This week, I have decided to go into the history books and watch some classic Godzilla films. The five films we tackle this week include the original film that started it all, Gojira. Then we tackle it's American version, Godzilla, King of Monsters. Then Godzilla fights the first movie monster, King Kong. After that clash then we have another iconic monster fight with Godzilla vs. Mothra and then we conclude this week with Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.
Released in 1954, Gojira was the film that started off the Godzilla franchise. It was far different in tone than any other film. It was a political film just as much as it was science-fiction thriller. It had romance, and it also had a strong cultural theme. It is one of my favorite films of all time, and after re-watching it again for like the hundredth time I have gotten a lot more respect for this film.
The film's ship scene about it being attacked by a monster is actually based on the fame Daigo Fukuryu Maru incident which resulted in some fishermen being tested for atomic radiation due to the H-bomb. This is in a post World War II Japan which had two bombs dropped on it, so it is important that the theme of anti-nuclear weapons is going to be a main theme of this film.
The Japanese freighter Eiko-Maru is destroyed near Odo Island followed by another ship the Bingo-maru a team is sent to investigate with only a few survivors alive. The natives of Odo Island fear that the terrible monster Gojira has been awoken. A reporter finds out that Gojira was once appeased by virgin sacrifices. During a powerful storm, the reporter's helicopter is destroyed and an unseen monster destroys the villager's quaint settlement.
The villagers go to Tokyo asking for assistance. A paleontologist named Kyohei Yamane heads to the island where he finds a trilobite on the island. Then the villager's alarm bell rings and the villagers with Yamane see a monster that resembles a giant dinosaur roaring before returning to it's ocean home.
Back in Japan, Yamane shows his research and is adamant about Japan researching the creature. However, after it is known that it is dangerous and was awoken by the H-Bomb testing the Japanese want to destroy the creature. They try to use depth charges, but that just angers Gojira who arrives in Japan and causes destruction.
Yamane does not want to creature to be destroyed so secludes himself from society. His daughter Emiko goes to break her engagement to Yamane's colleague Dr. Serizawa. She is then shown his Oxygen Destroyer, but the sight shocks her and leaves without breaking off her engagement.
Then Godzilla arrives at Tokyo and creates more chaos and destruction before returning to the sea. The Japanese try to create an electrical fence to scare off the monster, but this does not work. Distraught Emiko breaks the news of Serizawa's weapon to her lover and the two go to Serizawa. Although he is hesitant to use it as a weapon, he realizes that it is the only thing that can destroy Godzilla. Serizawa's willingness to save his country and to take the secret with them is a very important theme in this theme.
Serizawa goes to confront Godzilla with his invention and ends up killing the monster along with himself. His sacrifice is multi-faceted. Not only is he giving his blessing for Emiko and her fiance, but for modern Japan to be shaped despite the tragedies that have occurred to them. Godzilla isn't just a symbol of the atomic age, he is the symbol of a new Japan that will emerge after the war.
Godzilla, King of Monsters
For all instances and purposes Godzilla King of Monsters is not that different of a film that Gojira. It does have a distinct tone however. It forces the tone more towards anti-nuclear and anti-war, and features reworked scenes staring Raymond Burr. I have always like the film, and now that I watched them back to back I can see why the American audience and even the Japanese audience liked this film more.
Godzilla, King of Monsters stars Steve Martin an American reporter who is in Japan for a social call with his friend Serizawa. But, he ends up in the swing of the plot from Gojira. The film starts chronologically in the middle of Gojira with the aftermath of the second Tokyo attack where Steve Martin was witnessed to the Godzilla attack. He then flashes back to why he came to Japan, and then of the events leading up to the attack on Tokyo.
He ends up going to Odo Island and investigating the monster attack. He witnesses Godzilla and writes back to his boss. It puts the focus away from the Japanese characters and more onto Martin as the observer, but he becomes the focus of the film. The love triangle is still there, but it is somewhat mitigated. This works for some instances, because we have a main protagonist with a goal and with an identity as opposed to the multitude of characters we follow in the original film. This of course strays away from the Japanese cultural ties. But, again it is still more easy to focus on Martin so I see why the film did well in the US and did even better in Japan.
