Here’s the story behind why Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Serizawa is the only MonsterVerse character who calls Godzilla by his original name, “Gojira”.
Dr. Serizawa, played by Ken Watanabe, is the only character in the MonsterVerse who refers to Godzilla by his original name, “Gojira”. “Gojira” – created from the Japanese words for “gorilla” and “whale” – is what the monster was called when he made his big screen debut in the 1954 Toho movie in Japan. It was then changed to “Godzilla” for the American release of the film, and it stuck after that.
“Gojira” is the name used to introduce the MonsterVerse’s Godzilla in the 2014 adaptation. It’s Dr. Serizawa, a Japanese scientist who works at Monarch, who explains what they know about the Titan and the military’s failed attempt to kill him in the 1950s. While characters like Admiral Stenz (David Strathairn) tried to to kill Godzilla and the MUTOs, Serizawa believed it would be better for humanity to trust its fate to the King of the Monsters, and in the end, Godzilla did overcome both of his opponents. In the sequel, Serizawa once again played a crucial role in the main story. When the military took Godzilla out of the fight with the Oxygen Destroyer, Serizawa made the ultimate sacrifice and used nukes to restore him.
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One noteworthy aspect of Ken Watanabe’s Serizawa is that no one but him speaks Godzilla’s original name. That makes sense, considering that Watanabe is Japanese and Godzilla is a pop culture icon of Japanese origin. However, having him say that name wasn’t the original plan. Though “Gojira” is what the Japanese call him, it was intended for all characters in the 2014 film to call him Godzilla. That was likely for the purpose of avoiding casual viewers unfamiliar with Godzilla’s history being confused about the monster having two different names.
Regardless of the reason, Godzilla director Gareth Edwards asked Watanabe to pronounce his name “closer to English”, but Watanabe, being Japanese, felt that was “completely detestable” and refused to do it. Instead, Watanabe insisted on saying “Gojira”. According to him, he had to convince both the director and the producer that “Gojira” was the right name for his character to use. Eventually, it was agreed upon that this was the way to go [via The Nerds of Color].
It was ultimately a good decision, not only for the movie, but for the MonsterVerse as a whole. One reason for that is because – as Watanabe intended – the use of the name honored the significance of Godzilla in Japanese culture. Also, it further highlighted the uniqueness of Serizawa’s relationship with the Titan, which was even more important in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Serizawa shared a deep and unspoken bond with this ancient creature that was clearly articulated onscreen when he prepared to sacrifice himself for Godzilla’s survival. The look that Godzilla gave him in this moment seemed to indicate that he too may have felt a bond of some sort. Part of what made this scene so memorable is the fact that it was a reversal of Toho’s Serizawa, who died to kill Godzilla, rather than save him.
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