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Shin Godzilla: Design Review

Shin Godzilla

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Since this movie has been out a considerable length of time this will be a spoiler heavy review of the design of Shin Godzilla. 

Although Godzilla is a McGuffin I will address how he is designed and depicted in this movie. I am a bit ambivalent about this design. I do not hate it (I don’t hate any Godzilla design) but it is also far from a favorite design. This is the largest Godzilla standing at 118.5 metres (389 ft) which is taller than any other Japanese Godzilla and taller than Legendary Godzilla, the most recent American incarnation of the monster, which stood at 106.7 meters (305ft). His face is craggy and menacing looking which is one of my favorite aspects of this design.

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He has numerous spines/fins on his back which has often been a favorite feature of this creature (Godzilla 2000 being my favorite depiction of this aspect of Godzilla). However the fins/spines are so numerous on his back that they are rendered inconsequential which I find disappointing.

I sometimes call Shin Godzilla “Zombie Godzilla” because in his final form he moves so lethargically slow which means this Godzilla really doesn’t have much of a personality as other Godzillas have had. His atomic ray, which comes from other parts of his body than just his mouth is the best feature of this design. It is the most destructive atomic ray we have seen to date. It is a pure delight to see and with him able to shoot it out from his spines as wells as his tail is complete genius in my view. It is one of the reasons this movie is fresh. It takes a well worn trope in a Godzilla movie and reinvents it in an unexpected and excitingly fresh new way.

Although Godzilla spends the majority of this movie just walking zombie like on his way to Tokyo (what does he think he’s doing with all of this walking…taking the One Ring back to the fires of Mount Doom?) he is more physically animated while firing his atomic ray which does come across as a bit incongruous.

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To depict the rising level of crisis the Japanese Government has to confront, Godzilla appears in several developing  forms and transformations which is an entirely new aspect of Godzilla. We have seen this done in other Godzilla movies (Godzilla vs Hedorah and Godzilla vs Destroyer) but in those movies the villain monster is the one that develops through several stages not Godzilla himself. I really like this twist on the Godzilla legend and given the context of the movie it makes perfect sense. I also like the fact that Godzilla doesn’t stay too long in these younger forms and quickly evolves into his adult and final form. 

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Godzilla and all the buildings and other objects he destroys are no longer rendered through a man in a suit or models. As a special effects junkie I praise and welcome this change and find that Toho (or whomever did the CGI) did an excellent job. I do love and appreciate the old suit and model approach to the older movies and they were fine for their times. While I do feel some nostalgic sadness that those days are over, as a viewer I really love the new CGI approach. It is time for Toho to move into the 21st Century.

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Rating Godzilla’s Enemies: Part I

There have been 29 Godzilla movies, 30 if you count the 1998 TriStar film (and I do) by and most don’t and since this is a piece about the enemies Godzilla has fought it really doesn’t count because the 1998 Godzilla did not fight any other monsters. The 1954 and 1984 Godzillas didn’t fight with any monsters either. Since 1955 with Godzilla Raids Again Toho has pitted Godzilla with a number of different and unique foes to varying degrees of success. I haven’t always been crazy about the foes Godzilla has been up against. Some of the monsters are like Godzilla himself, dinosaur like in many aspects, and those are my favorites. Others have been designed after bugs and other insects, crustaceans; while some have followed the fantasy route.

The Godzilla franchise encompasses three distinct eras. The Showa eras (1954-1975), The Heisei era (1984-1995) and the Millennium era (1999-2004). Many of these monsters, such as Mothra, were used in all three eras, while some only saw action in one area (Jet-Jaguar, Showa), (Biollante, Heisei) and Orga (Millennium). In rating these monsters I need to view them across all eras. Each monster was designed differently when used in other areas. Sometimes that re-design was significant, and other times it was not. There were times the redesigned monster influenced whether or not I enjoyed the character.

Here in alphabetical order is my review of each monster.

1. Anguirus: Anguirus was first seen in the movie Godzilla Raids Again (aka Gigantis, the Fire Monster in the US) and he was the first monster that Godzilla ever fought in a movie. He is said to have been a mutated Ankylosaurus. At first Anguirus was an enemy of Godzilla but in subsequent films he became an ally of Godzilla joining him in battles against other monster threats. I like this monster due to the fact that he is like Godzilla himself, a mutated creature that is also a force of nature. My only complaint is that he walks on four legs which means that when he is portrayed by a suit actor the actor will be on his knees giving the monster a very strange stance, although the film makers try hard to hide the fact that he is on his knees. Anguirus was seen in seven Godzilla films. Godzilla Raids Again, Destroy All Monsters; All Monsters Attack(stock footage); Godzilla vs Gigan; Godzilla vs. Megalon; Godzilla: Final Wars
2. Baragon: Baragon is another mutated dinosaur-like creature who made his first appearance in Frankenstein vs Baragon. He is a strange monster. He has big floppy ears and a large horn on his snout and he likes to burrow underground. He is another monster that walks on all fours and suffers from some of the same problems that Anguirus suffers from while being filmed. Other than his first appearance Baragon has not seen a lot of action. He was seen very briefly in Destroy All Monsters and there is stock footage of him in Godzilla: Final Wars. He did have a large role to play in the movie Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters all out Attack. In that film Baragon is the first of the guardian monsters to fight Godzilla in what is one of the most enjoyable monster fights ever. Baragon is sorely outmatched but this plucky little monster gives it his all fighting against one of the most powerfully depicted Godzilla’s ever on film.
3. Battra: Battra is the evil twin to Mothra. He is only depicted in the Heisei era film Godzilla vs Mothra: Battle For the Earth. Although Mothra is a giant moth-like creature, Battra doesn’t resemble a moth but more of an flying insect with horns protruding from his head and he has glowing red/orange eyes. Like Mothra, Battra also appears in his larval form. However, he doesn’t have to go into chrysalis in order to metamorphose into his adult form. I do enjoy the movie he is in and although I am not crazy about monsters that are based on insects, Battra is executed very well.
4. Biollante: Biollante is one of the all-time strangest monsters Godzilla ever had to face. I have mixed feelings about this one. Biollante only features in one Godzilla movie, the Heisei era: Godzilla vs Biollante (although it is seen briefly in a flashback in Godzilla vs Spacegodzilla). In my opinion Biollante is one of the most creatively designed monsters and also one of the most silliest in regards to looks and origins. Biollante was a monster created by a scientist. He mixed Godzilla cells with that of a rose and somehow the spirit of his dead daughter got thrown in the mix and viola! A giant 120 meter rose/plant monster with a large snout and many rows of sharp teeth!! Yeah, it is very silly. Like other Toho monsters this one goes through several metamorphosis until it reaches its final stage. The final look of the monster is pretty cool I must admit. Despite the very silly premise Biollante does show Toho studios thinking outside of the box and creating something entirely new.
5. Ebirah. Ebirah is nothing more than a giant lobster. His two appearance were in Godzilla vs the Sea Monster and Godzilla: Final Wars. The only thing I liked about this monster is the fact that in both movies they use him to really show his size and scale. One of the stranger usages of Ebirah is in the movie Final Wars were the mutants fight him in some industrial setting. You would think they would have placed a giant lobster somewhere in the sea.

