Unspeakable Horrors Lurk in the Shadows: Monsters!
Will Godzilla Revitalize the Monster Movie genre?
While you may conjure up images of Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees when thinking of movie monsters, the creatures spotlighted here focus on true giants.
Godzilla, Mothra and King Kong: These mammoth heroes and villains have a rich film history which can be traced all the way back to the Golden Age of cinema.
Their enduring legacies helped perpetuate a sub-genre for films like Jurassic Park (1993), Cloverfield (2008) and the summer blockbuster Pacific Rim (2013) to cash in on.
While the sub-genre persists, it’s been 10 years since Godzilla terrorized moviegoers, and his impending return this summer may usher in a new resurgence of monster movies on the Silver Screen.
Godzilla is the king of the cinematic monsters!
The earliest example of monster movies is the 1925 film The Lost World, in which a land still exists where dinosaurs roam and thrive. With The Lost World paving the way, the first popular and commercial success for the sub-genre came with the release of King Kong (1933).
In Kong, a 25-foot ape is discovered on Skull Island by filmmakers. The giant monkey is then captured brought back to the U.S. and displayed as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
However, Kong escapes and demolishes parts of New York City before meeting his fate atop the Empire State Building in a climactic battle with a squadron of airplanes.
The success of the original King Kong led to the release of six more Kong films over the years, and the lot includes a mixture of new chapters and remakes culminating with Peter Jackson’s immensely successful King Kong (2005). Jackson's Kong made over $550 million worldwide.
More films followed which featured larger-than-life creatures cashing in on the success of King Kong including Mighty Joe Young (1949), The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).
However, it was the emergence of an overseas kaiju which solidified the monster movie sub-genre and paved the way for scores of future films.
In 1954, the Japanese production company Toho (Eiga) unveiled the reigning King of the Monsters with the now classic Gojira. Created by the radioactive aftereffects of the nuclear attack on Japan, Godzilla emerged to wreak havoc on Tokyo.
A U.S. version of the film did open in 1956, but it was merely the Japanese release with the addition of newly shot scenes featuring journalist Steve Martin (Raymond Burr).
Godzilla was such a success in Japan that Toho rushed the sequel Godzilla Raids Again (1955) into theaters a mere six months after the original’s release.
While more movie monster flicks including Them! (1954), Mothra (1961) and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978) helped usher the sub-genre along, no other movie monster has been as endearing, enduring and prolific as Godzilla.
Godzilla is the James Bond of monster movie cinema with 29 films featuring the fiendish giant currently in existence, and the final entry, Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), was released in time for Godzilla’s 50th Anniversary.
This time around, Godzilla shares the screen with a slew of other monsters including the son of Godzilla, Gigan, Mothra and Monster X aka Ghidorah.
Perhaps the most epic entry in the original series came with the third installment, King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962). In their respective film histories, Godzilla and King Kong were vastly different heights. Kong was originally 25 feet tall and Godzilla 164 feet (changed to 400 feet in the original American version)!
It wouldn’t have been much of a contest for the poor ape had King Kong vs. Godzilla remained true to the respective films' realities, but fortunately the studio evened things up to make the monsters' on-screen combat equal.
The new reboot of Godzilla is set to open in theaters on May 16, 2014. This will be the 30th entry in the film franchise, but more importantly it will mark the 60th Anniversary of the Godzilla series.
The film is directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters), and it stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Ken Watanabe.
While the film’s fate is still in question, hopefully the new imagining of the King of the Monsters will reinvigorate the mainstream appeal of Godzilla.
Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
Godzilla: King of the Monsters! (1956) (American version of Gojira
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) aka Godzilla vs. Monster Zero
Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966)
Son of Godzilla (1967)
Destroy All Monsters (1968)
Godzilla’s Revenge (1969)
Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971)
Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
SECOND GODZILLA SERIES:
Godzilla: 1985 (1985)
Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1993)
Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994)
Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995)
ADDITIONAL GODZILLA FILMS:
Godzilla 2000 (1999)
Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)
Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla (2002)
Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)