Otherwise Known As: Gojira
Titles: King of the Monsters
Featured In: Thirty Films (Currently)
Godzilla. A name that is known virtually to everyone on the entirety of this planet even if that’s all they know of the character who bears it. Say what you will of the multitudes of anime and manga that have come and gone throughout the years and the various genres of animation that they have created, it is and forever shall be Godzilla who is the most recognized character to come from Japan and will likely remain so for countless generations to come.
However, due to the fact that there quite a lot of variations of Godzilla, particularly if one includes the variations of his design throughout the Showa era of films, I will focus strictly on the one that I like the most as far as characterization and appearance are concerned but will allude to a few points made in the other films.
That being said, my own personal favorite incarnation of the King of Monsters is, as of the time of this post, the one featured in Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla.
Admittedly, when I first caught word of another Godzilla film being made here in America, I had severely negative feelings towards it due the atrocity that resulted from America’s first attempt at it. To save you readers from a very long soapbox I will say this of the first American film that featured the creature now known and copyrighted as “Zilla.” Loathe the movie but loved the cartoon series. Back to my main point, when I later learned that a relatively new and rather unknown film director was hired on, my hopes all but plummeted until I learned one key fact of Gareth Edwards.
He loves Godzilla films and that love is readily apparent in his rendition of the Monster King.
This incarnation of Godzilla is the largest by far as he stands at about 108.2 meters, that’s roughly 355 feet, tall and weighs over 90,000 tons. To be fair, this was done mainly to maintain the concept that Godzilla has had for most of his film in that he is literally towering over most manmade structures and can destroy them with casual ease.
Yet… here’s what I found particularly interesting of Legendary’s Godzilla. Throughout most, if not all, of Godzilla’s previous films, it has been shown time and time again that any attack made upon him by militarized forces –i.e. tanks or aircraft— don’t so much deter him as it attracts him. While Godzilla’s hide nigh impenetrable by most weaponry, the constant assaults made upon him have been shown to irritate him enough that he’ll lay waste to everything in sight and has actively gone out of his way to do so even if there are far greater threats laying on the horizon.
Yet, Legendary’s Godzilla not only outright ignored the assaults of the military made upon him, first in Hawaii and mostly at the Golden Gate Bridge, he also went out of his way to go around the warships and buildings. True, he was far from careful about it but it was extremely refreshing to see Godzilla not be shown as a purely destructive force but an actual quasi-sentient animal.
Of Godzilla’s powers, the most iconic of them is his ability to breathe nuclear energy either in the form of a concussive and heavily heated beam or outright flames. Legendary’s incarnation takes the later but retains the spectacular powering up motion of the nuclear energy flaring first in Godzilla’s dorsal plates before full ignition. Whether by his mutation or through (un)natural evolution, Godzilla fuels this ability, and by extension himself, by means of consuming nuclear materials and while he didn’t do so in the 2014 film, he has attacked several nuclear power plants in other films.
One of Godzilla’s less known powers though is the one that makes him the most dangerous creature to walk the Earth. To date, there has been only one weapon capable of killing Godzilla, a device known simply as the Oxygen Destroyer. It is a device, a weapon, that through a specialized chemical means, can disintegrate organic life down to the bones and it is the only weapon that was capable of killing Godzilla simply for this fact.
For you see dear readers, Godzilla has a regenerative healing factor the likes of which make Wolverine’s look pale by comparison. The King of Monsters heals so quickly that if one were to fire at with say… a series of missiles one after the other at the same spot, the would have completely healed over inbetween volleys as though he hadn’t even been hurt in the first place. While Legendary’s Godzilla didn’t demonstrate this extreme level of healing, he has shown to otherwise ignore anything thrown at him save for the concussive results of missile strikes.
He didn’t quite care for those and showed this displeasure via a quick shortcut through the Golden Gate Bridge.
Godzilla is not without his weaknesses however and though his healing is great and his hide incredibly thick, he can still be wounded and the greater the wound, the longer it takes to heal. His healing and his atomic breath both are tied to his own nuclear heart as well and if its starts to run low on gas as it were, he will need to feed on some manner of energy source and quickly if he hopes to survive let alone win whatever he’s fighting against.
Throughout his sixty year reign, Godzilla has had many enemies and while the creatures known, rather unimaginatively, as M.U.T.O. were the ones to feature in the latest film, his first and greatest of enemies will always be… King Ghidorah. However, like Godzilla himself, King Ghidorah’s history and mannerisms differ by the incarnation and like many other villains to heroes, he deserves his own review. I will say that if Godzilla is the King of the Monsters, than King Ghidorah is lord and master over destruction. Ghidorah has been accredited with the complete destruction of whole worlds and in the Showa era, was never defeated by Godzilla alone but with Godzilla teaming up with other monsters to fight him.
So you can imagine my excitement when I learned that he, along with Godzilla’s two other allies/rivals are going to be featured in the upcoming sequels.
Godzilla’s greatest triumph to me wasn’t really a triumphant moment in the film itself but a moment that occurs shortly after he defeated the male M.U.T.O. and had a building collapse on top of him as a result of that epic win. Godzilla is literally on his hands and knees, struggling for breath when he happens to catch sight of a nearby human soldier. The look on Godzilla’s face in that instant… How can I best describe with mere words? You can see how old he is, feel that he is growing tired of fighting, of living, and for a moment, however brief it may be, you think that’s it. He’s done. He doesn’t have any fight left in him.
There have been moments throughout the film series, particularly those of the Heisei and Millennium era of Godzilla films that try and emphasize the fact that he is more than a monster, that there is something ancient and grand in him but… To me, it felt like the entirety of the movie was spent getting to those moments, that the whole of the film revolved around getting to that one tiny scene. The one I spoke of however… it just comes out of nowhere and is over and done with just as quickly. Was it my favorite moment in the film? Not particularly but did it have one the greatest… how do kids call it these days… feels?
Oh, most certainly.
Overall, Godzilla is my favorite hero because, frankly speaking, he isn’t one. Whatever level of sapience he might possess, he is still an animal driven to survive in a world that is out to see him destroyed and gone. To vanquish him like the dragons of old and like those same dragons, he rises grander and greater than ever before with each and every retelling of his story. He is a warning of the machinations of mankind and a living, breathing force of what nature may well unleash upon us in our future should we push beyond the boundaries that we should never tread.