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This film analysis was written by Kate Voss.
Continuing his six-decade reign of rampage and destruction, Japan’s largest export returns to the screen this weekend to show us why he remains “The King of the Monsters.” Not just any old reptile could sustain sixty years of films, television shows and video games. Even the “zilla” affix has become a part of our everyday language — Momzillas, Bridezillas, Catzillas — implying excess and extreme qualities. But before we head to theaters to watch him wreak havoc again, it’s worth a trip back in time to chart Godzilla’s rise from cold-blooded sociopolitical supervillain to cultural phenomenon.
In 1954, when the first film was released in Japan (under the title Gojira), Godzilla arose from amid the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to play up the country’s residual fears of nuclear holocaust. Envisioned by special effects specialist Eiji Tsuburaya as a sort of “aquatic gorilla”, he stomped through Tokyo like an irritated reminder of the country’s first hand experience with radiation poisoning. His atomic roots equipped him with a suitably hot weapon: radioactive breath with which he incinerated Japanese cities.
Kate Voss is an entertainment writer from Chicago who has covered everything from Sean Penn to solar panels.