Godzilla Opponents

The word has trickled out that the new film is going to be the first film titled simply Godzilla that will feature the titular monster doing battle with some manner of other creature. So, this seems like a good time to talk about Godzilla’s classic opponents.

About two weeks ago, an international trailer for the new Godzilla film hit the internet. It featured the clearest look yet at the title monster, and included a glimpse of a flying beast that had writers claiming it was our first look at this film’s version of Rodan. Now, it almost certainly isn’t Rodan. Both the filmmakers and people who have actually seen the film have said that it doesn’t feature any other classic Godzilla foes/allies, and Toho (the studio that made nearly all of non-Gamera Japanese sci-fi/fantasy movies that American audiences are familiar with) is notoriously strict about the rights to their monsters. Initial reports had indicated that Legendary had only secured the rights to Godzilla, and based on past practices it seems fair to assume that Toho would require separate licenses for any of the other iconic (and less iconic) monsters in their menagerie. Still, the internet has pored over the trailers for this new movie looking for hints of Rodan and Mothra, as well as speculating about whether they’d make it into any sequel to the new film. Acknowledging that this film will have to be a success to warrant said sequel (and ideally be good enough that we’d be excited about it), AND assuming that the fact that people have confused this film’s other monster with Rodan means he’s disqualified as an opponent in the next film, I wouldn’t be a Godzilla fan without dreaming of who else might pop up in a sequel.

Godzilla has a pretty great rogues gallery of monsters. He’s fought everything from aliens to mutants to robots to ancient mystical guardians. Aside from the sober original film (and its spiritual companion, The Return of Godzilla), the series has a wonderful willingness to try on many different genres, incorporating space travel, time travel, ancient legend and prophecy, pulp adventure, spies, gangsters, psychics and more (sometimes in the same film!). While I wasn’t necessarily conscious of it at the time, this willingness to explore and blend genre and wander into whatever nutty direction they wanted definitely shaped and expanded the contours of my imagination and made me a more involved and adventurous audience member. (I’ve been thinking about this recently as the Marvel Studios movies have fired my imagination by having a science hero dressed as a robot teaming up with a 40s pulp adventurer and a monster to fight an alien invasion led by a Norse god. The Avengers is a couple of kaiju shy of a 60s/70s Toho film!)

Gareth Edwards, the director of the new film, and Max Borenstein, the writer, have both talked about wanting to ground this new Godzilla in reality and their belief that audiences only have one “big buy-in” before you’re in danger of losing them. They’re probably right that the tone of their film (or at least the tone that’s been communicated by the advertising) is delicate enough that they can only get away with one big implausibility. And if they’re hoping to do sequels, it could be difficult or impossible to recapture that tone if they’ve thrown in an alien invasion and singing fairies. But, realistically, there’s no way we’re getting twenty sequels to this big-budget Hollywood film, so I personally hope they don’t shy away from getting a little weird. Still, for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll try and keep in mind their relative commitment to realism.

Note: While they probably most satisfy the realism criteria, I’m neglecting creatures like Ebirah (giant lobster), Kumonga (giant spider), and Kamacuras (giant praying mantis). They’re fine, but there are more exciting alternatives!

So, here are this Godzilla fan’s suggestions for opponents that I’d like to see included in any future Legendary Godzilla movies:


King Ghidorah

GhidorahAs seen in:
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
Invasion of the Astro-Monster (1965)
Destroy All Monsters (1968)
Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
Rebirth of Mothra (1996) – variation called “Death Ghidorah”
Rebirth of Mothra III (1998)
Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) – as “Keizer Ghidorah”

This is the most obvious monster on this list. Generally acknowledged as Godzilla’s arch-enemy, Ghidorah is the biggest and the baddest, with a crazy design (three heads, two tails, wings, and gold scales) that makes him an interesting threat and really visually distinct from Godzilla (plus he’s got a wonderful weird roar). Over the years he’s been a space-monster, a genetically engineered and deliberately mutated weapon, and an ancient guardian spirit (though this one was controversial among fans). He’s proven flexible enough that as long as you do right by the iconography, I think you could figure out a way to use him in this version of Godzilla.


