The latest film about the dinosaur-like destroyer uses a winning formula that harkens back to older Godzilla films. While smashing and dashing the world around him, the Japanese monster has symbolised different things, writes DW’s Jochen Kürten.
Movie audiences are used to seeing Godzilla destroying whole cities and their inhabitants. Monsters tend to do that. But in the new Godzilla sequel, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which opened in cinemas around the world starting May 29, the monster also apparently attacks the superhero movies that are currently so popular.
Indeed, the superhero genre has broken countless box office records in recent years, with the latest such film, Avengers: Endgame, continuing to rake in millions.
Blockbuster strategy: Lots of monsters
A winning factor behind the recent superhero movies was that several well-known pop and comic hero figures either faced off against each other; or alternatively went into battle together. It follows the motto: the more heroes, the better.
The same principle applies to the new Godzilla film, which features four menacing monsters: Godzilla is joined by the three-headed King Ghidorah, the giant moth Mothra, and the flying dinosaur-like creature Rodan.
The four fight for control of the world, threatening humanity and amplifying the orgy of destruction on the big screen with endless new slaughters and battles. And like the superhero films, the Gozdilla series again integrates elements from multiple film genres such as horror, science fiction and catastrophe movies.
Monster duo: Godzilla and King Kong
Cinema buffs will know, however, that all this has been done before. It’s precisely the older Godzilla films that quickly discovered the key to success: two monsters are more attractive than one. The third film in the original Godzilla series was King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), and featured the giant American ape fighting the Japanese saurian creature.
The logic was straightforward. One monster has great destructive power, rendering whole cities and landscapes to ash. But two? Or even more? There were, and are, no boundaries when it comes to monster movies.
Sometimes film titles have promised more than they have actually delivered. Some Godzilla movies with deceptive titles were played in German cinemas. For instance, King Kong or Frankenstein were mentioned in the Godzilla films’ German distribution names in the 1970s, but neither the giant ape nor the scientist or his monster made of corpse parts played a role in the films.
The original premise behind the very first Godzilla movie from 1954 has diversified across the numerous sequels. The original Godzilla was a symbol of the consequences of the global nuclear arms race, and its descendants have also reflected the times: environmental destruction, ruthless exploitation of nature and animal life by humans, climate change, animal experiments gone out of control, genetic editing, and much more.
But the monster has not always been a terrifying evil figure; Godzilla sometimes also took on positive traits.
In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the monster does what monsters do best – and what the audience expects: Destroying everything in existence and spreading fear and horror among people. It’s doom-and-gloom plot and production is ultimately fashioned to give you the creeps.