Godzilla's "New" Cinematic Universe Is Actually 60 Years Old

This obsession with shared cinematic universes may be all the rage right now, but the concept didn’t begin with Iron Man and the MCU. There have been intricate, overlapping film franchises for a while, which is why the Japanese studio behind Godzilla’s announcement that it’s making a cinematic universe focusing on the iconic kaiju feels underwhelming. It’s good news for Godzilla fans to be sure, but it’s not earth-shaking, and that’s to Toho Studio’s credit.

Keiji Ota, who heads up the Godzilla movies at Toho, told Nikkei Style about the studio’s plans for the King of the Monster going forward. In comments which were translated by the fan site group Gormaru Island, Ota explained that the studio plans on cranking out Godzilla movies starting in 2021. (The deal with Legendary Entertainment’s in-progress American Godzilla shared universe prevents Toho from making their own films until that year).

“After 2021, we’re thinking of a potential strategy that [releases] Godzilla movies uninterrupted at a rate of every 2 years, although there is a preference for a yearly pace as well,” Ota said. “The future of the series and its forwarding developments are very conscious of the method of ‘shared universe.’ Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, etc. could all share a single world view much like a Marvel movie where Iron Man and the Hulk can crossover with each other.”

This sounds cool, but it’s also what Toho has been doing for, oh, 60 years or so. The first Godzilla flick came out in 1954 and it was quickly followed by a sequel, Godzilla Raids Again, in 1955. A sequel isn’t quite a shared universe, but the third movie in 1962 had Godzilla face off with King Kong. Then, 1964’s Godzilla vs. Mothra marked the start of a true cinematic universe, as Mothra made her debut three years earlier in a movie that was originally meant to be a standalone film before she joined the Godzilla series. Rodan, the giant Pteranodon kaiju, similarly made its debut in 1956’s Rodan before joining the Godzilla series in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. In that movie, Rodan actually first appears in the very location where the kaiju was presumed to have died in Rodan, so there’s some real continuity. Then there’s 1968’s Destroy All Monsters, which might as well be the kaiju Avengers given how many monsters from various spin-offs it ropes in for the action.

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What is this if not a shared universe?

Toho has played around with continuity before, as they’ve rebooted the franchise a couple times. The 15 movies made before 1975 share continuity, while the movies from the ‘80s and ‘90s are sequels to the original 1954 Godzilla only.

It’s unclear if Toho’s upcoming Godzilla cinematic universe will draw on the original film or start from scratch. It won’t, however, include a sequel to Shin Godzilla.

Shin Godzilla was a huge hit, but instead of thinking of doing the obvious idea of making a Shin Godzilla 2, instead think about a world that can be used for a long time,” Ota said. “I’d rather make a World of Godzilla.”

That sounds great, but it feels like Ota isn’t giving Toho enough credit. The studio has already made a kaiju-sized cinematic universe. This is just the latest iteration of it.

Media via Toho