Unspeakable horrors lurk in the shadows: monsters!
While you may conjure images of Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, the creatures spotlighted here focus on the giants like Godzilla, Mothra and King Kong. Godzilla is the king of the cinematic monsters. These monsters, mammoth heroes and villains have a rich film history and can be traced back to the Golden Age. Their enduring legacies helped perpetuate a sub-genre for films like Jurassic Park (1993), Cloverfield (2008) and last year’s summer blockbuster Pacific Rim (2013) to cash in on. While the sub-genre persists, it’s been 10 years since Godzilla terrorized moviegoers, and his impending return this summer may usher in a new resurgence of the monster movie sub-genre on the Silver Screen.
The earliest example of monster movies is the 1925 film The Lost World, in which a land still exists where dinosaurs roam and thrive. With The Lost World paving the way, the first popular and commercial success for the sub-genre came with the release of King Kong (1933). At this point, the plot is almost canon: A 25-foot ape is discovered on Skull Island by filmmakers and is captured and brought back to the U.S. Kong escapes and demolishes parts of New York City, before meeting his fate atop the Empire State Building in a climactic battle with a squadron of airplanes. The success of the original King Kong led to the release of six more Kong films over the years. The lot includes a mixture of new chapters and remakes, culminating with Peter Jackson’s immensely successful remake King Kong (2005), which made just over $550 million worldwide.
Other films, featuring larger-than-life creatures, cashed in on the success of King Kong over the following years including Mighty Joe Young (1949), The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). But it was the emergence of an overseas monster that would solidify the monster movie sub-genre, paving the way for scores of future films.
In 1954, the Japanese production company Toho (Eiga) unveiled the reigning King of the Monsters with the, now classic, Godzilla. Created by the radioactive aftereffects of the nuclear attack on Japan, Godzilla emerged to wreak havoc on Tokyo. A US version of the film did open in 1956, but was just an immensely cut version of the Japanese release with the addition of scenes featuring journalist Steve Martin (Raymond Burr). Godzilla was such a success in Japan that Toho rushed the sequel, Godzilla Raids Again (1955), into theaters a mere six months after the original’s release.
While more movie monster flicks including Them! (1954), Mothra (1961), and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978) helped usher the sub-genre along, no other movie monster has been as endearing, enduring, and prolific as Godzilla. Godzilla is the James Bond of monster movie cinema, with 29 films featuring the fiendish giant currently in existence. The final entry, Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), was released just in time for Godzilla’s 50th Anniversary. This time around, Godzilla shares the screen with a slew of monsters including Son of Godzilla, Gigan, Mothra and Monster X aka Ghidorah.
Perhaps the most epic entry in the series came with the third installment, King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962). In the film history Godzilla and King Kong were vastly different heights: Kong was originally 25 feet tall and Godzilla 164 feet (changed to 400 feet in the original American version). It wouldn’t have been much of a contest for poor Kong had the film remained true to their respective film’s realities, but fortunately the studio evened them up, making their on-screen combat equal.
The American second reboot, Godzilla, is set to open in theaters on May 16, 2014. This will be the 30th entry in the film franchise, but more importantly it will mark the 60th Anniversary of the Godzilla series. The film is directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters); starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and Ken Watanabe star. While the film’s fate is still unknown, with hopes it will reinvigorate the mainstream appeal of Godzilla.