It's coming on 60 years now that Godzilla and friends have been stomping their way through our fictional cities. Just what is it about this group of kaiju that keeps us coming back? We have a few theories.
As new details about the upcoming Godzilla flick continue to spool out, a question came up: What is it about everyone's favorite radioactive lizard-dragon, armed with little more than a disdain for skyscrapers and ambivalent feelings about moths, that has him planted so firmly in our imaginations?
I'd watch the original 1954 film (uncut and subtitled if possible) and read up on some of the literature on it. That film really had a seismic impact on Japanese pop culture, as it resonated with 50s anxieties about the atomic bomb combined with the trauma of World War II, bundled up with the imagery of giant monsters from mythology (dragons, etc.). Somewhat less so for U.S. audiences, but there were definitely people thrilled by it. And though the series devolved into silly grudge-match adventures with other fantastic monsters (though, I love them all IMHO), occasionally they had moments that really captured the best of what a film monster could be: a giant, unstoppable force of nature that is terrifying but also misunderstood and just a bit sad.
If I may elaborate on the Godzilla fascination. Originally, Godzilla was this metaphor, powers beyond our understanding. He *was* the atomic bomb, personified, and we got to see what this meant on an intimate level. It was not about giant monsters beating up on one another, but rather what happens when nature is beyond the control of man. Mind you, this is going back to the 1954 original Godzilla. Over time, different portrayals have happened, from friend and guardian of humanity to evil mythical deity like creature.
This new Godzilla seems to be trying to connect with those original themes: how big disastrous events beyond our control affect us at a personal scale. It's the flip side of disaster porn, which glorifies the spectacle part of this destruction. It also has an obvious sub-plot of the origins of Godzilla and how this affects Cranstons character but I think it's trying to be MORE than just "Giant Monster Steps on Stuff: The Movie" (nothing against that, I own all 26 Godzilla films and love that type of movie too).
There's also the fact that technology has caught up with our childhood imaginations; when some of us first saw Godzilla decades ago, it was a guy in a rubber suit. It's been a long wait, but now we get a more 'realistic" version of what it might look for a 30 story tall creature stomping on a city.
Of course, there's also the simpler explanation:
Giant monsters crushing cities. What's not to get?
Tell us your theories behind Godzilla's longevity in the comments.
Image: Godzilla circa 1954