Godzilla, also known as Gojira, is a daikaijū, or Japanese movie monster, that first appeared as the Titular Sole Primary Antagonist of Ishirō Honda's 1954 classic giant monster film, Gojira. Since then, Godzilla has gone on to become a worldwide pop culture icon starring in over 28 films produced by Toho Co., Ltd., and 1 film by Legendary Pictures with a future trilogy in production. The 1998 version, produced by TriStar Pictures and featuring Zilla, is widely disfavoured and is not considered a Godzilla film.
The monster has appeared in numerous other media incarnations including video games, novels, comic books, television series, and even an American remake. Another separate American remake was produced by Legendary Pictures, but this time in cooperation with Toho. With the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still fresh in the Japanese consciousness, Godzilla was conceived as a monster created by nuclear detonations and a metaphor for nuclear weapons in general. As the film series expanded, the stories took on less serious undertones portraying Godzilla in the role of a hero or an ally of humans, but only when facing a common foe or to protect planet Earth. Sometimes he is admired by children, but even in these depictions, most humans still fear Godzilla. In some films, Godzilla has even teamed up with fellow monsters to save the world or themselves, usually teaming with Mothra. Godzilla's most famous enemies are known to be King Ghidorah and Mechagodzilla.
Despite being the main protagonist of the series, Godzilla have commited numerous villainous acts of destroying cities, attacking humanity and wreck havoc on the world. These actions are also known to have caused Godzilla to cross the Moral Event Horizon.
Showa seriesThe Showa-era Godzilla films were among the first of the entire film series. In total, there are fifteen Showa-era films, amounting to over half the total Godzilla movies currently in existence. The first film, made in 1954, was simply titled Godzilla. In the original film, Godzilla was portrayed as a terrible and destructive monster. Following the success of Godzilla, Toho started filming a quickie sequel called Godzilla Raids Again. In this film, a new Godzilla was set up to fight another dinosaur-like creature, Anguirus. This second film started a trend for Godzilla films, where Godzilla would fight other giant monsters. In the 1962 film King Kong vs. Godzilla, Godzilla served as the main antagonist with King Kong being the protagonist.
In his fifth film, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Godzilla took the role of a hero. From that point on, to the end of the Showa series, Godzilla stayed a hero, protecting Japan against attacks from other monsters, aliens, etc. At one point, Godzilla even adopted a son, Minilla, in Son of Godzilla, who would make appearances in later Showa-era films. The Showa-era movies played on a lot of fears and interests of people during the period in which they were made. For instance, Godzilla was a movie designed to warn people about the use and testing of nuclear weapons. Likewise, Godzilla vs. Hedorah was designed to carry a message about the dangers of pollution. As space exploration and the Space Age were extremely popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many of Godzilla's films revolved around Godzilla fighting alien monsters, or involved an alien invasion in some shape or form. For instance, in the movie Destroy All Monsters, an alien race had managed to take control of all of Earth's monsters, who were eventually freed from their control, and destroyed the aliens who had put them under control.
Heisei seriesThe Heisei-era Godzilla films were the second of the film series. In total, there were seven Heisei-era films, making them amount to one fourth of the total Godzilla movies in existence. The Heisei-era films differed drastically from the Showa-era films in a variety of ways. The most prominent difference is that Toho did away with Godzilla being the hero of the films. While occasionally Godzilla would take the role of an antihero, he was still consistently portrayed as hazardous to humanity throughout the films. The Godzilla outfit was updated to look more realistic and much more intimidating than previous suits. Another significant difference is that the series was given an overall plotline with story arcs. Each movie happened in some sort of sequence, and generally referenced previous movies to further the plot of the series. As in the Showa era, in the first Godzilla movie of the Heisei era, The Return of Godzilla, Godzilla was the only monster to make an appearance. All succeeding Heisei-era movies would have Godzilla fight other giant monsters.
Like the Showa series, Godzilla adopted a son, Baby Godzilla, as his own child. In the final Heisei-era movie, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Godzilla dies after undergoing a nuclear meltdown, and his son (by that point almost half as tall as his father and called Godzilla Junior) absorbs the radiation and quickly matures to become the new King of the Monsters. In much the same way that the Showa-era played on fears and interests of people during the time period of production, Heisei-era Godzilla films made some attempts at making statements on popular topics for their time period. One good example would be Godzilla vs. Biollante, which made explicit warnings against research involving genetic engineering. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah touched on US-Japanese relations stemming from World War II and introduced a time-travel plot. Other themes in the movies included commenting on research into hazardous material and making environmental statements.