We eventually go past the attack on Tokyo and Emiko spills the beans about the Oxygen Destroyer to Steve Martin. Just like in the original film Emiko and Ogata go and convince Serizawa who then of course like in the original sacrifices himself.
For whatever reason the political metaphors were stripped from this movie. The original press of this version also stripped a very important scene with a Japanese mother holding two children reminacing that soon they would be with their father, implying he died in the Pacific Conflict which his what the Japanese call World War 2. But, this was added back in for later releases since it has a strong political and culture impact on the second Tokyo attack. The film takes away a bit of the pathos you feel for the Japanese, I mean it is still there, but the American version feels more of anti-nuclear film than one with many facets like the original film. I still love this movie, but I feel that it does some interesting things, and can still hold it's ground against the original.
King Kong vs. Godzilla
I skipped Godzilla Raids Again and instead moved towards the more popular King Kong vs. Godzilla. The main reason is that I find Godzilla Raid's Again to be pretty boring and wanted to see King Kong fight Godzilla. This film features two iconic monsters fighting, King Kong who is by many considered the grand daddy of all kaiju, and Godzilla who is Japan's biggest menace. The film is important historically as it went away from the darker themes of the first two films and into a more child friendly film.
We start the film off when Mr. Tako who is the head of Pacific Pharmaceuticals wants to do something to boost ratings of a show that his company is sponsering. When he hears about a giant monster on the small Faro Island, he sends two men named Sakurai and Kinsaburo to bring the monster back to Japan.
Meanwhile Godzilla breaks out of a iceburg which he had been trapped since 1955 and destroys both a submarine and a nearby military base.
Then on Faro island the two men get abducted by the natives, who are unfortunatly depicted by Japanese with black face to make them look Polynesian. They bribe the natives with toys, candy, and cigarettes. While there an octopus attacks the village, but King Kong arrives. King Kong is then tricked into sleeping and placed on a large raft and to be sent back to Japan.
On the way there the JSDF tell Mr. Taka and his company to send King Kong back to Japan. They blow up the raft, but King Kong wakes up and escapes. The two monsters meet, and in the first encounter Godzilla wins.
The JSDF then lure Godzilla into a bit where they want him to be defeated, but it fails and try another plan. They use electricity which for some reason the first time in Godzilla's history he does not like electricity. King Kong enters Tokyo and tears through these same power lines. There he captures Fumiko, the sister of Sakurai. The JSDF along with Sakurai lure King Kong to the Diet building and drug him to sleep like they did on Faro Island. They then take King Kong to fight Godzilla on Mt. Fuji. Godzilla has the upper hand for most of the fight, until King Kong gets a second wind thanks to electricity. The two then plunge into the ocean where Kong survives the fight.
There really is no themes except for the greed of Tako from Pacific Pharmaceuticals is what brought this film's plot on in the first place. It's a fun film, and the dub version is quite classic. The movie is just one giant monster slug fest and I love it.
With the success of King Kong vs. Godzila Toho decided to cross-over with it's own monster, Mothra vs. it's famous lizard. Mothra vs. Godzilla showcases a variety of themes including that of nature, greed, and about the power of journalism and public opinion. It is a very interesting Godzilla film in that regard.
The film starts with some reports Ichiro Sakai and his photographer Junko Nakanishi who take pictures of an area ravaged by a typhoon. They discover a strange shiny object and salvage it. Then a giant egg is found around the same waters and local villagers sell the egg to Happy Enterprises and it's boss Kumayama. He wants to turn the egg into a large tourist attraction. We then found out that same shiny object was radioactive, but don't find out why until later.
They meet with Professor Miura who tells them about the radioactivity and discuss the egg at the hotel when the see Kumayama checking in. In his room Kumayama meets with Jiro Torahata. The two of them are confronted by the twin girls known as Shobijin. Seeing only their greed they try to capture the girls who escape. The twins then meet up with Mira and Sakai's group where the journalists treat them with kindness.
The twins then tell the trio that the egg belongs to Mothra and they don't want trouble to occur once the egg hatches. Again the theme of nature and greed are the real two themes in this film. They return to the beach and discover the whole area is radioactive. It seems that the radioactivity stems from the beach and Godzilla appears, which of course is the source of the radiation.