Godzilla vs Biollante 1989

I am going to resume reviewing the rest of the Godzilla movies in the franchise. Before I continue reviewing the final series, called the Millennium Series,  I want to back track and review Godzilla vs Biollante which was one of the movies from the Heisei Series that I had not seen yet nor reviewed.

First a little background on why I never saw this movie until recently. In my 20s and 30s I fell away from the Godzilla franchise. One of the reasons for that is the lack of Godzilla movies released to US theaters. I knew the first of the Heisei films, Return of Godzilla, had been released to the theaters and  other the only other Japanese Godzilla movie I had heard of was Godzilla 2000. In 2005 I began to buy Godzilla movies on DVD and discover between 1989-2004 there were many other Godzilla movies than had been produced. All of them had been on VHS but they must have slipped under my Radar. 1989’s Godzilla vs. Biollante was one of the movies that I had not seen on VHS and by 2005 the VHS era was over and it wasn’t released on DVD until just last month! So Now I will be able to review this movie.

Before seeing this movie I thought that it had a very strange premise even for a Godzilla movie. Basically,  a scientist, Dr. Shiragami, is working on cells from Godzilla that were found from his previous attack (as depicted in the movie Return of Godzilla). After his daughter Erica  is killed in a terrorist attack he takes the cells from Godzilla and his daughter, combines them with the cells from a rose and creates Biollante a giant plant-based monster. Although I had heard many positive reviews from fans, I went into the movie hopeful but with low expectations.

 The movie also has a sub plot of espionage. In the start of the movie a lone gunman working for a corporation called Biomajor steals the Godzilla cells and takes them to the Middle East Republic of Saradia where Dr. Shiragami works for the government. Shiragami hopes to create a strand of wheat that when combined with Godzilla cells will be able to grow in the most adverse conditions. Five years after Dr. Shiragami’s daughter Erica is killed he successfully mates her cells with the cells of a rose. At this time we meet Miki Saegusa a psychic who has sensed that Godzilla has woken up at the bottom of Mt. Mihara. The Government responds to the threat by activating the Super-X2 craft to combat Godzilla. The Government also is looking into a biological approach to defeating Godzilla and Dr. Shiragami joins in the effort. Henchmen from Biomajor also try to steal Godzilla cells from  Dr. Shiragami but are attacked by the growing rose in his office.

Members of Biomajor then set explosives on the rim of Mt. Mihara releasing Godzilla. Godzilla makes his way to Biollante who seems to be calling for him. The two fight and Biollante is seemingly defeated and Godzilla makes his way to Osaka where he is confronted by the Super-X2. Another battles ensues where Godzilla defeats Super-X2 while leveling the Osaka. While he is in Osaka a poisonous projectile is shot in his mouth. Aft first he seems to have no ill-efect. After leaving Osaka Godzilla is faced once again by Biollante who is now in his…or her…final gigantic form…and the two titans face off for the final time. Godzilla is defeated and it was the combination of Biollante and the poisoned missile that vanquished him. Godzilla collapses into the sea as Dr. Shiragami is assassinated by the lone gunman who in turn is also killed. Godzilla suddenly arises revived and healthy and returns to the sea.

I really enjoyed this movie and felt it was one of the better of the Heisei Series. After having seen this movie I have to say I am impressed with the design of Biollante. Impressive and frightening looking monster in its final form. I also think the idea behind it, while being a bit hokey, certainly is new, creative and demonstrates that someone was thinking outside the box. The battles between the two are also impressive as Biollante is not the pushover you think a plant-based monster would be. At one point Biollante jabs one of his vines right through the palm of Godzilla’s hand.

The human aspect is also interesting although with the espionage and the double dealing it is a little confusing at first to know who is who and what exactly is going on. I felt a lot of empathy for Dr. Shiragami who is trying to save some aspect of his dead daughter’s life. This film also debuts Miki Saegusa, a clairvoyant, who would be used in every subsequent Heisei Series film. I actually feel that it is in this film where her character is most useful. There is a great scenes where a group of children, who all have been having the same dream, are asked to draw their dream for Miki and when asked to show their drawings to Miki everyone puts up a picture they drew of Godzilla. That is a great moment in the film and it is startling because it is so unexpected.

