July 29 2016 marks the landmark release of Godzilla Resurgence, and in case you missed the memo, Funimation has picked up localisation rights which means we’ll get a subtitled release very soon in 2016… just in time for the Japan Film Festival in Australia if I am being realistically optimistic. It may be another few months for us, but it’s exciting to see a brand new Godzilla flick from Japan as a glorious reboot of the historic and iconic monster movie franchise. This is the first Godzilla film by founding studio, Toho, since 2004’s Final Wars.
It may be some time before you see a review of Godzilla Resurgence grace front page of Snap Thirty, but in the meantime we’d like to present to you with a tribute to all things Godzilla: the movies, the video games, and the culture itself.
Return of an icon: Godzilla Resurgence
Godzilla Resurgence looks to be the movie that fans always wanted, and it certainly has very high expectations to live up to. Billed as a reboot, everyone is naturally expecting the same class as the timeless and revolutionary 1954 film (more on that later). So far all signs are indicating a modern classic, and after the less than ideal 2014 reboot (more on that later) by Hollywood, Resurgence has far more pressure to deliver on the hopes and dreams of fans all over the world.
From the hauntingly vague trailers one thing is clear about this clear high-budget production: Godzilla looks more menacing and lifelike than he ever has before. I have always favoured detailed costumes, suits, and puppets over computer animation regardless of how advanced CG technology is at any point in time. Let’s face it, 3D animation ages poorly, and as awesome as Godzilla looked in the 2014 Hollywood film, it was still difficult to suspend disbelief over it. There is just something about a physical, tangible prop that just resonates more strongly with viewers. There is a sense of realism to it, which is why I am glad Toho has painstakingly designed the most detailed and lifelike looking Godzilla suit to date, presented as a marriage of puppeteer work, robotics, and just a touch of CG digital effects to complement the visuals. Make no mistake, The Undisputed King of Monsters has never looked more alive.
Keep an eye on the Japan Film Festival when they announce their 2016 lineup, it’s very likely we will see a subtitled Godzilla Resurgence play during the festival.
Debut of an icon: Godzilla (1954)
No Godzilla film in the last 60 years has come even close to outclassing the original 1954 film which really changed the world of cinema and pop culture, joining the likes of 1933’s King Kong to kickstart the monster movie genre. Godzilla would further kickstart Japan’s Kaiju genre and culture, which still enjoys a strong presence in Japanese pop culture to this day.
Godzilla (1954) was a grim warning against the nuclear arms race, and while Godzilla may have been portrayed as a generic villain in some subsequent films, in this film he was just a consequence of man tampering with nuclear energy. Mankind was simply depicted as the victim of the sins they themselves had devised, and Godzilla was a manifestation of the horrors of nuclear warfare. The message was clear, profound, and powerful. The greyness of Godzilla and the premise made this film far more remarkable than any of the other Godzilla films that followed.
While the technology is obviously primitive, but the cinematography, storytelling, and acting is still a class of its own even when watching the film in 2016. The deliberately slow and methodological pacing, and the amount of tension in the atmosphere when Godzilla first appears from beyond the hill, all of it comes together perfectly. In this debut feature film Godzilla’s foe is no giant hulking beast of his own size, but a mere scientist who is hell bent on stopping the beast by using a sinister weapon. This morally conflicted scientist is perhaps the greatest opponent that Godzilla has ever had.
This is the benchmark that Godzilla Resurgence is being measured against and so far every Godzilla film, and every monster film for that matter, has come short of that excellence.
A trip down Godzilla’s cinema career with Madman
The best way to catch up on all things Godzilla while you wait for the English localisation of Godzilla Resurgence is through Madman’s boxsets. Thanks to Madman Entertainment, you can comfortably watch nearly every film from the original Japanese/Toho canon across 4 DVD boxsets that cover all major eras from the 1954 debut film and all the way to 2004’s Final Wars. Each set represents a certain era of Godzilla, and you can witness the evolution of this cinematic beast firsthand over nearly five decades.
- Showa Classics Volume 1
- Showa Classics Volume 2
- Heisei Series
- Millennium Series
Showa Classics cover the initial golden age of Godzilla, starting from the first film and going through all the classics from the 1960s and 1970s. Heisei Series is essentially a compilation of Godzilla from an era most of us know and love, the 1990s. Finally, Millennium Series covers the films that were released in the early 20th century, starting from the (then) reboot Godzilla 2000.
As you embark on your Godzilla movie marathon, you will witness the evolution of the giant reptile parallel to the progression in film technology. Technological progress certainly did improve the visual design of Godzilla, but that progress certainly wasn’t apparent in the cinematography and storytelling, as no film over the last sixty years could even come close to the cinematography, acting, and amazing delivery of the 1954 original (despite its primitive technology). There’s a lesson to be learnt here for all entertainment mediums, but that being said there is still a lot of enjoyment to be had from most of these films, and chances are you’d have a nostalgic attachment to some of these films more than others (I know am particularly affectionate towards Godzilla 2000).
You will also see Godzilla’s role change over time as he goes from villain to hero to superhero to anti-hero to… a single dad!? More importantly, the theme and premise of the films also evolved with the times. The 1954 film had a strong anti-nuclear message, and later films would convey strong messages regarding pollution, climate change, politics, and war, but most times it would just be a classic good versus evil battle between monsters (usually involving some sort of alien invasion angle). The Godzilla series a bit like Sonic the Hedgehog, where the addition of new monsters and characters in subsequent films did more harm than good to the franchise as time went on.
