Height: 50 meters (164 feet)
Wingspan: 120 meters (394 feet)
Mass: 15,000 metric tons (16,500 tons)
Weapons/Abilities: Can fly at supersonic speeds (up to Mach 1.5) which can cause severely damaging windstorms as well as powerful “sonic booms.”
First Appearance: Rodan (1956) (a.k.a. Radon, a.k.a. Rodan, The Flying Monster!
(Showa) Rodan’s Complete Filmography: Rodan, Ghidrah: The Three-Headed Monster, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, and Destroy All Monsters. Rodan has had cameos in Godzilla’s Revenge, Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. Megalon, and Terror of Mechagodzilla.
Origin: Rodan is a prehistoric creature that came out of hibernation after a coal mining company dug too deeply in the hills of Kitamatsu, Japan. Soon, not one, but two Rodans are on the loose and snacking on hapless Japanese citizens until both creatures are turned to ash during a volcanic eruption.
After the success of Toho’s 1954 flagship kaiju film, Gojira, the company soon began churning out more and more giant monster films. The following year saw the release of Godzilla Raids Again in which the Big-G battled a new monster, namely Anguirus. In 1956, Toho introduced yet another monstrously huge prehistoric beast to terrorize Japan: a giant man-eating pterosaur that could fly at supersonic speeds! Of course I’m speaking of Toho’s “samurai of the skies,” Rodan. (Trivia Fact: Rodan was originally known as “Radon” but the monster’s name was changed because Radon was a popular brand of soap from Great Britain at the time; not to mention a deadly and nearly undetectable gas.) In Rodan (the first kaiju film shot in glorious color!), strange things begin happening at the mining village of Kitamatsu. The miners of said village have dug a little too far into the ground and in the process have opened up an ancient cavern full of eggs.
Soon the eggs hatch and giant prehistoric caterpillars called Meganurons begin slinking out of the mines to snack on hapless villagers. The local police force is helpless against the marauding insects so they call in the good ole Japanese Self-Defense Forces. During a major battle between man and monster within the mines, a cave-in occurs and traps a miner named Shigeru inside. He’s eventually found days after an U.F.O. begins appearing in the skies over Japan and across the Pacific. After a brief bought with amnesia, Shigeru regains his memory and tells the authorities that he witnessed the birth of a large, winged creature. (Apparently Shigeru’s amnesia resulted from watching the mini-monster devour all the Meganurons in the cavern.) Soon the military and the scientific community are working together to find a solution to their kaiju problem. The Japanese air force fails to stop the creature, but if that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that this flying menace has a mate!
The two giant Pteranodons swoop in on the city of Sasebo and wreck it with glee. Eventually they tire of the J.S.D.F’s futile barrage of tank shells, bullets, and missiles and fly off to Mount Aso. The two creatures are planning to do a little hibernating and possibly even start a family. This of course is not good news for Japan, but luckily the human heroes of the film come up with a plan. They will blast Mt. Aso with volleys of missiles and tank shells and cause a controlled eruption. In the end, the plan does in fact work and both Rodans are roasted alive in the flowing rivers of lava that pour from the erupting volcano. Yes, Rodan and its mate were killed in their first big screen adventure, but like Godzilla, Rodan would return and star alongside a variety of popular daikaiju including Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah.
In 1964, Rodan would appear on the big screen again in Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster. In this film, Rodan started out as Godzilla’s foe and doggedly battled the Big-G throughout Japan. In the meantime, Ghidorah, a three-headed terror from space, has come to Earth to destroy humanity. Eventually, with the aid of Mothra, Godzilla and Rodan talk things out (literally) and join forces against Ghidorah. The trio of unlikely allies give their three-headed opponent a good beating and kick the “destroyer of worlds” off of planet Earth. A year later, Godzilla and Rodan would team up again to put the smack down on Ghidorah in Toho’s Godzilla vs. Monster Zero. In this sixth installment of the Godzilla series, aliens from Planet X are under attack from Ghidorah (a.k.a. Monster Zero) and ask Japan’s leaders to “borrow” Godzilla and Rodan in order to chase off their massive pest.