Most people watch these movies for the monster battles and the destruction of cities. As I already mentioned the battle with Biollante, but what is equally impressive and enjoyable to watch is the destruction of Osaka by Godzilla and the military. These scenes are filmed very well and have great special effects. It also is an important dory point and is not brief yet also does not over stay its welcome.

I have met some fans that did not care too much for the Heisei Series. I happen to enjoy the entire series and feel that there really is only one sub-par movie (Space Godzilla). Godzilla vs Biollante is one of the best movies of this series and even one of the better over all Godzilla films of the entire Franchise. Tone of  a movie is always hard to pinpoint and describe. I enjoy the tone of the film and it has a look and feel very much in line with the Return of Godzilla. It has a tone that I feel is missing from not only other Godzilla movies in the Heisei Series but other Godzilla movies in general. Because the tone of Godzilla vs Biollante and The Return of Godzilla are so different they are often forgotten movies. I think that is a shame because both movies are gems in the crown of Toho Godzilla movies.

I rate this movie: B+

 

Godzilla 2000 (1999)

After the failure of Godzilla 98 at the box office Toho returned to making Godzilla movies. Godzilla 98 had a $130 million budget but only made $136 million domestically. Godzilla did make another $242 million overseas for a total of $379 million. These numbers were not solid enough for Tri-Star to make the two squeals originally planned so the right for Godzilla reverted back to Toho Studios.

This new movie and the 4 Godzilla movies that came afterward are known as the Millennium Series and for continuity buffs only two of these movies would be related to one another. They all pretty much ignore the continuity of both the Shōwa and Heisei Series. In today’s parlance it is as if each movie of the Millennium series was a re-boot. I will say more on that with each of the Millennium Series movie I review.

Before I move on to the review of Godzilla 2000, I want to add that even though I grew up on the Shōwa Series the Millennium Series is my favorite series and I look forward to reviewing these movies.

Here is a synopsis of the plot. There exists the Godzilla Prediction Network (GPN) which is a network of individuals that independently study Godzilla and try to predict his landfalls. A reporter is following a small father-daughter unit that has predicted Godzilla’s next attack on Japan. While Godzilla’s whereabouts are being predicted scientists from Crisis Control Intelligence (CCI) have discovered a 60 million year old UFO at the bottom of the ocean. Unbeknownst to the scientists the light they used to find the UFO has woken it up. Just as the UFO begins to fly around Japan Godzilla arrives in Tokyo Bay where it is greeted by the Japanese military. Godzilla fights the UFO to a draw but not before the UFO copies the DNA of Godzilla. Yuji Shinoda, the GPN scientist discovers that Godzilla DNA contains Re-generator G-1 which enables him to heal quickly. Yuji also has a conflict with the head of the CCI who beleives Godzilla should be destroyed while Yuji believes that Godzilla needs to be studied. When the UFO returns it uses the Re-generator G-1 cells and morphs into a giant monster which confronts Godzilla in an epic battle with Godzilla triumphant in the end.

Other than the original 1954/56 version of Godzilla, this is one of my all time favorite Godzilla movies. First of all this movie introduces us to a redesigned Godzilla. Although many people often mistakenly refer to Godzilla as a giant green lizard, in this movie he actually is depicted green in color. He has been reduced in size from 100 meters in thigh to around 50 to 55 meters depending on which source is correct. He also has giant irregular sharp dorsal fins that are silvery and purple in color. Now if you would have told me that Godzilla was going to be depicted green with purple dorsal fins for this movie I wounded have said the designers are crazy! But this design works.

Actually it is my favorite Godzilla design out of all of them. This exact design would be used for the next movie, Godzilla Against Megaguirus. In 2001’s, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack , an entirely new design would used. The Godzilla 2000 design would be utilized once again for the next two movies except with a more traditional color scheme. The last Godzilla film, Godzilla: Final Wars, which came out in 2004, would do a more retro re-imagining of the Shōwa Series design. A unique and creative development that began with this movie is the way Godzilla’s atomic breath begins to fire. We have the traditional illumination of the dorsal fins but what is new is that as the dorsal fins are lighting up we see the plasma beam building up in his mouth as energy from the air gets sucked in. That is an awesome effect! It is orange in color which I don’t care for but it would return to the more familiar bluish white in later movies. 

I also like the story. I do find it odd to pair Godzilla with aliens but since these are two of my favorite subjects in science fiction it can be enjoyable when done well. The Godzilla franchise has a hit and miss reputation with these types of films and I find this one to be one of the best enjoyable hits of this kind of movie. I still have a few unanswered questions though. Unlike other Godzilla vs Aliens movies we never get to see the aliens in this film, we only see the ship morph. So I am not sure if there are aliens in the space ship or is the ship itself the alien?

I like the actors and the main character, Yuji Shinoda is very likable. So are the reporter and Yuji’s daughter. However, the way his daughter and the reporter bicker does get old after a while, thank God it doesn’t last. I really enjoy the special effects with this movie. The scenes in the early part of the movie where Godzilla is attacking the city against a red sky is very moving. I like the final morphing of the alien into Orga, although the name of the monster never is mentioned in the movie, and Godzilla’s creative manner in which he defeats his nemesis. Though the morphing a creature or alien into different stages has been done before, and will be done again, I don’t mind as long as it works within the movie and this one works quite well.

This is one of the movies that also balances the concept of the good Godzilla against the bad Godzilla. In the later 60s and 70s Godzilla became the hero. The Heisei Series, for the most part, returned Godzilla to the original malevolent role. He is a malevolent monster in this movie and his role as the hero is circumstantial and not intentional. He is acting in self-defense and if it happens to help humanity while he is protecting himself that is just a side benefit. The movie is fun and entertaining. It is not somber and foreboding like the original, but it is lighthearted thoroughly enjoyable with an interesting story with fascinating alien concepts about along with likable characters that makes me want to watch to see what happens to them all.

 I rate this movie: A+

Godzilla Franchise Timeline.