In 1998, TriStar Pictures produced a remake set in New York City, directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Matthew Broderick; the film's name was simply 'Godzilla'. Despite negative reviews from film critics and negative reception from the fans of the original Japanese Godzilla, the film made over $379 million at the box office, and spawned an animated television series called Godzilla: The Series, which drew much better reception all-around. However, the 1998 film was still a weak leak in the franchise and being a complete flop, all sequels were cancelled. Toho classifies the monster in this movie as Zilla, and it was featured briefly in their film Godzilla: Final Wars. Makers of this film stated in cinematic magazine interviews that the American incarnation of the monster did not merit having "God" in his name.
Millennium seriesThe Millennium series of Godzilla films are the third and currently last of the film series. There are six of these films, making them slightly under a fourth the total of the series. The Millennium series attempted to bring Godzilla back to his roots by eliminating a few of the things that the Heisei-era films had done. The most notable of these changes are, with one exception, the lack of any real continuity in the movies. Godzilla is, however, still a hazard in the Millennium series and is always a destructive force.
Legendary Pictures Reboot
In the 2014 Legendary Pictures reboot, Godzilla is a prehistoric amphibious monster who fed off of Earth's natural radiation and appeared as the titular main anti-heroic protagonist. Over the years, however, as the radiation emitted from the planet gradually declined, Godzilla retreated to the ocean depths, where he could absorb radiation from the Earth's core.
In the film, Godzilla was kept a secret by the United States government, who were trying to kill him with atomic "tests." Godzilla comes to restore the balance of nature when the M.U.T.O.s (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms), prehistoric creatures who are the main antagonists of the film, awaken and wreak havoc while traveling to meet each other in San Francisco. Godzilla follows the male, winged M.U.T.O. to San Francisco and arrives.
The military fails to stop Godzilla when he arrives at the Golden Gate Bridge and pulls back to allow the monsters to fight. During the ensuing battle between the monsters, Lt. Ford Brody (the main human protagonist of the film) and a team of soldiers enter the city by HALO jump on a mission to disarm the warhead. Unable to disarm it, they take onto a boat for disposal at sea.
Meanwhile Godzilla seems to be gaining the upper hand in his battle with the female, until the male arrives and the two gang up on Godzilla, injuring and battering him all over, gaining the upper hand. Ford incinerates the nest of the female MUTO's babies, causing the female to leave the battle while Godzilla regains the advantage and kills the male with a powerful swipe of his tail, impaling the male on wreckage of a nearby building. The female MUTO wipes out the team at the boat, but before she can kill Ford, Godzilla fires his atomic breath down her throat, decapitating her, restoring all power to the city and balance to nature. Godzilla then collapses out of a victorious exhaustion, and Ford pilots the boat out to sea, rescued just before the warhead explodes.
The next day, Ford is reunited with his family and Godzilla, thought to be dead, suddenly awakens. He rises and lets out a final roar before returning to the sea with the city cheering and remarking him as a hero.
Powers and Abilities
Godzilla's signature weapon is his distinctive atomic breath. Godzilla's dorsal plates glow ominously, and then he lets loose with a concentrated blast of radiation from his mouth. This power is commonly mistaken for breathing literal fire, one of the most common misconceptions of the entire series.
Godzilla has been shown apparently being able to adjust the intensity of his ray, varying from a blast of superheated vapor, such as in the 1950s and 1960s (in the earliest films, the atomic breath was nothing more than baby powder shot out with a hose), to a beam with explosive and kinetic properties, in the 1970s and onward. The ray is usually portrayed as being neon blue, though in Godzilla 2000: Millennium and Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, it is a reddish orange to signify an increased level of power.
In Godzilla 2000 and Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, Godzilla's atomic breath was shown as having incendiary properties and was strong enough to destroy a miniature black hole, while in Godzilla: Final Wars, it possessed incredible range, amazing power and pin-point accuracy, able to hit a target in outer space and kill most kaiju with a single shot. Also in Godzilla: Final Wars, Godzilla also demonstrated his ability to actually change the intensity of his atomic breath when fighting Keizer Ghidorah. With a quick turn, Godzilla's breath went from the iconic blue beam to the intensity of reddish orange which literally caused the monster Keizer Ghidorah to explode in the upper atmosphere.
A variation of the standard atomic ray in the Heisei series was the red "spiral ray" which he acquired as a result of absorbing the Rodan's life energy. This ray was so powerful that only a few blasts of it were sufficient to completely destroy MechaGodzilla and SpaceGodzilla, though Destoroyah was able to withstand several hits. In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, a variant of his spiral ray was seen when King Ghidorah used his golden gravity beams on Godzilla. Godzilla was somehow able to draw strength from the gravity beams and used the absorbed energy to fire a blast of blue energy wrapped in a golden spiral that completely destroyed King Ghidorah. The spiral ray returned in Godzilla: Final Wars, where it was strong enough to push Keizer Ghidorah to the edge of space, destroying him in an explosion visible from the surface of the Earth.
