As a lifelong fan, it’s hard not to get excited after the debut of the spectacular trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters at Comic-Con. Not only does it boast some breathtaking images and the return of several series icons, the set-up seems similar to one of the most warmly regarded entries in the original Showa series; Ghidorah: The Three Headed Monster. Will this new film be a modern take on one of the most spectacular battles of the series’ original run?
GHIDORAH: THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER
Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (sometimes referred to as Ghidrah) was released in 1964. In it, a large meteor crashes to Earth, bringing with it the notorious three-headed golden dragon who proceeds to wreak havoc around the world. At the same time, Godzilla and Rodan wage their own private war. Unable to stop Ghidorah, the human characters are forced to consider a daring alternative. Perhaps they need the help of Godzilla and Rodan to defeat Ghidorah. Desperate, they enlist the help of a friendly kaiju named Mothra to convince the pair that maybe humanity is worth saving.
Ghidorah came at an interesting time in the Godzilla franchise. The once antagonistic Godzilla (intended as an allegory for the A-Bomb) was gaining favor with the film going public, so he was gradually portrayed with more sympathy than in the 1954 original. Ghidorah marked the first time in the series that Godzilla was portrayed not as a destroyer, but a champion and protector of the Earth. The trend has continued to this day with Godzilla more often than not taking on the role of an anti-hero forced to defeat much bigger and badder monsters. Numerous elements from Ghidorah are recalled in the new trailer, making it seem like this classic entry is being revamped for the modern age.
Firstly, there’s Ghidorah himself, widely considered one of the deadliest kaiju in the Godzilla-verse. Since his 1964 debut, Ghidorah has become one of the series most popular icons, appearing in no less than eight feature films. Ghidorah’s role varies little; he’s either destroying the world of his own free will or being used as a tool by other malevolent forces. Judging by the new trailer, it seems the three headed monster is back to his old tricks.
Ghidorah’s debut is as stunning as it is frightening. Appearing as an ominous silhouette, the three-headed dragon is as imposing and terrifying as ever. More than that, he seems just as malevolent. One need only look at Ghidorah’s actions to see this. All of the Godzilla-verse monsters have their own tools of destruction, such as Godzilla’s atomic breath or Mothra’s silk. In Ghidorah’s case, his trademark attack is lightning shot from any one of his three open maws. The trailer clearly shows such an attack by Ghidorah.
One of the characters, probably Millie Bobby Brown’s character of Maddison, is seen running through a building while an all too familiar yellow lighting chases her down the halls. Such elements from the trailer not only display the character’s trademark weapon, but also his cruelty. This is the only time in the trailer we see a kaiju attacking one of the main cast. From this moment alone, it’s very clear who the villain is.
What made Ghidorah such an iconic entry was that it amped up the monster brawl. This wasn’t just one monster verses another anymore. Now there were no less than four kaiju involved. This became a regular staple for the original Showa Godzilla series and beyond. Both Mothra and Rodan lent their support to Godzilla in the original Ghidorah, and both return in this new film, reuniting these four onscreen for the first time since 1968’s Destroy All Monsters. It’s also the first time since 1964 that they and Ghidorah alone have shared the screen with Godzilla. But will the pair be here to help as before, or are they enemies to Godzilla and mankind?
We can rest assured that in Mothra’s case, she’s still our friend. Mothra has a well earned reputation as the Godzilla-verse’s most benevolent kaiju. In past films, Mothra has regularly aided the human characters, acting as a kind of emissary between mankind and the kaiju. Mothra plays perhaps her most significant role in the original Ghidorah, where she convinces Godzilla and Rodan to aid in the fight against the invader, sending both monsters down a path to becoming the heroes of the Showa era.
Mothra’s gentle nature is shown in one of the trailer’s most spectacular moments. Mothra is seen befriending the character of Maddison, still in her larval stage as she was seen in the original Ghidorah. Mothra doesn’t attack Maddison and even allows the girl to touch her, showing that she is still humanity’s friend in this fight.