As a big fan of Star Trek I have observed that continuity is an important and fun aspect of being a fan. Since the 1960s Star Trek has grown into a large universe of stories and characters that fans like to have molded into a cohesive continuity. For the large part it has been successful. The Godzilla franchise is a different story. I have observed that continuity is important for some fans of the franchise but not to the degree it is for Trekkies. For myself I do not feel continuity is as important in the Godzilla franchise as it is for my enjoyment of Star Trek. In Star Trek the focus in storytelling is on the human characters we can relate to, so I find continuity more essential in that franchise. In Godzilla stories the general focus is on a giant monster and only a very few human characters are featured in more than one movie. That lessens the need for continuity between films for my enjoyment.

Before I move forward I want to distinguish the difference between Continuity and Canon. I have been on forums and message boards where some fans use these terms interchangeably. They are not synonyms. Canon refers simply to a complete body of work. Continuity is the weaving together of i the characteristics of characters, plot, objects, and places as understood by the reader or viewer. So something can be Cannon, part of the official body of work, but not be congruent with established continuity. Even in Godzilla movies some type of Continuity exists and is essential. For example, Godzilla being basically a monster that is indestructible and having the ability to breath a plasma/fire type of weapon is established continuity for the character. That is one main reason why many fans turned up their noses at the 1998 American version of Godzilla. The American version of Godzilla deviated away from the continuity of the established characteristics of Godzilla that it was difficult for fans to see that creature as the Godzilla they have come to enjoy and appreciate.

The Godzilla franchise is divided into three eras. The first two eras are named after the reign name of the Emperor of Japan. A unique aspect of the Japanese monarchy is that during the reign of a monarch the emperor is not refereed to by his given name. He is simply called the Emperor or His Imperial Majesty the Emperor. After the death of the emperor his reign will be given a name. In the case of Emperor Hirohito who ruled from 1926 to 1989 his posthumous reign is called the Shōwa Era. Therefore the Godzilla movies made from 1954 to 1975 are called the Shōwa Series of Godzilla movies.

Godzilla was retired for 9 years after 1975 and this is where the naming of the eras of Godzilla movies makes an exception. The Godzilla movies made from 1984 until 1996 are called the Heisei Series which is the future reign name of Japan’s current Emperor, Akihito. In 1984 Toho Studios rebooted the Godzilla franchise. While technically the 1984 movie, called simply Gojira in Japan and Return of Godzilla in the US, it was produced and released in the Shōwa Era of Godzilla movies it is considered part of the Heisei Series due to the fact that the movie started a new continuity that would continue for the next 6 Godzilla films. The Heisei Series of Godzilla movies ignores the existence of all the Shōwa series movies except for the 1954 original.

After the failure, or shall I say relative failure, of the 1998 American Godzilla film Toho decided to continue to make more Godzilla films. Starting in 1999 with the movie Godzilla 2000 and continuing for 5 more movies culminating in the 2004, 50th anniversary extravaganza, Godzilla: Final Wars. This series of movies has come to be known as the Millennium Series. Each of these movies ignores both the Shōwa and Heisei movies to a large or lesser degree. Godzilla 2000 does not mention any previous movie but does indicate Godzilla has been around before. Except for  Shōwa Era and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (which is a story told in two parts) none of the Millennium Series movies are connected to each other.Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack  mentions the American Godzilla giving some evidence that would place that movie as part of the Millennium Series. Godzilla: Final Wars is difficult to place. Since it is a celebration of 50 years of Godzilla and given the fact that most of the monsters featured in the film are from the Shōwa Series (with some exceptions) most place it with the Millennium Series due solely to the fact that it was released in 2004.

I enjoy all the movies pretty equally across the three series. Although I grew up on the Shōwa Series, my first Godzilla movie in the theater was Destroy All Monsters in 1969, my favorite series is the Millennium Series because I enjoy the stories more, they are less campy than the later Shōwa Series, and the special effects are so much improved over the other series and there are at least 4 different Godzilla designs to enjoy.

 

Godzilla vs Destoroyah 1995

Godzilla vs Destoroyah

This was the last Godzilla of the Heisei series. For its last film long time producer Tomoyuki Tanaka tapped director Takao Okawara to helm the film. Akira Ifukube returned for the very last time to write and produce the film score for a Godzilla film.

When the movie begins we see Miki Saegusa and another psychic, Meru, discovering Birth Island, where Little Godzilla and his papa were last seen, has been destroyed. The next scenes flashes to Hong Kong where we see a burning and flaming hot Godzilla rise from the ocean to attack the city. Noting that something is terribly wrong with Godzilla a brilliant young college student, Kenichi Yamane, adopted grandson of Dr. Yamane the paleontologist from the first Godzilla movie, knows what is going wrong with Godzilla. He has theorized that Godzilla’s heart, which is more like a nuclear reactor, is in meltdown mode and will soon explode devastating the earth.

While this is going on the Ariake district of Tokyo is experiencing problems with the soil because it contains no oxygen. Also a large public aquarium suffers losses when microscopic sea creatures destroy all the sea life in the aquarium. It is soon discovered both of these phenomena are repercussions from Dr. Serizawa’s oxygen destroyer invention from 1954! The Super-X III is launched to confront Godzilla and attempts to freeze him so he will not continue to meltdown. Although the process is successful it proves to be only temporary.

The microscopic sea creatures begin to grow and morph into several creatures. Suddenly from the sea Little Godzilla rises up. However, he is now called Godzilla jr as the radio active fallout from the destruction of Birth Island. Miki Saegusa telepathically tells Godzilla jr. to meet up with with the monster that has morphed into one creature. Godzilla jr. confronts the monster and beats him easily. Just as the victory seems assured Godzilla himself shows up. If his core temperature rises he will explode shortly. At this stage the monster defeated by Godzilla jr morphs into one giant bat-winged 394 foot tall monster called the Destroyer. Destroyer quickly carries off Godzilla jr, who is much smaller to the fully grown Destroyer, and drops him into a building which violently explodes killing Godzilla jr.

