In the ancient Hindu scriptures it is said that Lord Vishnu appears at the end of each epoch to bring an end to the world, so that life can grow anew. In various other religions this event is known as The Apocalypse or Qayamat, in Hindu religion we call it Pralay. Lord Vishnu took the shape of various terrifying monsters in his several incarnations, like the Matsya, Kurma, Varaha or Narasimha, and it is said in his tenth Avatar he will take the form of Kalki, the one who will bring the world to an end, shoving humanity over the brink of extinction so that life can begin it’s cycle again.
The teaser trailer of the upcoming Godzilla (2014) begins with the ominous speech of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb; ‘I remember the lines from the Hindu Scripture (Bhagvad Gita), Vishnu takes his multi-armed form and says “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Those haunting words combined with the terrifying sight of in immensely large shape moving in the dim clouds of dust and the final shriek of Godzilla sent chills down my spine. I was certain this is the final avatar of Vishnu, Kalki; the destroyer of worlds.
Cinemaholics are no stranger to Godzilla, the most iconic monster of all time created by Ishiro Honda in the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla (Gojira in the Japanese version) produced by Toho Studios. The film was a runaway success and established Godzilla as the most popular monster and pop culture icon of all time. With endless number of sequels and several other giant monster (popularly known as ‘Kaiju’ in Japanese culture) content, Godzilla became the most famous Monster and pop culture icon ever to grace the celluloid. It was also the first time that a non-human, artificial and constructed character had gained such widespread fame all over the world, apart from King Kong. However King Kong was a product of racism and a twist on the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ fairytale. Though King Kong was terrifying in his power and stature he is always looked upon from the point of sympathy and love from the audience. Godzilla on the other hand invoked sheer dread as it warns humankind of its own hubris.
With the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasakii and the Dragon 5 incident still fresh in the Japanese consciousness, Godzilla was conceived as a metaphor for nuclear weapons. As the film series expanded, some stories took on less serious undertones portraying Godzilla as a hero while other plots still portrayed Godzilla as a destructive monster; sometimes the lesser of two threats who plays the defender by default but is still a danger to humanity. Godzilla is the embodiment of the warning, that ‘don’t screw with nature, if nature screws you back you will be just a flickering flame in the heart of the storm’. This is the existential threat we are constantly living under with gradual global warming, tsunamis and natural calamities becoming more frequent over the years.
Godzilla had countless sequels to date, mostly produced by Toho Studios, which introduced a number of monsters with myriad characteristics, including King Kong himself in the 1962 film ‘King Kong Vs Godzilla’ which though a great success was often ridiculed by fans for the impromptu portrayal of both the monsters. King Kong should have been 1/20th of Godzilla’s size but the film shows them of equal stature, and it also portrays King Kong as sort of a hero who finally rids the world of Godzilla’s menace.
Through time Godzilla became so popular that it crossed the cultural barrier and though belonging to a Japanese origin, the king of monsters became a global phenomenon through the years until finally Hollywood decided to make an American remake/reboot of the franchise culminating with Roland Emmerich of ‘Independence Day’ fame taking up the helm to direct an American remake of the film. Unfortunately the movie was panned by both critics and fans due to the frivolous treatment and a hugely powered down version of the monster. Godzilla was turned into an overgrown dinosaur instead of that mountainous behemoth with atomic breath destroying everything in its path. It took only a couple of missiles to spell the end for that iconic being and hell hath no fury like the fans. The 1998 remake was so badly slammed that Hollywood kept quiet about Godzilla for more than a decade. The Godzilla license sat on Sony’s shelf until they expired and reverted to Toho in 2003.
In March 2010 Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. finally acquired the rights for Godzilla and a new reboot of the franchise was announced. After skimming through many directors Gareth Edwards a comparatively unknown name was selected to helm the movie as the director. Gareth’s previous directorial venture was the small budget alien invasion indie film ‘Monsters’ which got widespread critical acclaim. Edwards discussed the new film: “this will definitely have a very different feel than the 1998 film and our biggest concern is making sure we get it right for the fans because we know their concerns. It must be brilliant in every category because I’m a fan as well. Without addressing anything specific, everyone knows how important it is to get it right.” Godzilla has been geared up as Warner Bros, and Legendary Pictures’ big release for 2014. Teasers have been hitting the internet continuously and from what we have seen it looks like Gareth Edwards has finally got it right this time. Like the original one, the 2014 Godzilla evokes the feel of dread and destruction as if the world is coming to an end at the wake of this monster. We know such monster movies and alien invasions are aplenty in Hollywood, including Cloverfield and the most recent Pacific Rim (2013), but the way the images portray the destruction and the looming shape of Godzilla behind thick clouds with absolute stark reality as if it is really happening takes our breath away. What’s turning on the fans even more is the design of Godzilla, it retains the same uncanny resemblance to the man in a rubber suit of the old Toho Godzilla yet looks terrifyingly organic and realistic. Edwards has justly commented: “The way I tried to view it was to imagine Godzilla was a real creature and someone from Toho saw him in the 1950s and ran back to the studio to make a movie about the creature and was trying their best to remember it and draw it. And in our film you get to see him for real.”
Me, being a huge Godzilla fan cannot wait for summer 2014 when the King of Monsters finally makes his much awaited return to the silver screen, and this time I am sure it will be a thunderous presence and very well can be the biggest blockbuster of 2014. 2012 is gone but I believe the final prophet of doom Kalki will arrive to bring an end to the human race in the form of Godzilla!
Godzilla is scheduled for a 16th May 2014 release. The film is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen and Ken Watanabe
Shamik Dasgupta is presently the most prolific Indian writer of graphic novels and comic books. His work ranges from science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy to superheroes. His claim to fame was with Ramayan 3392 AD in collaboration with director Shekhar Kapur and famed author Deepak Chopra. Presently Shamik is working on an adaptation of the Bengali classic, Bankim Chandra’s Devi Chaudhurani.