With movies like July’s Pacific Rim and 2014’s Godzilla reboot on the horizon, my mind this spring has repeatedly wandered into Kaiju territory, as is only natural. Kaiju (giant monster) films have definitely played a heavy-handed role in my taste’s development over the years, but strangely, they weren’t something I latched onto as a young boy. Sure, I got an inkling of this genre from King Kong, parts of the Godzilla canon and Attack of the 50-foot Woman as a kid, but I didn’t start to genuinely dig the stuff until I was in college. Why? Honestly, no idea…but here are some thoughts.
In my early years, I was more of a “dinosaur-riding G.I. Joe battles the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man” kind of kid–and Stay Puft never won. Incidentally, yes, he’s a Kaijin (singular for Kaiju). Suffice it to say, maybe the tiny seeds planted by those larger-than-life characters in cinema just took a good while to grow. Maybe I wasn’t quite ready to appreciate the scale (literally) and grandeur of Kaiju films. At any rate, it just wasn’t my style…yet. I certainly wasn’t enlightened enough to overcome my own bias and realize that a G.I. Joe/stegosaurus team-up would be suffocated and crushed outright by a pillowy, 10-story behemoth.
But I digress. The upshot to all this is that I love monster movies. I have for many years now. And while monsters of all shapes and sizes are welcome, the bigger the monster, the better (well, usually anyway). I can’t help but wonder though, if my love for Kaiju didn’t come from somewhere else.
The TV shows and movies I loved from wee childhood straight through high school trended much more toward giant robots and mechas than giant monsters invading our shores or home planet. Shows like Voltron and Transformers, and later on, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gundam Wing held me captive much sooner and longer in those formative years than did the monster mash. A whole generation of monster lovers (mine)–or more accurately robot-versus-monster lovers–was saturated by those amazing series. Maybe it seemed more plausible to my young brain that those mechas would exist in a world before giant monsters ever could. I don’t know if that was it, but when I look back at my giant-protagonist and giant-antagonist roots, I see much more metal, rocket fuel and brooding, edgy pilots than scales, wings and other-worldly fire.
Either way, it’s lucky for us all that we’ll get a good dose of all those things when Guillermo del Toro graces us with Pacific Rim later this year. And who knows, maybe it and the new reboot of Godzilla (tread lightly, now) will do what the last reboot should have done, and help to inspire a new generation of Kaiju-loving kids to discover their own affinity for these giants, flesh and metal alike.
Image from Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla (1974)