Soon, Earth’s two mightiest kaiju are whisked away by the Xilians to Planet X, where they almost immediately start battling it out with Ghidorah. Godzilla and Rodan quickly chase Ghidorah off the barren planet, and it seems that relations between Earth and Planet X will prosper. Unfortunately, it looks like us Earthlings were too trusting because the people of Planet X bring Godzilla, Rodan, and Ghidorah to Earth and force the three monsters to start tearing up Japan. Things look grim for the people of Japan until the military discovers how to break the aliens control of the monsters. Japan’s top scientists develop the A-Cycle Light-Ray Gun which jams the aliens’ signals to the monsters and a three monster melee ensues. Once again, Ghidorah is outclassed by Earth’s monsters and heads back to space to lick its wounds.
Rodan’s last major role in the Showa Godzilla series was in 1968’s Destroy All Monsters! In this film, alien invaders have once again taken over Earth’s monsters (this time the culprits are the Kilaaks) in an attempt to conquer the world. While under alien control in the film, Rodan gets to visit Moscow and devastate Saint Basil’s Cathedral and… well that’s about it. Rodan pretty much takes a back seat for the remainder of the film (as was the case in Monster Zero) but manages to get a few jabs in at King Ghidorah before Godzilla, Anguirus, and Gorosaurus pummel the three-headed monster into the dirt. After this film, Rodan would briefly appear in other Godzilla adventures via stock footage, including Godzilla’s Revenge, Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. Megalon, and Terror of Mechagodzilla. After the first string of Godzilla films ended in 1975, Rodan’s career seemingly ended as well, that is until the Heisei Godzilla series got into full swing.
Height: 70 meters (230 feet)
Wingspan: 120 meters (394 feet)
Mass: 16,000 metric tons (17,600 tons)
Weapons/Abilities: Can fly at supersonic speeds (up to Mach 3) which can cause severely damaging windstorms as well as powerful “sonic booms.” Fire Rodan can also deliver a potent uranium heat beam from its mouth.
Fire Rodan’s First Appearance: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II
Fire Rodan’s Complete Filmography: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II.
Origin: In Rodan’s first (and final) appearance in the Heisei Godzilla series, Rodan is given a sound thrashing by the King of the Monsters. Seemingly dead, Rodan eventually rejuvenates and mutates into Fire Rodan (I’m still foggy on how this happens) only to be mortally wounded by Mechagodzilla (II). Before Fire Rodan dies, it gives its radioactive energy to Godzilla, allowing the Big-G to recover from his fatal wound and destroy the new Mechagodzilla.
In 1993, Godzilla would go up against a revamped version of his old nemesis, Mechagodzilla in the aptly titled Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II. In this film, Mechagodzilla is created by humanity to fight off Godzilla and other giant monsters. While Godzilla’s bout with Mechagodzilla is the main attraction, it’s important to note that Rodan plays a vital role in the film as well. Rodan and Godzilla battle it out early in the film over a prehistoric egg that’s recently been uncovered by a group of scientists. Rodan is defeated by Godzilla (no shock there) but ends up mutating later on in the film into a more powerful kaiju with a uranium heat beam. (Rodan mutates due to some ancient song or some such non-sense. It’s always been sort of a confusing plot point to me and if anyone reading this knows exactly what the hell happened please e-mail me an let me know! My e-mail addy is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
At the end of the film, Mechagodzilla puts a bad hurting on both Rodan and Godzilla. Using the offspring from the aforementioned egg to attract both monsters, the UNGCC (United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center) then deploys Mechagodzilla to assassinate the two daikaiju. Rodan puts up a pretty admirable fight and manages to pluck out one of Mechagodzilla’s eyes, but alas, poor Rodan is killed in action as is Godzilla himself. (Yes, Godzilla is actually killed in this film when Mechagodzilla utilizes its deadly G-Grasper weapon!) However, Rodan in its last few moments flies over to Godzilla and donates its nuclear power to the Big-G, which gives Godzilla an amazing power boost and allows the mighty kaiju to tear Mechagodzilla apart. Sadly this is the only time Rodan appears in the Heisei series but you just can’t keep a good monster down.
