Original Series (1954-1974)
There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding how the different Godzilla movies relate to each other, and events in certain movies have been used to help “prove” various theories about Godzilla. For example, the treatment of the title monster in “Gigantis, The Fire Monster” as a separate monster than the one in “Godzilla, King of the Monsters” has led some people to argue that the Godzilla portrayed in all the movies after the first one was, in fact Godzilla’s mate, and is therefore female.
So, what’s the truth? Beats me! What’s my opinion on the subject? Read on …
Essentially, the early Godzilla movies weren’t attempting to achieve any sort of coherent continuity among the various films. The first movie was meant as a one-shot “movie with a moral”, and Toho was as surprised as anyone when the movie did well enough to warrant a sequel. Although the second movie, “Gigantis, The Fire Monster”, did make reference to the first movie, it claimed that both monsters were members of a species of “fire monsters” which had been around since prehistoric times, whereas the first movie indicated that Godzilla was created through man’s testing of atomic weapons.
In the next movie, “King Kong vs. Godzilla”, Godzilla was treated as if no one had ever seen him before. Instead, he was believed to be a “prehistoric species of dinosaur” who had been lying dormant, frozen in an iceberg, for almost 100 million years.
I’ve always liked to think of there being only one Godzilla for all the original movies, with the thought that somehow he regenerated from his “death” in the first movie. Basically, if there were more than one of him around, why would only one show up at a time? Why would they take turns attacking Tokyo? Having said that, though, he did disintegrate pretty thoroughly at the end of the first movie, so maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part.
“Hesiei” Series (1984-1995)
With the release of “Godzilla 1984” (a.k.a. “Godzilla 1985”), Toho made a conscious decision to rewrite Godzilla history. All the movies after the original were deemed to have never happened at all. Thus, any discussion of the later Godzilla being the original Godzilla’s mate appear to be mooted.
For a while, the new series attempted to follow a strict continuity, with each movie picking up where the previous one left off, and with frequent references being made to previous films. Thus, at the end of “Godzilla 1984”, Godzilla falls into a volcano, and in “Godzilla vs. Biollante”, Godzilla arises from the same volcano. Similarly, in “Godzilla vs. Biollante” Biollante heads off into space, and in “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla” there is speculation that Space Godzilla could have been created from some of Biollante’s cells carried into space. In “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla”, it is revealed that Mechagodzilla was built using technology gleaned from the cybernetic version of King Ghidorah from “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah”. Finally, “Godzilla vs, Destroyer” comes full circle and has a monster created from the device which originally defeated Godzilla in the first Godzilla movie.
Anyway, the point is that the movies that make up the so-called “Heisei” series [from “Godzilla 1984” through “Godzilla vs. Destroyer”] did follow a loose continuity that was unfortunately mucked up royally by the time-travel events in “Godzilla vs. King Ghiodrah.”
“Alternate Reality” Series (1999 -2001)
When Toho restarted the series for a third time with Godzilla 2000, they threw the Heisei continuity out the window and started again from scratch the same way they did with “Godzilla 1984.” The main difference, however, is that they decided to not have any continuity whatsoever among “Godzilla 2000” and two movies that followed it. Which is to say that Godzilla 2000, Godzilla vs. Megaguiras, and GMK: All Monsters Attack are each meant be stand-alone films, each retelling the legend of Godzilla from a new perspective. For this reason, these three films are commonly referred to as the “Alternate Universe” series, since each film created its own unique Godzilla universe.
New Generation Series (2002 – 2003)
And then, in 2002, Toho came out with Godzilla x Mechagodzilla (III), which once again started the whole thing over again from scratch, recognizing only the original movie as part of its continuity. The following movie, Godzilla vs. Mothra vs. Mechagodzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is a direct sequel to Godzilla x Mechagodzilla (III). Since these movies have shared continuity, they cannot properly be called part of the “Alternate Universe” series. Therefore, for lack of a better term, I am currently referring to them as the “New Generation” movies.
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
Finally (for now, at least), we have Godzilla: Final Wars. Once again, continuity is thrown to the wind and the series is started over again for the purpose of finishing it. Well, sort of. The movie is certainly not a direct sequel to the previous two films, and there’s no mention of the events that took place in those films. However, the movie is designed to be the culmination of 50 years worth of Godzilla films, and there are various references to many of the movies, both old and new, throughout. Basically, it’s as if Toho took every Godzilla movie made over the last 50 years, stuck them together in a blender, hit “puree” and then threw the entire mess on the screen. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you….