There’s a lot of variety in this series even if the quality of most films doesn’t quite amaze. To make matters easier, we’ve graded all the films contained in the Madman boxsets.
|Mothra vs Godzilla||B|
|Godzilla: The Invasion of the Astro Monster||B|
|Godzilla vs Ebirah||C+|
|Son of Godzilla||C+|
|Godzilla: Destroy all Monsters||B|
|Godzilla: All Monsters Attack||F|
|Godzilla vs Hedorah||B+|
|Godzilla vs Gigan||C|
|Godzilla vs Megalon||C|
|Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla||B|
|Terror of Mechagodzilla||C+|
|Godzilla vs King Ghidorah||B|
|Godzilla vs Mothra||D|
|Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II||B|
|Godzilla vs Spacegodzilla||F|
|Godzilla vs Destoroyah||C+|
|Godzilla vs Megaguirus||D|
|Godzilla: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack||C+|
|Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla III||B+|
|Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.||C+|
|Godzilla: Final Wars||B+|
Notable films not included in these boxsets.
- King Kong vs Godzilla
- Godzilla (1984)
Godzilla goes to Hollywood
What Japanese franchise wouldn’t be complete without Hollywood having a go at it? Now don’t get me wrong, there is certainly potential for something good like the promising Ghost in the Shell film, but more often than not Hollywood adaptations of Japanese franchises have been nothing short of terrible. Hollywood’s take on Godzilla isn’t necessarily flat-out terrible, but certainly leaves a lot to be desired.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters was good because it kept most of the Japanese material and simply spliced in scenes featuring American actors, and a few other Godzilla films were adapted in this fashion. Godzilla (1998) was a notorious attempt to create a fresh new Godzilla. This film has become a cult classic because of its so bad that its great charm, and is still entertaining in a sense that it will make you laugh at how campy and poorly written it is. Worst of all, they got Godzilla all wrong here… you can barely recognise the damn thing, not to mention it laying over a thousand eggs!
Godzilla (2014) seemed to have the right intentions, for one thing Godzilla’s design and depiction was pure badass… but unfortunately he was overshadowed in his own film as the entirety of Godzilla (2014) followed the boring journey of a cast of very flat characters portrayed in the most boring way possible. Godzilla (1998) is bad because of how hilariously terrible it is, and so you could still get some enjoyment out of it. Godzilla (2014) is boring, dragged out and simply forgettable. Godzilla barely had a memorable presence here, and despite his cool design, he was fully computer generated with no sense of organic realism. It won’t be the last we see of this Hollywood re-imagining, as the studio/director is set to make another Godzilla film, and a King Kong film, before wrapping up this spin-off with a King Kong vs Godzilla film.
Godzilla on your video game console
As far as Godzilla video games go, quality titles are few and far between but here’s a few titles that stand out.
This is a dream game for fans of Godzilla, here’s what we had to say in our review.
Godzilla PS4 is a game made expressly for fans of the franchise. This will be a bit of a hard pitch to those who haven’t had any great interaction with Godzilla outside of Hollywood’s attempts as the game takes many of its cues from the Japanese series of films and the cavalcade of Kaiju that are part of its extended Godzilla universe. Regardless of that however the game is a fun beat em up type of game that pits big bad monsters against one another in city-leveling destruction. It is simply a fun game for those who aren’t so initiated into the extended history of Godzilla and it is undoubtedly THE GAME for those who are. Can you hear that sound? It is the roar of the King of Kaiju ascending his throne once more, Godzilla PS4 is a spirited tribute to the beast of the east.
A few other games of note.
Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee
An arena style fighting game that is easy to get into and a ton of fun with friends.
Similar in gameplay style to the 2015 PS3/PS4 game but with a stronger simulation aspect.
In this RTS style game you take control of military units in order to stop and defeat Godzilla. An interesting alternative for those who would prefer to strategically battle Godzilla and stop his path of destruction.
Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale
Now Attack of the Friday Monsters! is a release by Level 5 as part of their Guild lineup of digital indie titles for the 3DS. This standout release that wasn’t so much about the monsters, but rather the culture surrounding monster movies. Attack of the Friday Monsters! is a time capsule into 1970s Japan, long before the advent of mainstream video games. During that time, Kaiju dominated Japanese pop culture and kids were obsessed with these rubber suit movie actors much the same way we are obsessed with Pokemon and Yokai Watch. Attack of the Friday Monsters! has you take control of a kid who is a fan of Kaiju, and goes on imaginative adventures with his friends. You will see these kids talk about Kaiju monsters, play and collect Kaiju trading cards, and see them believe that the monsters they see on TV and movies are real. It’s such a unique and charming little game, one that provides a lens into what it was like being a kid during the emergence of Kaiju pop culture. When you play Attack of the Friday Monsters!, a lot of the kid-friendly Godzilla hero movies during the Showa era start to make sense.
We hope you enjoyed reading this retrospective on all things Godzilla, and we hope to read your Godzilla memories and anticipation for the new movie. We’re excited for the July 29 release of Godzilla Resurgence in Japan, which will make the wait for the eventual English subtitled release that more difficult.
So Mr. Godzilla… what’s the best way to deal with the long wait?