Height:100 meters (328 feet)
Wingspan:200 meters (656 feet)
Mass: 30,480 metric tons (30,000 tons)
Weapons/Abilities: Can fly at supersonic speeds (up to Mach 3) which can cause severely damaging windstorms as well as powerful “sonic booms.”
First Appearance: Godzilla: Final Wars
(Millenium) Rodan’s Complete Filmography: Godzilla: Final Wars
Origin: This is just the updated version of the classic Rodan we all know and love. This time around though, Rodan is under the control of invading aliens from Planet X. Rodan and several other monsters team up against Godzilla, only to be rendered unconscious by the rampaging King of the Monsters.
In Rodan’s (thus far) final appearance, the flying kaiju would once again fall under alien control. In 2005’s Godzilla: Final Wars, Rodan and a slew of revamped Toho kaiju are sent around the world to destroy Earth’s major cities by the invading Xilians (who last pulled the wool over our eyes in Godzilla vs. Monster Zero). Mankind’s only hope is to release Godzilla from his icy hibernation in order to combat the multiple monsters that are running amok across the globe. Rodan’s role in this film is fairly small, but this fan favorite of the kaiju universe has never looked better. Rodan demolishes a good chunk of New York City with a few sonic booms and later teams up with Anguirus and King Caesar against Godzilla. Needless to say, this is not a smart move and all three monsters get knocked out by the King of the Monsters. To date, this has been Rodan’s final cinematic appearance, but with Godzilla’s forced retirement, perhaps Rodan will get another solo feature film. One can only hope.
Aside from its film appearances, Rodan has been featured in a multitude of video games and novels. In Godzilla 2 for ye olde Nintendo Entertainment System, you control the Japanese military and in several scenarios, you must battle against Rodan and other giant monsters. In particular, there’s a scenario in which you have to force Rodan and its mate into their nest at Mt. Aso and then cause the mountain to erupt! (Just like in the 1956 film!) Rodan also has a small role to play in Godzilla for the Nintendo Gameboy. In this game you play as Godzilla, and your objective is to go through a maze full of thought-provoking puzzles in search of Minya. One of the many foes Godzilla must constantly fight off is Rodan. That pesky flying daikaiju zig-zags up and down the screen and proves to be a frequent nuisance. In recent years, Rodan has become a playable character in both Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee as well as Godzilla: Save the Earth. Rodan is a pretty challenging character to control and you may find yourself frustrated when battling larger and bulkier kaiju, but keep practicing and you will succeed!
Rodan has also found a home in literature, mainly in Marc Cerasini’s short-lived (but well-written) series of Godzilla novels. Rodan appears in Godzilla 2000 and builds a nest on Mount Rushmore, then appears in the following book, Godzilla At Worlds End where Rodan appears briefly to battle Battra, and finally Rodan (and its young) make a cameo appearance in Cerasini’s Godzilla vs. the Robot Monsters. I’m not positive, but I believe that Rodan may have even been in the last book of the series (that somehow managed to slip into sudden obscurity and nothingness), but I have no idea because I’ve never been able to track down Godzilla and the Lost Continent. (If you have a spare copy of this book that you’re willing to part with for a reasonable price, let me know!). Well that about covers Rodan’s expansive career, where this winged monster of the skies has had the distinctions of being the first Japanese movie monster filmed in color and a minor (yet crucial) part of Godzilla’s farewell film. Only time will tell if we’ll see more of Rodan, but I for one hope we do, just as long as someone doesn’t go and remake the original film! (Especially if their names are Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich!)
Pictures courtesy of Toho Kingdom.