Why We Can’t Get Enough Godzilla

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Summary

  • Godzilla’s constant reinvention has contributed to his ongoing popularity, making him a rare character that can maintain his core audience while finding new ones.
  • Godzilla’s origin as a nuclear-age monster is often seen as a metaphor for the atomic bombs and Japan’s triumph over its attackers.
  • Godzilla has evolved from a villain to an anti-hero, becoming a resource that can turn against humans at any time, which adds to the excitement and interest in the franchise.


When Godzilla first debuted in 1954, he was a man in a silly costume wrecking a miniature city. People couldn’t get enough. In fact, the ensuing years and films have only made him more popular. But what is it about Godzilla that keeps us coming back for more? Perhaps It’s what he represents.

There have been so many iterations of Godzilla that his constant reinvention has assisted his ongoing popularity. Not many characters can experience constant reimagining while keeping their core audience and finding a new one. But Godzilla seems to be one of the few exceptions, and with Godzilla Minus One and his upcoming reteam with King Kong, he’s hardly slowing down.


Godzilla benefits from being “born” out of significant real-world, world-changing events. Japan was still reeling from World War II and the dropping of the atomic bombs, so the writers decided to make their monster a byproduct of this new concept of a nuclear age.

This may seem like a strange concept, but the idea that this giant monster was born to wreak havoc on Japan is often pointed to as a metaphor for the atomic bombs or even for America as a whole. This massive monster (Kaiju), later called a titan, is mythical, unknowable, and unstoppable.

Ultimately, a Japanese scientist creates an even more destructive machine that detonates and annihilates Godzilla. This idea of Japanese retaliation for atrocities committed against them seems like a way to make them appear as big a threat as what attempted to destroy them in the first place. In the movie’s mythos, Japan has triumphed over its attackers.

Godzilla Has Changed Between a Villian and an Anti-Hero

As his movies progressed, Godzilla became a bit of an anti-hero. In the first few, he still attacked Japan and was pushed back into the sea, but eventually, other Kaiju appeared, and Godzilla became a tentative ally to the people. This idea of working with what is a living weapon made Godzilla a resource, but one that could turn on people at any time. This change brought even more interest as audiences couldn’t wait to see what creatures would appear next.

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They didn’t need to beg. The studio, Toho, gave the people exactly what they wanted. Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, and King Kong all made appearances. Not to mention Mechagodzilla and a host of giant animal creatures. Everything was bigger and scary, and you never knew which monsters were friends or foes. They often fought in one film only to be allies in the next. The Toho films are constantly building on their mythos, and audiences consistently get something new.

Toho’s most recent outing was Gozilla Minus One, which reimagined and retold his origin story for a new generation. This film was not only a hit in Japan but saw enormous numbers in the US, proving that there is something about the creature we cannot get enough of.

The Monsterverse Launched Godzilla to New Heights

In 2014, Legendary Pictures brought Godzilla to the US. The idea was to create a new origin story and deep mythos of their own to build out their Monsterverse. The film was a massive hit of its own, lending much of its success to the classic design of the creature and the addition of both the Monarch organization and the reasons for atomic testing in the 1950s. The film set a baseline for multiple characters and dropped a variety of Easter eggs for future movies.

In 2017, Legendary brought us Kong: Skull Island, which introduced the concept of the Hollow Earth theory and, of course, King Kong himself. The end of the film ties in directly with the Godzilla film and shows us a variety of monsters that will appear in the following Godzilla film, Godzilla: King of Monsters.

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This next film was the big one. The one that made Godzilla in the Monstervere’s version of Toho’s anti-hero. When Monarch begins finding that titans like Godzilla are awakening all over the world, it is up to Godzilla to conquer them. Our previous fears of the monster are put aside to allow him to fight on our behalf. The film introduced many new titans but was able to show that Godzilla was the one to defeat them, regardless of the amount of damage that was created. It is a tired protector who disappears into the ocean and is tracked going forward.

This Toho idea was something that translated perfectly to this new monsterverse. We have a threat that we will do everything to stop but must bring into the fold to survive. It gave people a new reason to cheer for this monster. Audiences love disaster movies, and Godzilla was a walking disaster, even when he was trying to help. But he fought for us, and we loved him even more. The Monsterverse showed how humanity was learning to prepare themselves for Godzilla’s return and their tentative and collective sigh of relief whenever he was on our side.

It cannot be overstated how popular Godzilla remains on both sides of the world. Toho continues to make excellent films, and Legendary is only adding to their universe. Godzilla is now essentially partnered with King Kong, and the idea of the Hollow Earth theory has been proven. Now, Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire will arrive in theaters and show us even more of the world we want to explore, not to mention Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, which brings us even deeper into the universe.

Godzilla does not disappoint, and audiences want to root for him regardless of how much damage he’s done. Destroying him would be a mistake, and much like the atomic energy that brought him to us, we cannot ignore what he represents. Here’s hoping he stays on our side.

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