What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Discuss items of general interests about all the Godzilla films--actors, favorite G suits. etc.

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What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby tbeasley » Tue Aug 02, 2016 4:49 pm

Without getting into spoilers reactions to Shin Godzilla had me thinking about this. While most would agree it's a very different take on Godzilla, some are able to put the film into perspective while others are treating it as GINO 2.0: You Can (Not) Skreeonk.

If it's not too boring I'd like to discuss what makes Godzilla unique as a character in regards to his appearance, personality, powers and abilities, etc. What makes the character special to you and what makes you go 'this is Godzilla and this isn't.'

I'd like to cover basic traits of the character first, my thoughts hodge-podged together with observations from posts here and elsewhere -
- An origin involving radioactivity
- Between 50 to 100 meters in height (give or take)
- Thick, upright ‘retrosaur’ silhouette (as opposed to a modern T. rex or G98)
- Long, segmented tail (with either a pointed or rounded end)
- 3 rows of bony multi-pointed dorsal plates (which glow before using breath weapon)
- Atomic breath weapon among other possible powers/abilities (metabolizing radiation and other forms of energy, nuclear pulse attack, etc.)
- 4 claws on his hands and feet
- Immunity to conventional weaponry (near-impenetrable hide, regenerative healing factor, etc.)

I don't know if this will go anywhere but you can add to or tweak how you feel to this list. This can go beyond Godzilla to the overall look and feel these films have in general and why you might enjoy some and not others.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby kiryugoji04 » Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:05 pm

Don't all the 60s and 70s Godzilla suits have three toes?
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby lhb412 » Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:36 pm

kiryugoji04 wrote:Don't all the 60s and 70s Godzilla suits have three toes?


Indeed they did. I like the three toes, but I'm okay with four being the standard. I'm very glad that Legendary and Toho have eliminated the ears, though. Never liked the ears.

Although the multi-pointed dorsal plates are a necessity, I don't think having a particular number of rows is that important. Same with the segmented tail: always been that way, but it isn't prominent enough to be too important.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby lhb412 » Tue Aug 02, 2016 8:47 pm

... characterization-wise Godzilla has a lot of wiggle room: blank and ghostly; animalistic; or practically human in intelligence. All have worked. I have a problem, however, with making Godzilla actively malevolent.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby klen7 » Tue Aug 02, 2016 9:29 pm

My personal credential is primarily that Godzilla is bigger than humanity. It doesn't matter if he's a destroyer, savior, or force of nature, as long as he is something beyond humanity's reach. Visually i'm looking for something bipedal with dorsal fins, two arms, two legs and a tail.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby KaijuZoo » Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:33 am

Audibly, what makes Godzilla unique as a character is his famous ROAR. Skreeeeeeoooonk!
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby jellydonut25 » Thu Aug 04, 2016 3:35 pm

I'm gonna give this some more thought and maybe come back to it, but I really don't think there are many qualifications for what makes Godzilla Godzilla.

There's definitely things I LIKE or DISLIKE and things I LOVE or HATE, but I very VERY rarely have said "That's not Godzilla" when watching a Godzilla movie or seeing a Godzilla design (fan art or otherwise).

Often, my objections (or praises) of certain things stem from my personal tastes. For example, I'm not a huge fan of the nuclear pulse. I think it's a cop-out because the Godzilla suits of the 90s were so immobile, he couldn't shake off/punch/kick/pull/etc, so they had to invent this "grenade" for situations where the 60s/70s incarnations would probably have done some tooth-and-nail type stuff. I'm not huge on Shin Gojira because it seems "Hot Topic" to me, like what an angsty teen would think was "cool." I like Legendary Godzilla because it pushes the boundaries while still managing to keep the spirit.

Really, I think I look more for mobility from my Godzilla designs than possibly anything else. I think motion gives a sense of believability to me, and especially a wide range of motion and occasional quick bursts. People say stuff like "Real Godzilla wouldn't be able to move fast, he'd just be a slow, lumbering behemoth" but (a) there's no such thing as "real Godzilla" and (b) remember when people thought that about dinosaurs? I've always loved the idea of a creature that could move at a speed (in short bursts) that belied its great size. I think a lot of why Godzilla is slow and lumbering in many of the Toho films is a side-effect of the suits' bulkiness and the filming techniques designed to make him appear to have real weight, and I think in the 21st Century we can (and should) do better.

