…and saw seven decades’ worth of changing cultural tides.
For well over half a century, Godzilla has defined the genre of kaiju eiga. Japan’s favorite atomic beast has morphed to fit changing social concerns, cultural fads, commercial pressures, and advances in special effects. Because of this willingness to evolve, Toho’s venerable icon has proven as industructable in real life as he is on-screen.
Kaiju movies resist easy categorization. They’re usually broad, fun popcorn movies billed as entertainment, yet they’re pathologically fixated on the ills of society. They’re about monsters, but they rarely act as horror movies. They employ the language of science fiction, yet most of the time it’s of a kind so absurd that they’re not to be taken as sincere speculation. The best term to describe them might be “modern urban fairy tales”: stories rooted in allegorical, emotive narrative that on the surface seems naïve, but which uses that simple sense of wonder or horror to dig at something deeper.
In anticipation of Godzilla’s 35th* big screen appearance headlining Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 2019, I watched every installment of the Toho series — and its Hollywood spin-offs — to date.
Jump over to my Medium post to see my rankings, and read what I learned along the way!