It’s the early days of the second half of Semester A and I have at least one assignment due this week in all 5 of the papers I’m in this semester. I signed a form to say I would work extra hard to keep on top of that heavy workload, but sometimes, there’s more pressing matters to attend to. So here’s an essay worth of shit I won’t get marks for, because procrastination is serious business.
There’s plenty of dorks out there who would go so far as to call The Avengers and the Marvel Universe a kind of breakthrough in cinema – something never attempted before, with a cultural imprint that nothing else could parallel. However, I hate to say it, but 50 years before Endgame made all those slightly-too-old men cry in the cinema over their favourite CGI super hero dying or whatever, someone else had done it all before, and done it better.
Beginning in 1954, the Godzilla franchise and universe started with the post-war, post-nuclear dissection of the devastation inflicted by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, manifesting the concept of nuclear-fueled destruction as the gargantuan monster himself. With (for the era) great special effects that brought the fictional creature to life, Godzilla struck fear into the people of a still recovering nation, and sowed the seeds for what was to come. As the years progressed through the 1950s, Toho Pictures, the creators of Godzilla, and the creative team behind Godzilla crafted a series of new creatures that entered into this universe, with Godzilla Raids Again (1954) pitting Godzilla against Anguirus, before offshoots such as Rodan (1956), The Mysterians (1957), Varan (1958), and Mothra (1961) brought into the world the creatures that would become key players in the world of Godzilla. Remind you of that “phase one” of the Avengers? That shit was nothing new.
While the films themselves follow a pretty similar blueprint to Godzilla’s franchise development, the Marvel Universe was sorely lacking in most other departments. With most films in the Godzilla universe sharing Akira Ifukube’s talent on scoring the soundtracks, the resulting musical cohesiveness of the films kept them stylistically connected while bearing distinct, rousing and exciting theme music, with motifs that carried throughout the many films, playing off one another to create a memorable experience that always managed to remind you of its origins with a catchy and somewhat comforting familiarity, while still carrying a sense of newness and drive that carries the films forward. Meanwhile, 50 years later, the Marvel films… don’t do this. Despite having seen some of the films more than once, I can only really remember the main “Avengers” theme because of memes that came out around Infinity War’s release. None of the films’ scores are interesting, engaging or otherwise memorable (outside of Black Panther’s Original Soundtrack, not that it really counts).
In theatres, Godzilla made his return in 1962, fighting his American counterpart King Kong in a crossover clash that would set the tone for the franchise to come (much like The Avengers did in 2011). Followed up shortly after with Mothra vs. Godzilla, things shifted gear when Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan teamed up to fight a new, evil threat in Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964) and its follow-up, Invasion of the Astro-Monster (1965).
However, as happened following the semi-climactic clashes in both the first and second Avengers movies, the tension had to give, and following the introduction of the villainous Ghidorah, the Godzilla universe calmed down. While films continued to introduce compelling standalone stories, such as Atragon (1963), Frankenstein vs. Baragon (1965) and its sequel War of the Gargantuas (1966), as well as 1967’s King Kong Escapes, Godzilla’s own films went down a more mild route, following a team up with Mothra against a big stupid bird and lobster in Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966) before being a good dad with his simple and unphotogenic son Minilla in Son of Godzilla (1967).
And then, much like Infinity War and Endgame happening, in 1968, Destroy All Monsters hit cinemas across Japan. Combining the cast of giant kaiju already seen within Godzilla’s films, it also brought into the fray the number of films that had yet to be tied back to the King of the Monsters himself, with Gorosaurus from King Kong Escapes, Baragon from Frankenstein vs. Baragon, Manda from Atragon, and Varan’s titular monster making their Godzilla debut (alongside the “Maser” technology from War of the Gargantuas that would go on to become an iconic staple of the franchise). This all culminates in a truly climactic clash of the monsters, with monster mayhem, espionage and deceit traversing the globe, ultimately rounding off the 14 year series by having Godzilla, alongside his family and allies, stomp the life out of King Ghidorah (quite literally), the ultimate foe lingering in the shadows of the franchise.
The movies in the 14 years following Godzilla‘s creation form an objectively and indisputably more powerful story arc and a more iconic interconnected “cinematic universe” than the 11 years of blockbuster popcorn flicks of the Marvel cinematic universe. And it isn’t even close, with Godzilla’s Showa Series being found within the esteemed Criterion Collection, while The Infinity Saga is on…Disney+
And while some might say the twists and turns of The Avengers and the “better” special effects outdo anything else, I can easily and effortlessly dispute it all.
Oh, the MCU still has years of stories to tell that continue to build on story threads from earlier films? Get back to me when there’s a 44-year build up to a character introduction like 2000’s Godzilla vs Megaguirus building on the lore of 1956’s Rodan.
Oh, the MCU has prequels like Black Widow and Captain Marvel that tie back into the previous films? The films following Destroy All Monsters all tie back into it as prequels that develop Godzilla into the hero he is in that film.
So, if anyone out there in the vast world of Nexus readers actually looked past not just the ridiculous sounding title, but also made it to the bottom of this essay, stop giving Disney your money and dip your toes into a TRUE cinematic experience – the 14 year saga, and the more than 50 years of culturally relevant cinema that follow it.