Published on January 14th, 2015 | by gareth0
Godzilla Returns to His Motherland! Toho to helm new Godzilla film
By Brandon Engel
Godzilla is arguably the most famous movie monster of all time. However, the movies that have come along since Godzilla, King of the Monsters! debuted in 1954 have ranged from campy sequels to big budget Hollywood re-imaginings designed to maximize box office appeal. With confirmed reports that Toho, the Japanese studio behind the original, is planning to make its first new entry in the franchise in over a decade, it’s the perfect time to take a look back at the history of this iconic movie monster and some of the important symbolism that may have been lost to audiences over the years.
Godzilla is a prime example of what’s referred to in Japan as kaiju, or “monster,” films. Literally meaning “strange creature,” the genre usually includes monsters attacking major Japanese cities while engaged in some type of battle. The genre dates to the early 1930s, with the silent movie Wasei Kingu Kongu, a Japanese version of King Kong. Incidentally, Godzilla is technically considered a daikaiju, or a “giant monster,” as is King Kong. In English, the term kaiju refers to depictions of any creatures with origins in Japanese folklore.
The original 1954 Godzilla movie (titled Gojira in Japan) was meant to be a metaphor for nuclear weapons, possibly suggesting that the monster was awakened from the fallout. At the time, it had been roughly a decade since World War II had ended and about a year since a Japanese fishing boat was contaminated following the U.S. testing of a nuclear device on Bikini Atoll, a group of Japanese islands.
Released in 1956, the American version of the Japanese original was heavily re-edited and retitled Godzilla, King of the Monsters! The Japanese dialog was dubbed into English, resulting in often out-of-sync lip movements, and most of the anti-nuclear themes were either downplayed or removed entirely, although the movie is significant in that it was the first time that the Japanese people were shown in a sympathetic light to American audiences.
The most notable change between the original Japanese version and the American release was the addition of new footage with Perry Mason star Raymond Burr playing an American reporter named Steve Martin. Look-alike Japanese actors were used in an effort to make it appear that Burr’s role was part of the original movie. About 30 minutes of original footage, most of it involving the film’s anti-nuclear theme, was removed to make room for the new footage with Burr, who would reprise his role in a 1985 remake of the movie.
In the 1998 version of Godzilla, the monster is said to have originated from a nuclear accident in French Polynesia where fallout reached a nest of lizards, thus creating a mutated lizard. For the Japanese release of the film, Toho renamed the creature Zilla, suggesting that it was a stand-alone American variation of the monster and not the actual Godzilla. The 2014 “re-imagining” of Godzilla (which you can now watch at home through iTunes and your local DirecTV) suggests that it is an alpha prehistoric being who appeared following a deep sea exposition in the 1950s, and that subsequent nuclear testing in the area was really an attempt to kill the creature. This latest American version received favorable reviews and was considered a box office success.
Gareth Edwards has been tapped to direct a 2018 sequel to the recent American Godzilla, while the Toho-produced film is set to premiere some time in 2016, with details just starting to come out recently. It’s interesting to note that all this Godzilla buzz happens to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, certainly an inspiration for the original movie. Veteran producer Taichi Ueda, who will helm the Toho version, has said that he wants to make something that will represent Japan, a country that still has warm affections for the monster it birthed 60 years ago.