With the attack in full swing the trio go to Infant Island and plea with the villagers and the twins for Mothra to save Japan. They initially do not agree, but are pursuaded to do so. The twins warn them that Mothra is near death, but she will try to help until she dies.
In the chaos of Godzilla's rampage Kumayama finds out that he has been swindled by Torahata and demands his money. He is then shot by Torahata who tries to escape with the money and is eventually killed by Godzilla. Mothra fights Godzilla right when Godzilla reaches the egg and the two fight. Godzilla is immune to her powers and beats her with his atomic breath.
Godzilla continues his rampage and leaves the egg alone. This allows two larvae to hatch. Meanwhile Godzilla heads to Iwa Island. The two worms spray Godzilla in their silk and win the battle against the atomic creature.
Themes of nature and coming together are present in this film and are set as a foil against the greed of the villains. It is quite an interesting way to deal with the themes, and have monsters fighting in the background.
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah
According to Toho lore with the success of the past films, the company decided to get pretty ballsy and have a huge cross-over film that featured Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan. They would then create a fourth monster, King Ghidorah and feature the three once foes team up against this new threat. This film is then given it's own human plot to revolve around these monsters, and it does it in a rather interesting way.
A princess from a small kingdom of Selgina is arriving to Japan due to the threat of her assassination. A police detective named Shindo is sent to be her bodyguard, but her plane is mysteriously blown up on the way to Japan. Around the same time, a meteorite shower appears and one of them crashes in Japan. A geologist named Murai and his team of scientists go to investigate the meteor.
Quite sometime after the princesses plane blows up a prophetess appears in Japan claiming to be from Venus announcing to the world various disasters. Her prophecies come true predicting Rodan and Godzilla's advancements to the Japanese mainland.
The princess's uncle sends assassins to take out the princess after it is revealed that she is alive. Shindo then tries to protect the princess. They discover the golden bracelet was given to a fisherman which is the princesses showing that the prophetess is indeed the amnesiac royalty. It is around this time that she warns the twins of Infant Island of an attack, where Godzilla appears and destroys their ship. Godzilla and Rodan start fighting in the process destroying Japan.
Our princess turned prophetess warns that King Ghidorah has come to Earth and will destroy the planet and she is here to warn people. The twins are brought to the prime minster at first with a plan to use Mothra to destroy Godzilla, but in a twist the twins claim that Mothra won't be able to defeat Ghidorah. The twins state that only if Mothra, Godzilla and Rodan work together will their plan work.
Mothra comes and tries to stop Rodan and Godzilla to fight. But, like two bickering children they refuse and Mothra goes and fights Ghidora alone. Mothra is thrown around by Ghidorah's gravity beams, but Godzilla and Rodan have a change of heart and the three of them work to defeat King Ghidorah.
Meanwhile the princess tries to appease the gods in her insanity, but Shindo rescues her from the assassin. The bullet hits her in the head and she remembers who she was. The assassin is not so lucky as a rockslide caused by Ghidorah kills him. Now with the princess back to normal the monsters team up and scare away Ghidorah from Earth.
The themes in this film are kinda dated, because we have a lot of anti-scientific rhetoric in this film. There is a lot of sensationalism. Not just in psychic powers, but in the distrust of science. It isn't an overarching theme, but it is clearly threaded into the plot since the princess's prophecies come true. Beyond that the most obvious theme is that of the monsters working together against a common foe. It is very much so pressured throughout the end of the film that the monsters should work together. This gets straight up comical near the end of the film while the twins translate the needy Mothra's appeal to Godzilla and Rodan who are like spoiled children.
Overall, it is a fun flick with a interesting human plot. It isn't the best Showa film, but it is still rather interesting. It also is the first film where Godzilla is seen as not purely a menace, a theme that would continue on in many films of the rest of the Showa film.
In this week of Daikaiju Monster Madness we will talk about the millennial series which include Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: All Monsters Attack also known as it's fan name as GMK; Godzilla vs. Megaguirus; Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla; Godzilla: Tokyo SOS; and Godzilla Final Wars.
It has been 50 years since Godzilla has attacked Japan and the country has thrived. Then out of nowhere reports of a Godzilla attack in the US emerges. This is a reference to Godzilla 1998 by Tri-star and I love the simple jab as they sort of say that it really wasn't Godzilla. Then an American submarine is attacked and the SDF go and see what the problem is and glimpse a fin that may or may not be Godzilla.