The Heisei Godzilla, unfortunately doesn't really tick that mark and is why I tend to be the lone outlier who doesn't have a particular fondness for that incarnation.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby Psycho Soldier » Thu Aug 04, 2016 6:47 pm

I'll start from the most basic premise: as long as a design has (or could plausibly have) Toho's sanction as a Godzilla design, it's Godzilla. When you ask for the other qualities that define him, I like to think in terms of a vertical sliding scale. At the top, you have the sum of the qualities of a traditional Godzilla, which include*:

  • A prehistoric origin, with ties to nuclear energy or weapons
  • A height equal to or exceeding 50 meters
  • 3 columns of dorsal plates with shapes akin to a red oak leaf, running from head to tail tip
  • 3 to 4 clawed toes and fingers
  • A form of the distinctive Godzilla roar
  • A greyish reptilian hide (may have a brown and/or green hue)
  • Carnivorous teeth
  • Preternatural resistance to conventional weaponry
  • Can be defeated only by other kaiju or an ingenious invention or plan (e.g. Mothra, the Oxygen Destroyer, being buried in ice)
  • A moderate to high level of cunning
  • Attracts the audience's sympathy and/or support regardless of whether he is good, evil, or neutral
  • An upright, vertical stance
  • A pair of visible ears
  • Two legs
  • Two arms
  • A long tail of moderate thickness
  • Walks at a somewhat slow place
  • Shoots a stream of atomic, fiery blue breath from his mouth
  • Stands his ground against opposition until defeat or exhaustion (his or the opposition's)
  • Is male or presumed male
  • Destroys buildings by walking into or through them

Most of these qualities are objective, alongside one or two subjective qualities that most people would probably find agreeable. As you subtract these qualities--or add new ones--the slider moves down into the realms of a non-traditional or even iconoclastic Godzilla. The TriStar Godzilla would not be at the very bottom of this scale, though it lacks most of the traditional qualities in whole or part. But again, as long as Toho calls it Godzilla, or as long as it's plausible that Toho would approve of a design as Godzilla**, that's what it is.

* If you can think of anything I should add to the list, feel free to let me know.

** This clause gives artists with their own Godzilla designs some leeway. I appreciate fan art, so I wouldn't feel comfortable, for example, pointing at Matt Frank's Neo Godzilla and saying it's not Godzilla. It's not officially sanctioned, but it bears most of the character's usual qualities. Ditto for most professional concept art.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby canofhumdingers » Fri Aug 05, 2016 1:26 am

He has to have thumbs.

It seems trivial at first but EVERY official Godzilla has had thumbs. Even GINO.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby Hybrid Gojira » Sat Aug 06, 2016 10:39 pm

This is a pretty cool topic, especially considering I don't know exactly what I consider Shin Godzilla at this point.

I guess I will break it down by appearance, and then behavior.

Appearance:
Two arms
Two legs
A tail
Dorsal plates, usually 3 rows (varying degrees of size and shapes). A typical look for these would be a "maple leaf" look, but can be a bit more complex.
Has a heat beam, and prior to use the dorsal fins will illuminate. I prefer blue, but at this point the color has varied quite a bit.

Within the above construct, I'd like to see a design that doesn't overly deviate from tradition too much. This means that Godzilla has had 3 or 4 toes, he doesn't need 7. Godzilla has always had 4 fingers - don't give him 12. Godzilla should maintain the classic Godzilla silhouette we are all accustomed to, but I would expect several tweaks to his appearance from eye color, dorsal fin rows, size, etc., but nothing insane like giving him 2 heads or wings.

Behavior:
Has the typical Godzilla roar
Impervious to conventional weapons
Does not run from the military

New Abilities:
Yes, it's true that over a period of 60 years, Godzilla has gained or showcased a few new "powers." With the exception of the nuclear pulse and red beam from the Heisei era, the rest of the "abilities" were really one offs from movies made in the 70's for films that appealed to kids and at a time when Japanese cinema was in the toilet. I really consider things like the tail slide, Godzilla flying, and his magneto power to be the exceptions rather than the rule. He doesn't use those outside the specific movie they appeared in and they happen ONCE in the franchise.
Spoiler Below:
Shin Godzilla is quite different. If you're read the spoilers, you know that it's a reimagining of the character from the ground up, complete with new things we have never seen before. There are more changes to Godzilla in the new Shin Goji movie alone than appear in the rest of the entire series - it's really not comparable to say "well, Godzilla has ALWAYS gained new abilities." Yes, over 60 years he has, but nothing like in Shin Godzilla.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby Moonlight SY-3 » Sun Aug 07, 2016 2:12 am

As far as I can tell reading this thread, Shin-Godzilla seems to perfectly check all the boxes for what people consider to be "Godzilla"...myself included.

I wasn't too thrilled with the new design, but having seen the movie three times now, I'm fine with it. I hated the wild googly eyes, emaciated arms, and that boogered-up, skeleton-packed tail tip...not to mention the crazy jaw geometry...but no, it all actually works. I'm a fan now.

All the new "powers?" They all work for me too, and all perfectly fit into my concept of "Godzilla."

