By Alyssa Charpentier, GUG Contributor
This article was edited to Geeks Under Grace standards, and the personal opinions of this author are not necessarily that of Geeks Under Grace.
“He is the symbol of a world gone wrong… a merciless undertaker who broaches no deals.” (Mark Jacobson, New York Magazine)
Spawned as a legend and mutated into a legacy, Godzilla, king of the monsters, gained prevalence as one of cinema’s most beloved creatures. With a fan following and star status to rival King Kong, the Japanese reptilian giant has enthralled audiences for nearly 70 years. Among Godzilla’s crowning characteristics are his deific demeanor and larger-than-life personality, complementing his oversized form. His destructive inclinations and origin may share more similarities with the supernatural realm than is often believed — giving Godzilla many intriguing, if surprising, parallels to the Christian God.
At a glance, this connection can seem implausible; Godzilla is, after all, a man-made monster whose incredible size and strength derive from the nuclear weapons that irradiated him. He is also a flesh-and-blood animal, has been killed or badly defeated in past films — including his 1954 debut, Gojira — and is the brainchild of Japanese filmmakers, who likely did not intend any nods to Christianity. Despite this, Godzilla possesses multiple, sometimes subtler, parallels to the Almighty, such as his enduring legacy or “entertainment eternality,” god-like powers and royal status, battles against Satanic monsters, and calculated, destructive judgment upon humankind.
Godzilla’s origin is attributed to nuclear weapons reflecting American hydrogen bomb tests in the 1950s and the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Radiation exposure awakened and transformed a slumbering prehistoric dinosaur into something fierce and deadly, a monster the Japanese called “Gojira.” “Gojira” combines the Japanese word for gorilla (“gorira”) with the word for whale (“kujira”), denoting Godzilla’s extraordinary size, strength, aquatic lifestyle, and intelligence. Upon mutating, Godzilla wreaked havoc on Tokyo, personifying the victimization and destruction inherent to nuclear weapons.
The original film includes lore about Godzilla indicative of his supernatural status. Locals on Odo Island, a fictional land mass off the coast of Japan, allude to a mythical sea beast to whom they would sacrifice fish and even human girls in times past. Later, they conduct a ritual they hope will ward off the creature and prevent its visitation after a ship is mysteriously set aflame in the Pacific Ocean, an unsuccessful venture. Godzilla destroys the Odo Island village shortly after making landfall, seemingly confirming himself as the beast of legend.
In a Classic Media DVD commentary for the film, historians Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle reveal a nuance behind Godzilla’s origin: “In [Gojira], we never really know if the monster is a legendary beast or a nuclear mutant or both. The creature has a mythical dimension that’s rooted [on Odo Island] in the past… where the people have lived in fear of this monster god for years.”
Meanwhile, the commentary explains the younger villagers do not believe in their island’s legendary monster god. They are cynical about this esteemed superstitious nonsense, something director Ishiro Honda may have highlighted to illustrate generational differences in a modernizing Japan. Interestingly, such attitudes mirror our own today: the young generations increasingly reject God and Christianity, while their parents and grandparents fret over this absence of religiosity.
Heroism and Fatherhood
The Kaiju King diversifies his roles and personas as the Godzilla series progresses. He becomes a fierce defender of Earth and even a friend to children and humanity in films like Godzilla Vs. Hedorah (1971), All Monsters Attack (1969), and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). Children cheer for him when he appears and believe Godzilla will protect them and their world from a battery of aliens, mutants, and other evil entities. Son of Godzilla (1967), another gem from the saga’s Shōwa era, sees Godzilla embrace a paternal role as he develops a loving bond with his son, Minilla, and defends him from dangerous creatures.
Godzilla’s unwavering loyalty to progeny and friends, recognition of good and evil, and tenacious will against enemies distinguish him from “mere monster” territory. This isn’t a random irradiated ant; this is an intelligent being with feelings, judgment, fatherly instincts, and masculine characteristics, all of which are human and God-like qualities.
Godzilla’s evolution continues through to his edgy antihero Heisei and Millennium days when he changes from humanity’s selfless defender to his eventual “must destroy mankind” roots that layer further complexities onto his character.