MothraAs seen in:
Mothra (1961)
Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)
Destroy All Monsters (1968)
Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)
Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)
Rebirth of Mothra (1996)
Rebirth of Mothra II (1997)
Rebirth of Mothra III (1998)
Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002) – stock footage
Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Probably the next most popular monster in the Toho stable after Godzilla, Mothra originally appeared in her own movie, has appeared in nine Godzilla movies, and had another trilogy of her own in the 90s. She is famously attended by a pair of fairy priestesses, known as the shobijin (Japanese for “small beauties”) and originally portrayed by the twin sister musical group The Peanuts. She’s also the only monster to have fairly consistently (though not always) defeated Godzilla when they fought. I’m probably a little cooler on using Mothra than seems to be the general consensus (though I’m sure some of that is just that she’s the next most iconic to the layperson). Depending on just how realistic and “grounded”™ they plan on keeping this Godzilla-verse, I’d worry about losing some of what makes Mothra so distinctive. Sure, a giant mutant insect seems like it’d be easy to justify, and you could incorporate the Mothra life-cycle (egg-larva-cocoon-imago), but would the Shobijin and island worshippers be outside the bounds of what’s acceptable? And, if not, is that still Mothra?


MechagodzillaAs seen in:
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)
Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)

This rounds out the list of “monsters non-fans have probably heard of.” Mechagodzilla was introduced at the end of the Showa series as a giant robot, disguised as Godzilla and controlled by apelike aliens from the Third Planet from the Black Hole.  In the Heisei series, Mechagodzilla was a weapon built by humanity to combat Godzilla (using future technology we’d procured thanks to Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah‘s time travel plot!). In the Millennium era two-parter, it was also built by humanity to destroy Godzilla, but it briefly turns on us in the first film (because it was built around the bones of the original Godzilla!) before teaming up with Mothra on our behalf in the second. Honestly, Mechagodzilla is probably a pretty tough sell from a realism standpoint, but perhaps the temptation will prove too great?



AnguirusAs seen in:
Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
Destroy All Monsters (1968)
All Monster Attack (1969) – stock footage
Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Godzilla’s first non-human opponent (from 1955’s Godzilla Raids Again), Anguirus seems like he’d be easy to justify. He’s basically just a strange prehistoric beast, and useful either as an opponent or ally of Godzilla. His design again makes him distinct from Godzilla, quadrupedal with a spiny shell and frill of horns on the top of his head (and another great roar). He’s also tenacious and scrappy and perpetually seems like an underdog when matched up with taller or more powerful monsters. It’s this scrappy underdog element to his appeal that has earned him a place of affection in fandom. He’s often used in the movies to show how tough another monster is (i.e. when the filmmakers want to show that Mechagodzilla-disguised-as-Godzilla is villainous, they just have him pulverize Anguirus). Godzilla even gets in on the act himself in Godzilla vs. Gigan, when he sends Anguirus off like a lackey to check on a noise that he’s too busy to bother with. The disrespect for Anguirus also resulted in his complete absence from Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. Originally, the filmmakers wanted to include Anguirus and Varan as two of the three guardian monsters opposing Godzilla in that film, but the producers insisted that they be replaced by the more famous Mothra and Ghidorah.


