Tokyo Fest Celebrates Godzilla's 64th Birthday, With No Retirement in Sight

Godzilla Resurgence -Still 1 -H 2016
Courtesy of Intercontinental Film Distributors

The latest film in the classic monster franchise will close this year's festival.

Godzilla reaches pensionable age in 2019, which will mark 65 years since the release of the first film in the iconic franchise. But the King of Monsters is not quite ready for retirement yet.

Nov. 3, the release date of Ishiro Honda's 1954 original classic, has been designated Godzilla's birthday, and it will be doubly commemorated this year in the city the monster first stomped all over so many years ago.

The Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) will close on Nov. 3 with Godzilla: The Planet Eater, the final part of an animated trilogy produced by Toho Animation and Polygon Pictures for Netflix. Co-directors Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita walked the opening red carpet on Oct. 25 with two of the voice cast and a rubber-suited Godzilla that harked back to the early films. 

The closing film will screen at the Tokyo International Forum, also featuring appearances by the directors and voice cast.

Across the road at the recently opened Hibiya Midtown complex, the newest TIFF venue, the so-called Godzilla Fest 2018 will be held on the same day. The event will feature some of the suits from the original films, a large array of merchandise, a talk show from people involved in the productions over the years and more attractions.

Released less than a decade after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in the same year a boatload of Japanese fishermen suffered radiation poisoning from a U.S. nuclear test at Bikini Atoll, the impact of the original Godzilla reflected the fears of the time. In the film, the prehistoric monster was stirred and strengthened by radiation, but Godzilla was seen by many as a metaphor for nuclear weapons.

The iconic franchise has so far run to 34 films — three of those being Hollywood productions — which have seen Godzilla take on a menagerie of foes, including monsters, giant robots, human armies and King Kong.

Honda's 1962 King Kong vs. Godzilla was a huge hit, bringing the two legendary monsters together, both in wide-screen and color for the first time. It sold more than 11.2 million tickets in Japan and a further 1.2 million in re-release runs in later years. Its success convinced Toho to turn Godzilla into a franchise and release a new film every year.

In total, Godzilla films have sold more than 111 million tickets in Japan, making it the most-watched cinematic franchise in the country until it was overtaken in 2013 by Doraemon, an animated "cat-type robot."

But there is still life in the old monster.

Legendary Pictures has Godzilla: King of the Monsters, directed by Michael Dougherty. slated for release next year and Godzilla vs. Kong by Adam Wingard due in 2020. Once the licensing deal with Legendary ends in 2020, Toho is planning a series of reboots set in a cinematic universe populated by monsters from its roster.