Godzilla’s Farewell at 50?
It’s taken 50 years, 29 movies and, owing to one monster-sized tail, who-knows-how-many accidentally knocked over craft-service tables, but Godzilla is finally getting his Hollywood coming-out party.
In the coming days, the made-in-Japan leading lizard will ride in a parade, get starred on Hollywood Boulevard and storm the red carpet for a Grauman’s Chinese Theatre movie premiere.
He’ll also say goodbye. Or so it’s been said.
“It’s the latest last movie,” says Ed Godziszewski, publisher of Japanese Giants magazine.
“It” is Godzilla Final Wars, billed as “the last Godzilla film.”
Well-versed in kaiju eiga (that’s Japanese for “monster movie”), Godziszewski is skeptical that audiences have seen the last of the big guy.
“Even when Godzilla is killed in a movie he’s never really dead,” Godziszewski says.
There is no indication that Godzilla breathes his last atomic breath at the end of Final Wars. But there are pledges from his bosses at Japan’s Toho Studios that their star is headed for retirement.
The move comes as fandom wraps a year spent commemorating Godzilla’s golden anniversary. It was 50 years ago this month–on Nov. 3, 1954–that Gojira, a serious-minded, black-and-white horror film about a giant creature who doesn’t mind where he steps in Tokyo, opened in Japan. In 1956, the movie was redubbed, recut, recast – with Raymond Burr no less – and exported to the United States under its new title: Godzilla, King of the Monsters!.
Toho has gone on to produce 28 cult-inspiring films, including Final Wars. In all, Godzilla has starred in 29 films if you count 1998’s U.S.-made Godzilla, which most fans frankly don’t.
As Godziszewski points out, Godzilla has taken breaks before–he’s even been killed before–only to return to make life heck for puny humans and assorted atomic freaks of nature.
“No matter what happens in the end to conclude the movie, Godzilla will never actually die,” Godziszewski says.
Tsutomu Kitagawa, however, is emphatic that Godzilla is going away for good this time. Kitagawa is the ultimate Godzilla insider, in that he’s been inside the Godzilla suit for five of the last six Japanese-produced films.
“[Shogo] Tomiyama, the producer, and the staff of the movie are doing their best to make this the best movie because it’s the final movie,” Kitagawa said this week of Final Wars, through a translator. “They put everything in this movie.”
Indeed, few parts of the world are safe in Final Wars, with New York, Paris, Shanghai and Sydney all taking hits.
Kitagawa will be on hand, and in character, for Monday night’s Grauman’s Chinese invite-only screening, the first time a Japanese-made Godzilla movie has premiered outside of Japan. (The movie opens for paying customers in Japan on Dec. 4.)
Other Godzilla firsts: Monday morning’s unveiling of his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; Sunday night’s scheduled appearance (in float form) at the 73rd annual Hollywood Christmas Parade; Thursday’s Thanksgiving at Peggy Aiken’s house in Sacramento, California.
Technically, that last one’s a first for Kitagawa, not Godzilla–although how many holiday dinners can a skulking monster possibly have been asked to attend?
Stateside for the last week attending a Godzilla film festival in San Francisco, Kitagawa will be at Casa Aiken at the invitation of Keith Aiken, of the Japanese fantasy film and TV site, Henshin!Online (www.henshinonline.com). Peggy Aiken is Keith Aiken’s understanding maternal unit.
“She said, ‘Well, you’ve been a fan since you were a kid, so I guess it’s come to this,’ ” Aiken said of his mother’s reaction to having Godzilla over for dinner.
Aiken said the traditional turkey and fixings will be served.
After 50 years, and another looming retirement, Godzilla deserves the drumstick.
Godzilla’s Farewell at 50?