The Origins of Godzilla

This iconic movie monster made his debut in the 1954 Japanese film “Gojira,” and was inspired by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A metaphor for the atomic age, Godzilla originally rose from the sea to level Tokyo. Despite his defeat, the franchise survived the death of its star, as Godzilla was shown to be only the first of his kind. Later, Godzilla was recast as a heroic figure that would battle even more destructive creatures and defend mankind. Join WatchMojo.com as we explore the origins of Godzilla.
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The Origins of Godzilla

This Japanese monster is a nuclear hybrid of a gorilla and a whale. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be taking a look at the origins of Godzilla.

This iconic movie monster made his debut in the 1954 film “Gojira,” before it became internationally known as “Godzilla.” The overseas success of movies like “King Kong” inspired Tamoyuki Tanaka to invent such a creature. He drew inspiration from the relatively recent atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and invented a monster to serve as a metaphor for the destructive power of nuclear armaments.

Godzilla’s design conjured images of prehistoric reptiles as seen in children’s books. This beast was conceived as a hybrid of marine and land-based vertebrates, and so included elements from a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus, Iguanodon and crocodile. Even the name “Gojira” conveyed this message, as it meshed the Japanese words for “gorilla” and “whale.”

In his first ever appearance, Godzilla rose from the sea at the beginning of the Atomic Age. He ate entire fishing boats and was feared as an ancient sea-god. Archeologists began investigating after he attacked an island, and called upon the army when they found the terrifying creature.

Godzilla survived the military attack, and climbed from Tokyo Bay to level the city unchallenged. It was only through the use of a prototype weapon, in this case the Oxygen Destroyer, that the beast was finally killed. However, the scientist who carried out the mission committed suicide, and so similar devastating effects would never be seen again.

Of course, the franchise survived the death of its star, as Godzilla was on the first of his kind. Despite his reputation as a horrifying monster, Godzilla was sometimes recast as a heroic figure, and was altered to appeal to younger children.

The monsters that followed underwent countless cosmetic changes, while maintaining the signature yell and giant mutated dinosaur appearance, complete with long powerful tail and jagged bone-like dorsal fins.

Another mainstay of the franchise was Godzilla’s atomic beam. This powerful ray of energy was charged by his glowing spines and fired from his mouth to melt through hard surfaces and evaporate water.

Godzilla was originally conceived as charcoal grey in appearance. However, promotional artwork for the first film portrayed the beast as green in color, and so he eventually adopted that look in many of his later movies.

As any good fan would know, Godzilla’s thick hide made him all but immune to conventional weaponry, and he was able to regenerate if something did manage to cause him injury. Yet, his most famous characteristic was his roar, which was created by slowing down the sound of a resin-covered leather glove rubbing across a double bass.

However, he also had weaknesses: Godzilla was vulnerable to strong voltages of electricity, but oddly not lightning. He was also susceptible to super weapons, like Oxygen Destroyer, Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria, Cadmium, and Mechagodzilla.

Throughout Godzilla’s storied history, the character has appeared in countless series; but the character’s narrative split into three different eras.

The first era was the Shōwa Series that ran from 1954-1975. It ended with “Terror of Mechagodzilla,” and was defined by its increasingly light-hearted portrayal. During this time, Godzilla became an anthropomorphic antihero and met his archenemy King Ghidoah. This era also saw the introduction of most of his enemies, including Mothra and Rodan.

From 1984-1995, the Heisi Series ignored the original timeline. “Return of Godzilla” acted as a direct sequel to the original film, and portrayed a more animalistic monster, as well as its original mutation.

Finally, 1999-2004’s Millennium Series showcased an alternate continuity. This era was preceded by the infamous big budget Hollywood adaptation in 1998 that used CGI. Due to copyright issues, Godzilla’s iconic roar did not appear in the film.

Godzilla is one movie monster that has become entrenched in popular culture. He is instantly recognizable across the globe due to his countless appearances and parodies, and has even earned a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Lifetime Achievement Award. And it’s no wonder: who doesn’t love watching this giant lizard destroy...everything?!
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