Summer always begins early in the movie theaters.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” started the blockbuster season on May 2. I’ve always wondered why there’s such a rush. High profile films are hustled into shopping malls and play on four or five screens for about four or five times a day. After four or five weeks, most films are played out — the fan base has been exhausted. So another film moves in.
I’ll bet “Spider-Man” will be gone before the middle of June, before kids have even completed their spring sentences in school.
Wonder if “Godzilla” will still be around. The giant reptile, whose usual stomping ground is Tokyo, starts his summer run today. Nobody knows that much about the new version of the Japan’s top anti-hero, who first showed up — as a guy in a rubber suit kicking around toy Army trucks — in 1954. Early reviews are positive, and hint that some gigantic adversaries also appear.
As a pop culture aficionado, I know a few things about Godzilla. Some details were picked up in scholarly pursuit, as I researched a story about the big lummox for a story that appeared in the old Gazette in 1998 — when a much-hyped, big-budget “Godzilla” film starring Matthew Broderick hit the screens. This film’s special effects looked great for 1998, when monsters from the Jurassic Park movie series were still popular, but the film was just hammered by critics. One guy called it “one of the most idiotic blockbuster movies of all time.”
So Godzilla has stayed in the ocean, or wherever the hell he lives when the films are on hiatus, for the past 16 years.
My Godzilla intelligence quotient has also been bolstered by a once nocturnal movie habit. During my teenage years in the 1970s, my brother and friends were usually still hanging out by 11:30 p.m. on summer and weekend nights. If we weren’t watching television and Mexican horror movies like “The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy,” we were watching Japanese science fiction movies like “Godzilla vs. Rodan.”
The Godzilla movies always had something for our barbecue potato chip and orange Crush crowd — the lumbering old lizard’s battle shriek was a cross between an elephant’s cry and a lion’s roar. And we always liked it when Godzilla brought out one of his great moves, like the tail sweep (to knock over a row of tank guns) or the atomic breath (to dismiss irritants like big bird Rodan or big bug Mothra).
The adversaries were also fun to make fun of. Godzilla’s rogues’ gallery was almost as good as Dick Tracy’s lineup of criminal overlords.
Here’s a rundown on some of the weird abominations that have showed up in past Godzilla movies — and may be around for cameo appearances in the new flick. I’m lifting some of these references from a story I wrote about the G-man in ‘98. Nothing goes to waste in our archives!
* King Kong: The big ape showed up in Tokyo for 1962’s “King Kong vs. Godzilla.” The film’s producers gave Kong a new origin and made him bigger than the 1933 American version. On the scoreboard, Godzilla’s atomic breath helped him win the first round. The King rallied in the second fight, and seemed to dispatch the reptile.
* Rodan: The pterodactyl received his own flick in 1956, and winged into several Godzilla movies, often helping the star. He wisely picked few fights with the champ.
* Mothra: Always a favorite, fondly remembered by camp television purists for the twin, miniature singing priestesses who communicate with the giant moth. The noble bug fared poorly in 1964’s “Mothra vs. Godzilla” — she was killed — but her twin infants saved the day by spinning GZ into a huge cocoon.
* King Ghidorah: Three heads are better than one, and three ugly dragon heads at that. This dopey, winged thug from outer space attacked Earth in another 1964 film, with the says-it-all title, “Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.” Godzilla, starting to turn good guy, received assists from Mothra and Rodan to vanquish the three stooges.
* Ebirah: Giant lobster on the menu, and Godzilla has no lemon juice. But lizard against lobster means easy victory in “Ebirah, Horror of the Deep.” Mothra showed up for a cameo fly-by.
* Hedorah: Ecology is the first lesson here, as industrial wastes form a "smog monster" in 1971’s “Godzilla vs. Hedorah.” The second lesson, Godzilla apparently hates smog. The reptile gets help from the military to make Hedorah history.
* Mechagodzilla: From ecology to technology. Alien invaders build a giant mechanical robot to enslave earth in the 1974 entry, “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla,” but Mechagodzilla hasn’t got the head for it — not after Godzilla rips it off.
* Biollante: Would’ja believe a monstrous plant? One that spits radioactive sap? With vines and tendrils? It’s a battle royal in 1989’s “Godzilla vs. Biollante,” and it’s a tie.
* SpaceGodzilla: Some of Godzilla’s cells are sucked into a black hole and out pops SpaceGodzilla, a more powerful version of the original Japanese “kaiju.” There is no hospitality — Godzilla and his robot buddy Mogera put the boots to the visitor in 1994’s “Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla.”
* Charles Barkley: In 1992, current basketball analyst Barkley was one of the National Basketball Association’s roughest power forwards, and his surly moods often rivaled Godzilla’s. The two giants met that year in a Nike sneaker commercial, slamming each other into buildings during a one-on-one basketball game. Looks like Barkley was the winner, and Charles later took a page from the Godzilla battle manual and tossed a tormentor through a plate-glass window.
I don’t think Charles will show up in the new movie — but it would have been a great in-joke to see Charles in the throng of pedestrians who will surely be shown running for safety. Sounds like one of Mothra's relatives, so far. Maybe somebody new - that will be part of the fun, to see who will challenge Godzilla for world bragging rights.