"Continuity within the Godzilla franchise is often bemoaned by fans as being confusing and at times inconsistent with itself."
This statement, a paraphasing of something I continue to hear, makes no sense on the surface. Outside the millennium series, all Godzilla films (and many non-Godzilla toho kaiju films) have a very clear and obvious continuity that they strictly adhere to. Whats more, this continuity is, for the most part, not complicated in the least. In fact, (and I'm going to elaborate on this in a little bit) the most connection the films have to each other is "where did each monster go at the end of the film?" Most of the time, the answers are "Godzilla went back to the sea, Biollante to the sky, King Ghidorah back to space, Rodan and Anguirus back to monster island, and Mothra to infant island." This is not hard to remember, and is even harder to contradict.
So why then, do some fans have such a hard time understanding why everyone remembers Godzilla in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah if he was supposed to be erased from the past? Well, he wasn't, but the real reason behind this is dubbing.
It's very simple: Westerners, and Americans in particular (again, I'm getting to this) have a very deep cultural expectation of what movies should be. We really need plots or else we can't enjoy the movie, in fact, even when a film has no plot, we (this is more a human thing, but it's reinforces my point, so shut up) will project our own interpretation of a series of events onto the images, even if that imagined story doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
They also had a very xenophobic attitude following World War II, and to this day have a bizarre superiority complex in which we view our movies as "more important" than those from other countries. What's more, there is an idea that movies that are imaginative are synonomous with "nonsensical fantasy for children." This last one is quite apparent to anyone who was seen both an American slasher movie and a Japanese ghost movie. One of them takes itself seriously.
These are, of course, generalizations, but many of the individuals actually involved in the "Americanization" of the Godzilla films actually do think this way.
Case in point: Godzilla 2000. This is a great example because there is a commentary track on the region 1 dvd by the team that ruined that particular film. I say "ruined" because I mean it. They had a failing attitude from the start. The plan was not to simply dub the film, but drastically re-edit it for American audiences. They said this, not me, you can listen to them yourself. This film was brought here in 2000, and they were still being "movie-racist." They composed new music which replaced Hattori's, replaced Orga's roar, and changed the name of Godzilla's regenerating ability, making Orga's name make no sense. They also chose to perpetuate the idea that Godzilla can never be anything but campy by staying true to the "spirit" of Godzilla, whatever the hell thats supposed to mean, and actually adding in corny sound effects, melodramatic lines and readings, and other crap I don't care to dwell on.
And that's mild. Godzilla vs. King Kong was completely gutted, and having the oppurtunity of getting the original version, I know understand why everyone says it's the funniest Godzilla... because it is.
Is all the confusion over Godzilla continuity because of the Americanized edits? No, but most of it is. Consider that even in the dubbed Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, which Ishiro Honda even followed himself when he recut the film for the Toho Champion Festival, (or whatever it was called), turned the Venusian into a Martian. One of the few times continuity carries between shows in the Showa timeline, and even that gets screwed up. At least Zone Fighter never saw a U.S. release, so there's that. Is there something that was present in the original films to blame for the confusion of so many fans? Perhaps, and it has to do with expectations of the audience rather than the loopers.
But here's the other thing: American sequels are dangerously dependent on the previous films, making the notion of "continuity" in American films something directly opposed to the kind seen in Japanese monster movies, especially in the showa Toho films.
Examples: If you haven't seen the first Jurassic Park, the first Underworld, the first Alien, the first Tremors, the first Terminator, or really the first anything, you will be entirely out of the loop watching the sequels. The sequels can not stand on their own, they are only entertaining if you've seen the original.
Compare to the Toho Frankenstein films. The first continues the story of "a Frankenstein monster," it never specifies if it follows the Universal series, Hammer series, or just the book, and it doesn't have any need to as all these timelines end well before 1945, giving ample time for the doctors to disappear, and the heart, the last remaining piece of any of the monsters, to come into the possession of a Nazi scientist of ambiguous relationship to the Frankensteins.
The sequel to this film, War of the Gargantuas, is often cited to be only "loosely connected" to the first film and not a genuine sequel.
It is a direct sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World, and the action that takes place in WotG is dependent on FCTW. However, if you have not seen the first one, you aren't going to be confused or lost, becuase the only connection the two films have: what happened to the monsters, is told to the audience several times in order to make sure everyone understands that Frankenstein has regenerated and mutated into these two new giant monsters. Gaira and Sanda are even identified (and this is in the original movie, not the dub) as "green Frankenstein" and "brown Frankenstein," respectively.
So, I don't know how it happened, but somehow the idea that the films aren't dependent on one another enough has been transmuted into them having no relation whatsoever.
And the wierdest part of this phenomenon is that it happens quite frequently. I've even read in an article that said because the technology didn't seem any more advanced than the other 60's Godzilla movies, that Destroy All Monsters must be lying and actually takes place in the year it was made, 1968, rather then what is directly stated.
It seems that, to an American audience, there is a threshold of dependency, and if a sequel is dependent enough, then all refenerances to previous films are simply ignored. It's unbelievable to me, but it does happen, and more often than you would think.
Anyways, this is just a preliminary article trying to make clear that all these misconceptions about the Godzilla timeline are just that: misconceptions. The films do have a clear continuity, and only the purposeful reinterpretations by fans or butcher-happy film editors can screw it up.
Thats why, next time I write one of these, which could today or a week from now, I'm going to set some records straight, as well as do some wild mass guessing that, for the first time, doesn't contradict what is actually said in the films.
So, until then, get out of my house.