For decades I have turned a blind eye to the continuity of the Godzilla franchise, mostly out of love. In my formative years I had an obsession with all things prehistoric, so it’s hardly surprising that I was drawn toward the King of the Monsters at a young age. He was an atom-age dragon and I went nuts for anything that had his name on it! (Quite frankly, I still do!)
With the success of Legendary’s American reboot of the character, I’ve gone back to revisit many of my favorite classic Godzilla adventures. In doing so, I have noticed that there are some major gaps in the series’ continuity. The original 1954 classic GOJIRA (Americanized in 1956 as GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS) is, obviously, the linchpin of the entire franchise. Not only does it kick things off, but it provides a focal point for many of the “alternate universe films” to branch off from.
With thirty films (if you count Tri-Star’s 1998 mishap, and the current American reboot) featuring Godzilla, it’s not surprising that things began to get a bit jumbled as new films were added to the series. With so many recurring actors and monsters, and sequels to sequels, it is hard to fathom that there’s a linear storyline within it all. But believe it or not, there is, and it’s a pretty cool one!
After much contemplation, I believe that I have a solid “official” timeline hammered out for the Godzilla franchise, that surprisingly only incorporates eight of the films. Other films could have possibly been added, but this is the most seamless timeline that I could come up with.
Warning: There are some big spoilers ahead!
MY “OFFICIAL” TIMELINE
#0. GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH
Time-traveling hijinks occur a full decade before the original Gojira appears! During World War II, a wounded Godzillasaurus is captured from Lagos Island in the Pacific by “The Futurians,” and is moved to another location. The future-folks’ intention is to halt Godzilla’s creation, but naturally, things do not go as planned.
In 1954, Godzilla arose from the Pacific, terrorized the natives of Oda Island, and eventually made his way to Tokyo. The weaponry of the time period fails to kill, or even noticeably wound the gigantic beast, and all hope seems lost. In steps the brave and enigmatic Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, with his one-of-a-kind OXYGEN DESTROYER invention to save the day. He dives to the bottom of the ocean floor and sacrifices himself in order to fire up his creation and ultimately kill Godzilla.
#2. THE RETURN OF GODZILLA
Thirty years after supposedly being destroyed, Godzilla suddenly stomps back to life and threatens Japan. Despite pressure (and offered nuclear assistance) from both America and the Soviet Union, Japan stands alone and utilizes their modern weaponry at this much larger incarnation of Godzilla. Eventually, when all options have failed, a scientist tricks Godzilla into diving into an active volcano. Sad music and shots of equally sad Japanese men ensue.
#3. GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE
Bio-tech firms wage war upon each other to obtain the holy grail of genetic research: Godzilla cells! Eventually, unsolicited experimentation on said cells results in the creation of Biollante, a hybrid monstrosity made up of the DNA from a rose, a human, and Godzilla himself. While more of a nuisance than anything, the floral kaiju is defeated by a newly awakened Godzilla, who is freed from his volcanic prison during the ongoing “bio-wars.”
Godzilla is infected with Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria later in the film, which weakens him enough to be knocked out by the combined efforts of Biollante (in its final, terrifying form) and the remaining JSDF. In the end, Biollante leaves Earth and rises up into outer space, and Godzilla wakes back up and marches back out to sea, having had enough for one day.
I should also note that this film introduces a psychic named Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka) who pops up throughout the rest of the Heisei series.
#4. GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH
Time travelers from the future screw with Godzilla’s origins, by swiping the “Godzillasaurus” that would eventually get irradiated and turn into the King of the Monsters. They drop the wounded beast in a new location so he won’t get nuked and mutated in the 1950s, but they also suspiciously leave behind a trio of cute critters called “Dorats.” When they zip back to present day Japan, it is discovered that the Dorats have morphed into KING GHIDORAH!
As an added bonus, the Futurians fail to realize that in the late 1970s, a Russian nuclear submarine sank near the area that they teleported the Godzillasaurus. This oversight results in a bigger, stronger, and meaner Godzilla who makes short work of King Ghidorah. During the film’s climax, Godzilla is defeated by the reconstituted Mecha-King Ghidorah, and plunged into the sea while still attached to the three-headed cyborg.
The events in this film majorly shake up the Godzilla universe. In a misguided attempt to halt Godzilla’s creation, the Futurians’ plan failed to factor in one little detail: The Godzillasaurus found on Lagos Island was not THE mutated monster that attacked Tokyo in ’54! Apparently it was a different creature of the same species, therefore the original Godzilla still makes landfall in Tokyo in 1954, and is killed by the Oxygen Destroyer. That means that the larger Godzilla that shows up in THE RETURN OF GODZILLA, is the direct result of the Futurians meddling!