BaragonAs seen in:
Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)
Destroy All Monsters (1968)
Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) – stock footage

Baragon might be even more of an underdog favorite than Anguirus. Introduced as a villain in Frankenstein Conquers the World, Baragon makes a brief appearance in the all-hands-on-deck monster mash Destroy All Monsters, but he was actually missing from his big cameo moment in the film. Because the Baragon suit had been repurposed as different monsters in the TV show Ultraman, he was unavailable when it was time to film Baragon’s attack on Paris in Destroy All Monsters and was replaced by Gorosaurus (who was still referred to as Baragon!). This is reportedly the same reason he was replaced by Anguirus in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Of course, the tables were turned when Baragon made it into Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, whichAnguirus had to sit out (though Baragon is the only monster in the movie not mentioned in the title). Though greatly outmatched by perhaps the nastiest Godzilla yet portrayed on film, Baragon puts up a heck of a fight in the film and further endeared himself to fans. Like Anguirus, Baragon has a striking design but also seems easy enough to justify as a prehistoric creature emerging from wherever Legendary’s Godzilla hails from.


GameraAs seen in:
Gamera (1965)
Gamera vs. Barugon (1966)
Gamera vs. Gyaos (1967)
Gamera vs. Viras (1968)
Gamera vs. Guiron (1969)
Gamera vs. Jiger (1970)
Gamera vs. Zigra (1971)
Gamera: Super Monster (1980)
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)
Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996)
Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999)
Gamera the Brave (2006)

That’s right, why not throw in everyone’s favorite giant fire-breathing flying turtle and friend to children everywhere? Gamera isn’t a Toho monster, and maybe the negotiations over who gets more screen time and who wins the fight would be too onerous, but perhaps Legendary could give fans the fight they’ve been waiting for since Gamera spun onto the scene fifty years ago. The Showa Gamera series was basically a cheaper, sillier, and more child-friendly way for Toho rival Daiei to chase the success of the Godzilla series. The situation reversed in the 90s when a Heisei Gamera trilogy was hailed by fans and critics as a serious and impressive alternative to the Godzilla films of the time. Gamera really fits in this category because, like Anguirus and Baragon, he’s most often portrayed as the little guy and a real scrapper. He takes a lot of punishment (seriously, while the movies are more aggressively kid-friendly, the monster action is surprisingly gory), but his spirit and perseverance carry the day.



BiollanteAs seen in:
Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994) – stock footage

So far, Biollante has only really appeared in one Godzilla film, but I’d love to see her again. After The Return of Godzilla resurrected the creature on Japanese screens, Toho made the unusual move of holding a contest for the public to submit scenarios for the sequel. The winner was Shinichiro Kobayashi, a dentist and sometime science fiction writer, and the result was Biollante. Created by a grieving geneticist by blending the DNA of his deceased daughter, a rose, and Godzilla, Biollante changes form over the course of the film, from giant rose to an even bigger plant/animal horror. If, as the trailers indicate, the new Godzilla rises because nature is out of balance, Biollante’s vegetable side could lend another avenue for nature to correct itself.


King Kong

KingKongIt’s basically a no-brainer to pit the most famous American monster against the most famous Japanese monster. In this matchup’s favor, Legendary has recently found a new home at Universal, the studio that has the rights to King Kong. And while it might take some work to find an approach to Kong’s “lost world” origin in a modern context, it would certainly play to the terror-and-mystery tone that the Godzilla (2014) trailers have been built around. The real obstacle to this battle is the relative scales of the beasts. For the original King Kong (1933), RKO Pictures said his official height was 50 feet (in actuality, depending on the shot, his scale ranged from roughly 20 feet to 70 feet). The Kong from Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake is 25 feet tall. Godzilla, by way of contrast, started out 50 meters tall, and there are reports that the creature in the new film is 120-150 meters tall. Toho got around these differences in scale by making Kong approximately 45 meters in 1963’s King Kong vs. Godzilla, and you could certainly do the same scaling up here. But Kong as a giant monster character is relatively unique in that he has an actual relationship with a human-scaled person, which could be much harder to portray if he’s as big as Godzilla. Kong falls in love with Ann Darrow; unless you’re in a tank or plane, Godzilla doesn’t even notice you’re there.


Who would you like to see Legendary’s Godzilla matched up against?