Oh no! Get ready Tokyo!
The biggest international box office draw from Japan with his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame returned home on July 25 in Legendary Pictures’ “Godzilla,” clawing in $7 million over the weekend.
Box office domination is nothing new to the pop culture icon and the creature continues to destroy theaters with a total of 30 films from his anti-atomic bomb beginnings in 1954 to his 2014 triumphant return distributed by the parent company Toho Co., LTD in Japan.
Since the May 16 release, it has played in 62 countries grossing $500 million, while new and old fans continue to line up for the cinematic beast from the east. The character created by Toho Studios producer Tomoyuki Tanaka made a stunning impact from Godzilla’s first footsteps on the Kannonzaki shoreline, gaining even more ground after the 1956 American release as, “Godzilla King of the Monsters!”
The character went from a menace during the Showa era changing to a hero in the 60s, a likable character for kids during the 70s, into an all-out fighter of beasts and aliens in the late 80s rampaging through the 90s.
After “Godzilla Final Wars” (2004) was lambasted by critics and fans alike, Godzilla went into retirement until the new blockbuster was announced and now fans show their support beyond what the original creators ever expected.
Godzilla continues to generate profits for distributors, licensors, manufacturers, and dealers across the globe. From books, posters, model kits, video games, vinyl toys to action figures, collectibles are affordably priced while others will melt your Mothra nest egg before your eyes.
Conventions like G-FEST, the biggest, longest running gathering of Godzilla fans in North America started out in 1995 and still packs them in with industry guests, stars, artists, families and friends all making the annual summer pilgrimage to Chicago, a city Godzilla has yet to destroy on the big screen.
“We had our best attendance ever, about 3,000 people, and it’s heartening that even at such an ‘advanced age,’ the Godzilla character is still going strong and perhaps even growing stronger,” said G-FEST organizer and founder, J.D. Lees.
No social commentary has been lost in the new film and enhancements to the new monster on the block are on an epic scale highlighted by Gareth Edwards’ cinematography a clear homage to those who gave it their all decades ago. This biggest Godzilla to date is a force of nature, still misunderstood, that captivates and sometimes scares the audience.
After the initial release of “Godzilla” (1954) director Ishiro Honda said, “If Godzilla had been a dinosaur or some other animal; he would have been killed by just one cannonball. But if he were equal to an atomic bomb, we wouldn’t know what to do. So, I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla.”
Earlier this spring, Japanese Imperial Navy veteran and god of suit actors, Haruo Nakajima, was the guest of honor at a matinee screening of Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” at Yokosuka Naval Base. The event held on Armed Forces Day was a welcome home event for Nakajima, also known as Mr. Godzilla, who as a teenager worked and trained at the technical arsenal pilot academy there during World War II.
Nakajima hit the stage in front of 550 fans, lighting up the audience in his signature Godzilla fighting stance. After the war as a monster suit actor, he was crucial to making Godzilla an international superstar and played additional film and television kaiju for 18 years. He played the mon-star in the first 12 films from 1954 to 1972.
“I was very glad to accept the job as Godzilla then, a character for all generations,” Nakajima said. “I expect from now on that Godzilla movies will continue to be made, forever.”
Godzilla is a visual analogy for nuclear disaster turned into a hero, who saves those in need at home and abroad. This simple cautionary story about a destroyer and victim of atomic bombing, who cannot simply be defeated by man, nor ignored by the technology that created it is presented with unique reinterpretations on familiar themes.
Illustrator Yuji Kaida during a Tokyo exhibition of his paintings on Godzilla, spoke about the mythos of “kaiju eiga” (Japanese monster movies).
“I think a kaiju is something we can’t fight, which our weapons can’t kill,” he said. “It is something we have to face on a totally different level. For example, the first Godzilla could only be defeated by an act of self-sacrifice, or a prayer for peace. Kaiju films aren’t just power fighting against power.”
When Haruo Nakajima was recently asked by Japanese reporters what monster made the most fearsome foe for Godzilla, he told them, “I would have to say that human beings are the scariest creatures for Godzilla. After all, we manage to come up with all sorts of crazy ideas.”
Edward L. Holland is the founder and editor of Monster Attack Team magazine devoted to Japanese beasts, heroes, and music culture. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, and G-Fan magazine. www.monsterattackteam.com
Get your Godzilla fix
- The World of Godzilla in Tokyo Tower art exhibit at Tokyo Tower runs now through Aug. 31. See the Godzilla art of Noriyoshi Ohrai, whose work includes movie poster designs for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and others. Also on display are Godzilla illustrations by world-renown artist, Yuji Kaida. g-haku.com
- Big Godzilla Special Effects 60 Years Memorial Exhibition runs through Aug. 17 at Ikebukuro Sunshine City’s World Import Mart. Displays include the invaluable Godzilla (1954) Oxygen Destroyer, diving helmet props, and a Mechagodzilla dock where members can take commemorative photos. Also onsite is a Hollywood Godzilla Zone promoting the new film from Legendary Pictures. Please note that events scheduled are subject to change. Admission ranges from 700-1,200 yen ($7-$12). Advance tickets on sale at: 7-11 Ticket, Lawson, and ePlus. www.godzilla-tokusatsu.com
Access: By train: 3-minute walk on the Tokyo Metro at Higashi-Ikebukuro Station JR and Tokyo Metro lines, Seibu line, Tobu line.
Walking: 8-minute walk from Ikebukuro station