While Mothra remained larval throughout Ghidorah, the makers of this new film opted to show her fully grown. She can be seen emerging from her cocoon, spreading her massive wings which now cast an impressive bioluminescent glow. The trademark pattern on her wings is also visible, a welcome attention to detail. Whether or not she’s able to convince Godzilla and Rodan to join mankind’s fight against Ghidorah is unclear, but by all appearances, it seems Mothra will carry on her role as a gentle giant the human cast can depend on.
Rodan is a little more difficult. Prior to Ghidorah, Godzilla and Rodan were bitter rivals. Afterwards, they became something of a dynamic duo in the Showa era, regularly collaborating to defend Earth from various extraterrestrial terrors. They teamed up no less than three times in the original series, making Rodan one of the most popular kaiju in the Godzilla-verse. Rodan rarely appeared as a villain, a rare exception being Godzilla: Final Wars, and even that was due to outside influence. Even then, Godzilla refused to kill his longtime collaborator. So what role will Rodan take here?
The new film does take some obvious inspiration from Ghidorah and other past Showa films, namely in Rodan’s debut. In Ghidorah, Rodan’s rampage begins when he’s awakened from inside a volcano. This new trailer shows a near identical debut, Rodan taking flight after bursting gloriously from a crater. While his debut is the same, it’s hard to say if Rodan will be in mankind’s corner this time around. The trailer does show him attacking several jets while escaping the volcano, though Godzilla and Rodan did cause some collateral damage before Mothra convinced them to help in the 64 film.
There are some clues indicating a possible turn for Rodan. At the beginning of the trailer, Maddison gazes on a massive dust cloud overtaking a city. As she watches, another cloud races towards her from the opposite direction. What’s significant is these storms appear similar to the ones caused by Rodan and Ghidorah flying overhead, which the trailer does show at one point. Could the first cloud be from Ghidorah while the second is from Rodan coming to aid the heroes? Perhaps. It’s also possible one of these storms is caused by Mothra. Whatever the case, we’ll find out next summer.
So where does Godzilla fit into all this? The biggest element of Ghidorah was Godzilla’s turn into a hero. He did have a semi-heroic role in the 2014 film as the rival to the MUTOS, though he and mankind didn’t exactly get along well. Godzilla caused a lot of collateral damage, and was attacked by the military on more than one occasion. They did spend decades trying to kill him with nuclear weapons. The new trailer however seems to indicate a change, with Godzilla portrayed more heroically, and the military looking more like his partners than his adversaries.
The most telling moment comes at the trailer’s end. As Godzilla rears back for his iconic roar, a squadron of jets flies over him. The important thing is the jets at no point attempt to fight Godzilla, nor does he attempt to attack them in any way. It appears as if Godzilla and the military facing a common enemy, most likely Ghidorah, and the planes are there to offer whatever support they can. Based on Mothra’s role, we can assume she’ll also be there to lend a hand against the three headed dragon. Whatever the case, Godzilla and this squadron aren’t very concerned with each other. They’ve got bigger problems to worry about.
With this new trailer, as in the 1964 film, it seems Godzilla’s role as mankind’s champion has been cemented. But why does this specifically recall Ghidorah: The Three Headed Monster and not other entires like Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah from 1991? The key distinction is that Godzilla isn’t fighting this battle alone. Unlike in the 1991 film, Godzilla and mankind no longer appear to be enemies. More importantly, both his kaiju partners from the original Ghidorah are back.
There are few battles in the Godzilla-verse that match the excitement of those involving Ghidorah. In his first appearance, the three-headed Ghidorah took three monsters to defeat it, which is what made Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra such a good team. Is Godzilla: King of the Monsters a retelling of this tale from the Showa era? It looks to be following some very similar beats, taking the style of the Showa era films and blowing it up to apocalyptic proportions. It would be quite the cinematic treat to see Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra collaborate once more to rescue mankind.
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