Godzilla is a symbol representing atomic holocaust. One that would later fight space-dragons, robots, walking toxic waste, gods, and other oddities in over 29 films. This symbolizes man's uncanny ability to make money off of real-life tragedy.
Somewhere in an alternate dimension, Japan and Indonesia collaborated on a film about the WWII Japanese occupation, creating a healing catharsis between two nations that were once bitter enemies. Thankfully we live in this dimension, and negotiations for Toho studios to shoot a World War II movie in Indonesia fell through, causing a big gaping hole in Toho's release schedule. Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka spent the airplane ride home thinking about an appropriate replacement, looking for ideas in the periodicals available on the trip. A newspaper highlighted a recent American bomb test in the Marshal Islands going awry, causing the radiation poisoning of a fishing trawler crew and a large amount of atomic-flavored tuna being recalled from market shelves. A movie magazine had an article about the box office success of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Mr. Tanaka swirled WWII, radioactive tuna, and the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms around in his head until he came to the logical conclusion: He would make a movie about a gorilla ("gorira")-slash-whale ("kujira") hybrid: Gojira! Yes, this happened.
Proving the Stereotype that Asians are awesome at math.
The original Gojira is widely considered a masterpiece. The black and white cinematography and subtle direction harken back to the noir films of the 1930s. The iconic score is a haunting funeral dirge when combined with the stark images of devastation that mirrored the aftermath of Hiroshima. Also, it prominently featured a dinosaur that melts tanks with an atomic death-beam.
While American Godzilla products tend to pale in comparison to the Japanese originals, us Yanks have played an important role in Godzilla's evolution. RKO Pictures loaned King Kong to Toho, which resulted in the highest grossing Godzilla film ever made. Toho worked with American studios to simultaneously make English and Japanese versions of several of their Godzilla movies during the 60s, even using American actors like box office god Nick Adams.
Also, this happened.
In 1998, the American Godzilla movie stink-palmed an unsuspecting populace. Colombia Pictures spent $130 million, removed the monster's trademarked death-breath and invulnerability, cast Ferris Beuller as a scientist, and used a dick joke to sell it. What could go wrong?
When you have no idea what you're doing, yeah.
It was a modest box office success. The general moviegoing populace's response to the film was a resounding 'meh,' which is kind of pathetic when the movie is about a 400 foot tall radioactive lizard destroying Manhattan. The general fanboy consensus was that sitting through it was like watching your mother get gang-raped by terrorists in an outhouse. During a screening, the man who portrayed Godzilla from 1984 to 1995 got up and angrily walked his ass out of the theater when his CGI film counterpart ran away from some helicopters. One Japanese critic remarked that Americans simply cannot imagine something our military can't defeat. In essence, as a culture we failed to understand that Godzilla is an unstoppable force of nature which cannot be controlled.
Godzilla: Final Wars, the 50th Anniversary movie, tanked big time in Japan. It was hoped that the film would play in theaters world wide, but kids these days would rather watch plastic-looking CGI than rubbery-looking monster suits, so that was out of the question. Toho called Godzilla into its office and told him to turn in his badge and gun, warning him not to engage in any hot shot shenanigans. Godzilla was on administrative leave until further notice. Think of it as a vacation without pay.
But do not grieve, children of the world- Godzilla is a loose cannon. He may be off the case in Japan, but in good old Hollywood, USA, no franchise is too obscure or worn out to get rebooted. Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers have secured the rights to a new iteration of our favorite irradiated dinosaur for a 2012 release.
"Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as it has." --Thomas Tull, Chairman and CEO of Legendary.
Which is pretty much what they said about Watchmen, Jonah Hex, Clash of the Titans, and Superman Returns. Oh well, no worries. We can trust him, he's from Hollywood.
Oh wait, no we can't.