It’s been an eventful couple of weeks for Godzilla fans. Though it got a bit lost in the shuffle thanks to all the news coming out of San Diego Comic-Con, the second installment in Netflix’s anime Godzilla trilogy is now available to stream. Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle continues the story — and the thread of Planet of the Apes homages — from Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, as protagonist Haruo Sakaki and the remnants of humanity encounter a tribe of telepathic, underground-dwelling humanoids, who worship a glowing egg instead of a nuclear bomb like the mutants in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. The movie also features the King of the Monsters squaring off against the “autonomous smart metal” of Mechagodzilla City.
Then, of course, there is the epic trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which introduced Rodan, Mothra, and the three-headed King Ghidorah into Legendary Entertainment’s MonsterVerse. Casual fans and viewers who are new to the mythos may have some questions about all these new allies and adversaries entering Godzilla’s world. Let’s crack open the case files on Mechagodzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah. Here’s everything you need to know.
Mechagodzilla made his first appearance in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), a film that ranked high last year on Jacob Knight’s definitive ranking of all the Godzilla movies for /Film. Initially, Mechagodzilla took a page from the Transformers playbook of “robots in disguise,” concealing his shiny metallic form beneath a scaly reptilian hide nearly identical to that of the real Godzilla. This allowed him to pass himself off as a rampaging Godzilla before the true King of the Monsters showed up to give us some Godzilla-on-Godzilla action.
Controlled by aliens in silver ‘70s space costumes, it didn’t take long for Mechagodzilla to reveal his true form: that of a robot whose spinning hands could fire off finger rockets. Transitioning from the Showa era to the Heisei era and into the new millennium, the character would appear in several more Toho productions in various incarnations, with Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) being the first to reimagine him as a manmade weapon.
The scene in that movie where a human-piloted, diamond-coated Mechagodzilla is deployed against Godzilla from an underground hangar is very reminiscent of Pacific Rim, though of course, it predates Guillermo del Toro’s ultimate mechs-versus-monsters film by two full decades. As goofy as the suitmation in Toho’s Godzilla films can look sometimes, this is one of those glorious scenes that manages to transcend the B-movie it’s trapped in and still inspire awe a quarter of a century later. It was the sight of cool Japanese mechs like Mechagodzilla that laid the very groundwork for Gipsy Danger and Del Toro’s other so-called “Jaegers.”
One of the words witnesses use to describe Mechagodzilla is “cyborg” and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002) leans hard into the true definition of that, making Mechagodzilla a bio-mechanical offshoot of the original 1954 Godzilla’s skeleton.
2018 actually saw Mechagodzilla re-emerge in two separate movies. One of those is Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, where Mechagodzilla toasts the Iron Giant with his fire-breath and swipes aside the gull-winged Back to the Future DeLorean with his tail before Gundam enters the field of battle to give the metal monster a run for his money. The other is the aforementioned Netflix anime, Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle, where Mechagodzilla is given the Galactus treatment.
Alas, while Planet of the Monsters delivered a post-credits teaser image of Mechagodzilla’s head, and while City on the Edge of Battle does include frequent mention of Mechagodzilla’s name, fans hoping to see an earth-shaking battle between Godzilla and his old robotic counterpart may have been disappointed (perhaps even infuriated) by the movie’s lack of actual Mechagodzilla. As it turns out, the anime version of Mechagodzilla has already failed before the movie starts and it’s only his “nanometal” remnants that are left behind to power the human stronghold of Mechagodzilla City. Godzilla, too, is curiously absent: it’s a 100-minute movie but he only shows up at the 67-minute mark.
Rodan and Mothra
By now, the cat’s long since out of the bag that Godzilla and King Kong will be crossing over as part of the same cinematic MonsterVerse with 2020’s Godzilla vs Kong. Before that happens, however, we’ve still got one more movie to go where some of Godzilla’s other classic allies and adversaries will be making a grand entrance in their first American summer tentpole feature. The Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer (read our breakdown here) contains glimpses of two winged kaiju who will be joining the title character in his next movie. Those two monsters, Rodan and Mothra, were first teased along with King Ghidorah in cave paintings at the end of Kong: Skull Island.
Rodan is the first one we see on the cave wall; he’s the giant pteranodon. As her name implies, Mothra is the giant moth. Both Rodan and Mothra were introduced in their own self-titled movies back in 1956 and 1961, respectively. It was only after the original King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) that they, in turn, linked up with Godzilla, co-starring with him in a couple of crossover features. Mothra vs. Godzilla and Ghirodah, the Three-Headed Monster both hit theaters in 1964, the year of the first Tokyo Summer Olympics.
As you can probably gather from the titles of those two flicks, Rodan is not a marquee name. Though he’s often shown up to engage in kaiju wrestlemania with Godzilla and other monsters, the poor pteranodon has actually never been featured in the title of a Godzilla movie. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, King of the Monsters director Michael Doughtery said:
“Rodan’s been kind of a sidekick character, but I’ve always had a soft spot for him. In a lot of ways he’s more powerful than Godzilla. He’s like this winged A-bomb.”
Doughtery also indicated that there will come a “key moment” in the movie when Godzilla will use his atomic breath as a “call to arms,” perhaps signaling Rodan and Mothra to come to his aid against King Ghidorah (more on that bad mamma jamma in a minute). What’s interesting about Rodan is that he apparently starts out King of the Monsters lying “in pyrostasis within the restless magma” of an active volcano. The viral description of the character notes:
“Rodan’s wings are wrapped around its body in stasis, but our cryptos estimate a wingspan big enough to create a sonic thunderclap capable of leveling entire cities as it flies overhead. RF-Capture scans reveal that Rodan’s skin is not made of rock, but does have an outer dermis of sharp volcanic sediment collected from centuries of dormancy.”
In Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, there’s a scene where Rodan goes to town on Godzilla with his beak and we can hear and almost feel every squishy peck. If, as Skull Island tells us, “Kong is not the only king,” then Rodan is the King of the Skies and it appears he may lay waste to Washington, D.C. in King of the Monsters.
In contrast to Rodan, Mothra has traditionally been more of a headlining act, sharing top billing, for instance, in Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001). The character has appeared in over a dozen films and even after she was folded into the Godzilla franchise, she was still popular enough that she and her son starred in their own separate trilogy of films. Through the years, Mothra has served as a protector of her own island as well as the Japanese archipelago and Earth itself.
In Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Mothra’s ability to spin cocoons proves instrumental in defeating Ghidorah and saving the world. Maybe that’s why Mothra has her own dedicated Temple of the Moth in the MonsterVerse, where reliefs of her are carved in stone walls.
The trailer for King of the Monsters indicates that Mothra will be appearing in multiple forms, both as a larva and as a creature who has undergone metamorphosis behind a waterfall to become a full-grown, angelic, bioluminescent kaiju with massive moth wings. Mothra’s particular species of kaiju is that of the “Divine Moth,” and if she can bring the same majesty to the movie that her wing-spreading moment brought to the trailer, then King of the Monsters should be both a dark spectacle and a thing of beauty.
The King of the Monsters trailer offered a brief glimpse of one other kaiju, a three-headed dragon encased in ice who could later be seen rearing his wings against a backdrop of smoke and lightning. King Ghidorah is one serious bruiser, a kaiju that strikes fear in the hearts of humans and monsters alike. In Destroy All Monsters (1968), it took the combined might of Godzilla and six other monsters to take down Ghidorah. Consider also this description of Ghidorah from the viral website of Monarch, the cryptozoological organization introduced at the end of Kong: Skull Island:
“Muscle tendons on the wings are so hyper-tensile that their massive aerodynamics could generate hurricane-force winds when in flight. Coupled with its body’s electro-receptor molecular biology capable of conducting electrical currents, water vapor in the air would be heated at extreme levels creating its own localized storm system as it travels. Simply put, if Monster Zero were to fly again, the stratosphere would be torn open by an otherworldly tempest of thunder and lightning our sky has never seen.”
Ghidorah has a long history of multi-monster encounters dating back to his first appearance in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, where Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan teamed up against him in a bout of three-on-one (or three-on-three, if you count Ghidorah’s heads individually). With all of these kaiju appearing in King of the Monsters, the stage could certainly be set for a reprisal of that first throwdown, allowing Ghidorah once again — to steal a phrase from video game parlance — to function as the “final boss.”
Even before the trailer for King of the Monsters hit, Vera Farmiga had teased that her character, Dr. Russell, might be able to control the kaiju “using their bioacoustics on a sonar level.” Trailers can be intentionally misleading, but the way this one was cut — with her calling humankind an infection, saying, “The earth unleashed a fever to fight this infection, its original and rightful rulers, the Titans” — almost made Dr. Russell seem poised to take on a mad scientist role. Farmiga already played Psycho mom Norma Bates on television, so that would be in her wheelhouse and it would also explain why her husband and daughter in the trailer seem to be telling her, “You are out of your god-damned mind,” and “You’re a monster.”
If Dr. Russell goes off the reservation and unleashes the Titans on humanity and its defender, Godzilla, then it’s a safe bet Ghidorah will be her ace in the hole. Maybe he’ll be on ice for the first part of the movie as Godzilla deals with other monsters like Rodan, and then he’ll be unthawed to provide a third-act mega-threat. Another possibility is that Dr. Russell’s intentions are genuinely good, albeit tragically misunderstood: she knows that Godzilla alone cannot stop Ghidorah and that’s why she insists, “Unless all the Titans are found, our planet will perish and so will we.” The fact that Ghidorah has “claw and scorch marks” on his body suggests he may have already tussled with the other monsters before being frozen.
Whatever the case, Ghidorah is officially designated as “Monster Zero” on the Monarch website. Over the years, he’s gone by a number of different nicknames and honorifics, my personal favorite being “Emperor of the Cosmos.” It wouldn’t be surprising if the line that Charles Dance utters in the trailer, “Long live the king,” comes after Ghidorah has defeated Godzilla in solo combat, precipitating the need for Godzilla to regroup and assemble a super-team of kaiju united against the common foe of Ghidorah. It would make for one hell of a visual to see Godzilla decapitate one of Ghidorah’s heads again like he did in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991).
There are a lot of monsters vying for the crown of King Kaiju now—let’s not forget King Kong, either, who will be facing off with Godzilla in 2020. After that, Toho will begin marshaling the forces of its own Japanese Godzilla shared universe. In the meantime, Ghidorah was also teased in City on the Edge of Battle, which could mean we’ll be seeing an anime version of the character in the final installment of Netflix’s trilogy (or at least a city made out of his bones, should they decide to give him the Galactus treatment, too). With all these high-profile Godzilla movies circling, there’s really no end in sight to the kaiju action. It’s a good time to be a Godzilla fan.
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