Day two. Witney Seibold, in preparation for the newest Godzilla (due in theaters May 16th), is going to be giving a brief rundown on all the Godzilla films to date. #2: Godzilla Raids Again.
In the English language version of Godzilla Raids Again, our title monster is actually named Gigantis. Since the original Godzilla was definitely killed at the end of Gojira, the name change was intended to distinguish this Godzilla from the last one. As far as I can tell, we will be following this new Godzilla for the rest of the Showa era (for a rundown on three Godzilla “eras,” see the last Godzilla Goodness article).
Godzilla Raids Again was released only four months after the original, making it, perhaps, one of the quickest sequel turnarounds in cinema history. The original human characters have already been pretty much abandoned, although Takashi Shimura will briefly reprise his role. And, thanks to that rush, Godzilla Raids Again has some confusing conceits that aren’t very clearly explained.
For instance: Godzilla is to face off against another recently-emerged giant monster named Anguirus (called The Fire Monster in the dubbed version). Anguirus is a spiny, quadrupedal creature that has three brains (!). The origins of this monster are a little hazy. It is explained that Anguirus is one of the oldest forms of life on the planet, but it’s never made explicit why it is awake, why it hates Godzilla/Gigantis, or why it has come to Japan. Each of the monsters in these films wanders ashore to find their homeland… maybe. It’s explained better in later films. I think after an audience could accept Godzilla and other kaiju, then it was just a natural step to have Godzilla fight other monsters. We can just accept that kaiju are a part of the universe now, and origin stories are secondary to monster mayhem.
A brief distinction: the term kaiju translates as “strange creature,” and doesn’t – in a strict sense – refer only to giant monsters. The Japanese terms for giant monsters is daikaiju. A single kaiju is a kaijin. Now you know some Japanese.
The most striking thing you may notice about Godzilla Raids Again is the weird way the monster battles are fought. In kaiju films, we’re used to seeing the monsters filmed in slow motion to convey their immensity. In this film, the monsters are filmed sped up. According to director Motoyoshi Oda, this was a filmmaking mistake. He wanted to film the fights in slow-mo, but saw how the fight looked in fast motion and liked it better, so he left it in. To modern audiences, the sped-up fights will look really ridiculous. Godzilla ends up biting Anguirus to death and setting his corpse on fire with his radioactive breath.
Godzilla, by the way, only fights with Anguirus because, well, monsters gotta fight. He is not yet the benevolent protector of the people as he will become in future films. Both Godzilla and Anguirus are seen as grave threats and the military must work hard to stop them. The human characters (who are only worth a brief mention) are fighter pilots and military guys. They will be the ones to dispatch of Godzilla. In the dubbed version, the hero (Hiroshi Komizui) is voiced by George Takei, and the sidekick character (Minoru Chiaki) is voiced by Daws Butler (perhaps better known as Yogi Bear).
Although it’s only been four months since the original, all the somberness is already gone. This is not a serious film, not a tragic one, and not a comment on a bomb. It didn’t take long for the Godzilla series to become all about its creature mayhem. This is fine, as creature mayhem is one of the most important thing to the 8-year-old boy inside all of us. By the end of the film, Godzilla is frozen inside a glacier. No guessing as to what will happen in the next sequel, although… we’ve all seen Captain America, right?
Up next: Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)