“The arrogance of man is thinking nature is in their control, and not the other way around.” —Dr. Ichiro Serizawa, “Godzilla” (2014)
Although Godzilla has come to be associated with campy cinematic exuberance, the granddaddy of all giant-creatures-running-amok films somehow remains infused with a certain degree of humanity. Yes, the king of monsters goes on to lose some dignity when he drop-kicks a foe in “Godzilla vs. Megalon.” And yes, that was a happy dance he performed after trouncing King Ghidorah in “Invasion of Astro-Monster,” but it’s hard to deny the poignancy of the big guy’s origins.
First appearing in Ishiro Honda’s 1954 film, “Godzilla,” the pop culture icon came of age when Japan was still reeling from nuclear attack and H-bomb testing in the Pacific. A prehistoric creature transformed into an unpredictable destructive force courtesy of atomic radiation, Godzilla stands tall as a symbol of man’s folly.
Since then, this poor marauding monster has starred in 28 Godzilla films produced by Toho Studios in Japan, not to mention video games, novels, comic books and television shows. As well, there have been several American productions, including the latest reboot courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures, set to hit theaters in May 2014.
The franchise has had a long and wonderfully entertaining history, so in honor of 60 years of radioactive rampaging, we present some of our favorite facts.
1. All hail the gorilla-whale
The name Godzilla is a transliteration of “Gojira,” a combination of two Japanese words: "gorira," meaning gorilla; and "kujira," meaning whale.
2. Extinction shmextinction
As the story goes, before Godzilla suffered mutations spawned from atomic bomb testing at the island of Rongerik, he was just a plain old dinosaur – a Godzillasaurus, to be exact – that somehow managed to withstand what had killed off his prehistoric brethren. A lone surviving dinosaur species? That alone seems like nifty fodder for some good science fiction.
3. Dinosaur mutt
Godzilla's design is comprised of a mixture of various species of dinosaurs, including the body of a Tyrannosaurus rex, the arms of an Iguanodon, and the dorsal plates of a Stegosaurus. Pictured above is how he looked in 2004 for "Godzilla: Final Wars."
4. Old monsters can learn new tricks
In some films, Godzilla is a creature with some semblance of sapience that only destroys obstacles when they get in his way and only attacks when provoked by man. In other versions he is a mean, bitter beast, created from the tortured souls of World War II victims. In the '60s and '70s, he became more of a hero, protecting the world against menacing monsters like King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla, Biollante and Monster X.
5. Breath mint, please
Godzilla's best-known weapon is his seriously strong breath, but it’s not just any old dragon-style fire breath, it’s downright atomic! At times, Godzilla's radioactive breath has been fierce enough to target items in outer space and even vaporize a black hole. By the simple act of breathing, Godzilla can melt steel, evaporate water and power electrodes. In "Godzilla vs. Hedorah," he used his atomic breath to fly by aiming it at the ground and employing it as a propellant, lifting himself as if by jet pack.
6. That special glow
Not only does the king of monsters breathe radiation, he can strategically emit it from every part of his body in a short-range nuclear pulse. He has also been known to generate a magnetic field, which happened in “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla” after our leading monster was struck by lightning ... which proved rather detrimental to his metallic cyber-foe.
7. Tough as nails
As you might expect from an atomic-breathing, radiation-pulsing mutant gorilla-whale, Godzilla is not easily subdued. He remains unscathed by traditional weaponry, has survived being buried in magma and crushed between shifting tectonic plates, and has even proven immune to direct impact by asteroids.
8. Mr. Universe, monster-style
Move over, Arnold Schwarzenegger, few others can beat the monster king in the strength and agility departments. Godzilla can lift 2,000 tons and can shatter skyscrapers effortlessly. We’ve seen him not only lift other hefty monsters – such as King Ghidorah and Hedorah – but then throw them as well. In "Godzilla: Final Wars" he was so pissed off he actually tossed Kumonga right over the horizon. And if that brute strength wasn’t enough, he has often been shown practicing deft martial arts techniques, not to mention being light of foot and displaying gravity-defying leaps into the air.
9. Real-life whale defender
In real life, the marine activism group, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, named a high-tech, $4 million vessel “Gojira” in honor of the Godzilla character; the vessel was used in the campaign against Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Eventually, they were forced to change its name due to copyright issues with Toho. Shifting tactics from a "roar" to a "meow," they renamed the vessel the Brigitte Bardot.
10. Rip-roaring sound effects
When the sound effects team first began working on Godzilla’s roar, they found that enhancing regular old animal roars just didn’t cut it. After countless futile attempts to sample and edit animal noises, the film’s composer, Akira Ifukube, removed a string from his contrabass and rubbed it with gloves soaked in pine tar; and ta-da, Godzilla had a voice.
11. How do you spell … ?
Although in comics Godzilla’s roar is sometimes written out as “roar,” that really doesn’t do it justice. Hence, more creative spellings have been tried out as well; because, really, how do you accurately transcribe the sound of a contrabass string being rubbed with pine tar-soaked gloves? In Marvel Comics, the mighty roar was spelled as "Mrawww.” In Dark Horse Comics and "Godzilla: Rulers of Earth," it has been spelled as "Skreeongk." And in IDW Comics, it is spelled "Skreeonk."
12. Beware the adorable mouse thing
There’s Rodan, there’s Mothra, there’s Mechagodzilla, there’s Destoroyah … but according to legendary Godzilla producer Shogo Tomiyama, Godzilla's most threatening adversary is the cute 'n’ chubby rodent Pikachu. He said in 2004 that he hoped, “Godzilla's new film will finally win the hearts of children back from his most dangerous adversary ever: Pokemon.”
13. Shine bright like a diamond
For his 50th birthday (of sorts) in 2004, Godzilla was given a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
14. Rock monster
Although the song “Godzilla” by Blue Oyster Cult can be heard in the movies "Detroit Rock City" and "Dogtown and Z-Boys," it was conspicuously missing from the 1998 American remake of "Godzilla." In response to the omission, Blue Oyster Cult members Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma created their own parody called "NoZilla,” which was was released to radio stations.
Watch the Godzillarific homemade homage above, a video tribute to both the original song and the monster ... and rock on, Godzilla!
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