Godzilla, the super-sized Japanese lizard
Godzilla is the most famous creature of all kaiju eiga, literally "monster movies". This Japanese movie genre features men in latex monster suits rampaging through scaled-down city sets. In this context, the kaiju is a force of nature awakened by men.
Godzilla, pronounced "gojira" in Japanese, is a combination of gorira (gorilla) and kujira (whale), so many animals that refer to excessive beings. The first appearance of Godzilla was in 1954, in a film of the same name, created by Toho Studios and directed by producer Tomoyuki Tanaka.
In the movie Godzilla is an ancient monster who dwells off Odo Island (in the Izu Archipelago, south of Tokyo Bay) to which the inhabitants give a virgin girl as an offering, in hopes of successful fishing in the surrounding waters. The goal was to prevent the monster from rising from the ocean and devouring humans. Godzilla is shown to be tremendously strong and resistant, able to destroy an electric fence several tens of meters high and resist shells and bullets.
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Fear of nuclear
The scenario of the first Godzilla movie shows that nuclear activities carried out by human beings were what first awakened the monster. Indeed, traces left in the ground contain radioactive elements that could only have come from atomic weapons. The disaster film implicitly reflects the fear of nuclear activities held by Japanese society at the time, between the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki just ten years earlier and the nuclear arms race then going on between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was this political criticism that led to a partial censorship of the film when it was first released in the USA, where the scenes involving US nuclear tests in the region were removed.
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Godzilla, good or evil ?
Beyond the 1954 version, Godzilla appeared in more than thirty films, sometimes becoming an ambivalent figure. Indeed, if in some movies, the kaiju is a threat to humanity, in others he finds himself battling with other super-monsters, such as the three-headed dragon King Ghidorah who threatens to destroy Japan. In this way Godzilla can be man's ally, sometimes fighting off these super-monsters, other times facing aliens with evil designs for our planet. The next appearance of Godzilla is set to be in 2019, when he will face many of his super-monster rivals.
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