Godzilla Franchise Timeline.
As a big fan of Star Trek I have observed that continuity is an important and fun aspect of being a fan. Since the 1960s Star Trek has grown into a large universe of stories and characters that fans like to have molded into a cohesive continuity. For the large part it has been successful. The Godzilla franchise is a different story. I have observed that continuity is important for some fans of the franchise but not to the degree it is for Trekkies. For myself I do not feel continuity is as important in the Godzilla franchise as it is for my enjoyment of Star Trek. In Star Trek the focus in storytelling is on the human characters we can relate to, so I find continuity more essential in that franchise. In Godzilla stories the general focus is on a giant monster and only a very few human characters are featured in more than one movie. That lessens the need for continuity between films for my enjoyment.
Before I move forward I want to distinguish the difference between Continuity and Canon. I have been on forums and message boards where some fans use these terms interchangeably. They are not synonyms. Canon refers simply to a complete body of work. Continuity is the weaving together of i the characteristics of characters, plot, objects, and places as understood by the reader or viewer. So something can be Cannon, part of the official body of work, but not be congruent with established continuity. Even in Godzilla movies some type of Continuity exists and is essential. For example, Godzilla being basically a monster that is indestructible and having the ability to breath a plasma/fire type of weapon is established continuity for the character. That is one main reason why many fans turned up their noses at the 1998 American version of Godzilla. The American version of Godzilla deviated away from the continuity of the established characteristics of Godzilla that it was difficult for fans to see that creature as the Godzilla they have come to enjoy and appreciate.
The Godzilla franchise is divided into three eras. The first two eras are named after the reign name of the Emperor of Japan. A unique aspect of the Japanese monarchy is that during the reign of a monarch the emperor is not refereed to by his given name. He is simply called the Emperor or His Imperial Majesty the Emperor. After the death of the emperor his reign will be given a name. In the case of Emperor Hirohito who ruled from 1926 to 1989 his posthumous reign is called the Shōwa Era. Therefore the Godzilla movies made from 1954 to 1975 are called the Shōwa Series of Godzilla movies.
Godzilla was retired for 9 years after 1975 and this is where the naming of the eras of Godzilla movies makes an exception. The Godzilla movies made from 1984 until 1996 are called the Heisei Series which is the future reign name of Japan’s current Emperor, Akihito. In 1984 Toho Studios rebooted the Godzilla franchise. While technically the 1984 movie, called simply Gojira in Japan and Return of Godzilla in the US, it was produced and released in the Shōwa Era of Godzilla movies it is considered part of the Heisei Series due to the fact that the movie started a new continuity that would continue for the next 6 Godzilla films. The Heisei Series of Godzilla movies ignores the existence of all the Shōwa series movies except for the 1954 original.
After the failure, or shall I say relative failure, of the 1998 American Godzilla film Toho decided to continue to make more Godzilla films. Starting in 1999 with the movie Godzilla 2000 and continuing for 5 more movies culminating in the 2004, 50th anniversary extravaganza, Godzilla: Final Wars. This series of movies has come to be known as the Millennium Series. Each of these movies ignores both the Shōwa and Heisei movies to a large or lesser degree. Godzilla 2000 does not mention any previous movie but does indicate Godzilla has been around before. Except for Shōwa Era and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (which is a story told in two parts) none of the Millennium Series movies are connected to each other.Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack mentions the American Godzilla giving some evidence that would place that movie as part of the Millennium Series. Godzilla: Final Wars is difficult to place. Since it is a celebration of 50 years of Godzilla and given the fact that most of the monsters featured in the film are from the Shōwa Series (with some exceptions) most place it with the Millennium Series due solely to the fact that it was released in 2004.
I enjoy all the movies pretty equally across the three series. Although I grew up on the Shōwa Series, my first Godzilla movie in the theater was Destroy All Monsters in 1969, my favorite series is the Millennium Series because I enjoy the stories more, they are less campy than the later Shōwa Series, and the special effects are so much improved over the other series and there are at least 4 different Godzilla designs to enjoy.
Posted on November 7, 2012, in Captain's Log... and tagged Emperor of Japan, Godzilla, Godzilla: Final Wars, Heisei Series, Ishirō Honda, Showa Series, Shōwa Era, Toho Studios. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.