THE FIFTH GODZILLA - In which Dr. Hecatene comes to terms with Trizilla at last,
and resolves a long-standing dilemma.

(Godzilla illustration by Mike Mignola.)

I came out of the TriStar Godzilla movie with, to put it very gently, mixed emotions.

In the course of dealing with those emotions I made a number of passionate statements which, being in a correspondingly emotional state, I did not feel obligated to back up with facts. One of these was "Why'd they have to KILL him?!" and others very generally dealt with the respect I perceived Toho to have shown its icon - as opposed to the cavalier flippancy with which Amerigoji is treated by the adolescents at TriStar. Well, TriStar's movie still sucks the rug, but I have calmed down enough to examine Godzilla's history at Toho more closely, and must admit that destruction and reconstruction have been his fate there too, in fact more often than not. To illustrate this point, here follows a Godzilla Toho timeline...

(Peripheral note: As far as I'm concerned, King Kong vs. Godzilla never happened at all, and can be dismissed as that charming old DC Comics concept, an "Imaginary Story". Not because of anything to do with Godzilla, but because the death of King Kong is one of the great poetic and tragic events in all film, and I simply refuse to have it negated for such a trivial reason. To say nothing of the insult it hands Kong to be revived as a several-hundred-feet-taller, plug-ugly monkey suit.)

Godzilla #1 [alpha]- seen in Gojira/Godzilla, King of the Monsters(1954) only. Conclusively killed off in that film by Dr. Serizawa's terrifying Oxygen Destroyer. Finis, sayonara.

Godzilla #2 - a/k/a "Gigantis". First seen in Gojira's Counterattack/Gigantis the Fire Monster, 1955. Explained in the US dub as one of a "race of prehistoric fire creatures", of which the late Godzilla had also been one, and in the Japanese original as just another Godzilla (same difference, essentially). It's clear that the first Godzilla is definitely considered dead and Gigantis is a second creature of the same kind, whether we call them "Angurus type" or "Godzillasaurus rex". This sets an important precedent, since future Godzillae can simply stomp onto the scene without tedious explanation. (It also explains why, when Baby Godzilla is hatched in G vs MG, he's given the designation "Godzillasaurus" - he's one of a known species, not an isolated phenomenon.)
--Godzilla #2 - Gigantis - would therefore be the Godzilla who battles the original Mothra, Rodan, Ebirah, Megalon, Ghidrah et al et cetera. (If you, like me, have an embarrassed hate/love relationship with the admittedly sub-par G-movies of the 1960s, you may find some solace in telling yourself that it's not "really" Godzilla who appears in them...)

Gojira Tai Mosura/Godzilla vs. the Thing/Godzilla vs. Mothra, 1964
Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster, 1965
Kaiju Daisenso/Monster Zero/Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, 1965
Gojira-Ebira-Mosura: Nankai Daiketto/Ebirah, Horror of the Deep/Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, 1966
Kaiju Shima no Kessen: Gojira No Musuko (literally "Decisive Battle of Monster Island: The Son of Godzilla")/Son of Godzilla, 1967
Kaiju Soshingeki/Destroy All Monsters, 1968
Oru Kaiju Daishingeki (literally "All Monsters on Parade"!)/Godzilla's Revenge,1969
Gojira Tai Hedora/Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, 1971
Gojira Tai Gaigan/Godzilla vs. Gigan, 1972Gojira Tai Megalon/Godzilla vs. Megalon, 1973
Gojira Tai Meka-Gojira/Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster/Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, 1974
Meka-Gojira No Gyakushu/Terror of Mechagodzilla, 1975.

--He's never actually seen to die, but is replaced by...

Godzilla #3 - first seen in Godzilla 1985. This film establishes a new continuity which proposes that none of the films occurring after the original Gojira/GKOTM ever happened, and that this is the first appearance of Godzilla in 30 years. Also, however, asserts that the Godzilla appearing in this film - and therefore in those following - is the same one which struck Tokyo in 1954, though that Godzilla was dramatically reduced to a fizzing skeleton (and admitted destroyed in Gigantis, though that film is out of this canon). Since it just cannot be so, we will admit this Godzilla to the group as #3.

Gojira/Gojira 1984/Godzilla 1985, 1984
Gojira Tai Biolante/Godzilla vs. Biollante, 1989
Gojira Tai Mosura/Godzilla vs. Queen Mothra/Godzilla vs. Mothra, 1992
Gojira Tai Meka-Gojira/Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, 1993
Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, 1994
Gojira Tai Desutoroyah/Godzilla vs. Destroyer, 1995.
(See note below on which Godzilla I believe appears in Gojira Tai Kingu-Ghidora/Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, 1991.)

(Side note: this does beg discussion of the question - just where do Godzillae come from? Are they indeed a race of surviving dinosaurs mutated by atomic exposure into fire-breathing nuclear dragons, or are they lesser reptiles who had to gain their size, along with their powers, from nuclear fallout? Either way, how many of them can there be? For simplicity's sake, I like the idea of a "lost world" island in the South Pacific where a number of dinosaurs still roamed in the 1940s - as in G vs KG - and all were exposed to the same radioactive blast at the same time, causing a multiple, but finite, identical mutation.)

