Japanese Godzilla Film Series

Beginning in 1954, the large Japanese film production studio, Toho Co., Ltd., which has been responsible for the release of innumerable movies in a considerable number of film genres since the early decades of the 20th century, has been responsible for churning out all of the Godzilla films to date, with the exception of one big screen film produced and released by the American film company Tri-Star. This section will concentrate on all of the films produced by Toho.

It should be noted that not all of the G-films follow a continuous continuity, and at this writing there has been three seperate film series dealing with the King of the Monsters and his exploits produced by Toho, and with different versions of Godzilla in each of them. However, the first G-film ever, Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954), is unique in that it's common to all three film series, each of which begin their respective time lines with this particular film, and each of which then diverge along their own disparate paths after the first movie, having only the latter film in common with each of their continuities.

The three film series, which each have the first film in their respective time lines, are as follows:

The Showa ("first generation") Era Series (1955-1975):

This series started with the film that directly followed the original, Godzilla Raids Again (1955) and ended abruptly, with no definitive conclusion to the series, with Terror Of Mechagodzilla (1975), during a time when Toho was having financial difficulties, thus necessitating it to severely curb the budget of its movies, and this mandated not producing any more films in the sci-fi genre for several years, due to the great expense of films that required elaborate sfx. Also, various major changes in the direction of the Showa Era G-film series through the years caused the audience attendance of the movies to drastically wane, thus causing the company to cease making G-films for nine years.

The first film was deadly serious and quite adult in tone, and the second film, the first in the Showa Series, continued this serious tone, in which Godzilla was a deadly, mindless engine of destruction who threatened the existence of humankind. This film series then entered a seven year hiatus after the release of the second movie in the series (which was less successful then the first), and then returned in the early 60's, initially continuing Godzilla's menacing nature, but which now had the King of the Monsters as the antagonist to be defeated by "good" monsters (King Kong and Mothra, respectively). However, as the series progressed in the 60's, the tone and nature of Godzilla (and several of his fellow Toho dai kaiju) began changing in nature, with the movies becoming progressively less serious in tone, and the mid-60's featured the introduction of Godzilla's ambiguous stage, where he no longer directly threatened humankind and often served to battle and defeat more human-unfriendly kaiju, but more or less inadvertantly, simply because the other kaiju happened to get in his way or invade his territory. By the late 60's, the budgets and the quality of the scripts for each G-film began to noticably decline, and the tone began to be more geared towards a younger audience, which in turn caused more and more adults to look the other way. The films during this period, however, were at least often given quality American release versions, including good dubbing, by American International, making them superior in many ways to the later films in the Showa Series.

By the early 70's, Godzilla had completely entered his 'super-hero' phase, where he became a deliberate, benevolent (and somewhat inexplicable) protector of humanity, and this seemed to be in obvious imitation of his heroic kaiju film rival from the Daiei film studio, the flying fire-breathing turtle known as Gamera. The G-films also began to take on an increasingly sci-fi tone, and the plots began to focus more or less exclusively on attempted invasions of Earth by advanced and hostile alien races, all of whom utlized various dai kaiju in their plans to conquer Earth, which Godzilla and his kaiju allies would help defeat. However, the budgets of these early 70's films were smaller then ever, and the quality of the scripts were also lower then previously seen. Further, with the exception of the first G-film of the 70's, America International had ceased handling the American release of the G-films (and soon went out of business altogether), leaving the subsequent 70's releases in the considerably less competant hands of small independant companies, such as Cinema Shares, who edited the films terribly, and left in the low quality dubbing done by an Australian company (and who were sometimes almost as bad in this capacity as the horrendous botch job done to Godzilla Raids Again by Warner Bros.). The nadir of this period, the film known as Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), released in the U.S. in 1976 by Cinema Shares, had the biggest publicity campaign of any G-film before or since, including having a heavily truncated version of the movie actually appearing on NBC in prime time as a movie of the week (albeit as a comedy special), and many G-fans blame this fact on American audiences maintaining a negative attitude towards Godzilla that continues into the present. After that time, the rest of the G-films from the Showa Series released in the 70's to American theaters were relegated to limited releases that were stuck in the kiddie matinees.

After Toho released Terror Of Mechagodzilla in Japan in 1975, which was a very unsuccessful last ditch effort to recapture the waning interest in the G-film franchise despite the company's mounting financial problems, the Showa Series quitely ended with no definitive conclusion to the already choppy continuity.

The Heisei ("second generation") Era Series (1984-1995):