Supernatural Judgment Against a Generation
Perhaps most notably Judeo-Christian-God of him is his dealings with mortals. Godzilla isn’t known for dancing delicately around Tokyo, Kyoto, or other major metropolises — much the opposite! He’s famed for breaking things, and his city-wide executions are frequently rooted in judgment and anger.
Godzilla is a decidedly supernatural entity in Shusuke Kaneko’s GMK (2001). He descends on an apathetic Japan as the rage-filled embodiment of all the spirits of soldiers who perished in the Pacific War. Like God, Godzilla delivers devastating blows to a calloused and forgetful generation that has forgotten the sacrifices and suffering of the past. This version of Godzilla exists solely to execute judgment and awaken the sleepy cynicism that has gripped modern Japan — lest they forget their history entirely. If this resembles the Old Testament Israel treatment, it’s probably because it essentially is.
Godzilla Kills Mr. Shindo in Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
Godzilla’s retribution-exacting character doesn’t end there. Enter Yasuaki Shindo from Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991).
The former Imperial Japanese Army Major’s life was saved in 1944 from American troops when a not-yet-irradiated Godzilla, known then as Godzillasaurus, defended Shindo’s garrison against the opposing forces. Shindo returned to Japan from the war to become a highly successful businessman and the head of the prosperous Teiyo Group corporation. Not long after, Godzillasaurus became Godzilla upon suffering mutation from the American hydrogen bomb detonations near his home island.
When time travelers visit 1992 Japan from the 23rd century, they warn Godzilla will destroy Japan in the future. In reality, Japan will swell into an exceedingly wealthy global superpower, partially because of Yasuaki Shindo’s Teiyo Group. Shindo’s perhaps once benign and patriotic inclinations to rebuild Japan into a flourishing nation after World War II eventually, even if unintentionally, overflowed into excess. According to one character, Japan deserves destruction because of its “vain prosperity and lack of concern over nuclear waste.” Shindo’s Teiyo Group contributed significantly to the bustling metropolises and soaring skylines that had come to define post-war, bubble economy-era Japan — and consequently eroded the country’s time-honored traditions of modesty, honor, and self-restraint, shifting Japan from a simpler nation into an economic mogul.
Later, the time-traveling Futurians return to 1944 to Godzillasaurus’s island to prevent his transformation into Godzilla, revealing they created their own monster, King Ghidorah, from the same bomb blast. This necessitates the transformation of the same Godzilla creature in present-day Japan to fight King Ghidorah, who is now going to destroy Japan in the 20th century. Mr. Shindo provides his illegally owned nuclear submarine to irradiate Godzilla in this altered timeline so he can kill King Ghidorah.
Once Godzilla wins a brutal battle against the dragon, he tears through Sapporo and other parts of Japan. Shindo observes the ruin of these cities and the structures his Teiyo Group company built. He begins to understand this dinosaur who once defended him suffers anew at Shindo’s hands. Realizing he has caused this old ally existential agony and feeling deserving of the monster’s destruction of his symbols of Japanese wealth and material gain, he stares Godzilla in the face through the window of his high-rise office building, gives a slight nod as if to indicate his penitent acceptance of fate, and receives a radioactive blast from Godzilla’s mouth — but not before Godzilla’s eyes fill with recognition, tears, and disappointment.
This touching, unspoken man-to-monster moment poignantly expresses Godzilla’s reluctance to destroy his only human friend. Yet he understands Shindo deserves a permanent punishment for his morally vacuous lifestyle and disregard for Godzilla’s well-being when recreating him. When Shindo indicates he recognizes this, Godzilla tearfully removes him from the world, further signifying his emotional intelligence and deep sense of justice.
Shindo, who was once a war hero, devolved into a supplier of tangible displays of human and Japanese arrogance: buildings and cities, Godzilla’s frequent targets in his wrath against mankind. As God desires that none should perish, so did Godzilla in this moving scene… but perish Yasuaki Shindo did.
The King of Kaiju
Producer Shogo Tomiyama equated Godzilla to a Shinto “God of Destruction” during an interview. Dr. Vivienne Graham calls the monster “a god, for all intents and purposes” in 2014’s Godzilla. In the Legendary MonsterVerse, Godzilla is recognized as the “alpha titan,” the supreme ruler over all Earth’s monsters.
