It doesn’t make for the greatest screen capture to grace the top of a blog post, but this final image from the new trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the best thing I’ve seen in a movie trailer all year. In the closing seconds of the preview, we bear witness to Godzilla and King Ghidorah, legendary adversaries in that Batman vs. Joker and Holmes vs. Moriarty way, charging into each other in glorious modern visual effects action. Since Godzilla is one of my special fandoms, on the same level as Edgar Rice Burroughs and J. R. R. Tolkien, it’s difficult for me to express my reaction to all this without going into hyperbole. Or worse, making a reaction video. (No, I would never do that to anybody.)
I’ve made my love of the 2014 Godzilla clear; I think it’s one of the finest pieces of blockbuster filmmaking of the 2010s and my admiration of how it makes giant monsters seem mythic once more in an age of visual-effects saturation only grows with each rewatch. Godzilla ’14 understood what made the Japanese Godzilla such a fascinating entity, the giant monster of all ages and for all tastes. There is no “One True” Godzilla, since the monster has different personas ranging from atomic terror (the original 1954 Godzilla) to children’s superhero (Godzilla vs. Hedorah). But the monster retains a unique charisma and mystique throughout the Toho Studios films, and the 2014 US film found a way to translate that into a contemporary blockbuster—succeeding as much as the 1998 Godzilla failed at, well, pretty much everything.
I’m not interested in doing a deep dive analysis of all that occurs in the new trailer and trying to make predictions about the finished movie. Frame-by-frame breakdowns never excite me; a trailer is an overall experience teasing the eventual full course—and the full course will arrive soon enough, making all those speculation articles valueless. Right now, I’m simply going to soak up the excitement of seeing King Ghidorah, one of the best creations of Toho’s special effects department and VFX wizard Eiji Tsubaraya, exploding onto the screen again.
Rodan is looking damn awesome too, pulling out aerial combat moves from the 1957 Rodan. Not much yet of Mothra, whose full role should perhaps remain a mystery. Always the enigmatic, mysterious one, that Mothra.
While I’m on the Godzilla Topic…
I’m going to drop in a word here about pronouns, because I want to get this out in the open: I always attempt to use the neuter pronoun “it” to refer to Godzilla in my writing, as well to refer to the rest of Toho’s bullpen giant monsters (kaijus). The reason is that in the Japanese language, Godzilla is referred to by the neuter pronoun. In most English language dubbing and subtitles, Godzilla is often referred to with the masculine pronoun, although not consistently. This doesn’t irritate me, but I believe it’s an inaccurate assessment of what Godzilla is.
I’m not saying it’s outright wrong to use “he” and “him” for Godzilla, nor will I chastise anybody for misgendering a fictional hundred-meter tall radioactive monster who could not give a god(zilla)damn what you call it. Having such an attitude would also be an insult to the trans, genderqueer, and non-binary people who have to cope with misgendering on a daily basis. What I’m saying is, I don’t think of Godzilla in masculine/feminine terms, and I don’t believe the monster has an understandable gender.
Yes, there are arguments for assigning a gender to Godzilla. The movie Son of Godzilla implies reproduction and therefore gender, and also implies Godzilla’s child is male. But the movie never clarifies the creature’s reproductive cycle; Godzilla may reproduce asexually. And the “son” in the title could be shorthand for “offspring.” (Or maybe Toho Studios wasn’t thinking this out in the long run because none of this actually matters.) In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), Godzilla is shown to be a mutation of a dinosaur species, Godzillasaurus, and we can assume this animal had a gender as other dinosaurs did. But its transformation and ascension into Godzilla wiped all that away. Plus, this only applies to the Godzilla of that specific timeline, the Heisei series.
As for the appellation “King of the Monsters,” this is humans attempting to grasp the power of Godzilla in a way they can comprehend. It’s also something the US distributors originally created for the release of the first movie, re-titling Gojira as Godzilla: King of the Monsters! to make a comparison to King Kong. (Now there’s a monster where gender is important.) It doesn’t even come from Godzilla’s creators.
Sticking to the neuter pronoun does present difficulties when writing about Godzilla, and I’ve slipped up in some old articles, but Godzilla is worth the challenge to my writing skills. Hail to the Ruler! (See what I did there?)