Compared to his equal King Kong, the film monster Godzilla, originally a Japanese creation, is considerably less popular. Yet he continues to fascinate filmmakers, as evidenced by the new film Godzilla II: King of the Monsters.
Director Michael Dougherty (44) has a special fascination for Godzilla. Not only is he responsible for the most recent adventure in the series, Godzilla II: King of the Monsters, but he also wanted his monster to resemble the creation from the first film, Gojira from 1954 as much as possible.
It influenced the way Godzilla was adapted for his new film. For example, Dougherty had the protrusions on the back of the monster enlarged, and his legs, tail and claws were also changed. All with the intention of making Godzilla look even more threatening.
The American director is honest that he feels indebted to the original from 65 years ago. “It remains my favorite. I particularly like the tone. It even contains poetry, but at the same time it is also frightening, mysterious and exciting.”
The origins of Godzilla began in 1954 with a modest film project that was actually initiated by producer Tomoyuki Tanaka due to the loss of another more ambitious production. The success of the Hollywood monster movies, starting with King Kong from 1933, led him to do something similar in Japan.
He hired director Ishiro Honda who worked with a special effect expert. Honda was a former soldier who was taken prisoner and saw with his own eyes what the atomic bomb had done on Hiroshima.
He later said: “It seemed like the end of the world. I have since felt the fear of it nuclear war would always haunt us.”
Honda wanted to incorporate these apocalyptic impressions in his film about a monster that was created by radioactive radiation and had to become as big as a mountain. Gojira became his name, consisting of the Japanese word for gorila (gorira) and whale (kujira).
Although the first Godzilla monster looked rather primitive – a sort of wooden moving dinosaur – the 1954 film became a huge success and even a classic. The images of the monster that destroyed Tokyo made a big impression on the cinema audience at the time.
The actor in the suit, Haruo Nakajima, had taken his job seriously. He even went to the zoo to study the walking behavior of gorillas and elephants. Moving was already difficult, because the suit weighed around one hundred kilos. “It was very hot in that suit. I feared that I would faint at any moment,” said Nakajima, who died two years ago at the age of 88.
Godzilla became a huge success in Japan in particular. There are already 32 films made with the monster in the lead role. The interest in these productions fluctuates. If a nuclear accident occurs – such as in 2011 with the Fukushima nuclear power plant – interest in the oeuvre flares up again.
Hollywood too has been throwing itself on the monster for years. One of the directors who set to work with it was disaster movie expert Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012), who let the monster rage in New York in 1998.
Thanks to the advanced special effect techniques, it is now possible to work even more realistically, as the new Godzilla film shows. The difference with the original Japanese films is huge.
The fact remains that Godzilla has never really been loved in the Western world compared to King Kong. Kong is primarily a victim of human behavior that has been taken from its natural environment. Godzilla, a creation of nuclear experiments, is out for revenge and seems to have no other feeling whatsoever.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Mixed reviews
Unfortunately, the responses to this blockbuster from director Michael Dougherty (Krampus) have been very disappointing so far. At Rotten Tomatoes, Godzilla: King of the Monsters scores a meager 56% at the time of writing.
“What you’re left with is a catastrophically dumb, thunderously boring blockbuster as numbing and unsatisfying as the worst Transformers movies–even one hilariously nutty sub-aquatic development can’t liven things up.” – Ben Travis, Empire
Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly) delivers his critique in a straight way saying “Godzilla: King of the Monsters is not a good movie. In fact, it’s a pretty terrible one.”
Fortunately there are also positive reviews. Alonso Duralde of The Wrap, for example, speaks of a ‘sensational film’. “Whereas 2014’s Godzilla made us wait too long for the monster-movie money shots, this one offers a family story made all the more heartfelt thanks to committed performances by Millie Bobbie Brown, Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler, not to mention a constant stream of the kind of rock-em-sock-em action that makes you want to see a film like this in the first place.”
Meg Downey from Gamespot also has positive things to say. “Simply put: It’s fun. It’s fun to sit around and root for Godzilla to come save us, even if he’s completely obliterating whole cities in the process. King Of The Monsters knows this in its bones, and that’s what it wants to deliver. It’s a kaiju movie where the kaiju themselves are the stars and that’s what makes it such a great ride.”
The end of the Godzilla film series is not yet in sight. Michael Dougherty is already working on a new scenario for Godzilla vs. Kong, which decides who of the two monsters is the strongest. The movie is planned to be released for the big screen in 2020.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Knock You Out – Exclusive Final Look In Theaters Thursday Get tickets now: Fandango.com/godzillamovie Follow us on social: @GodzillaMovie #GodzillaMovie Following the global success of “Godzilla” and “Kong: Skull Island” comes the next chapter in Warner Bros.