I am and have been a big fan of Godzilla in specific, and Kaiju in general, for as long as I can remember. I recall when I was young boy that the NY stations WWOR (Channel 9) and/or WPIX (Channel 11) would run Godzilla marathons (usually three Godzilla movies in a row) on the Friday after Thanksgiving and I looked forward to that more than Turkey Day itself. Occasionally, one of the NY stations would have themed movie weeks and I was always excited when Godzilla and Gamera movies would be featured, or the Saturday movie marathons would feature these giant beasts fighting each other.
This passion and love for Godzilla was kindled by my mother who introduced me to Godzilla when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old and a lifelong fascination with Gojira was in full effect. One Christmas (or birthday), I was given perhaps the coolest toy I ever received* - th Shogun Warrior Godzilla toy, which “breathed fire” and shot its fist, with a punch of a button in the toy’s elbow. I think that was a feature of the toy line because Godzilla never did that in any of the movies.
*Maybe the Pit, the G.I. JOE base might come close
Fast forward to college in the nascent days of the Internet (early-mid 1990s) and hanging out in the University Libraries browsing the web on the old Netscape Navigator I searched for what else, Godzilla. This is when I learned that more Godzllla movies beyond Godzilla 1985 (as it was known here in the States) were made and released. One of the better informed and most detailed Web sites at that time was Barry’s Temple of Godzilla. It was around this time I learned of a potential American Godzilla film featuring a creature called The Gryphon. I could swear I saw the teaser trailer in theaters, too. Sadly (perhaps fortunately in hindsight), this film never happened. What we got in 1998 was much, much, much worse. In many ways, Godzilla was my introduction to Science Fiction, in a perhaps a smaller way, Godzilla was my introduction to fandom.
Meanwhile, there were two Flea Markets in NJ (Route 18 flea market in East Brunswick and the US 1 Flea Market in New Brunswick which was featured in the film Mallrats) where I remembered seeing some Godzilla toys when I was younger. Visiting these markets again around the time I learned of the continuing Godzilla franchise, I found a store where imports of these movies were sold. The quality was not the greatest and all of the movies was subtitled, but these were still new Godzilla movies: Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, the films that came to be part The Heisei series/era, which ended with Godzilla vs. Destroyah. These movies are separate from the films that were produced in the 1960s and 1970s, but do form a continuity with each other.
Then 1998 happened and a collective wail of anger could be heard in the hearts and souls of all Godzilla fans.
However, a couple of years later, Toho re-launched the franchise with what was known in the US as Godzilla 2000. This was a fun movie I saw in the theaters and most importantly unlike that more recent mis-step, Godzilla fought a new monster. The movies in that series, which came to be known as The Millennium era/series, took still a different approach with most of the movies being unrelated with the exception of being sequels / continuations of the original 1954 Godzilla. What I’ve seen of these movies randomly on cable have been god.
This leads us to Legendary Films announcing, in 2010, acquisition of the rights to Godzilla. Fans were still understandably nervous having the 1998 G.I.N.O. film on their minds (and replayed on cable far too often because just once would be too often).
When Gareth Edwards, director of the independent film Monsters was announced cautious optimism soon replaced nervousness. Anybody who has seen this film knows Edwards has good fiilmmaking skills. If you haven't seen it, I highly, highly recommend it. Then casting began, with Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe as major stars who would appear in the movie, Heisenberg v. Godzilla soon became a rallying cry. For if one of the most talented American actors today would be in this Godzilla film, surely we can hope.
The latest American Godzilla film was set to release on May 16, which happens to be my mother’s birthday. What better gift than to take my mom to see Godzilla (because frankly, both my father and my wife don’t quite share the same enthusiasm for Godzilla which goes to show nobody is perfect).
Since this post is getting quite lengthy and I've barely discussed the latest American Godzilla movie, I'll hold off on that for another post, soon to follow.