This enrages Godzilla and the two giant behemoths begin to fight. After a noble fight a weakened Godzilla tries to blast Destroyer one more time with his atomic breath and Destroyer blows up in a giant fireball. Godzilla then turns his attention on his son and tries to revive him but to know avail. Then Destroyer rises up one final time but he is too much for Godzilla. The Super-X III swoops in and deals Destroyer a destructive final blow.

After the death of Destroyer Godzilla begins his final meltdown. His radiation levels begin to plummet and instead of exploding we view Godzilla slowly melting away like a waxed candle. As Godzilla fades from existence the radiation leaking all around revives Godzilla jr who has morphed into an adult Godzilla and as the movie ends he lets out the familiar Godzilla roar.

In my opinion this is the best of the Heisei series. They certainly went out with a bang! Pun intended. One of the things that I enjoy about this movie is how it ties into the 1954 original movie. There are references to Dr. Serizawa’s oxygen destroyer and even Momoko Kochi reprises her role as Emiko Yamane from the first film. In my past reviews I have mentioned that the events of the 1991 time travel laden film Godzilla vs King Ghidorah erased the original movie, along with the first two movies of the Heisei series, from the time line. I was wrong about that and in a future blog post I will discuss the time line of the entire Godzilla franchise.

The special effects are really very well done in this movie. In the start of the movie we see Godzilla rampaging through various cities. I think these are the most realistic looking depictions of Godzilla in a city. Often Toho will use models when Godzilla fights his enemies and will sometimes use Godzilla as a backdrop against a real city scene with real people. The latter are that type of scenes we see at the start of this movie and they are best I have seen.

I like the design of Destroyer and since he is the result of the toxic pollution from the oxygen destroyer and given that he morphs from a seas creature into many creatures and then eventually a giant monster, was the same scenario in Godzilla vs the Smog Monster. Some people criticized the movie for repeating that scenario but I cannot place blame on them especially when this movie executed those ideas more successfully.

It was sad to see Godzilla die and yet the way it was handled was very moving and very well done. What I have mixed feeling about is the revival of Godzilla jr into another Godzilla. If you have read my post “Let them Die” you will see that I don’t like when the franchise will not kill off a main character. On the one hand having Godzilla jr revived and morphed into Godzilla does take away the sting of Godzilla’s death. On the other hand ending the movie with the death of Godzilla and his son would have been a bold move but a bit of a downer. Also, having Godzilla live once again does speak to the point that Godzilla is indestructible. So I am mixed.

All in all one of the better Godzilla movies. Toho was not planning on making any more Godzilla movies for a long while as it had turned over the right to the character to Tri-Star pictures for them to make a series of American produced Godzilla films. Stay tuned for next week when I review that film.

 I rate this movie: A

Godzilla vs Space Godzilla 1994.


Many fans consider this movie the turkey of the Heisei series films. To some degree it is, yet I don’t think it reached the level of poor quality some of the later 70s movies had reached. This is a movie that has grown on me. When I first read the premise, that cells from Godzilla mutated into form Space Godzilla, with giant crystalline features protruding from his shoulders and down his back, sure sounded silly to me. And it is silly. However, silliness is not a stranger to the Godzilla franchise.

The last time we saw Godzilla was when he and his son, Baby Godzilla now called Little Godzilla, were heading out to see. In this movie we find that they have taken up residence on Birth Island. The UNGCC has built a new mechanical device to beat Godzilla. It is called the Mobile Operation Godzilla Universal Expert Robot Aerotype, MOGUERA for short. The machine can assemble and disassemble into many different parts and can burrow into the ground as well as fly into outer space. There is another program trying a different approach to defeating or gaining control over Godzilla. That project is run by Dr. Okubo and Dr. Gondo and their aim is to implant Godzilla with a psychic receiver in order to control him. They persuade psychic Miki Saegusa to join them.

G-Force sends Sato and Shinto, two lieutenants to Birth Island to prepare for the team that is going to plant the psychic receiver into Godzilla. On Birth Island they come across renegade soldier Major Yuki who is involved in his own private battle with Godzilla. Meanwhile UNGCC has detected something from outer space that is heading to earth. They send MOGUERA to intercept the incoming threat. While in the asteroid belt MOGUERA encounters a giant monster encrusted in crystals. After a short battle it fails to stop this incoming threat.

Godzilla soon arrives on Birth Island and Sato and Shinto are successful in implanting the psychic receiver into Godzilla’s neck. Miki also finds herself successful in being able to control Godzilla. Space Godzilla soon arrives on Birth Island where he places Little Godzilla in a crystalline fortress he created. Godzilla begins to attack Space Godzilla and defend his son but is quickly defeated. As the G-Force team leaves it is discovered that Dr. Okubo is not to be trusted. He helps a special forces team capture Miki and the mind control device which he plans to sell to the highest bidder. Sato and Shinto soon come to Miki’s rescue and free her.

Scientists theorize that Space Godzilla was created when Godzilla’s skin sells were morphed while going through a black hole. Yuki rejoins G-Force and becomes the head pilot of MOGUERA as Space Godzilla begins his unstoppable rampage across Japan. MOGUERA proves that it is not a match for Space Godzilla. When Godzilla shows up once again he is forced to team up with MOGUERA to defeat Space Godzilla. The three fight out an epic which ends in the defeat of Space Godzilla and the rescue of Little Godzilla. In the end Yuki decides to end his personal vendetta against Godzilla.

