May 15 2014
Soon we will all be (hopefully) enjoying the rebirth of an immortal worldwide icon of the silver screen. Gareth Edwards is attempting to do something that hasn’t been done properly since 1954; he’s making Godzilla scary again. The trailers are full of amazing destructive imagery and human emotion. Awe, helplessness, and despair; the spirit of the original Gojira resurrected to retake his place as one of the greatest horrors in cinema history.
The original Japanese film used Godzilla as a fitting metaphor for mankind’s unleashing of the atom bomb. It’s a massive destructive force able to level whole cities that we couldn’t possibly hope to control (although thankfully, we have). It was something bigger than all of us and literally capable of destroying the world. The film was Japan’s catharsis of the horrors wreaked on their populace during the Pacific War, designed to bring to mind not only Hiroshima and Nagasaki but the terrors of America’s devastating firebombings as well. And now a post 9-11 America is finally ready for a proper take on this classic story.
But before we get to that, let’s take a look at some decidedly non-metaphorical and non-scary things that happened between the 1954 classic and the remake sixty years later. Godzilla has run the gamut from fearsome villain to Hulk-like destructive defender of Earth to comical kid-friendly superhero with a baby version of himself and the demeanor of a pro wrestler. This time, we’re focusing on that last one. Here are five completely batshit moments from some of the big G’s kookier outings at his original home of Toho Studios that made me laugh out loud. Kaijuphiles won’t find any surprises, but newbies should have a good time mocking our childhoods.
This is from the 1965 film that was known as Godzilla vs Monster Zero back in my day, but is now translated from its Japanese title as Invasion of the Astro Monster. In it, invaders from Planet X (known as X-ians….yes, seriously) kidnap Godzilla and Rodan to stop Ghidorah from wrecking their civilization.
Remember Planet X? Life was good when back we were imagining new planets instead of stripping our outer planetary bodies of their traditional planet status and rendering the My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzapies pneumonic device I used to memorize the order of the planets useless. Now it’s like “she served us nine WHATS?!” Screw you, astronomical progress.
Anywho, this film was a weak idea to begin with because we’d literally just seen Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra’s larva kick Ghidorah’s ass in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster a year previous. So basically, the line of thought when this one was conceived was “but what if it WASN’T on Earth and there was no turdworm?”
But hey, it wasn’t a total loss. We got to see what was possibly the stupidest thing that had ever been put on the big screen at the time: Godzilla’s victory celebration after an epic butt kicking. He can dance if he wants to.
I Believe I can Fly
Now this was just Toho being dicks. Godzilla had a rival in his crazy days of youth; a fire-breathing turtle named Gamera. He was a distant second in our hearts and minds, but we still loved that big tusked, rocket-powered, screeching hemophiliac terrapin. Gamera had one thing on Godzilla, though; he could fly by pulling into his shell and shooting jets out of his legholes. Yes, I know. But it was pretty cool at the time. Actually, it’s still pretty cool. Physics and biology are for dorks.
In Godzilla vs Hedorah (aka Godzilla vs the Smog Monster) they decided this disparity in propulsive capabilities must not stand. Godzilla could totally fly if he wanted to, and they were going to prove it. Eat it, Gamera! For this 1971 slice of madness, Toho decided to be all socially conscious and junk so they created a monster from our pollution to teach us the error of our ways. In this film, mankind’s atomic nightmare shows up to nuke our way to a cleaner environment. What?
But the Smog Monster is smog, man! You can’t punch smog! Indeed, the big G has trouble inflicting lasting damage to Hedorah, and the creepy flying blob is continuously fleeing the scene, looking for psychedelic discos to terrorize as Godzilla chases him around Japan. But at one point Godzilla says “no more” and uses his advanced reptilian brain to devise a plot to chase the slimy bastard down and finish him for good. He will use his atomic breath as a jet engine and fly after his enemy while triumphant music blares! What?
Let’s Give ‘em Something to Talk About
Godzilla vs Gigan (which was known as Godzilla on Monster Island in spite of the fact that almost none of it took place on Monster Island) was an interesting film with multiple moments that could qualify for this list. But out of all of them, I’ve got to give it to the dialogue between Godzilla and his sidekick, Anguiras. Anguiras was actually the King of Monsters’ first ever opponent, battling him in Godzilla Raids Again in a memorable fight that made the rest of the movie seem extremely unnecessary. In the 70’s he took on a buddy role that saw him lose every goddamn fight ever. I mean, this guy is pathetic. You’d think his spikes would serve as some kind of natural defense against ass-whuppings, but no.
When Godzilla hears about a couple of intergalactic shitheads of the kaiju variety wrecking up the shit he usually wrecks, he tells Anguiras to help save the day. I mean they actually speak. How does a kaiju speak? Well in Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster, they grunted and growled while Mothra’s fairy keepers translated. But that was maybe too complicated for the audience to follow, so they used the recorded results of an experiment where cattle were being taught English while their testicles were being belt sanded to dub in some monster speech. That or it’s maybe a tape of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida being slowly rewound.