The Original Godzilla in Gojira (Godzilla) was a prehistoric monster that weighed 20,000 metric tons, was 50 meters tall, and terrorized the ships of Japan. It was disturbed by an American Hydrogen bomb testing in the Pacific Ocean. After being awakened, the monster attacked Tokyo, destroyed much of the city, and killed tens of thousands. In hopes of stopping Godzilla, a scientist by the name of Dr. Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) activated an experimental weapon he had developed, named the Oxygen Destroyer. Although Dr. Serizawa committed suicide in the process (out of shame and guilt), the weapon was successful, completely disintegrating Godzilla. It was stated at the end of the film that it was doubtful that there was only one creature, alluding not only to the many incarnations of Godzilla that would later appear, but also to all the other monsters that would be featured in movies produced by Toho.
1956 American version
When the film Godzilla was first released in wide distribution in the U.S., its footage was reworked and supplemented with new footage featuring Raymond Burr as “Steve Martin” (not the actor). It was renamed for general commercial release as Godzilla, King of the Monsters! in 1956, and the giant monster would be known outside Japan by the name “Godzilla” ever after. In 1957, the American version worked its way back to Japan, where the Godzilla name also took root. This American version was the only version represented on North American home video until the release of the Gojira DVD in September 2006, which contains both the unedited Japanese theatrical version and the reworked U.S. version.
The Americanized Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was honored with a plaque on its 50th anniversary at the former location of Visual Drama, where Raymond Burr’s insert scenes were filmed by director Terry Morse. The location is now the Frank del Olmo Elementary School (named after the late Los Angeles Times columnist). The plaque is at the main entrance at 100 N. New Hampshire Ave., Los Angeles.
As alluded to at the end of the original movie, Godzilla again surfaced at first as a menace in Godzilla Raids Again (shown in the U.S.A. as Gigantis, The Fire Monster, in which Godzilla is referred to as Gigantis and Anguirus, as Angurous or Angurousaurus). Setting the tone for future Showa-series films, Godzilla’s fate is uncertain at the end. His next film was 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla. The menacing ego of Godzilla’s final film in the Showa series was 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla (the original American release title was Godzilla vs. The Thing, but it was changed to the original Japanese title). Starting with Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Godzilla took on the protagonist persona he would wear for the remainder of the series. He would team up with Mothra, Rodan and Anguirus along with other monsters to battle a variety of foes both mundane, Ebirah, Kumonga and Kamacuras, and bizarre, Hedorah, Gigan and Megalon. He even gained a son in the form of Minilla. The series ended with Terror of MechaGodzilla in 1975. The final scene depicted Godzilla wading off into the sea, not to be seen until his return in the VS series ten years later. It is notable, however, that the earlier-released film Destroy All Monsters took place in 1999, twenty-four years after Terror of MechaGodzilla. The series could also be said to truly end with Destroy All Monsters’s ending, which depicted all of Earth’s monsters living out the rest of their days in peace on Monsterland. This “jump” of dates also explains how King Ghidorah appeared in movies such as Godzilla vs. Gigan, he was killed in the earlier film.
The Toho tokusatsu series, Zone Fighter, is notable in that it features Toho monsters from the films, such as Gigan, King Ghidorah and Godzilla himself. Produced during the 1970s, Toho has gone on record stating that the events depicted in the Zone Fighter television series are part of the Showa era, taking place between Godzilla vs. Megalon and Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla.
The VS series is in the era known as the Heisei Period wherein, when not only does Godzilla return after more than a decade’s absence, but marks a transition between the reign of the Showa Emperor Hirohito to that of his son Akihito, now dubbed the Heisei Emperor.