I don’t think the story is what makes this an uneven movie. I still don’t care for Space Godzilla. It is a corny creature. The special effects in this movie are also very uneven. When MOGUERA flies into the Asteroid belt to meet Space Godzilla the special effects are so laughably bad. MOGUERA looks like a small model and the asteroids look like Styrofoam balls hung in front of a black curtain. When Space Godzilla flies around he suddenly develops this giant shell surrounding him and that is also pretty laughable. MOGUERA looks like a cross between a metallic penguin and a woodpecker. Baby Godzilla had a very dinosaur like look to him. Little Godzilla is all cutesy and bug eyed. Some fans complained about that change and while it didn’t bother me so much I can see their point.

This movie also plays havoc with the continuity of the Heisei Series. In Godzilla vs King Ghodirah the time line is changed so that the events of the previous movies to that film (Return of Godzilla and Godzilla vs Biollante) never happened. However, the scientists explain that Godzilla cells may have leaked into space during his fight with Biollante. In reality those scientists should not know about the fight with Biollante because those events were erased from the timeline! Ah, its fun being a nerd. 

The good points of the movie are that Sato, Shinto and Dr. Gondo are all likable characters. Sometimes Godzilla movies can have bland characters but not in this case. Yuki is a great lovable rebel. The action scenes and the battles scenes are well done and as exciting as usual. This is still an enjoyable movie despite its flaws and while it isn’t the strongest of the Heisei series it is still quite entertaining.

 I rate this movie: C+

 

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II 1993

This was the 20th Godzilla film and even though it came out in 1993 it was the film that would celebrate 40 years of Godzilla. In this movie we see the return of classic characters from the Showa era, Rodan and Mechagodzilla. We also find out that Godzilla once again has a new son but this time it isn’t Minya from the Son of Godzilla and other movies, it is a totally new character. Many fans didn’t really care for Minya and it seems they didn’t care for this new character either. Akira Ifukube was on board to provide the music once more. In 1992 Toho Studios wanted to give the directing duties to veteran Godzilla director Ishirō Honda but he died early in 1993. With Honda’s passing the directing duties were given to Takao Okawara.

Although this movie is titled Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II it is not a sequel to the 1973 movie Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla despite the inclusion of the the Roman numeral II. This movie is actually a sequel to the previous film, Godzilla vs Mothra.

The story begins where the previous movie left off. The United Nations creates a task force with the aim of defeating Godzilla, it is called United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center (UNGCC). They take the remains of Mecha-King Ghidorah and build two machines in their effort to beat Godzilla. The first one is called Garuda and the second one is Mechgodzilla. In the Showa series Mechagodzilla had an alien origin but in the Heisei series Mechgodzilla’s origins are strictly Earth bound and human.

The movie flashes forward to a couple of years into the future where a team of Japanese scientists come across a large egg on Adona Island in the Bering Sea. The egg seems to give off strange signals which attracts Rodan an adult giant pteranodon created by the nuclear waste. The scientists think the egg they have found is another baby pteranodon. Suddenly Godzilla rises from the ocean and begins to fight Rodan. During the skirmish the scientists escape with the egg. After they leave, Godzilla is successful in severely wounding Rodan.

The egg is taken to Kyoto and when it hatches out pops a baby Godzillasaur which imprints on a very cute Japanese scientists, Azusa Gojo played by Ryoko Sano. Side note: Toho has had a reputation for hiring very attractive leading ladies over the years and this movie has two of my all time favorites. Soon Godzilla arrives in Kyoto looking for his baby. The Japanese Defense Force sends Mechagodzilla to fight Godzilla but he malfunctions allowing Godzilla to destroy Kyoto uninhibited. Tests are conducted on baby Godzilla and it is discovered that he has two brains. The brain in his midsection controls his movements. Theorizing that Godzilla also has two brains the UNGCC devises a plan to use this device called the “G-Crusher” to stop Godzilla in his tracks. They use Baby Godzilla as bait but the plan fails when a super charged and healed Rodan, now called Fire Rodan, answers the call instead. Rodan destroys the helicopter that is carrying the cargo container holding baby Godzilla and Azusa Gojo.

The UNGCC uses Garuda and a repaired Super-Mechagodzilla to fight Rodan who is trying to get to baby Godzilla. While battling Rodan Godzilla shows up and confronts his metallic alter ego. When Rodan is mortally wounded Garuda and Super-Mechagodzilla team up to fight Godzilla and succeed in paralyzing him. Revived once again by baby Godzilla’s call Rodan tries to flee when Super-Mechagodzilla shoots him down. Rodan falls on top of Godzilla and as he is dying transfers his life force to Godzilla. Godzilla revives and finds baby Godzilla. Little baby Godzilla is frightened of big Godzilla until Miki Saegusa, the young psychic who has been in the previous movies, telepathically communicates to baby that he needn’t be afraid of Godzilla. The two then head off into the ocean.

I really enjoy this film and like it a bit better than the previous Godzilla vs Mothra. The special effects are top notch and the acting is pretty solid. I really liken the inclusion of Rodan since we have not seen him in along long time and really hasn’t had any battles with Godzilla since Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster in 1964. I have always liked Rodan a great deal and feel he has been under used by Toho so I am really happy for his inclusion into the movie. My one complaint about Rodan is the name they call him. In Japan he is actually called Radon and that is what he is called here. This is the English dubbed version that is calling him Radon so you would think that in the dubbed version they would have used the name Rodan which is the familiar name English speaking audiences know him by.

I like this new baby Godzilla, it really cute and even though he is only a plot point rather than a true character he is used well. The action scenes with the monsters are also well filmed and executed. Rodan and Godzilla have never looked better. Speaking of looking good one of the joys for me with this movie is seeing the lovely Shinobu Nakayama as the adorably cute Yuri Katagiri and Ryoko Sano as the equally adorably cute Azusa Gojo. This movie is one of the top movies of Godzilla’s Heisei series.

