How to Prepare for Godzilla
Getting to know Godzilla
If you are asking yourself who Godzilla is, either you were born within the past ten years, or you have been living under a rock for the past sixty years. Godzilla is a film legend created by a film producer for Toho-Eiga by the name of Tomoyuki Tanaka. in 1954. His film Gojira, was his first big budget undertaking and it scored big with the public. Godzilla, himself, is a gigantic, fire breathing, mutant dinosaur that was awakened by atomic bomb testing in the South Pacific. He started off small by destroying small fishing vessels and then decided to make his mark by leveling Tokyo. The movie was such a hit in Japan that an American rendition of the film was released in 1956 by the name of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, starring Raymond Burr. From that point forward Godzilla became more than a popular Japanese icon, but an international phenomenon. Since then he has been the star of over two dozen movies and has fought super-powered enemy monsters like Megalon, King Ghidorah, and Mechagodzilla. The release of Gareth Edward's Godzilla will mark nearly sixty years of Godzilla fandom.
Where to start
With over two dozen movies to watch a person might feel overwhelmed when trying to become familiar with the monster king, so it is difficult to know where to start. Never fear, as a seasoned veteran of Godzilla fandom you will be delighted to know that I will steer you down a productive and satisfying path while investigating the odd, perilous, and sometimes comical fan universe of Godzilla. Let's get started!
As already mentioned, Godzilla's first movie was titled Gojira. This is the most logical place to start because it portrays the title the character the way he was intended to be. This was before Toho started marketing the character to children and before it became about sheer entertainment. So why would someone want to watch a movie that is not solely geared toward entertainment? Because this movie was a reminder to the Japanese people of the horrors of the atomic bomb. Godzilla was more than just another monster taking a stroll through a big city, he was a reminder to the Japanese about what their country had endured a decade before the movie's release. In this movie you will witness the horror of the atomic bomb recreated and incarnated as the enormous fire breathing monster, Godzilla. The scenes of destruction, despair, and sacrifice are pure cinematic genius and has set the standard, not just for Godzilla movies, but for the entire genre of kaiju flicks.
Gojira/Godzilla King of the Monsters
I think that when you enter the world of Godzilla, you have to be cautious when you just get started. After viewing the first movie, it is important to get a healthy sampling of the films that followed afterwards. This is difficult to do if you are an adult because there are certain ones that will turn you off. There are several Godzilla movies that are intended to be direct sequels to Gojira and this is a good place to pick up on the movies as well. The first sequel is Godzilla Raids Again. This one stars one of Godzilla's most famous foes/friends, Anguirus. Their giant monster brawl is one of the most carnal battles in Godzilla's sixty year career. Another good sequel is The Return of Gojira aka Godzilla 1985. In the American release ('85) Raymond Burr reprises his role as journalist, Steven Martin. The last true direct sequel to Gojira is Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monster All-Out Attack. This sequel sought to bring Godzilla back to his original intent as a reminder of the horrors of World War II and the sacrifices made by Japan's brave military men. The themes are kind of hard to follow unless you watch the original Gojira in Japanese (with English subtitles, of course), but the monster battles are well worth some of the weirdness of the plot.
There are three main storylines in Godzilla: the 50s-70s, the 80s-90s, and the 2000s. Not every movie is Spielberg, so it is important to know which ones will peak your interest the most before you check out some of the cheesier movies that focus more on children audiences. From the original series (50s-70s), the most noteworthy are King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, and Terror of Mechagodzilla. In the 80s and 90s, the best ones to check out are Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2, and Godzilla vs. Destoryah. In the 2000s, your best bets are Godzilla 2000, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S, and Godzilla Final Wars.
The fun thing about Godzilla fandom is that it does not end with the movies, there is lot of written material to enjoy as well! To get a better idea of the creatures origins, both in cinematic history and in real life, check out The Official Godzilla Compendium. This resource will give you details about the making of each movie, profiles on each of Godzilla's friends and enemies, and a list of other resources that will help you dig deeper into your nerdy Godzilla obsession.
Believe it or not, Godzilla even has a book series that endured a short run in the 90s leading up to Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich's Godzilla. After seeing the original movie, I recommend reading Marc Cerasini's Godzilla Returns.
So much Godzilla stuff
This barely even scratches the surface of all of the Godzilla merchandise that exists. I still have not gotten to Dark Horse or Marvel's comic book series, the new graphic novels, the video games and so forth that have been created around Godzilla. It is a universe that is as enormous as the character himself and hopefully this article has aided you in getting started in understanding this iconic character before the May release of Gareth Edward's Godzilla.