#5. GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA
A trio of monsters awaken to cause humanity some grief, but it’s our own fault because of our abusive relationship with Mother Earth. Mothra hatches from an egg, Godzilla awakens from his underwater slumber, and a new creature called Battra rises from its centuries-long hibernation. Mothra is the only one friendly towards humanity, as Battra intends on destroying our species to protect the Earth.
The three monsters eventually clash, but in a surprise twist, Mothra and Battra team up to take on Godzilla. They gang-up on the King of the Monsters in an epic battle, then drag him back out to sea. Battra, mortally wounded, falls into the ocean depths with Godzilla, never to be seen again. With Battra dead, and Godzilla temporarily incapacitated, Mothra flies out to the cold void of space in order to save the planet from an asteroid that is set to strike the Earth in the near future.
#6. GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA II
Scientists discover a mysterious egg on “Birth Island,” and soon Godzilla and an upgraded Rodan begin a custody battle over it. Eventually the egg hatches and a baby Godzilla emerges. (“Rodan… you are NOT the father!”) The two radioactive reptiles still can’t come to an agreement over who the infant monster belongs to, so humanity creates Mechagodzilla (using tech recovered from Mecha-King Ghidorah) to fight them both.
Armed to the teeth, and clad in heat-deflecting artificial diamond armor (which was also used to create the Super X2’s devastating reflector beam in GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE), the giant robot goes into battle against the two feuding, fire-breathing monsters. Mechagodzilla deals Fire Rodan a mortal blow, and even manages to successfully “kill” Godzilla with a new weapon called the “G-Crusher.”
Fire Rodan flies over to its fallen kaiju comrade and gives up its remaining life force and nuclear energy to the Big-G. Godzilla heals, becomes super-charged with radioactive power, and easily defeats the briefly victorious robot. Then he marches back to the sea with Baby Godzilla in tow as the films ends.
#7. GODZILLA VS. SPACEGODZILLA
Utilizing the remains of Mechagodzilla, Japan’s “G-Force” builds M.O.G.U.E.R.A. (Mobile Operation Godzilla Universal Expert Robot Aero-type, henceforth known as Moguera), in order to defend themselves from kaiju threats. This time however, the main threat is not Godzilla, but a strange mutation not of this Earth.
Somehow Godzilla DNA combined with a crystalline life-form in the far reaches of space, and created a rampaging monster with a laundry list of powers, and a hankering for mass destruction. How did Godzilla cells get off of our planet? No one seems absolutely certain, but most likely it is because of Biollante or Mothra’s departure from the planet after defeating Godzilla in their respective films.
On it’s path to Earth, Spacegodzilla engages in a short space battle with Moguera before arriving on he planet’s surface. Spacegodzilla captures and imprisons Godzilla’s offspring (the radioactive bubble-blowing Little Godzilla), and then wages war upon the King of the Monsters. (“There can be only ONE… Godzilla!”)
Eventually, the main pilot of Moguera, Major Akira Yuki (whose friend Lt. Goro Gondo was killed in GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE), teams with Godzilla to take on their mutual threat. Spacegodzilla is eventually defeated, Moguera is completely destroyed, and Godzilla goes back to “Birth Island” to hone his parenting skills.
#8. GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH
Godzilla becomes a ticking nuclear time bomb, and his death will result in one of two outcomes: 1.) He explodes after reaching 1200 degrees Celsius and destroys the planet or 2.) he melts down and burns a hole straight into the Earth’s core (the dreaded “China Syndrome”), which will also destroy the world. Scientists and the military scramble to find a solution, leading to the creation of the Super X-3, which is armed with weaponry designed to completely freeze its targets.
This is used as a time-saving measure while scientists attempt to recreate Dr. Serizawa’s formula for the Oxygen Destroyer. However, there was a side effect of his experiments, resulting in a horrifying mutation of ancient Precambrian lifeforms. The resulting killer crustaceans invade Tokyo, and continue to grow and evolve. Eventually the military can no longer contain the threat, so a plan is hatched to get Godzilla Jr. (Godzilla’s teenage offspring) to come to Japan and fight the new kaiju threat (henceforth known as Destoroyah).