When an alien usurper, the “False King,” King Ghidorah, tries to assert himself over Godzilla in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) and force all other kaiju into subservience, he briefly becomes the backdrop for a clear nod to Christianity. As he broadcasts his global call to obedience from an erupting volcano, a cross drifts into the foreground, Ghidorah’s form gilded in an eerie and telling shroud of smoke and flame behind it. Eventually, Ghidorah is brutally deposed and slain by Godzilla, mirroring the fate of the book of Revelation’s dragon, Satan.
Godzilla wins back the allegiance of the kaiju, who all physically bow to him at the movie’s end and acknowledge his status as the genuine king of the monsters. This is the monster world’s equivalent of “every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess.” Godzilla, by his godly powers and superior will — a will far more composed and developed than his brethren — finally takes his rightful throne from the evil dragon.
Powers and Physicality
Godzilla displays a wide range of powers throughout the series, such as his regenerative properties — enabling him to recover from injuries quickly — and majestic summons of lightning bolts when he roars. His signature weapon is a powerful heat ray, a beam of concentrated radiation that spews from his mouth with far greater killing power than your average fire-breathing dragon.
He also possesses a towering figure that looms over cities and foes, decorated with a regal array of jagged dorsal fins. He can gather massive quantities of radiation in his body — thus transforming him into a super-powered, living nuclear reactor.
These fantastical abilities, awe-inspiring physical traits, and the horror and wonder they evoke from humans and monsters place Godzilla on a mythological plane, giving the sense this creature cannot truly lose. He defies death and defeat; often, when he most needs a convenient power-up, he receives it…then promptly annihilates his gloating foes.
Godzilla Never (Truly) Dies
King of the Monsters (2019) wasn’t the only time Godzilla wielded his god-like powers and fought a variation of the Devil (influenced by Go Nagai’s Devilman). In 1995, Godzilla Vs. Destoroyah pitted Godzilla against the titular, hellacious crustacean. After finally killing Destoroyah, who murdered Godzilla’s young son, Junior, Godzilla himself perishes from an internal nuclear meltdown. This looks to be his end until his energy transfers to his deceased son, reviving him and turning him into the new Kaiju King. Godzilla, like God, never truly dies even when his death seems certain, and evil has surely won.
While he has died in films past, in a thematic sense, he always comes back, whether in a reboot or quite literally onscreen. The Godzilla series is the longest-running film franchise in history. Godzilla frequently returns with a roaring vengeance. If he’s not resurrecting from the energy another monster gave him, he will, in a much broader, conceptual way, resurrect in a future film, given time. It is par for the course of Godzilla’s enduring, deific legacy — gods never die!
Gojira conveys the devastation humans invite when they attempt to “play God,” as symbolized by nuclear weapons. Creating and using them — and unleashing their frightful power — revealed the bleak side of humanity’s capabilities.
Godzilla himself demonstrates how humanity’s sinful propensity toward evil, arrogance, materialism, controlling life and nature, and war-mongering inevitably escalates our self-destruction. If the original Godzilla is both a victim and perpetrator of human evil, he symbolizes how our sin grieves God and forces His hand against us when He can no longer bear our wickedness.
Godzilla ultimately exemplifies justice and divine vengeance: a wrath and holy rectification humans cannot contend with. It is above us, beyond us, and endures through generations; good, evil, and cosmic justice are woven through the fabric of our existence. Like the cynical young Odo Islanders in Gojira, we can pretend we don’t believe in it or accept our place in the existential hierarchy: as God’s creation, accountable to His will, and deserving of His judgment.
About the Author
Alyssa Charpentier is a novelist and the author of the Myrk Maiden Trilogy. Her first book, Daughter Darkness (the Myrk Maiden #1) is a recipient of a Silver Award from Literary Titan. Alyssa is passionate about powerful stories, thought-provoking entertainment, and sharing commentary on films, music, and other inspiring media.
This article was edited to Geeks Under Grace standards, and the personal opinions of this author are not necessarily that of Geeks Under Grace.
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