In Legendary Reboot Version, Godzilla's atomic breath was more of a focused, fiery shaped energy beam that Godzilla spews out. Godzilla only used it against the M.U.T.O.s after he had taken a severe beating and was already growing weaker, showing that Godzilla only uses it as a last resort against opponents he can't physically overpower on his own. This version's atomic breath is obviously not as destructive as it's predecessors', but still incredibly deadly in its own right as it can be used to simultaneously both burns and push the female M.U.T.O. and also explodes her neck that resulting in fiery decapitation. It is, however, entirely possible that Godzilla never used his atomic breath at its full power (given that this Godzilla not using the atomic breath as it's trump card), seeing as how Godzilla was already extremely weak when he began using it, so whether or not it's capable of more is unknown at this point. The neon-blue glow on Godzilla's dorsal plates begins at the tail and goes all the way to the top of his neck in this film.
In addition to his very deadly atomic breath, Godzilla can also emit atomic energy in all directions from every inch of his body in a short-range pulse. The pulse was first seen in his fight against Biollante. Godzilla only used the nuclear pulse in the Heisei series, although many consider the climactic scene in Godzilla 2000 in which Orga is destroyed while attempting to swallow Godzilla like a snake to be a use of Godzilla's nuclear pulse; and also, Godzilla uses something similar to a nuclear pulse to prevent Keizer Ghidorah from draining any more of his energy from him after being surged with Ozaki's energy.
In Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla, Godzilla found a way to generate powerful magnetic fields from his body after being struck several times by lightning, which proved devastating against his metallic foe. This is the only time Godzilla ever used this power.
Godzilla has displayed an uncanny ability to sustain damage throughout his films. Starting in the first Godzilla film, Godzilla displayed an immunity to conventional weaponry, virtually impervious to everything the JSDF threw at him. He has demonstrated the ability to survive complete submersion in magma for an extended period of time, sometimes while under extreme pressure from tectonic plates (as seen in Godzilla vs. Mothra). He has even survived being in ground zero of asteroid impacts. The only times his flesh has been visibly pierced were in battle with the Super X, Showa Gigan, Biollante, King Ghidorah, Destoroyah, and from MechaGodzilla's weapons in the Showa, Heisei and Millennium series.
In addition to being extremely resistant to damage, Godzilla possesses an extremely advanced and highly efficient regenerative ability. This power was a crucial plot point of Godzilla vs. Biollante and Godzilla 2000: Millennium. In Godzilla 2000, it is explained that Godzilla's regenerative abilities may have something to do with his radioactive properties, and Regenerator G-1 ("Organizer G-1" in the Japanese version) is the name given to a substance in his cells that is responsible for Godzilla's swift healing. In Godzilla vs. Biollante, Japanese scientists use samples of the Godzilla cells (called G-cells throughout the Heisei series of Godzilla films) to help create the Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria (ANEB). This healing factor would be inherited by all creatures spawned from Godzilla's DNA, those being Biollante, SpaceGodzilla and Orga. While the M.U.T.O.s are shown to face Godzilla to the point of exhaustion, he manages to get back to his feet and return to the ocean in a matter of hours which could either be a testament to his incredible durability and he was simply exhausted, or he healed off the damage by sunrise.
As attributed to his size, weight and mass, Godzilla has displayed varied levels of physical strength sufficient to lift weights exceeding 20,000 tons and smash skyscrapers. He has been depicted lifting and throwing monsters in excess of his own weight, such as King Ghidorah, Hedorah, MechaGodzilla and others including Biollante , and in Godzilla: Final Wars was even able to throw Kumonga clear over the horizon.
Though not an amphibian, Godzilla has an amphibious lifestyle. He spends half of his life in water and the other on land. He is as adept a fighter underwater as he is on land. Capable of marching on the sea floor or swimming by undulating his tail like a crocodile, Godzilla is displayed as being able to breathe underwater, occasionally hibernating in the ocean depths between movies, and being submerged apparently does not impede his atomic ray, as seen in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. He engages opponents in the sea on multiple occasions, fighting King Ghidorah, Ebirah, Battra, Biollante and Mothra either beneath or on the surface of the waves. In Legendary Pictures' Godzilla, Godzilla now posesses gills so he can stay underwater indefinitely, but he closes them when he's on land and uses his lungs.
- Starring in 30 films, Godzilla has appeared in more films than any other kaiju to date.
- Although Godzilla's first film appearance was in Gojira, released in November third of 1954, he made his first official debut four months earlier, in July, when an earlier version of the film's script was read on a radio as an 11-part radio drama.
- In 2004, as a part of the celebration of the release of Godzilla: Final Wars and the upcoming 50th anniversary of the franchise, Godzilla was given a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
- Godzilla's appearance has changed many times over the years. Some changes were subtle differences such as changes in the size of his dorsal plates and others which were much more dramatic, including Godzilla's overall size and appearance.