In The Return of Godzilla, the famous monster is re-invented to be taller and more powerful, at 80 meters tall and 50,000 metric tons. Return of Godzilla ignores all previous films in the series aside from the original. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah explains that this second Godzilla is the product of a botched time traveling mission by a group of terrorists from the 23rd century known as Futurians. Under the guise of wanting to save Japan from Godzilla’s devastation, the Futurians travel back to 1944 and transport an injured Godzillasaurus residing on Lagos Island to the Bering Sea, thus preventing its exposure to the A-bombs. The Godzillasaurus lies dormant in the Bering Sea till the late 1970s, where it is exposed to radiation after a nuclear submarine accidentally detonates in the dinosaurs vicinity. Hungry for nuclear energy, the new Godzilla attacks a Soviet nuclear submarine before turning towards Japan as its predecessor in 1954 did, attacking the nation’s nuclear power plants. After his battle with the Super X, Professor Hayashida lures Godzilla to Mount Mihara, where he is dropped into the lava below. There he enters a state of dormancy.
During his slumber, Japan develops an underfunded agency, designed to track any and all of Godzilla’s future sightings in Japan. Japanese corporations develop Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria (ANEB) in order to protect the country from nuclear accidents or attacks.
Reawakened by explosions detonated during a failed terrorist ransoming, Godzilla heads for Lake Ashino where he does battle with Biollante in Godzilla vs. Biollante, the hybrid monster of Godzilla’s own DNA and the cells of a rose that bonded with the soul of a scientist’s daughter. After their first battle, a new Super X-2 confronts Godzilla and distracts the monster so soldiers can administer the ANEB through rocket-propelled grenades. Super X-2 is badly damaged during the battle, unable to further engage Godzilla. In an attempt to activate the ANEB, Godzilla is lured to a site with experimental lightning generators intended to increase Godzilla’s core temperature so the bacteria can function properly. At the site, a new form of Biollante arrives and besieges the weakening Godzilla. The ANEB takes effect and forces the battle to a draw. Biollante is mortally wounded and Godzilla falls into the ocean, where he is believed to die from the ANEB. However, the cold waters of the Pacific lower Godzilla’s body temperature, retarding the effects of the ANEB and allow Godzilla to live on. In his weakened state, Godzilla swims back to the area of his origin, the Bering Sea.
Ultimately, this Godzilla disappears from history when the Futurians moved the Godzillasaurus from Lagos Island in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.
In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, it is discovered that the time-travelers that had prevented Godzilla’s creation had, during the Godzillasaur’s transportation, left in its place their own creation — three tiny Dorats, which are harmless pets of the Futurians — to allow them to undergo Godzilla’s nuclear transformation instead, mutating and combining them into a three-headed golden abomination, King Ghidorah. Unfortunately, they are unaware that the Godzilla they had planned to erase was later mutated by a nuclear submarine crash.
The Futurians trick several scientists into aiding them on a false time-traveling mission under the pretense of preventing Godzilla’s transformation on Lagos Island. In efforts to stop the Futurians’ monster that is instead created, an extremely wealthy corporate developer, who previously fought on the island as a Japanese soldier, plans to send a nuclear submarine into the Bering Sea in an attempt to create the second Godzilla. Instead of finding the Godzillasaurus, the submarine would come face to face with Godzilla himself, mutated by the sub crash. The new Godzilla absorbs the power of the nuclear sub, increasing his size further, becoming powerful enough to defeat King Ghidorah. Godzilla proceeds to attack Japan itself, but is stopped when Emmy, one of the Futurians who had turned on her fellows, resurrects Ghidorah as a cyborg in the future and returns to the past to battle Godzilla with the new Mecha-King Ghidorah. The two battle in Tokyo, with both falling into the sea, but Godzilla is still alive and reawakens using his atomic ray underwater at the movie’s conclusion.
These films show mankind’s efforts to defeat Godzilla while also being challenged by other monsters such as Mothra, Battra and Rodan. This series features a specialized organization of monster-combating soldiers and engineers called G-Force. Several of the ways G-Force plan to stop Godzilla include the construction of two mechas, MechaGodzilla (who would battle both Godzilla and Rodan) and Moguera. Like in the previous series, Godzilla eventually adopts a “son” that is discovered by scientists in Rodan’s nest, this time simply called “Baby Godzilla”, “Little Godzilla,” and “Godzilla Jr.,” simply referred to as “Junior.” It is never stated that Godzilla birthed (asexually) the monster itself, or even made clear whether Godzilla has any knowledge of the creature’s existence before it is born. Both Rodan and Godzilla have a natural drive to want to be close to the monster, much to the tactical benefit of G-Force.