Meanwhile a film company is interested in making a series about ESP and the legends of Giant Monsters in a rural Japanese town. At first the village elder does not let them, but after being persuaded by an aspiring reporter named Yuri he allows it believing it will bring tourism to his tiny town.
Around the same time some hooligans on bikes attack and harass the local townspeople and knock over some shrines. They enter into a tunnel and it is collapsed by a monster. Soon after more young kids are killed by Mothra. The deaths of Japanese youth is quite important as it is a theme in this film that I will discuss later on.
Yuri is an interesting character in this film because she is the depiction of the modern woman in Japan, and she is also quite enjoyable as a character. One of the great female protagonists in a modern Japanese films. Yuri gets a book about the Guardian Monsters and links it to the recent disasters. So she returns to the rural town for more information.
An old and senile man is brought into the police chief for destroying a shrine. He tells Yuri that Godzilla is coming and that the Guardian Monsters are arriving to stop Godzilla and protect the homeland, but not necessarily the nation. When she tells her father who is a naval commander he does not believe her and ignores her pleas.
The old man scene when it is video taped reminds me of the beginning of Tri-Stars 1998 Godzilla film. It is also in this scene that a new ret-con to Godzilla's origin is established. Godzilla is fueled by nuclear energy and the hatred of all who were killed in the Pacific Conflict which is what the Japanese call World War II. This is also a theme that is addressed later.
Before the film reaches it's second act we have a salary man who was trying to commit suicide fall down a shaft and find King Ghidorah. That same man was seen in the police station, and it's interesting how they tie many of these characters together. The first act comes to a close when it is revealed that Yuri's dad was a kid when Godzilla attacked Tokyo for the first time.
The second act begins with Baragon appearing and attacking the town where the old man is kept. Baragon attacks a hot spring resort. After the attack Yuri's dad finally understands that what his daughter was saying was not mere superstition.
Baragon saves the old man so he can go awaken the final beast King Ghidorah. At the same time Godzilla appears off Shizouku in a scene that looks shockingly familiar with a scene from the Tri-Star Godzilla film. Godzilla actively kills people on his way to confront Baragon which shows a more darker nature of the monster. I really enjoy this darker tone as Godzilla just kills people out of spite, it helps the mood and tension that this Godzilla is the spirits of the dead.
Godzilla fights Baragon, and eventually kills him. Mothra's cocoon is seen on the lake hibernating. It is at this time that Yuri uses the Godzilla footage that night to show Japan about the Guardian Monsters. The military try their hardest to defeat Godzilla, but it is to no avail.
Mothra appears from it's cocoon and King Ghidorah wakes up. The Three monsters fight in Tokyo, but the two of them are defeated. Mothra sacrifices herself to no avail, because King Ghidorah also is defeated. While escaping the monster attacks Yuri drops a a stone that revives the monsters souls that go into Godzilla. It must be symbolic or something, because it really doesn't do anything.
Yuri's dad does a sneak attack and enter's Godzilla's mouth where he fires a missile. This allows him to leave Godzilla's body and just when Godzilla is going to kill Yuri and her friend, the missle causes Godzilla's signature move to tear Godzilla a part in the most brutal way possible.
In the end Godzilla's heart is seen still beating meaning that it isn't the last Godzilla film. There are themes of nature and reciprocity in this film however the main theme is that the ills of the youth will doom Japan. It is that the Japanese youth have forgotten the sacrifice of the old. At the same time the film hits on hard that Japan has to come to terms with it's war crimes in the Pacific Theater. It is a very complex theme that I think does get to be a bit too much preachy, but is executed in a great way. I love this film, and think it is one of the better films in the Millennial series.
Godzilla vs. Megaguirus
This film is simply a revenge film that has many plot points that drag on throughout the course of the movie. The main plot point is about revenge for Godzilla from this JSDF, and the other being the plot of the Meganula or giant dragonflies. Eventually these plot points merge into a coherent plot and the pay off takes a long time, but the film does redeem itself in the end.