I rate this movie: A


Shinobu Nakayama


Ryoko Sano

Godzilla vs King Ghidorah 1991

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This is one of my favorite of the rebooted, or Heisei series, and it has everything in it! It has Godzilla and spectacular monster fights with his number one nemesis, Ghidorah, (now raised in rank to King Ghidorah), time travelers and androids! It also has a very convoluted plot and enough twists and turns to satisfy anyone. There is humor and action and destruction. The special effects are also very well done.

The movie was directed by Kazuki Omori and this would be a very controversial film for him. The film depicts a very pro-Japanese tone in an era of rising Japanese financial power and many thought the film was anti-American. I can see that at the time some of the remarks, scenes and characters could be construed as anti-American sentiment, but viewing it here 21 years later those comments and scenes to have lost much of their sting. One of the more favorable aspects of the film is the return of original music producer and writer Akira Ifukbe.

The plot: As I said it is convoluted and as with many time travel movies it has large Swiss Cheese style holes in it. The movie begins in the year 2204 and we see a submarine examining the remains of King Ghidorah resting at the bottom of the ocean. The next scene shows the year 1991 and a UFO flying over Tokyo. The next day it lands and out come three people. Two Caucasians, one named Wilson, the other Gurenchiko and a gorgeously sweet and adorably cute Japanese woman named Emmy. Instead of typical aliens coming out of a UFO these three are time travelers from the year 2204. They are called the Futurians and they have come from the future, with an android in tow, to rescue Japan from the clutches of Godzilla. The Futurians mention that Godzilla will return shortly and the destruction that follows will make Japan a radioactive wasteland and uninhabitable in the future.

The sub-plot involves a wealthy business man named Shindo who experienced a large dinosaur, called a Godzillasaurus, on Lagos Island in 1944 during World War II. It seems that in 1944 the Godzillasaurus rescues a Japanese force from annihilation by an American squadron on Lagos. Shindo was a member of that Japanese force. This Godzillasaurus remained on Lagos Island and was subject to fall out from nuclear testing resulting in the first creation of Godzilla in 1954. Terasawa, who would write a book about Godzilla in the future, is taken by the Futurians, along with psychic Miki Saegusa and professor Mazaki back to Lagos Island in 1944 to prevent the creation of Godzilla. They bring with them three cute dragon like creatures called the Dorats. I bet you can see what is coming next. After witnessing the Godzillasaurus defeating the American forces (watch for a funny and groan worthy Steven Spielberg joke) the Futurians teleport the wounded Godzillasaurus to the ocean floor in the year 1991. Right before they go “back to the future” Emmy leaves the Dorats behind.

When they all arrive back in 1991 we discover that Godzilla never existed (although many people do seem to know about him) and in his place comes King Ghidorah. Yup, the little Dorats have mutated into one giant monster. It seems the Futurians were not there to save Japan after all. Instead they came to ensure Japan’s destruction. It seems that in the future Japan was not destroyed by Godzilla but had in fact become the most wealthy and powerful nation on earth.

Emmy, it seems has been unaware of the plans  fellow time travelers and begins to work with Tersawa, Miki Saegusa and professor Mazaki to try to bring back Godzilla in an effort to defeat King Ghiodorah. Shindo has a nuclear powered sub built in an effort to resurrect Godzilla. However before their plan can be put into service a Russian nuclear sub crashes near the Godzillasaurus and suddenly the largest Godzilla ever seen comes out from the depths of the ocean. This Godzilla makes short work of King Ghiodorah, ripping his middle head off in the process. Now without anyone standing in his way Godzilla begins paving a path of destruction across Japan.

Emmy, Terasawa and professor Mazaki now have to concoct a plan to defeat Godzilla. So Emmy says lets go to the future and bring back King Ghiodorah to defeat Godzilla!!! Hu? What? Hmmm…but didn’t you just create Godzilla to defeat King Ghiodorah in the first place? Now you want to bring King Ghiodorah back to defeat Godzilla…it seems like we’re caught in an never ending loop! So Emmy returns to the future where the body of King Ghiodorah is revived and enhanced with cybernetics to become Mecha-King Ghiodorah. With Emmy piloting Mecha-King Ghiodorah she/they defeat Godzilla and she drops both monsters into the ocean.

This movie is a wild and wacky ride and a heck of a lot of fun. I am also a huge Star Trek fan and many fans such as myself really enjoy the continuity within that franchise. The Godzilla franchise is another story. The original Showa series (1954-1975) is a loose continuity, meaning its there but all the directors of the various films were flexible with the continuity. Godzilla vs King Ghiodorah shatters that continuity. The rebooted Heisei series scuttled the prior continuity except for the original movie. Well, this movie even destroyed the limited continuity of the first two Heisei movies. In the 1954 original Godzilla dies at the end. The rest of the Showa era series is ignored and  in the Return of Godzilla, the Godzilla that is depicted in that movie is the second incarnation of the creature. But this movie erases all of that. Now, for the rest of the Heisei series Godzilla never appeared in 1954 at all! He never appeared in 1984  Return of Godzilla or 1989 (Godzilla vs Biollante). In fact the events from those movies are erased! So this movie reboots the entire franchise once again with Godzilla making his first appearance in this movie. Then, as you will see in a few weeks, the last of the Heisei series does reference the 1954 appearance of Godzilla! Confusing isn’t it? So the continuity is a bit of a mess.

So if you don’t care about continuity this movie is a lot of fun and action. The acting is good although the scenes with the android are a bit silly. Godzilla looks real good and the special effects with him and King Ghiodorah are very well done. I think the time travel element is very creative and used for a good plot device in moving the story forward.