Although I actually like G98, the main things that made it "not Godzilla" for me were the fact that it did not check these two boxes:

Impervious to conventional weapons
Does not run from the military

G98 ran from the military at every turn (well, he did chase the Apaches for a minute...and a taxi). He was then killed by missiles fired from an aircraft. Just good ol', regular, garden variety missiles.

I don't want to get yelled at for possible spoilers, so I'll put this in a spoiler tag:

Spoiler Below:
Shin-Godzilla checks those two boxes so hard they shatter into a million pieces.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby lhb412 » Mon Oct 17, 2016 9:44 pm

Post-Shin I'll take a shot at a Godzilla checklist. Things like number of toes and skin texture that vary so much between movies I ruled out right away. I wanted to pare it down to the bare essentials and I got it down to five points.

- Godzilla is a giant, reptilian monster with two arms and two legs and a tail, almost always depicted as standing upright, though sometimes hunched forward.
- Godzilla has rows of multi-pointed dorsal plates on his back.
- Godzilla emits an energy weapon from his mouth, and his dorsal plates glow when he uses it.
- Godzilla's origin is tied to radiation: nuclear bombs, radioactive waste, nuclear power, etc.
- Godzilla is extraordinarily strong, sometimes depicted as nigh invulnerable, sometimes depicted as more vulnerable - but only because he faces other powerful monsters, natural disasters, or specialized non-traditional weapons created by humans.

I was gonna add: "Godzilla's face usually has mammilian or otherwise non-reptilian features," but I'm not sure even that is an essential element.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby MekaGojira3k » Thu Oct 20, 2016 2:41 pm

Therapod-ish Dinosaur more or less
Dorsal fins more or less maple leaf shaped (exaggeration is fine like GINO's/Mire-Goji's)
Doesn't back away from confrontation
Atomic breath
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby lhb412 » Sun Oct 23, 2016 12:40 pm

^Yes! I forgot the roar. The only versions of Godzilla I know of to drop the classic roar are the Hannah-Barbera and Marvel Comics ("MRAW!") versions.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby Hybrid Gojira » Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:25 pm

Shin Godzilla would fail my check list on the account that
Spoiler Below:
he's constantly evolving into something else.

That's not Godzilla - it's something differently entirely. I have both a problem with that and a problem with the film on so many levels (nationalist themes, boring second half, the satire that worked in the first half is totally forgotten in the second, etc.). At best, Shin might be a fringe Godzilla because he doesn't quite evolve past the point of being Godzilla in the movie...or does he? The humanoid creatures at the end certainly leave that up for debate considering they're also a visual reference to Evangelion and Anno being Anno...but the very idea of Godzilla spawning little creatures or wings as stated in the film is decidedly NOT Godzilla. It does make for a cool idea for some other beast.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby lhb412 » Wed Oct 26, 2016 9:00 pm

^
Spoiler Below:
I'd argue that since Shin spends the majority of the film (from the third form on) 'ticking' all the Godzilla boxes he's pretty straightforwardly Godzilla. If there is a sequel who knows where it'll take us, though. If Legendary is gonna go straight Showa I think if Toho decides to build a new continuity out of Shin that they stick to an opposite direction.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby angilas » Fri Oct 28, 2016 9:59 pm

Hybrid Gojira wrote:Shin Godzilla would fail my check list on the account that
Spoiler Below:
he's constantly evolving into something else.

That's not Godzilla - it's something differently entirely. I have both a problem with that and a problem with the film on so many levels (nationalist themes, boring second half, the satire that worked in the first half is totally forgotten in the second, etc.). At best, Shin might be a fringe Godzilla because he doesn't quite evolve past the point of being Godzilla in the movie...or does he? The humanoid creatures at the end certainly leave that up for debate considering they're also a visual reference to Evangelion and Anno being Anno...but the very idea of Godzilla spawning little creatures or wings as stated in the film is decidedly NOT Godzilla. It does make for a cool idea for some other beast.



Well,what about
Spoiler Below:
junior at the end of GvD? He had evolved over the course of the movie and certainly since his first appearance. Godzilla's evolved powers before such as turning himself into a magnet to best MG, a rocket to ram Hedorah, a father to fry Speiga/Kumonga, and fusing his ray with rodan's/regenerating his spinal brain to take down SMG.
The nuclear pulse came out of nowhere to beat Biollante, as did that red energy he used to surge MG in 93 when he was wires to the G-crusher. We saw him prior to becoming Godzilla in GvKG, become a cyborg as Kiryu, regenerate as needed and develop a weapon to beat orga in G2K, come back from a micro BLack hole in GxM, act as a complete villain as KG evolved in GMK, and become super charged in GFW. Not saying shin doesn't push the boundaries in one film, just noting it's not necessarily beyond what we've seen over the course of the series. Since it's the first Japanese Godzilla where he's making his first appearance since the original I give it some leeway, but I can see how the aliens in the tail and extreme creation process might give you pause. I think GMK's role reversal for kg was more surprising to me though
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby Gman2887 » Sun Oct 30, 2016 8:34 pm

Hybrid Gojira wrote:Shin Godzilla would fail my check list on the account that
Spoiler Below:
he's constantly evolving into something else.