This series began with Godzilla 1985 (1984), and definitively concluded 11 years later with Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995).After a full eight years of producing no major sci-fi films due to mounting financial difficulties, Toho finally took a stab at a big screen G-film again the following year, which would be the first movie featuring the Big G in nine years. The result was the film released a year later in America, amidst considerable publicity by New World Pictures (thanks to additional funding by Dr. Pepper), as Godzilla 1985, and was the first G-film to get a good stateside release in the U.S. since Godzilla vs. Megalon in 1976. Upon analyzing the eventual failure of the Showa film series, producer Tomoyuka Tanaka concluded that the main reason for the series' failure, aside from declining budgets, was the fact that Godzilla was gradually dragged away from his roots as a deadly serious threat to humankind and symbol of nuclear terror, and instead transformed into a semi-juvenile and even fairly comical hero. Hence, in order to start fresh, it was decided to begin an entirely new film series, and it would be billed as a direct sequel to the original 1954 film that would ignore the 14 subsequent film appearances of the Toho Titan (not to mention his several small screen appearances on the early 70's super-hero TV series Zone Fighter, The Meteor Man). Thus was born the Heisei Era series, which would continue into the 90's and end up running for only half as many films as the Showa Era series did. Although the back-to-his-roots, "evil" version of Godzilla initially debuted solo in the new film, the subsequent movies in the Heisei Series would return to the monster vs. monster format, though it steered clear of extraterrestrial menaces and plots where Godzilla played the hero, instead causing him to face other destructive monsters that happened to get in his way (Rodan, King Ghidora, Space Godzilla, Destroyah), or sometimes battle as the villian against heroic monsters fighting on behalf of humanity (Mecha-King Ghidora, Biollante, Mothra, Mechagodzilla, Mogera), though one low point in the Heisei Series, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), more or less broke two golden cinematic rules of the Heisei G-film series by having Godzilla sort of play the hero (albeit inadvertantly), as well as face an extraterrestrial menace (though having part of Space Godzilla's origin derived from an Earthly source). This second film series not only saw the retention of the "evil" and destructive version of Godzilla throughout, but also saw a significantly larger and more powerful version of the Atomic Titan, more powerful adversaries, a greater reliance on beam weapons rather then physical combat during the kaiju battles, scripts and direction of wildly varying quality and, unlike the Showa Series, the Heisei Series had a definitive, conlusive ending of the series with Godzilla's death in Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995).

Unfortunately, after Godzilla 1985, the rest of the Heisei era series failed to make it to the big screen in America, going direct to video instead, and most of them took a frustratingly long time to get there. The second film in the Heisei Series, the popular Godzilla vs. Biollante, was slated for a big screen release by Miramax Pictures, but instead ended up going direct to home video (and to TV on Cinemax) thanks to the American film company allegedly reneging on a deal with Toho, and all of the other films in the series didn't hit the video shelves until a few short months before and after Tri-Star released their own wannabe G-film in 1998, in order to garner publicity for their own movie (and one of the Heisei era films, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2 [1993], which the majority of G-fans feel was the best film of the Heisei Series, didn't get to home video for a full year the release of the Tri-Star movie). Thus, it would be 15 years before another Toho G-film made it to American theaters, when Tri-Star released Godzilla 2000 to the big screen in the U.S. during the summer of (you got it!) 2000.

The Heisei Series ended in order for Toho to unwisely give Tri-Star Pictures a chance to unleash its own version of Godzilla on the world, while Toho spent the next three years producing the lukewarm Rebirth of Mothra trilogy of films, to only a modest success. When Tri-Star's effort failed miserably (and rightly so), Toho finally decided to return to their own, far superior version of the Big G with a third film series.

The Millennium, or Alternate Reality, Series (1999-present):

This series began with Godzilla 2000 (1999), and continues at this writing. After a three year hiatus following the end of the Heisei Era G-film series, during which a disastrous American Tri-Star G-film, and a Mothra trilogy of films from Toho were released to mixed reviews, Godzilla returned yet again in a most unusual third film series. Unfortunately, this current G-series has been produced without the great talent and direction of Showa and Heisei Series producer/executive producer and creator of Godzilla Tomoyuki Tanaka, who passed away a short time after the release of the final film in the Heisei Era series, the last G-film in which he personally worked on before retiring due to mounting ill health.

Despite the loss of Godzilla's creator, and likely due in part to respect the memory and wishes of Tanaka, the third film series decided to permenantly retain the deadly, destructive version of Godzilla which has seemed to be much more popular to Japanese audiences (and somewhat confusing to American audiences, who still often perceive the radioactive beast as a humorous and sometimes heroic character). This new series, entitled the Millennium (or "Alternate Reality" Series), would eschew attempting to hold on to the difficult task of maintaining one consistant continuity, which often constrained the direction that the screenwriters could take the Big G, and instead decided to simply utilize the framework of the first film, and have each subsequent movie in the third series deal with a completely different version of Godzilla from an entirely seperate timeline, all of which would have nothing to do with each other, and would only have the first movie in common with their respective continuities.

Thus, as of the current series, nothing that happens in one film will have any bearing on the status of the Toho Titan in the next film. Godzilla's size seems to be consistant to what it was in the Showa Series (as the production staff at Toho decreed it sould, in order to allow the SFX crew to build larger and more convincing miniatures), but his power seems to have remained at the greatly enhanced level he had enjoyed in the Heisei Series, including the retention of his new nuclear pulse power (though his atomic breath, once a distinctive whitish-blue in color, is now a fiery ruby red). Godzilla's appearance also seems to vary in the new series, as he has returned to a sort of 'retro' 70's look as of the third film in the series, "Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidora: Monster All-Out Attack" [eventual American title not yet determined] (2001). In fact, that last film took such a dramatic departure from all previous interpretations of the Godzilla character, including moving him completely away from his classical scientific origins into the realm of pure mystical fantasy, it remains quite interesting to see what direction Toho will take the Big G in during future entries in this intriguing new series.

What follows in this section is detailed information on the first Toho G-film, which all three Godzilla movie series utilize as the launching point for their very different continuities. The following films will receive the same treatment in different sections, which can be reached from here via links leading to that section. The Showa and Heisei film series are complete. The completed films in the current Millennium Series will be added as they are released and I am able to obtain a copy of each film.All films on this site will be updated as needed.

First G-film: Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954)
Showa Series (1955-1975)
Heisei Series (1984-1995)
Millennium Series (1999-Present)
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