November 3, 2004

My Tribute to The King.

It was 50 years ago today when he first came into our lives.

I wasn’t born yet. In fact, I’ve never lived in his country of origin. But that doesn’t matter. The impact that he would make has spread far and wide. His popularity can never be disputed, but what we are really talking about here goes beyond simply being popular. He is an icon, forever etched into the hearts and minds of people all over the world. A single mention of his name evokes powerful imagery, even for those generations removed. He is just that important to us.

But consider this. Since the dawn of human civilization, people have been telling stories driven by mysterious supernatural forces, legendary mythological beasts, and powerful creatures beyond nature. Stories of monsters. The Dragon, the Cyclops, the Wolfman, The Zombie, Dracula, Frankenstein, Pikachu. All monsters which have stood the test of time. But if I were to ask, out of all the monsters that have been created through story, some of which have existed since the beginnings of history, who is the greatest monster of all? Not the biggest, strongest, coolest, or most powerful, but simply the greatest?

The answer is obvious, and he only showed up 50 years ago. On November 3rd, 1954, in the country of Japan, the King of the Monsters was born, as Godzilla made his first appearance on movie screens. The world was forever changed.

I doubt that anyone at the time realized what Godzilla would come to mean. Yet, Godzilla has transcended far beyond being a film staring someone in a rubber monster costume stepping on model buildings. He is a representation of the threat of nuclear weapons. He is the curse that mankind must suffer through for arrogantly abusing the gift of science. He is a disaster, like an earthquake or tornado, that can not be controlled or destroyed, only braced for and weathered through until the time comes to dust ourselves off and rebuild again. He is the ultimate articulation of our rage against a huge world that tries to stand in our way and bring us down. But Godzilla is both a destroyer and a protector, who has often defeated other monsters that have tried to invade his turf. Godzilla can’t help but be as big as he is, but even though the military constantly attacks him, simply for being himself, he’s not going to change and he’s not going to sink back into the sea in a depressed state. Oh no, Godzilla keeps on doing what he does, no matter what. That is worth admiring.

Of course, all of that said, there is a certain charm to seeing a movie with someone in a rubber monster costume stepping on model buildings. Like eating a home cooked meal, there’s a handcrafted, from-the-heart feeling in each Godzilla movie that Hollywood has lost in so many of their vain attempts at being cutting-edge. Godzilla movies aren’t about making something look real. They’re about making something look incredible, amazing, unreal.

In a world where people often cast their eyes eastward to see what the last in trends and technology will be, I can look back 50 years ago to see where that all started. If you love anime or video games, then you owe a debt of gratitude to Godzilla for opening the floodgates to imported popular culture from Japan. Not since the woodblock print had a Japanese export captured the imaginations of so many people internationally. This from a country that, at one point in its history, was once completely segregated.

Now, the fans of Godzilla prepare for a special treat, though it comes with a bitter consequence. Later this month, Ryuhei Kitamura, director of the incredible action-horror film “Versus“, will bring us “Godzilla: Final Wars“, which promises to be the greatest monster movie of all time. However it has been said that this will be Godzilla’s final appearance on the big screen. Whether or not that holds true (and I personally believe that it won’t), it ultimately doesn’t matter. The legacy of Godzilla is cemented forever. He has left a footprint upon the cultural landscape of the world so big that it can never be washed away. Even in another 50 years, I have no doubt in my mind that although there are many great monsters who have yet to be spawned through the art of story, they will all stand in the dark shadow cast by Godzilla, the true, undisputed, King of the Monsters.

Hail to the King.



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