The film sets itself first in Osaka where the JSDF attack Godzilla. In the attack the superior officer of Kiriko Tsujimori is killed. This makes her vow vengeance against Godzilla. She collects talented people for one purpose to kill Godzilla. Including our somewhat main protagonist a self-taught engineer. The plan is to develop a micro black whole to kill Godzilla.
It is during one of these tests that a dragonfly extinct species called Meganula is mutated and it lays eggs. A boy picks up the egg, but then discards it. Mutant Meganula break out and start to kill people and mutate further.
These dragonflies attack Godzilla on an island that the G-Graspers have planned to use their new weapon called Dimension tide which drains Godzilla. After this battle the Meganula return to their underwater nest to feed Godzilla's energy to the egg which hatches into Megaguirus. The giant dragonfly destroys Tokyo further and disables Dimension Tide.
Godzilla enters Tokyo, but the territorial dragonfly fights Godzilla. She absorbs Godzilla's energy and uses an attack similar to it's atomic breath. A funny incident includes Godzilla body slamming onto the of the dragonfly and eventually biting off it's arms. Godzilla eventually wins by grabbing her tail and blasting it with it's atomic blast a few times.
In the meantime Dimension Tide is brought back online. It is revealed around this time that Godzilla was drawn to plasma energy which was illegally kept in Tokyo, it was noted that this is what kept drawing Godzilla to Tokyo. Vengeful Kiriko pilots a ship called Gryphon and draws Godzilla to a spot so that Dimension Tide sends a black hole to engulf Godzilla. Everyone cheers, but the end of the show has Godzilla's iconic roar boasting claims that Godzilla is not done for yet.
Themes in this film include revenge which is the main theme in the film. The other being unexpected consequences for actions including revenge. But, mostly due with the fact that in trying to stop Godzilla the G-Graspers are responsible for Megaguirus. These two themes tie into the film to create an interesting sense of tension that does pay off in the end.
Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla
Much like the previous film the theme of Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla is that of vengeance. This film also has a few other themes that run parallel with other films, and have it's own character focused story. We have a female lead in the form of Lt. Akane Yoshiro and her main motivation is that of vengeance.
This film also includes a reconnected version of MechaGodzilla called Kiryuu. This version of the monster uses the bones of the original 1954 Godzilla destroyed by Dr. Serizawa's experiments.
It starts off with Akane's backstory about an event featuring Godzilla and her as a maser operator. In the incident she panics and hits another car leading to their deaths. Years later she is given a nice non-stressful desk job. However, she wants to redeem herself and destroy Godzilla.
A doctor who works on bio-androids making half life and half mecha. Much like the previous Heisei MechaGodzilla film, this film is Life vs. Biolife. However in this film it is given a darker slant as MechaGodzilla is the uncontrollable side of nature because of Godzilla's bones are in it.
Akane trains, and is berated by many of her teamates, but she is chosen ultimately to pilot Kiryuu. Their first battle takes place between Godzilla and MechaGodzilla. Kiryu looks like it is winning, but when the bio computer acts up losing control Godzilla gets away.
They have to update the data and tests have to be made. It is during this down time that Akane befriends the Doctor's daughter and we see her trying to break out of her shell and not just live for vengence. This is important for her character development and it ties in later in the film.
The second fight lets Akane confront Godzilla a third time and the second time with Kiryu. Yet again the system fails as the bones don't want to kill Godzilla. However through sheer will she pilots Kiryu and in an explosive battle seemingly traps Godzilla in ice. However, Godzilla escapes and her fight will have to continue another day.
The themes of revenge is central here, and the fact she doesn't defeat Godzilla is important. It shows that she can't stop blaming herself and she has to move on. This film is a sort of redemption to her character arc, and it works. There is the messing with nature theme as well, but that will be concluded to an extent in the next film which is not as good in my opinion.
Godzilla: Tokyo SOS
Godzilla Tokyo SOS takes place after the events of Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla and although they use characters and take place after, they are two different films. They take the revenge plot and take it out the window. Then they take that life vs. biolife and take it to 11 in terms of annoyance. There are themes of regret, love, tampering with nature, forcing of natures (mostly of Kiryuu to kill Godzilla), and the main theme of the film that is plastered into our heads 'Remember no human may touch the souls of the dead'. There is also a theme of correcting the deeds of the past. The film in short has not focus and does not do what it's predecessor did and thus is a weaker film.
