Of the many reasons to look forward to the summer of 2014, one is the chance to meet again one of the most famous “monsters” of world cinema. Godzilla. As the Hollywood reboot of this iconic character is coming closer, the studios have released the latest poster of the film which does just about enough to send the pulse racing as the silhouette of Godzilla walks away. For those who love Hollywood, the only memories of this creature are likely to be from the 1998 film Godzilla. But its history is so much wider and richer, largely emanating from its roots in Japan. In fact it is 60 years now since the release of the first Godzilla film which was way back in 1954. And since then close to 30 movies have been based on this ferocious (and in some movies, friendly) creature. With the release of the new movie’s poster, we decided to look back at the transformation that Godzilla has witnessed, through the varying posters of different eras. Jogging down the memory lane… here we go.
It all began with this iconic Japanese film of 1954 directed by Ishirō Honda. The film has earned a special status in history books over time, which first brought on screen the terrorising Godzilla who was a symbol for the nuclear holocaust. The poster too shows an angry Godzilla who has plucked an attacking plane from mid-air and has set it ablaze. The poster may look crude by today’s standards but, do not forget, this is 1954 we are talking of. And a gigantic fictional creature could not have looked more terrifying!
Hollywood had its first introduction to Godzilla in 1956 when the original Japanese film was made into a re-edited Americanized version where the Japanese footage was dubbed into English and new footage was shot with actor Raymond Burr. The movie titled Godzilla, King of Monsters! is important for many reasons, the main one being that it introduced Godzilla to audience outside Japan. The poster again focuses on the destruction that Godzilla can bring, on a scale greater than what the Japanese poster displayed, trying to appeal to the audience that love disaster-themed films.
After the 1955 Japanese film Godzilla Raids Again, studio Toho Productions brought out its third Godzilla film in 1962 which also featured the famous King Kong, and was simply titled King Kong vs. Godzilla. The movie till date has seen the highest attendances for a Godzilla film. The film had an English version release too, the poster of which is shown above. So apart from wrecking trains and ships, Godzilla has been shown to be busy battling Kong as well, which pretty much would have summed up the plot of the film.
The 1960s was a Godzilla-rich year with as many as eight movie releases in Japan. One of them was the 1967 film Son of Godzilla. No prizes for guessing that the movie featured a baby Godzilla named Minilla. That is the young creature throwing circular atomic smoke rings from his mouth in front of the bigger Godzilla. The movie had gigantic praying mantises as well as a huge spider, all showcased in the poster, making it look like something from Animal Planet… though not from this planet.
The tenth Japanese film of this series came out in 1969 titled All Monsters Attack which was specifically targeted for small children. By now Godzilla was no longer the destroyer of Japan, but the hero of these films, where a lesson or two could be learnt from it. All Monsters Attack also featured Minilla who learns to stand up to bullies, as he and Godzilla fight off a monstrous ogre. The posters too were representing the changing theme of the Godzilla films as this one has the humans all huddled in one corner while the heart of the poster has been taken by all the creatures appearing in the film.
After the 1975 film Terror of Mechagodzilla, which was the last Godzilla film directed by Ishirō Honda, the series went into a slumber for almost a decade. When it came back through the rebooted version of 1984 titled The Return of Godzilla, it came with a roar and a growl, making Godzilla the “bad boy” again. The movie was treated as a direct sequel to the original 1954 film, and once again the poster has a snarling Godzilla appearing as a menace to mankind. The teeth seem sharper, ready to tear whatever comes in its way, as fighter pilots surge towards it to protect their city. The movie though earned negative reviews with the special effects department severely criticised. “Though special-effects experts in Japan and around the world have vastly improved their craft in the last 30 years, you wouldn’t know it from this film.” is how New York times expressed it.
The future films that followed worked with higher quality of special effects and dealt much with the origins of Godzilla. The film plots also became more complicated and elaborate though the film titles had a similar ring to them, be it Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah or Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla. The above poster is of the 1992 film Godzilla vs Mothra which is one of the biggest commercial hits of the Godzilla movie series. The poster looks more well-designed, reducing the menace that Godzilla is usually associated with; also, the clear absence of humans in this poster shows that once again the Godzilla films had moved away from causing mayhem in Tokyo and were dwelling in things much stranger.
Hollywood director Roland Emmerich then made the high budget American version Godzilla in 1998, a film which was panned by most of the fans and critics though still became commercially successful. This time the city to face the wrath of Godzilla is New York. The movie’s poster emphatically displays the enormous size of the monster, by sticking to the huge foot that dwarfs even the skyscrapers of the city; and if that did not get the point across then the tagline “Size Does Matter” surely should. Not unlike the posters of the original Godzilla and The Return of Godzilla, the Hollywood version too had frantic forces at work around the creature, surely trying to stop a beast that cannot be stopped so tamely.
In Japan, the series took another reboot in 1999 with Godzilla 2000: Millennium which marked the beginning of the Millennium series. This movie too had roots in the original 1954 film, with no references to any other film of the series. The poster had the snarling Godzilla back, with a bright red background added for more dramatic effect. The film had a North America dubbed release as well.
2004 marked the 50th anniversary of the Godzilla films. The year saw the release of Godzilla: Final Wars where a number of actors from previous Godzilla films appeared as main characters or in cameo roles. Director Ryuhei Kitamura compared the film to a musician’s “Best of” albums. A charming thought, though the plot of the film appears quite erratic, in which the setting is of a future Earth where an alien invasion leaves only few human survivors who free Godzilla from his frozen prison to assist them. The film’s poster gives a reflection of the bizarreness, and the idea to have Godzilla right at the back, with bunch of other characters covering the creature, hardly seemed the way to remember 50 Godzilla years! The movie eventually turned out to be a box-office disappointment.
Toho Productions has not made a Godzilla movie since 2004. Hollywood studio Legendary Pictures, who has acquired the rights from Toho, has come in collaboration with Warner Bros. for a Hollywood reboot which is releasing in the USA on May 16, 2014. The new poster of this film looks like this (click for an enlarged version)…
As far as posters go, it is an exquisite piece of work. We see the back of Godzilla as he lumbers on while the city burns, and men drop from the skies. There has been a lot of excitement about this film, ever since a concept art was shown in San Diego Comic-Con back in 2010. Director Gareth Edwards has promised that the movie would go back to the roots of Godzilla, that it would be gritty and respect the fans’ expectations from a Godzilla film;“It must be brilliant in every category because I’m a fan as well” is what he once said. We are only a few months away from finding out how true to his word Edwards is. But if the initial posters and teaser trailers are anything to go by, 2014’s Godzilla could be worth the 10 years’ wait for all Godzilla fans. Now let it roar!