime Achievement Award, which was awarded in 1996.
- ↑ Steve Ryfle. Japan's Favourite Mon-Star. ECW Press, 1998. Pg.22
- ↑  Gojira Media. Retrieved 2006-09-23
- ↑ Many Japanese books on Godzilla have referenced this, including B Media Books Special: Gojira Gahô, published by Take-Shobo in three different editions (1993, 1998 B Media Books Special: The Godzilla Chronicles Ver. 2: The History of Toho Fantastic Movies, 1935-1998. Japan: Take-Shobo. 1998. ISBN 4-8124-0408-8. , and 1999)
- ↑ Takeo Murata (writer) and Ishirō Honda (writer/director) (2006). Godzilla (DVD). Classic Media.
- ↑ Al C. Ward (writer) and Ishirō Honda, Terry Morse (writers/directors) (2006). Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (DVD). Classic Media.
- ↑  The Monster That Morphed Into a Metaphor, By Terrence Rafferty, May 2, 2004, NYTimes
- ↑ "Godzilla wins MTV's Lifetime Achievement Award". AOL.com. Archived from the original on 1998-12-05. http://web.archive.org/19981205202242/members.aol.com/reedyb/oscar/awards/mtv96.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-29.