Several popular franchises highlight a certain numeric value that increases with the passage of time for the sake of drama. Dragon Ball Z emphasized the power level; the original Star Trek series, the warp factor; and our dear friend Godzilla has given us such a simple, yet important variable: sheer size! Now this article attempts to tackle that very topic of Godzilla’s legendary size, in particular in relation to the 2014 movie.

History


… and so Japan’s kaiju insurance industry
was born…

In the Tokyo of yesteryear, a 50 meter monster was nothing to sneeze at. The immense Mesozoic chimera dwarfed his surroundings as he unleashed atomic fire upon the hapless metropolis with little resistance. As years passed, Tokyo’s skyline crawled further into the blue, and by the time Godzilla was due for a reboot in the 1980s, it was probably only natural for the filmmakers to augment his stature by 60%. When Godzilla’s renaissance era ultimately came to a close, the beast’s final height topped the charts at a whopping 100 meters!

Whatever your opinion about the 1998 American remake, it’s hard to dispute that for the very first time, a radioactive mutant named “Godzilla” was continuously dwarfed by its surroundings. In a city where your average building scrapes the sky at a higher altitude than Godzilla at his tallest [1], an unusual decision was made by the filmmakers to scale their radically altered interpretation to a height nearer Godzilla at his shortest. Despite the film’s tagline, size really didn’t seem to matter. The Manhattan skyline so engulfed the anomalous reptile that it simply accentuated the animal’s relative vulnerability. Therefore, the film’s dialogue hardly strained credulity when it implied that the creature in question had completely vanished into the depths of the labyrinthine metropolis.

Though the 1998 remake fell famously flat with many fans, the subsequent Millennium Series (more often than not) made similar choices in regard to the kaiju’s stature. Godzilla was yet again closer to his original height, but it didn’t matter quite as much in a setting so far removed from the skyscraper capital of the world. Even still, modern Japanese cities contrasted sharply with a beast who was ever more incapable of peering over the rooftops of buildings he sought to raze.

Then came Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), and it seemed as though all bets were off! The King of the Monsters had returned to his maximum height in an era where it clearly made sense to do so. Sadly, his lean build and relative lack of environmental interaction invariably made his triumphant return to 100 meters seem like an arbitrary grab at a former title as opposed to a genuine attempt to rekindle that oh-so-special characteristic that helped earn the Monster King his famous moniker.

Godzilla 2014

Fast forward ten years to the present. Now, I should probably preface by saying that it’s almost certainly a mistake to estimate official heights based on posters…


Inadequacy now plagues the
Transamerica Pyramid.


After all, realize that the subject of this GODZILLA (1998) poster could be extrapolated to a height of over 200 meters…

… and the subject of this GODZILLA(1998) poster to a mind-boggling height of over 250 meters!

Even still, the general consensus based on available data is that Godzilla’s upcoming incarnation is going to be large and in charge once more, just topping his all-time record by perhaps a few meters [2]. Considering the fact that several fans (myself included) have been frequently miscalculating Legendary’s Godzilla in the 200+ meter range based on trailer stills and promotional material, there is clearly something unusual about this new version that gives us the delightful illusion that he’s far more massive than official stats would otherwise suggest. As such…


If only they had gone to
Candy Apple Island…

… this new Goji is bound to give you the impression that it’s the end of the world as we know it… and here’s why I feel fine: One of the things that lifted Godzilla to the status of a worldwide cultural phenomenon was just how much he dwarfed his surroundings. Let’s compare and contrast cinema’s other favourite giant monster, King Kong. On Skull Island, Kong was king, but when he found himself transported to Manhattan, he was a veritable fish-out-of-water. Kong’s brief reign of destruction was far more personal; on the other hand, Godzilla’s reign of destruction was far more impersonal. On Odo Island, Godzilla was unmatched in size and power, but his destructive potential was ironically limited… like a natural disaster in a not-so-populated area. However, when Godzilla ventured into Tokyo, the congested metropolis didn’t stand a chance. Claustrophobic population density meant that the atomic archosaur could rain devastation on an almost unprecedented scale. The isolated tragedies of Odo Island were overshadowed by the heartbreaking statistics of a leveled Tokyo.

If King Kong could have spoken, he would have only been able to call Skull Island his domain. Kong represents that primal, ancient fear of the lurking beast in the jungle; dangerous when roused, but fully capable of being subdued by the combined effort of the village (or in Kong’s case, the local airfield). Godzilla, on the other hand, could have easily called Odo Island and Tokyo his domain, and much of Planet Earth a conquest not yet ventured. Godzilla represents the daunting juggernaut that is atomic warfare. He’s a not-so-natural disaster far more ominous in threat, and hardly easy to vanquish even when at the so-called mercy of a coordinated strike. Only the serendipitous discovery of a weapon far more destructive than the terrible tyrant managed to bring him to his knees.

This may all sound like a digression, but here’s the point. If there were any greater visual indicator to lend credence to the contrast between these two abominations of nature, it’s their size. On Skull Island, Kong’s line of sight ventured downward; in Manhattan, the monstrous ape gazed upward. On Odo Island, Godzilla peered downward; in the Tokyo of 1954, he still gazed downward…

… and now it appears as though Legendary’s Godzilla will follow the same pattern. Perhaps it’s the contrast between an ever-so-slightly-taller-than-ever Godzilla against the backdrop of San Francisco; which boasts a much humbler skyline than Manhattan despite its 45+ buildings that still tower over the new G [3]Or, perhaps it’s because ~106 meters is really going to look like ~106 meters.Whatever the reason, it seems like Godzilla will once again find himself in a position where he makes much of his environment look thoroughly puny. He’ll almost certainly be able to “gaze downward” once more. Sure, the shorter Godzilla of the Millennium Series gave us a chance to watch his character interact more intimately with humans, but the breathtaking awe of that ever growing monstrosity is a spark rekindled anew with this upcoming Godzilla.

Godzilla’s legendary size is almost like a distinct character of its own that has been reawakened. And to that, I say…


… kudos, Mr. Edwards! Kudos.

Sources:


[1] http://www.skyscrapercity.com/archive/index.php/t-479273.html
[2] http://www.411mania.com/movies/news/314798/%5BMovies%5D-Godzilla-Director-Lists-His-Height-As-350-Feet-Tall.htm
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_in_San_Francisco

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