In the ridiculously entertaining “Godzilla 1985,” the prime minister of Japan sighs, “I was hoping I would never hear that name again.” Sorry, prime minister. The “wonder lizard” is back in town. “Godzilla” opens in theatres this Friday, and one can only hope it will stomp out memories of the wretched 1998 reboot.
Regarding popular culture, we Baby Boomers like to claim that we had the best movies, music and television; all debatable, I suppose. But there is one thing that is inarguable: We had the best monster, certainly the most enduring. Godzilla made its first appearance 60 years ago. Before Toho Studios in Japan put its biggest star on hiatus for a decade, Godzilla appeared in 28 films of varying quality and escalating campiness until he got his mojo back in entries produced in the 1990s-2000s.
What is it about Godzilla that has so resonates, particularly among Baby Boomers? It’s the size of course (kids of all generations are fascinated by prehistoric beasts), but most notably it’s that iconic roar (produced by rubbing an oiled glove over the strings of a bass fiddle).
Born in an age of anxiety over the hydrogen bomb, Godzilla struck a nerve in its native Japan. But it also hit home in a way for ducking and covering American kids spooked by the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War.
But mostly, we just liked watching smackdowns between Godzilla and a series of foes, some formidable (King Kong, Mothra) and some not (Ebirah, a lobster), and none CGI. There were collateral pleasures as well, such as the laughable, badly-dubbed dialogue. “Look out there,” someone exclaims in “Godzilla vs. Mothra.” “It's a gigantic monster egg!" The same movie also gave us those miniature singing twin fairies.
Godzilla evolved over the decades, no one-dimensional monster he. In "King of the Monsters," he is our Atomic Age nightmare come to life. In "Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster,”” Godzilla vs. Megalon” and “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla," he's our planet’s champion. In "Godzilla 1985," American reporter Raymond Burr (reprising his role from the inferior American version of the original film, describes Godzilla as "a strangely innocent and tragic monster." He is even a doting dad teaching his son how to breathe fire in “Son of Godzilla.”
I’m not a “Godzilla” fanboy who has seen every film in the franchise (for an authoritative ranking, visit here), but there is a soft spot in my heart for “King Kong vs. Godzilla” and “Mothra,” which loom larger for me than any of today’s CGI monsters, technically impressive though they may be. They make a lot of noise, but none have the soul of the original rubber-suited anti-hero.
Hear him roar.
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