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Attack of the Kaiju: Godzilla and His Peers

Attack of the Kaiju: Godzilla and His Peers

By Ryan Britt

This weekend, Godzilla, the original Kaiju, is back to stomp, smash, and make you cry. But after last summer’s attack of the Kaiju in Pacific Rim, there are those who worry the American cinema might get too crowded with giant lizard monsters. Luckily, we are not those kinds of worriers and like our giant monsters as plentiful as possible.

Here’s a small, curated list of a few Kaiju to have stomping around in the back of your head while you head into Godzilla on Friday.

Godzilla

You know him, you love him, but do you know exactly how big he is? Well, in his original appearance Godzilla is 50 meters tall and 100 meters long, meaning if he lays down in traffic, he’s the length of like five cars. Or if it were the Star Wars world, 10 womp-rats.

Gamera

Part turtle, part monster, all ridiculous. If you think of Gamera as a knock-off of Godzilla and an attempt to make the kaiju a kitsch piece of kid-friendly garbage, you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. That being said, I’m not sure the world really needs any evil cynics who don’t love flying turtle-monsters who get shot into space all the time.

King Ghidorah

Who’s got three heads and shows up in tons of Godzilla movies throughout the years? If you’re looking for a dragon (and be honest, you always should be) you can’t go wrong with a three-headed one. With staying power and look that is so ironically different than Godzilla (who he fought all the time) King Ghidorah is probably more influential than you think.

The Beast from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

Actually Rhedosaurus, a type of prehistoric non-dinosaur reptile (you can tell by the way it walks like a croc) this creature was awakened in 1953 by nuclear testing. That’s right, a year before Godzilla came out, the Beast had a similar origin story. Luckily, though, this isn’t some kind of weird prescient rip-off, since the story itself comes from the 1951 Ray Bradbury story “The Fog Horn.” In that one, the beast is just a lonely dinosaur emerging from the sea to find what it thinks is the love call of another dinosaur, but is really just… yep. A fog horn.

T-Rex from Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Must go…faster! While the Tyrannosaurus in the Jurassic Park films often plays second claw-fiddle to the raptors, she still gets to terrorize San Diego in the second movie in a very Godzilla-esque rampage. In the 1990’s, this T-Rex attack was a better Godzilla/King Kong movie than the remakes of Godzilla and King Kong.

Gigan

Not the first monster Godzilla ever fought, but the first one to ever make him  bleed, this joker had claws for hands and a cylon-looking eye band. He was from space and occasionally mind-controlled (like many Zilla beasts) by aliens. Relevant to remember if only because he’s a cyborg, alien, and giant lizard creature.

Anguirus

A mutated ankylosaurus, Anguirus featured prominently in the second Godzilla movie ever: Godzilla Raids Again. This movie is a straight-up direct sequel to the first Godzilla movie ever, and is the first time he fights another monster. Not shockingly, the American version of this movie screwed up everything and even tried to change Godzilla’s name to Gigantis, which really, just sounds like an illness you catch from a giant.

Rodan

A kind of Pteranodon on steroids, Rodan isn’t a technically a dinosaur, but is the only Kaiju we know of that is based on a real prehistoric creature. In stark contrast to Mothra, MechaGodzilla and a host of other goofy beasts, Rodan seems a little more realistic. Like a lot of great Kaiju, Rodan had a stand-alone movie before entering the ring with other monsters in later films. Also, just to make thing perfectly clear: he can fly.

Which old-school kaiju is your favorite? Who do you think will appear in Godzilla this weekend?

Tags: movies, godzilla, lists, monster movies, kaiju

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About the Author
Ryan Britt

Ryan Britt's writing has appeared with The New York Times, Omni Reboot, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Crossed Genres, Story Magazine, The MindHut and elsewhere. He's performed stories on stage with The Moth, The Liar Show, and is the curator of two reading series; Lust for Genre and The HiFi Reading Series. He teaches at The Gotham Writers' Workshop and lives in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @ryancbritt.

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