Ultimately, this Godzilla meets his end in the finale of the versus series, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. Everything comes full circle when Godzilla is faced with a monster, Destoroyah, created by the Oxygen Destroyer, which was used to kill the first Godzilla in 1954. Godzilla’s end comes when his internal radiation becomes too intense for his body to control, and he finally succumbs to a total nuclear meltdown. This is not the end of Godzilla’s legacy, however; the previously wounded Godzilla Jr. (who is killed by Destroyah earlier) absorbs all of the radiation from Godzilla’s meltdown and fully matures into an adult Godzilla.
Although the series was supposed to be in a 10-year retirement, Godzilla makes an “early” return, though not in a new movie, but a television show named “Godzilla Island”. Godzilla Island, in general, gave back the character his role from 1964’s Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster-1975’s Terror of MechaGodzilla. However, unlike the Showa era, Godzilla is already good from the very start, and serves as the main monster protagonist of the show.
In 2097, Godzilla, and 9 of Earth’s monsters, found themselves confined to an island in the Pacific Ocean dubbed Godzilla Island. When the Xiliens come down to earth with their horde of evil monsters, Godzilla is always there to fight and protect G-Guard Base, sometimes with other monsters like Rodan, Mothra, MechaGodzilla and Moguera. He usually fights Destroyah and Megalon.
The Millennium series is unique because rather than creating a single continuity that all the films would follow, the series would instead comprise a number of distinct narratives and different timelines, each using only the original Godzilla film as a backdrop. It is often called the “Shinsei” (????) series by Western fans (meaning “rebirth”) however the name is not recognized by Toho. In Japan, rather, many call it the “X” series, due to the Japanese titles containing “X” instead of “Vs” or “Versus”. The majority of the films in the series featured a revamped Godzilla design. This new “Millennium Godzilla” had a wilder appearance, with more massive, jagged dorsal fins and a fiercer, more dinosaur-like face than the Godzilla featured in the Heisei or Showa series.
Godzilla 2000: Millennium
As a direct sequel of the original movie, the Godzilla depicted in Godzilla 2000: Millennium is not related to any other Godzilla films seen previously, or to those to come. Godzilla himself is 55 meters tall and weighs 25,000 tons. It is unclear whether this Godzilla is the same as the original, but what is known is that he has been attacking and feeding off Japan’s energy plants for some time. During Godzilla’s latest rampage an alien is found which attacks Godzilla, absorbs his DNA and copy the Organizer G-1 (Regenerator G-1 in U.S. movie) in order to adapt to Earth’s atmosphere and becomes the monster, Orga. The two monsters battle and Godzilla prevails by destroying his foe as it attempts to swallow him whole.
Godzilla vs. Megaguirus
Though Godzilla looks nearly the same in this film as he did in Godzilla 2000: Millennium, this movie takes place in an entirely separate continuity from the previous film. The Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus attacked Tokyo in 1954, the Tokaimura Power Plant in 1966, and Osaka in 1996. In 2000, Godzilla would be the first to encounter the Meganula threat. However, shortly after this, Godzilla would be lured to Kiganjima Island where he would fall victim to a top secret weapon, the Dimension Tide. The attack would be interrupted by the Meganula allowing Godzilla to battle their queen, Megaguirus in battle. After Godzilla’s victory he would fall victim once again to the Dimension Tide and be buried deep underneath the city. Shortly after the credits, however, the main character (a child) goes to the window and hears Godzilla’s famed roar. It were as if he never left.
Again disregarding the continuity of previous films of the millennium series, the Godzilla in Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is confirmed to be the original monster (because of the American’s mistake of misconfirming Zilla as the true Godzilla). Godzilla is depicted as a demonic beast possessed by the souls of those who died in the Pacific in World War II. This film returns Godzilla to his roots of being a genuinely malevolent being who deliberately seeks to punish Japan for the sins of WWII. Godzilla would do battle with the Yamato no Kaiju Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah but would be nearly destroyed by the actions of General Tachibana, who piloted a submersible down Godzilla’s throat and out through a wound in his neck. The next two times Godzilla attempted to use his atomic breath it shot out of his wound, and eventually tore him apart from the inside. At the bottom of Tokyo Bay, it is revealed that the heart of Godzilla is beating continuously.
Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla and Tokyo S.O.S.
In the movie Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla, a second Godzilla goes on a rampage in Japan. After that incident, the Minister of Science decides to make a bio-mechanical robot from the bones of the Godzilla of 1954. After a few years, Kiryu (MechaGodzilla) is born. Kiryu is sent to fight off Godzilla, however Godzilla roars, causing the DNA of the original to cause Kiryu to start attacking the city himself, until he runs out of power. Kiryu is shutdown and readjusted. Kiryu is sent again to fight Godzilla. At the end of the battle, Kiryu carries Godzilla and both crash in Tokyo Bay. Kiryu shoots his final shot, the Absolute Zero, and freezes the water. But Godzilla survives the shot with less damage and Kiryu loses his arm and damages the Absolute Zero.
In the movie Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S., the two shobijin fairies warn that using Godzilla’s bones as a weapon is a big mistake. The Prime Minister refuses to stop Operation:Kiryu. Then Godzilla arrives in Tokyo and Mothra comes and saves Tokyo from destruction. The Prime Minister launches Kiryu in order to save the dieing Mothra. An egg in Infant Island eventually hatches and two larvae go to save their mother. Mothra is blown up by Godzilla’s atomic ray and now what is left are the larvae and Kiryu. Kiryu eventually runs wild and brings Godzilla wrapped in silk to the ocean. They both sink together and Kiryu permanently shuts down and Godzilla is able to sleep in the depths. At the end, there is a storage room with the DNA of the original Godzilla still there, so another monster will rise (possibly Godzilla again, should he break free from Kiryu’s grip).
Godzilla: Final Wars
The Godzilla from Godzilla: Final Wars is the last Godzilla film as of 2004; Toho has decided to retire the franchise for a period of 10-12 years to renew interest in the future, returning with a new American film in 2014 as Godzilla’s 60th Anniversary. Godzilla takes on a similar but newer appearance in Godzilla: Final Wars. The difference can be seen while comparing his head to the suits from all the other films. Godzilla’s in the Heisei series was smaller in appearance while Godzilla from the Millenium series has a noticeably longer build. Many people think this Godzilla is also possibly Godzilla Junior due to the fact of his image of him being trapped was shown simultaneously with Godzilla Junior’s resurrection.
Decades before the main story starts, an older past Godzilla is buried in ice at the South Pole by the Earth Defense Force’s aerial battle ship Gotengo. When the Xilians, an alien race, use many of Earth’s own monsters in an attempt to conquer it, the EDF is forced to free Godzilla from the ice to fight for mankind. This Godzilla is lured towards the Xilians’ Mothership in Tokyo while he fights the Xilians’ monsters along the way, defeating/destroying each one in his path including Gigan, Zilla, Kumonga, Kamacuras, Rodan, King Caesar, Anguirus , Ebirah and Hedorah.
He at last arrives in Tokyo just in time for an asteroid to enter Earth’s atmosphere. Godzilla attempts to stop it by blowing his atomic breath on it, causing it to explode and releasing the real threat, Monster X. Mothra comes to aid Godzilla while the Xilians summon the revived and rebuilt Gigan. Mothra is quickly dispatched by Gigan, who then joins Monster X to double team Godzilla. Mothra recovers and attacks both Monster X and Gigan, turning the tide of battle. Gigan resumes his battle with Mothra, using it’s laser vision beam, turning Mothra to what some people call “Fire Mothra,” and both monsters are destroyed in a Kamikaze attack by the lepidopteran deity, while Monster X transformed into a new form, Keizer Ghidorah. He nearly would have killed Godzilla if it weren’t for the superhuman Ozaki transferring his mutant powers into Godzilla, restoring his strength and empowering him enough to use his greatest weapon-his spiral ray to destroy Kaiser Ghidorah. Turning his attention back on his old enemies, Godzilla shot down the Gotengo and prepares to finish its crew off when Godzilla’s infant son, Minilla, intervenes, pleading Godzilla to stop. Both tired from his past battles and moved by Minilla’s courage to stand up to him, Godzilla returns to the ocean with his son. But not with out Minilla finally using his atomic ray on his own. Godzilla let out one final roar, for his trials and tribulations had finally ended.