I’ve often said that everyone should have a hobby. I am obsessed with James Bond movies. I’m also obsessed with every type of movie monster, big and small. And let’s not forget movie superheroes, movie robots, and movie aliens from outer space, including Klaatu, who supposedly offered an anti-nuclear war message in The Day The Earth Stood Still when he threatened to turn our Earth into a “burned-out cinder!” (It seems to me, he was actually saying that peace is more important than self determination, the autonomy of nations, and national identity. Basically, he wanted everyone on Earth to fear him and obey his dictates. Still… I guess it’s no big deal. After all, the human race has plenty of experience with dictators. But I digress…) As long as I’m on the subject of nuclear war, I would like to discuss the biggest monster in the history of movies (other than Michael Moore). Spawned from nuclear fallout, I am clearly talking about the one and only Godzilla, King of the Monsters! Some of my free time is devoted to painting and building 1/8 scale plastic hobby kits based on many of the great movie icons. Along with James Bond and the monsters of Universal, one may buy kits modeled after the familiar Japanese kaiju line-up. Of course, the Godzilla movie model kits are some of my favorites. Please join me for a closer look at unique items dedicated to a few of the giants of the movie biz…
The first Godzilla movie, Ishiro Honda’s 1954 Gojira (“Godzilla, King of the Monsters” in the United States) may actually be a thinly veiled anti-nuclear war statement, but the hobby kits depict nothing but destruction. Be that as it may, the largest Godzilla kit, which is twice normal size at nearly two feet, accurately approximates a major incident in the film. Amid a destroyed urban landscape with crumbling buildings and debris, Godzilla is happily munching on a pair of passenger train cars! Big “G” himself is wonderfully detailed with a great long tail and huge spiked dorsal fins. Unfortunately, the dramatic effect of the scene is thoroughly destroyed by the size of a military tank on the base. Due to the fact that the tank is grotesquely out of scale in relation to the buildings and train, it is plainly ridiculous.
For color I eschew brush and paint in favor of fine point indelible markers of various shades. To my mind, the results are more satisfying than traditional paint. But my preferred approach certainly is not the norm. And most hobbyists are quite happy with the paint. Be that as it may, when it comes to adding color to the numerous nooks and crannies, the markers actually make it easier for me to more readily avoid mistakes. After color has been applied to each individual part, one must sparingly use the glue when constructing the kit. Otherwise, the mess would likely ruin the appearance of the finished product. And that of course, will not do.
Deciding a color scheme for your kaiju kit is entirely up to you, the hobbyist. The instructions that accompany each kit offer color and shade guidelines, but are essentially meant as recommendations. They are not a hard and fast rule. After all, it’s YOUR hobby kit. You’re the only person who truly knows how it should look. Your personal style and preference is all that matters. For instance… I enjoy using stark, loud, primary colors for the buildings on my kits. As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason to make the base bland, gray, dark, and boring. I know that this type of in-your-face color scheme completely skirts reality, but I don’t care. After all… The entire idea of a giant monster invading an urban landscape also completely skirts reality, doesn’t it?
My favorite Godzilla hobby kit, introduced 50 years ago by Aurora Plastics, has been revived numerous times over the years. Godzilla is walking through an urban landscape amid several crumbling, finely detailed buildings. Unfortunately, Godzilla himself isn’t very well detailed at all. Along with the fact that he has no ears, he’s actually missing a claw on each foot. His dorsal fins are also poorly defined. With all this in mind, why is it my favorite kit? That’s simple… It was the very first hobby kit I ever built when I was a young child. After I returned to building hobby kits in adulthood, this was the kit I most wanted to re-acquire. Nostalgia can be a very powerful emotion.
The best Godzilla kit that I have found has no base at all. It’s a wonderfully detailed, stand-alone model with a marvelous long tail, great individual dorsal fins, huge clawed feet and grasping arms. Unfortunately, as I say, Godzilla isn’t depicted amid numerous destroyed buildings or military hardware. This is disappointing because, after all, what does Godzilla represent if not mayhem and destruction? In any case, as you examine the stills accompanying this article, you will notice that Godzilla’s design greatly varies from kit to kit. Believe it or not, this is fine with me. After all, as every kaiju fan knows, Godzilla never looks the same from film to film.
Since Rodan and three-headed Ghidora frequently co-star with Godzilla, I feel honor-bound to take a look at their hobby kits as well. Both figures are nicely detailed with marvelous long wings, tails, claws, and the like. Unfortunately, even though the two monsters stand on an individual base filled with appropriate urban destruction, you may notice that they offer very similar, almost identical, scenes. I’m also just a bit disappointed that neither figure is depicted flying through the air. In any case, I hope some company eventually releases a kaiju hobby kit that features Godzilla squaring off against Ghidora or Rodan. That would be really cool!
Now…you may well think that King Kong should not be mentioned in an article about Godzilla hobby kits, but the two monsters actually did appear together (after a fashion) in King Kong vs. Godzilla. Of course, The kit dedicated to King Kong is entirely based on a jungle scene from the original 1933 film, with Kong holding Ann in his right hand. I must tell you that it’s a great kit with wonderful detail, but it’s also a huge disappointment. That’s because, as far as I’m concerned, the great ape should have been placed on top of the Empire State building with Ann in one hand and a bi-plane in the other! That would have been awesome!
Before I go I would like to mention a familiar British film that is very much in the Japanese kaiju tradition. In fact, its special effects are plainly superior to most of the Godzilla adventures. I just acquired what may well be one of the best hobby kits of its type. That’s right… It’s the one and only “Gorgo!” Precisely like the Godzilla kits, the base offers the great monster happily stomping her way through a thoroughly trashed London, part of which includes the top half of Big Ben! I can hardly wait to start working on it!
Next up: The hobby kits of the monsters of Universal Studios!: The Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Frankenstein Monster, and all the rest will be appropriately reaching out for you and your nightmares…
Blair Kramer is a widely published writer for various publications, including “Velocity: Chicago,” “A Guide to Art in Chicago,” “Comic Book Collector Magazine,” “American Metal Magazine,” and the “Jewish American Historical Society.” He also dabbles in screenplays and comic books. There are only two things in his life that he loves more than good movies. They are his wife and family.