Not a lot of people know this about me, but I love Japanese monster movies. To be a bit more specific, I love Godzilla. I have seen every single Godzilla movie that has ever been made (with the possible exception of Godzilla vs. Megaguirus). That is twenty-nine feature films dealing with the nuclear, fire-breathing beast.

I can still remember the first time I watched a Godzilla movie. It was Godzilla vs. King Kong, and my dad brought it home from one of his business trips. It was a VHS tape in a turquoise case with Godzilla and King Kong on the cover and the title splayed out in big colorful print. I was really excited. And the movie did not disappoint. My imagination was fueled by the images I saw: a giant octopus fighting a giant ape; island natives chanting and worshiping these gargantuan creatures; a fire-breathing dragon battling the ape while the army was powerless; destruction on a scale I had never seen before (aside from the obliteration of Alderaan). It was amazing and I had to see more. From there I would beg my dad to take me to the video store to rent Godzilla movies. I would look at the other videos, and the video games, of course. But inevitably, I would want to watch a Godzilla movie. Sometimes we would rent it, other times we wouldn’t. If I was lucky enough to stay up late there was the chance that it would be on television and we could rush to find a blank VHS tape to record it. All in all, I have fond memories of watching that radioactive lizard’s exploits.     

Yep, this is the very same case.

One of the reasons I love Godzilla is because my dad and I spent time watching the movies together as I was growing up. It is to him I owe my love of cheesy and sometimes awful movies. Just the other day we watched a film from 1976 called At the Earth’s Core and boy, was that a stinker. But we enjoyed it and laughed together. Part of it is because we get to spend time with each other and the other part is that there is a certain pleasure in just watching metaphorical train wrecks on screen. Some of you might be familiar with the television show Mystery Science Theater 3000. Essentially, it was a show that played old, terrible movies like Attack of the Killer Shrews or Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and inserted a mocking commentary over the movie. It is kind of like what my dad and I do with terrible movies. We probably started doing this together when Godzilla made its way into our house. 

Some of the Godzilla films are truly awful; I make no apologies for them. Godzilla’s Revenge or All Monsters Attack is about a young boy who learns how to fight bullies after daydreaming  helping Godzilla’s son, Minilla, fight off a bully monster named Gabara…. I am not kidding. That actually happens. It is heart-rendingly bad. In later movies Godzilla becomes some sort of hero, defending the human race… which they never really explain. One movie is called Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster where Godzilla literally fights pollution. These are just some of the awful scenarios cooked up by the writers behind Godzilla. I sympathize with them, because it must be really hard to write plausible reasons for giant monsters to appear and do battle in and around Tokyo. However, that doesn’t make these movies any less laughable.

Jet Jaguar, in all of his glory! He even has a theme song.

Honestly, though, crappy writing and silly plots aren’t enough to make me hate the series. There are just too many great moments, like Godzilla fighting giant mantises that are actually giant; telepathic mini-twins, crystal clones from space, monsters with sawblades in their stomachs, and even a knock-off of Ultra Man named Jet Jaguar. Crazy moments make Godzilla amazing to watch. Not many series can be so goofy, serious, dramatic, explosive, and surprisingly child-friendly as Godzilla.

One aspect of the series that I believe is underrated is the amazing main score. The fully orchestrated theme of Godzilla is definitely a classic. It conveys danger, fear, and hope all at once. Give it a quick listen:

There are some movies in the series that I actually thoroughly enjoyed as movies. Among these are the original Godzilla also known as Gojira to you purists out there, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, and Godzilla 2000. Now this might just be me looking back on these films through the rose-colored light of memory, but these were genuinely enjoyable movies. Sure, at the end of the day they were about guys in rubber suits beating the tar out of each other, but when has that made a movie anything other than completely awesome? Besides that the original film is a classic. It makes a profound statement about the horrors of atomic warfare from the only nation that has been attacked with nuclear weapons. This message was lost in later films in the series, but there have been different messages throughout the series like environmentalism and the terrors of space aliens.

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah had such an awesome Japanese cover... or poster, I can't tell which one this is.

I have great memories of Godzilla. I have a few action figures, comic books, and even a fact book describing everything you could want to know about Godzilla and the other monsters found in the series. I have also played a few of the Godzilla games, my favorite being Super Godzilla for the Super Nintendo. The gameplay is hard to describe because I’ve never seen anything else like it. You move Godzilla around a grid and find power-ups and energize yourself at power plants. You can be harmed by things like electric wires, tanks, etc. At the end of every level you face a boss monster. If you are damaged in the level, you take that damage with you into the fight, if you picked up power-ups you bring those along as well. When you enter the boss battle, it becomes something like a fighting game. In this mode, you need to manage your ‘fighting spirit’ and the enemy’s and attack at the opportune time. Attacking at different times will enable different attacks, from tail whip to his devastating fire breath. All the attacks are animated and are surprisingly easy on the eyes. I also remember the music being cool and Godzilla having a fantastic roaring sound, especially for the Super Nintendo. As a kid, I found Super Godzilla really entertaining, and I played it a ton. I haven’t gone back to it in years (mostly because my brother has the SNES now), but I don’t know if it would really hold up.

Godzilla is great. A giant, radioactive monster that fights aliens, evil, and occasionally Tokyo, and doesn’t afraid of anything. Sometimes he can be cheesy, other times dumb or loveable; he can also be serious, gritty, and relevant. The last Godzilla movie was Godzilla Final Wars in 2004. After that the company that produced the Godzilla films, Toho, swore a decade long hiatus from Godzilla. However, they gave Legendary Pictures the go ahead on an American reboot of the series that was slated for 2012, but no looks like it will be released in 2013 or 2014. There have also been rumors of another Godzilla game for consoles in the not-so-distant future (I hope it's true, even though it would likely be terrible). It has been a while since the King of the Monsters has graced the silver screen, but I’ve been thinking about the old green giant a lot lately, and have had an itch to watch those old movies again (my mom gave away all my VHS tapes a while back). I suppose the point of this is just to vent a bit of my love for rubbery monsters to the general public. Maybe if I get it out there someone can find the same kind of enjoyment that I have when it comes to Godzilla. I hope so.

Time for me to slither back into my academic retreat and write some more papers!

What are your thoughts on Godzilla, monster movies, etc.?

Anyone else play the Godzilla games?

(P.S. I know this isn’t the best thing that I have ever written, but I just needed to write something that wasn’t academic and stuffy)