The beginning of the film shows Mothra becoming an enemy of humanity. We then switch to Mr. Choji from Godzilla vs. Mothra who has the Mothra twins appear before him. They tell him that Godzilla's bones must be returned to the sea so that Mothra will not become their enemy.
Meanwhile after it's fight agianst Godzilla, Kiryu is under repairs. Chujo who was there with his uncle knows about the warning of the twins. He is attacked by a pilot who thinks Chujo is a coward and a disgrace to the organization. After the attack he is taken to a hearing by the pilot's father who doesn't want to lose his son in an attack against Godzilla and wants to see if Mothra is a viable alternative to Kiryu.
Godzilla attacks Japan, and in the chaos the government does not let Kiryu get launched partially because the repairs are not done. So Godzilla attacks Japan and Choji and his grandson are attacked by Godzilla, but summon Mothra to fight Godzilla.
Mothra arrives and attacks Godzilla, but is badly beaten. So Kiryu is sent out to help Mothra. Godzilla still defeats both of them, but Mothra's eggs hatch and not one, but twin Mothra larvae appear. The worms come to help Mothra, but get beaten up by Godzilla. Mothra sacrifices herself to protect her children. The engineer then goes and repairs Kiryu. He is however trapped in the mechanical monster when it faces Godzilla.
Godzilla's roar after being subdued by the Mothra twins, makes them unable to control him. Kiryu then takes Godzilla and takes him to the trench taking both of them to the sea. The engineer escapes thanks to the female and male pilots. Then the show ends with Godzilla seemingly defeated.
The film falls flat compared to it's predecessor. It also makes the end of the previous film have no real closure. Akane's revenge arc feels empty, and in return we get this chaotic mess of a film.
Godzilla Final Wars
We end the millennial films with the most over the top Godzilla film sense the Showa era. Godzilla Final Wars. This is a film that is so silly and outrageous that it could have only came from someone who loved the cheesiness of early Godzilla films. The plot is simple, the characters don't really have purpose except for the plot, but it is done in an entertaining way.
We start with Godzilla being led to the Antarctic where thanks to a mechanic machine called Gotengu falls into ice and remains frozen. In this time other monsters appear and Japan creates the Earth Defense Force made up of humans and mutants alike. Commander Gordon pilots the Gotengu and fights the dragon called Manda. However the ship is damaged and he is court marshaled.
In the meantime strange occurrences start occurring. They discover a creature called Gigan who is not of this earth. The creature has M-gene which is similar to that of mutants depicted by a female biologist. The biologist, a special mutant and the professor are all teleported to Infant Island by the twins where they discuss that Mothra defeated Gigan 10,000 years ago.
Giant Monsters then attack cities and the EDF has to stop these monsters. The monsters vanish and then aliens appear proposing the end of the UN and the start of a Galactic Nations. As the threat of a planet called Goranth will hit earth. Alien mania sweeps earth, but those who saw the vision of Mothra as well as a TV reporter don't buy it.
First they find out that Gorath is not real, and ambush other Xilian spies. They confront the UN member of Japan to reveal he is an alien and the Xilian ploy is revealed. The Xilian general kills the controller and declares war on humanity. He also controls the mutants to destroy the cattle.
They escape and get to the Gotengu and awaken Godzilla. The awakened monster follows Gotengu as it believes it's battle has not yet been done. It battles Zilla in Syndey, and one by one after that defeats all the monsters easily.
The Gotengu appears in Tokyo and one of the mutants sacrifices himself to let them into the alien spacecraft, but they are forced inside regardless by the Xilians. The Xilian controller unlocks the special mutant's powers and he betrays his friends until the biologist stabs him with an amulet the Mothra twins gave them. He returns to normal and now with his powers unlock defeat the Xilians.
Godzilla with help of Mothra defeat Mecha Gigan and Monster X. We find out that Monster X is really Kaiser Ghidorah, and Godzilla after given a power boost defeats the monster. He moves to destroy the Gotengu, but Manilla appears who was helped by a boy and a hunter earlier in the film stop Godzilla and the two of them return home while humanity can rebuild.
