Godzilla Movies That Act Like Real Movies
What it's really about: The horrors of atomic warfare.
When Godzilla finally shows up: 22 minutes in, Godzilla pops his head over a hillside in broad daylight, long before busting up Tokyo.
Human plot: 10 - There's no better Godzilla character than Akihiko Hirata's Doctor Daisuke Serizawa, Japan's answer to Oppenheimer. Early scenes that take place in the outlying villages are the best of the Showa era.
Monster action: 2 - The movie that introduced us to Godzilla is also one of the best B-movies of the1950s, but facts are facts: the monster only destroys Tokyo.
Camp factor: 1 - This is serious business. Godzilla is standing in for the real horrors of the atomic bomb and all mankind can do is watch as he rampages through cities.
Shin Godzilla (2016)
What it's really about: Democracy doesn't react quickly enough to disasters.
When Godzilla finally shows up: 15 minutes, after a brief appearance of by his tail.
Human Plot: 9 - There's a lot a bureaucracy depicted in this movie as the Japanese government struggles to deal with Godzilla. The plot plays as a strong comment about how that nation weathered the Fukushima meltdown and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Monster action: 4 - Like Hollywood's 2014 Godzilla, this movie is light on the monster action and used motion capture instead of a suit. What monster action there is is great, but it's precious little.
Camp factor: 0 - There's not a knowing wink to this being a Godzilla movie outside of the score and that's subtle enough to not register as camp.
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
What it's really about: Trust, the horrors of war, and time travel.
When Godzilla finally shows up: A dinosaur-like Godzilla pops up 33 and a half minutes in, when our heroes from the future travel back to the 1940s Bikini Islands. One hour and two minutes until we see him in his recognizable form.
Human Plot: 8 - People from the future convince people from the 1990s to go back to World War II to erase Godzilla from history, but it's a trick. Only time travel and a cyborg kaiju can stop Godzilla.
Monster action: 7 - This is the only time in the Godzilla franchise that Godzilla takes on the three-headed King Ghidorah one-on-one -- and it doesn't disappoint. Even if the first battle isn't as thrilling as it could be considering how much plot was building up to it, the second battle, when Mecha-Ghidorah comes back through time, is arguably the best Ghidorah battle in the series' history.
Camp factor: 4 - For a movie with crazy time travel, there's a ton of slaughter in the World War II sequences, from Japanese soldiers being massacred by American soldiers to Godzilla massacring all the soldiers. Despite that seriousness, one of the WWII Americans is Lt. Spielberg, father of Steven, so har!
Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
What it's really about: What if there were two monsters and they hated each other?
When Godzilla finally shows up: Nine-and-a-half minutes in, mid-fight with Anguirus, a kind of spiky ankylosaurus.
Human Plot: 6 - This is the only movie of the early lot where the Japanese defense forces defeat Godzilla without the aid of some other giant monster, narrowing the focus to a vendetta between a single pilot and Godzilla.
Monster action: 3 - Toho hadn't perfected giant-creature suit-battling yet, so certain fight scenes are over or under cranked to tweak the speed. This is still more a '50s sci-fi parable than a Toho suit-fighting movie, so the battle isn't as much of a focus.
Camp factor: 6 - Godzilla Raids Again is ultimately a science fiction sequel that offers twice the monster for half the thematic punch. Time, and the constant re-imagining of the franchise, tarnish the film's shine.