Book Report: Godzilla – The Official Guide By Graham Skipper

While listening to a recent episode of my favorite horror podcast Colors Of The Dark, the hosts talked about Graham Skipper’s 2022 coffee table book Godzilla: The Official Guide To The King Of The Monsters. My interest was piqued, especially because I was reading and greatly enjoying These Fists Break Bricks at that point, so I requested it from the library and read through it in a few days.

As you can probably tell from the title, this book — with a kinda-sorta embossed cover that feels like the top of skateboard — it covers the up-to-this-point history of Godzilla. As a kid I always liked the idea of the Terrible Thunder Lizard, only really catching bits and pieces of movies on TV, but liking what I saw. Later on, when I tried getting into a few of the flicks, I was tripped up by extended scientist scenes (so much talking) and some surprisingly corny scenes with kids. Even so, I feel like my tastes have expanded to include those elements, so a few years ago I got the Criterion Collection Godzilla box set which covers what’s known as the Showa Era which ran from 1954-1975. And yet, I’ve only watched a few.

This book takes a simple approach by going through the films in chronological starting with the incredible original helmed by Ishiro Honda and traveling through the Heisei Era (1984-1995), the Millennium Era (1999-2004) and up through Shin Godzilla, the Monsterverse stuff and the more recent Netflix offerings. And the book is very efficient in achieving that goal with a little bit of background sprinkled around plot details. Given the tome’s status as the Official Guide, it also features some beautifully recreated photos, though I wish there were a few more behind-the-scenes ones.

In reading this one, I was most surprised by the budget constraints on the early films and the long gaps in between eras. I was also surprised by how weird the continuity gets, though I guess I shouldn’t be. It sounds like the Showa flicks follow a relatively loose timeline, the Heisei flicks kind of start the whole thing over and then the Millennium movies take a legacy sequel approach with just about every entry.

I wish I could say I loved this book as much as I did These Fists Break Bricks, but that’s not the case. For one thing, I already had a working list of Godzilla flicks to watch, so there wasn’t that sense of discover, though it was interesting learning the light details of their plots and how they do or don’t fit together. For me, though, I was hoping for something that might offer a few more deep dive type details. I love a good tangent or a kernel of info offered up that could only come the kind of intense research that goes into making a book like this. And you just don’t get that here. If i had to guess, I’d reason that that maybe wasn’t the assignment that Skipper was given. Remember, this is the official guide which means that there might have been restrictions as to what could have been included. I’ve never worked on something like this, but I’ve had my fair share of edicts on what can and can not be covered in a piece.

So, even though Godzilla: The Official Guide To The King Of The Monsters didn’t give me the in-depth-ness I was hoping, it did get me to want to watch those movies I’ve had sitting around all this time! If it sounds like it’s up your ally, it’d be great if you could use this Amazon Associates link.

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