When I was a kid Rodan freaked me out and made me not want to watch Giant Monster movies ever again. Lucky for me I eventually recovered from the experience and stayed true to the genre even to this day. It wasn’t because of terrible quality or because I came to the insane belief that Kaiju films was not worth my time. It was because Rodan and War of the Gargantuas (which I watched on the same day, but I’ll get to that review another day) showed me the first scenes in a film of someone drowning. I know for most people, the first drowning scenes they seen in cinema were from Jaws, but for me Rodan was my Jaws.
When miners start to go missing in a small town, Shigeru, the head of security for the mine starts to become worried, especially once his fiancee’s brother disappears. As he starts to investigates the strange appearances he soon discovers large insects called Meganula are to blame for the miners’ disappearances. As Shigeru takes a team to seal up with the mine and kill the insects he becomes trapped himself. As strange phenomenon in the sky start to be reported, Shigeru returns, without his memory and near catatonic over what he saw in the mine. As he starts to recover, he reveals that he has seen the birth of a monster that consumed the Meganula as it awoke as food and my just threaten to devour all mankind.
This was the only film to start Rodan exclusively and sadly the only time when he has something of a unique theme associated with him. While Godzilla is a force of nature, Gamera a friend to the children, and Mothra is a being of peace, this first interpretation of Rodan is something else all together. The two monsters that appear are the last of their kind and trying to cut out a place from themselves in this new world. Unfortunately, cutting out a place for themselves results in an insane amount of property damage. They are just trying to build a nest and start a life together as two last of their kind species would do. Sadly, they never addressed this idea again with the monster. More on that later.
This is movie tackles an idea we don’t usually see in movies, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Shigeru comes back from seeing Rodan’s birth and is utterly traumatized by the incident. He has to take time to adjust to the terror of what he saw, considering the larger than a man sized Meganula were already scary enough but to see a creature even larger use them as food was too much for him to bear. Realistically, Rodan would probably be able to eat several humans as if they were bird seed. Luckily he has of those Meganula to munch on.
It’s a shame we never seen Rodan like this ever again. For the rest his movie career he would be recast as Godzillas friend/foe and never once would his name be prominently displayed on the title for the films where he was cast. Not once has any attempt ever been made to try and retell the story of the two of its kind maintaining a nest, that unfortunately leads to them destroying humanity as they try to maintain a place for themselves. Instead of holding onto the theme that was presented for him in the first movie, the studio would forever abandon it in favor of Rodan being a creature that could show up in a film, kick some butt, and fly away into the horizon when he wasn’t needed anymore. Truly a shame they his humanizing role would be his first compared to his fellow giant monsters who have had multiple movies where they have been allowed to shine as individuals.