As a kid it took me a few viewings before I even caught that the monsters’ speech was actually some bizarre form of English. Japanese viewers had it easier; they got honest-to-god speech bubbles written in what I assume is the kanji equivalent of comic sans. The speech bubbles were added in so lazily that at one point, Godzilla actually walks inside of his. Behold the following clip and know the depths of insanity.
In the 90’s and beyond, Godzilla films cleaned up their act a little bit and took on more of a serious tone. They were still cheesy, but in a less blatantly childish manner. They were actually trying to be kickass and they usually succeeded on some level.
After the lunacy of the 60’s and 70’s, the inactivity of the 80’s, and the relative seriousness of the 90’s and 00’s, neo-Japanese grindhouse director Ryuhei Kitamura took the wheel for what was to be Godzilla’s 50th anniversary celebration and his last film for the foreseeable future. And if there’s one thing Kitamura loves on his pizza, it’s extra cheese.
Godzilla: Final Wars pulled out all of the stops, bringing in nearly all of the big guy’s past friends and foes to line up for their asskickings. The American reptilian from the horrible 1998 Jurassic Park wannabe remake got his chance to get blasted with Sum 41 as the soundtrack, and Godzilla’s cloying child Minya got to drive a truck. It was freakin’ nuts, but an awesome kind of nuts.
But there was one scene in particular that made me laugh out loud. With time running short, Godzilla decided to triple up and take on King Seeser, Rodan, and Anguirus all at the same time. Anguiras went full Sonic the Hedgehog and turned himself into a spikey ping-pong ball, and what ended up unfolding was some kind of bizarre kaiju soccer game.
It would have been easy to have made Final Wars in the modern style as just a straight-faced tribute to the King of Monsters as the taker of names and kicker of asses as he was created and later reformed. But if you are going to do a proper tribute to 50 years of Godzilla, you can’t just pretend that two decades of insanity didn’t happen. Stuff like this scene was a great way to capture that childish absurdity we all remember so fondly and give us some giggles to go with our cheers.
Kickin’ it Old School
In all of the bizarre and ridiculous annals of kaijudom, there is one moment that stands above them all. If you’ve ever laid eyes upon it, it was almost certainly the very first thought to enter your head when you saw the title of this article. It’s Godzilla’s legendary Flying Dropkick of Doom.
Out of all the ridiculous antics Godzilla fans have been subjected to over the decades, 1973’s Godzilla vs. Megalon is the exact moment you were no longer able to pretend to take him seriously anymore. They weren’t even trying. I mean, Godzilla’s Revenge (aka All Monsters Attack in which all monsters do not attack) is the worst Godzilla film due to its nauseating kiddy cloyingness, but this one was definitely pushing it.
TV Guide’s synopsis of the plot of Godzilla vs. Megalon was “Godzilla and flying cyborg Jet Jaguar meet a giant cockroach and a big black chicken sent by Seatopians” and I believe it’s still used in cable guides to this day. It’s pretty accurate, although I’d say Gigan is at least slightly cooler than a chicken. Dude’s got a frickin’ chainsaw on his tummy. Naturally, Mystery Science Theater 3000 found themselves unable to sit idly by while a movie like this existed, and it yielded some classic moments for that show.
The most classic of them all is the following pro-wrestling double tag team move in which the poor man’s Ultraman holds Megalon up so that Godzilla may defy the very laws of physics yet again with a bold new entry in the “Stupidest Thing Ever” sweepstakes. Afterwards Godzilla gets up all like “Bro, did you see what I just DID!? I didn’t even need a running start! We’ve GOT to do that again!” and they repeat the feat of ridiculousness in case you missed it the first time because you were too busy laughing hysterically. Ironically, it only made me laugh harder.
It’s great that Edwards is trying to put the fear of Godzilla back into us by taking the King of the Monsters back to his roots and I’ll be in a cinema for the first minutes of May 16 to witness the return of a legend I’ve been missing in the decade he’s been gone. But while the serious tone and powerful allegory of the original Gojira appeal more to me in my adult life, there’s always going to be that part of me that loves seeing a dude in a giant green dinosaur suit bouncing around like a doof and delivering unapologetic nonsense.
There’s innocence in making the kind of movies where the presumably male Godzilla has a son named Minilla because a bunch of giant praying mantis’ find an egg inside a mountain. How did it get there? Did Godzilla lay it? Was it the result of a drunken night with Rodan? Shut up. It just IS, okay!? Questioning why these movies have these moments of pure thoughtless insanity just ruins it for everyone. It’s the same reason he could challenge Charles Barkley to a game of one-on-one. BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME.
There’s purity in simply not giving a shit about logic and putting whatever drug-induced ideas pop into your head during the twenty minutes the writers spend coming up with the script to these movies. Sometimes our inner child just wants to kick back and see something to make it laugh without having some modern filmmaker desperately try to portray something innately ridiculous as being realistic. And when it comes to that, you just can’t beat Godzilla films. They’ve been entertaining me for my entire life, and after more than 30 films I’m still dying for more, serious or silly. So here’s to America at lest trying to get it right this time!
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