The movies following after this one maintain a pretty snug continuity, except for...

Godzilla #1 [beta] - first and last seen in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, 1991. In this film, time travelers from the 23rd Century come to the 20th to prevent the creation of Godzilla. The dinosaur who was to become Godzilla, we learn, was still living on Lagos Island in the South Pacific during WWII. By transporting it forward in time before it can sustain nuclear exposure, the Future Men effectively erase the Godzilla of the first film - G1[alpha] - who now never existed. In the course of the movie, however, this same dinosaur is exposed to the even more powerful nuclear energy of the 1990s and becomes a bigger and more dangerous monster than any before. From the viewpoint of the film's characters, Godzilla has ceased to exist for only a short time, but from the viewpoint of time - at least, as far at this movie is concerned - the Godzilla created in G vs KG is the first one ever.

This presents some thorny problems:

1. The G1[a] problem. The original Godzilla can't be erased, as it causes far too many logistical problems for the series. To list just the more important ones:
--The events of Gojira/GKOTM(1954) must occur, as they're essential to the eventual creation of Destroyer.
--If there was no Godzilla attack in the 1950s, nothing in Godzilla 1985 makes any sense. The film makes numerous references to the events of thirty years ago, and a major character, Professor Hayashida, is deeply influenced by his childhood as an orphaned survivor of the monster's rampage.
--The movies following G '85 are fairly tightly sequenced (as mentioned above) and would all be thrown out of whack if that one were disrupted.

2. The multiple Godzillae problem. As we've already shown, no matter what G '85 asserts, there's no way that G1[a] and G3 can be the same individual. Removing G1[a] from proximity to the nuclear event which created him will make no difference to G3 whatever, and G3 was obviously alive and well at the close of the previous film. Therefore, when G1[b] is created in G vs KG, there are two full-grown Godzillae roaming the earth. This will just not do.

Moreover, G vs KG can't be shuffled out of context, because the alien technology which creates MechaKing Ghidorah is retro-engineered to create the new MechaGodzilla, in the film which follows two after this one!

I believe there is only one way out of this situation: the time-travellers' own technology. Although it is not shown, the last thing done with the time machine must be to transport G1[b] back into the past, to take the place of the G1[a] who was undone in this film. He doesn't look the same, but since the people of 1954 will have never seen him before, no one will notice. This clears the way for a Godzilla to attack Tokyo and be killed by the Oxygen Destroyer in the 1950s; for Godzilla '85 to happen as scheduled; and for G3 to be the Godzilla who goes on through the 1990's films and finally dies at the talons of Destroyer. (SPECIAL NOTE: I will give a whole sheet of Godzilla cookies to anyone who can give me a workable solution to the remaining pesky problem of Gigantis.)

Godzilla #4 - "Baby Godzilla", the 1990's revamp of Minya. He appears in several of the 1990's films and is last seen well on the way to full maturity in the closing scenes of Godzilla vs Destroyer, leaving the reassuring sense that the world will not have to do without a full-fledged Godzilla for long.

Godzilla #5, a/k/a "Amerigoji" or "Trizilla" - the Godzilla of the 1998 TriStar Pictures American film. No uncertainty of origin here - Trizilla is unambiguously an atomic mutation of a living reptile. He's the most radical physical redesign yet, making the transformation from the pear-shaped G of the 60s to the ripped, muscular Big G of the 90s look like a mere change of clothes. He's also got a brand-new history: as far as this movie is concerned, this is the first in-the-flesh appearance of Gojira, previously no more than a scary folktale told by Japanese sailors. A fast-running, long-legged, non-fire-breathing monster who looks like a giant iguana designed by H.R. Giger, the hermaphrodite Trizilla is a more prolific parent than any previous Godzilla, producing hundreds of hatchlings to Toho's single one. However, only one apparently lives to succeed the new monster, who is done to death at the end of its film.

I conclude, with reluctance but honesty, that my initial rejection of the new Godzilla on emotional grounds spiked by his drastic differences ("THATís not Godzilla!!") is perhaps unjustifiably biased. There have been a succession of Godzillae and there are likely to be a number more in time to come. Trizilla is not a gross revolt against a mythical, pristine, One True Godzilla - just the Fifth Godzilla, another in the parade.

--I do not say this to defend the TriStar film, which is dreadful on any level. Nor, in my heart, can I defend this extreme reinterpretation of the Monster King, which I feel shows a profound disrespect and misunderstanding of what makes Godzilla Godzilla. But the facts are the facts: Toho cannot, either, be claimed to have consistently respected the life, dignity or physical form of their icon -- and it's no insult to them to say so. It's always the fans' job, more than the creators', to attend to these details of history and reverence-where-due. As, I hope, I have done here.

...return to Godzilla, King of the Giant Monsters.