That's not Godzilla - it's something differently entirely. I have both a problem with that and a problem with the film on so many levels (nationalist themes, boring second half, the satire that worked in the first half is totally forgotten in the second, etc.). At best, Shin might be a fringe Godzilla because he doesn't quite evolve past the point of being Godzilla in the movie...or does he? The humanoid creatures at the end certainly leave that up for debate considering they're also a visual reference to Evangelion and Anno being Anno...but the very idea of Godzilla spawning little creatures or wings as stated in the film is decidedly NOT Godzilla. It does make for a cool idea for some other beast.


You have a check box for staunch Godzilla traits that says,

Spoiler Below:
"Must not grow or evolve into something else ever."
?

Man that's pretty specific! I bet you've had that on your checklist for the last 25 years. It's almost like my checklist, one of which says Godzilla MUST eat stove grilled cheese sandwiches cooked with olive oil and no grease. I'm still waiting on Godzilla to actually be a thing.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby Rody » Thu Dec 01, 2016 11:41 pm

  • Godzilla's silhouette should resemble a 19th/early 20th century rendition of a Theropod dinosaur. Whatever Godzilla is in-film, his aesthetics are rooted in that particular era of paleontology/artistry.
  • ...However, Godzilla should not specifically resemble a particular dinosaur - or any animal, for that manner. Godzilla normally has an amalgamation of features, or at least is stylized enough to be his own thing. Godzilla shouldn't have a literal T.rex head.
  • Godzilla's roar. Just... Godzilla's roar. Hanna-Barbera got away with this one, but if you take away Godzilla's iconic roar, you risk divorcing him from one of his most defining features. Any monster can (and usually does) roar - but none sound like Godzilla*.
  • The rows of dorsal plates are another mandatory feature - and they can't just be plain spikes; they need the signature jagged look.
  • Godzilla's personality varies, but as a general rule, he should be portrayed as a highly powerful force. klen7 mentioned Godzilla being "above" humans; I think it's important that Godzilla always be a force to be reckoned with, because...
  • Godzilla should be tied to radioactivity. Obviously not every film explicitly does this, and frankly not every one needs to; but it should probably be at the back of the mind when telling a Godzilla story.

That's all I can think of, off the top of my head. Shin Godzilla is odd, since it risks egregiously breaking some of the design aesthetics, but it doesn't bother me at all.
I think what's important, above all else, is the intent in portraying Godzilla in any given story. I like Shin Godzilla because I like how they handle him; it's bold, but I think the experimentation is tempered with great respect. That completely separates it from Godzilla 1998, because that design was conceived out of complete disrespect.

*In case anyone mentions Varan or one of several tweaked Ultra monster roars... Shut up.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby lhb412 » Thu Dec 01, 2016 11:53 pm

Rody wrote:That's all I can think of, off the top of my head. Shin Godzilla is odd, since it risks egregiously breaking some of the design aesthetics, but it doesn't bother me at all.
I think what's important, above all else, is the intent in portraying Godzilla in any given story. I like Shin Godzilla because I like how they handle him; it's bold, but I think the experimentation is tempered with great respect. That completely separates it from Godzilla 1998, because that design was conceived out of complete disrespect.


It's the difference between breaking the rules because you don't know or understand the rules as opposed to knowing the rules inside and out and breaking them with intent.
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby tbeasley » Mon Feb 06, 2017 1:23 pm

Some interesting tidbits -
Tomoyuki Tanaka justifies the small holes for the suit actor to peer out of in the neck in his book as Godzilla’s aquatic breathing apparatuses, or gills:

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“ この穴はゴジラが水中で呼吸する時のえらの穴だといわれている (These holes for Godzilla to breathe underwater are called gills) “


On the impervious of Godzilla’s hide, Tanaka writes: “ ゴジラの皮膚は、深海のものすごい水圧に耐えられるように、とても堅くてじょうぶだ。そのために、すぐ近くで水素爆弾が爆発しても生きのこることができた。Godzilla’s skin surface is very solid in order to withstand deep sea water pressure. For this reason, he survived the explosion of the hydrogen bomb in the immediate vicinity. “

Source
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Re: What makes Godzilla 'Godzilla'

Postby Benjamin Haines » Mon Feb 06, 2017 11:34 pm

^ It looks like Godzilla has always had gills according to Tomoyuki Tanaka. In fact, Godzilla has never been without gills! They're basically one of his defining physical features.
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