I rate this movie: A

Return of Godzilla 1984

Return of Godzilla 1984

After Terror of Mechagodzilla was released in 1975 there would be no more Godzilla movies for 9 years. The movies were increasingly less profitable and the story ideas had grown stale. When Toho released the original Godzilla film in theaters it did well prompting them to return to making Godzilla movies once more. Toho offered veteran Godzilla director Ishirō Honda the opportunity to direct the next movie but he turned it down saying that with the way Godzilla performed in the 70s he felt that Godzilla should be permanently retired. In his place Koji Hashimoto took over the directing responsibilities. I disagree with Mr. Honda’s opinion that Godzilla needed to be permanently retired, but I did think that the franchise needed a break until better stories could be found. 

In Japan this movie was simply titled Godzilla (Gojira) just as the original 1954 movie had been titled. In the US the movie was known as the Return of Godzilla or Godzilla 85 as it came out a year later in the states. Although a new Godzilla suit was designed for the movie there was also a 20 foot robotic Godzilla that was touted by Toho as being state of the art. Sadly this robotic version of the big guy was not used too much in the film. The new Godzilla suit had larger spines almost equal in size to the center row of spines and the face was given a malevolent scowl. 

This movie rebooted the entire franchise and within the continuity of the series this film ignores all of the movies except the first one. Within the world of this film Godzilla had only appeared in 1954. The film also sees a return to a very serious tone. Goodbye to the child friendly Godzilla the hero and savior of mankind. Instead we see Godzilla as he originally was, a force of nature that mankind created and is now reaping what it sowed. The original movie played on the post World War II fears and the repercussions of that event. Return of Godzilla also brings in the politics of the 80s as it depicts the Cold War between the US and the USSR being part of the conflict over how to deal with Godzilla. The original Godzilla movie was modified for US release and and so was Return of Godzilla. Raymond Burr reprises his role as reporter Steven Martin. The funny thing is that by 1984 there had arose the famous TV actor and comedian by the same name, so the movie refers to Burr’s character either as Mr. Martin or Steve, but never as Steve Martin. Another similar return for Godzilla is that this is a solo film and he doesn’t fight any other monsters.

I like that they have returned Godzilla to the role of bad guy. While the movies that depict Godzilla as the good guy and the hero are cheesy fun, I do enjoy the more serious Godzilla. Part of the fun of Godzilla movies is the fear of a giant monster attacking the city. Without that fear Godzilla can become down right silly. I think this movie is a good step in the right direction. Using the cold war as part of the backdrop for the movie does increase the sense of danger and tension. However, in the American version the Cold War aspect of the movie was manipulated to make the USSR look like the bad guys. In the original Japanese version there is tension between the two countries although neither come across as the aggressor. I can understand why the US editors of the film changed that scene, it was the height of the cold war after all; what bothers me is that it typifies the childishness that goes into the game playing of politics. The other bothersome aspect of the change is that it delivers a message that was not in the original movie. It makes the US out to be the good guys and the Soviets out to be the bad guys. The problem with that is part of the tension in the film comes from the fact that Japan is caught in the middle, powerless not only over Godzilla, but equally powerless over these two super powers who want to destroy each other and the world around it in the process. That third party view of the cold war is lost due to the changes in the American version. 

Raymond Burr is not used as effectively as he was in the original. In the first film he is used as exposition (explaining the elements of the plot) and while his role is the same in this film it just wasn’t needed. Without him I can understand the plot just fine. He was needed in the first film to explain the elements of the story and his narrative added depth and emotion to the events. In this version he comes across as unnecessary window dressing. 

 The plot of this movie is also pretty straight forward. Some fishing boast are attacked and it is soon learned that the culprit was Godzilla. Unsure if Godzilla will attack Japan the government wants to keep a lid on the story to avoid a public panic. Soon however, Godzilla, much larger than he was in 1954, begins attacking power plants to feed off of the energy. The US and USSR want Japan to use a nuclear weapon to kill Godzilla but Japan refuses to use nuclear weapons after what they had done to their country. A noble stance, but unreasonable. While battling against Godzilla the Super X weapon used by the Japanese Defense Force knocks Godzilla out cold. Just at that time a Soviet satellite accidentally launches a nuclear bomb toward Japan (the US version makes it look intentional). Before the bomb hits Japan the US sends a missile to destroy the bomb which it successfully does. However, the fall out from the bomb wakes Godzilla back up. Also during his rampaging it is learned that Godzilla has a conditioned response to the birds flying in the air and likes to follow them. The reasoning given for his odd behavior is that dinosaurs were the ancestors of birds and since Godzilla is a mutated dinosaur he would share some of their behaviors. I guess that sounds plausible.  Godzilla destroys the Super X weapon by toppling a building on it. Meanwhile, scientists have placed a beacon on an active volcanic island that replicates the birds sounds attracting Godzilla who then happens to fall into the volcano. Although Godzilla is defeated it is said that they are sure he will return once more.

One of the things I like about the movie is that Godzilla appears alone. I do not mind monster fights, although there is often a big slice of Velveeta cheese that goes with some of these monster fights, this movie, and the 1954 original, shows that Godzilla acting alone can make a very good movie. With Godzilla as the sole monster in the film the story can highlight the human reaction and the suffering better than when the story line is focused on a batter between two behemoths  This movie did not do well in the states and it would be the last Godzilla movie released to US theaters until Godzilla 20000 was released in 1999. Because of absence of Godzilla in the theaters I had no idea that there was a whole series of Godzilla films that came out between 1984 and 1999. Then after the 1999 film there were even several more Godzilla films made in Japan until 2004. I have spent a lot of time catching up on all of these movies since 2005 when I discovered them on DVD.

This is a good movie, better than the movies offered in the 1970s. However, I do like the others that came out after this one a bit better so sometimes this movie gets forgotten. The best thing about this movie for me is that it returned Godzilla to the big screen and another run of movies and it also returned the character his original bad self and for that I am grateful.

I rate this movie: B+