Utilizing Miki Saegusa’s psychic powers, the young Godzilla is willed towards Tokyo where he fights against, and is killed by, Destoroyah. Godzilla, having been tailing his offspring across the Pacific, arrives on the scene and attempts to revive his fallen kaiju-kid. After several failed attempts to literally breathe life into the dead monster, Godzilla becomes enraged and throws himself at Destoroyah.
The two powerful kaiju trade blows and injure each other, until Destoroyah has enough and tries to flee the scene. As it takes flight, Destoroyah is accosted by the Super X-3 and a group of mazers. The resulting attack freezes the giant monster in midair, causing it to crash back to the ground and explode.
Godzilla in the meantime has finally begun to (literally) melt down. The Super X-3 and other futuristic military weapons blast the dying King of the Monsters to minimize any damage done. However, the amount of radiation released by the deceased kaiju is astronomically high, effectively making Tokyo completely uninhabitable.
Or at least that would have been the case had the radiation levels not suddenly dropped. As a shadowy figure rises from the smoke and debris, everyone realizes that Godzilla Jr. has not only absorbed all of the radiation, but has also matured into a fully grown Godzilla! The lineage shall continue!
This is where the timeline ends, as the next film in the series, GODZILLA 2000, takes place in an alternate timeline after the events of 1954’s GOJIRA. The same applies to the remainder of the Millennium films, with each one going back to the original classic as a starting point, and ignoring all the other Showa and Heisei films completely. (Though in GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS, the Oxygen Destroyer is never utilized against Godzilla in 1954, so the Big-G never dies!)
So what’s the deal? Why do less than a third of the films truly have anything to do with each other?
The fan answer: I chalk up the bulk of the Showa and Millennium inconsistencies to the time-traveling shenanigans in GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH. My theory is that the Futurians’ tampering caused a rippling effect, resulting in numerous timelines in coexisting universes. This would explain why there’s a lack of continuity in the series, and also explain why Godzilla’s look has changed so much in the past sixty years. It also explains the odd “Godzilla and friends are only make-believe” universe in GODZILLA’S REVENGE!
The honest answer: I figure that after you reach a certain point in a franchise, the continuity just isn’t all that important any longer. (Just look at the Bond films for another frame of reference, or even the later FRIDAY THE 13TH movies.) There was a brief attempt to maintain some sort of continuity in the first few Showa films (e.g. Godzilla is buried under stone and ice in GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, then exits an iceberg in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA), but it quickly became irrelevant. The only things of importance are that Godzilla’s overall appearance remains the same, and that the films be entertaining.
If you study the Godzilla series even closer, you’ll see that there’s at least NINE different timelines. Aside from the one I just put together, there’s an alternate timeline started by GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN where Godzilla goes from becoming a destructive force of nature, to the defender of the Earth. Then there’s ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (a.k.a. GODZILLA’S REVENGE) which takes place in yet another timeline where Godzilla and his kajiu pals are all imaginary creatures. They primarily exist only in films and the imagination of a bullied child.
Then there are the alternate timelines generated by GODZILLA 2000, GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS, GODZILLA, MOTHRA, KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL OUT ATTACK (which goes for more of a mystical and mythological approach to the film’s kaiju), GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA, its direct sequel GODZILLA: TOKYO S.O.S., and finally GODZILLA: FINAL WARS. And then there’s the much maligned 1998 GODZILLA, which (in my opinion) has become canon at this point.
You can argue that statement, but I see it as part of the franchise now considering that the events Tri-star’s Godzilla are briefly referenced in GMK. On top of that “Zilla” appears in GODZILLA: FINAL WARS, where it is quickly killed in Syndey, Australia by the real King of the Monsters. But now this opens up a can of new worms because Zilla’s existence forms a bridge between two films that don’t even take place in the same universe!
And finally, Gareth Edwards new GODZILLA reboot constructs an entirely new timeline for everyone’s favorite mon-star! From what I have gathered from watching it, the film takes place in its own, self-contained universe with no connection to the original GOJIRA. If anything, it seems to take its cues from GIGANTIS: THE FIRE MONSTER (the Americanized recut of GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN), which stated that “Gigantis” and his ilk were born out of, and thrived in, the highly volcanic early eras of our planet.
Well, that’s pretty much all I have left to say on this topic, but I’d really love to hear some thoughts and speculation from any of you faithful readers and Godzilla fans. Do you agree with my “official” timeline, or does it need some more fine tuning? And out of all the numerous timelines in the Godzilla universe, which ones are your personal favorites? Let me know in the comments section below!