Personally I love that the film doesn't take itself serious. It isn't great writing, the characters are flat, but it is enjoyable. It is just science fantasty dressed up with monsters fighting one another. If you like classic Showa films, as well as just fun then this is something you would probably like.
We are onto week two of October which means this is the second week of my reviewing Godzilla films. Today we will look over the Heisei Godzilla cinematic universe. A term I created to discuss the interconnected films in the Heisei era. Starting with Godzilla 1984 aka Return of Godzilla and ending with Godzilla vs. Destroyah. The Heisei era of Godzilla films are characterized with a continuing narrative post Return of Godzilla aka Godzilla 1984. Although, I already started did a review of Godzilla 1984, we will start with Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II (1993), Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994), Godzilla Vs. Destroyah (1995), Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle For Earth (1992), Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), and Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989).
Each of these films have common themes including screwing with nature has it's repercussions. In addition each of these films try to kill Godzilla, but Godzilla survives in some manner or another. They tackle issues of Geo-engineering, about how the past comes back to haunt the present, and that are in many Godzilla films before and after the era. Another thing that these films have in common is that of the character Miki Saegusa, a psychic whom is supposed to be the pathos for Godzilla.
I will start with a brief recap on my thoughts of Godzilla 1984 the film that started this so called Godzilla Cinematic Universe. Godzilla 1984 aka Return of Godzilla is a direct sequel to the original Gojira film, and features a very dark tone that would continue with at least the next film in the franchise, Godzilla vs. Biollante, but would be discarded for the rest of the 90's era films.
Godzilla vs. Biollante takes place not so long after the events of Godzilla 1984 and brings in a new character in the form of psychic Miki Saegusa who early on in the film goes to a Psychic Institute after having a dream where she sees other children at the Institute also have the same dream of Godzilla. Although, Miki is a minor player in the actual plot, she is still important.
The film's main focus is on a plant species that has been exposed to G-cells the cells that make Godzilla such a destructive force of nature. They recover the g-cells after the events of Godzilla 1984, and are used to create a super plant by a company called Sarudia whom want to turn the Middle-Eastern desert into a grassland that would rival America's breadbasket. The plant is attacked by terrorists and Dr. Shiragami's daughter Erica is killed.
Five years later Dr. Shiragami has isolated himself from society. He is asked by another company to work on creating a weapon using his research to kill Godzilla. Although he initially declines, an earthquake caused by terrorists blowing up Mt. Miura where Godzilla was imprisoned causes a reaction that injures some roses which we find out has the soul of his deceased daughter makes him change his mind.
He works on the project and eventually an American based genetics company and the Sarudia Company try to steal the research and G-cells. They are attacked by a plant creature. The creature then escapes to the lake where it grows and is named Biollante.
A terrorist organization known as Alien holds Japan ransom if they don't get the anti-nuclear bacteria they will blow up Mt. Miura forcing Godzilla free. In the exchange the terrorist is killed by SSS9, the special agent sent by the Sarudia Company. Unfortunately, the bomb still goes off and Godzilla is set free.
Godzilla heads towards Biollante, drawn to it because it has the same cells as it. A battle occurs where Godzilla fights Biollante and wins. Godzilla now heads to powerplants to regain energy, and ends up killing probably the best colonel in the film. In his last dying attempt his team place the anti-nuclear bacteria in Godzilla. It at first doesn't do anything, but they theorize if they heat up Godzilla it will work.
Godzilla heads towards Osaka, and Miki uses her psychic powers to force Godzilla into a trap that should heat him up allowing the bacteria to do it's work. However, Biollante appears and the two fights, Godzilla again ends up the victor. After Biollante's death Godzilla is seemingly falls dead, and then Shirogami is killed by SSS9 whom himself is killed by the same weapon used to kill Godzilla. In the end they agree that man is the real monster and Godzilla and Biollante were just their creations. Godzilla gets up and flees the scene.
The other themes in this film include bio-terrorism and it's threat in the 20th and 21st century. Then there is the morality of science and recreation of life using science. These moral gray issues are contested and a pro-nature vibe and theme is seen throughout this film as it is in most Godzilla films of this nature. The acting is great, all around even the cheesy and corny lines are done well.
The film's story is a standard 80's action flick, and apparently was created in a writing contest. But, because this film did so bad in the box office, they decided to reboot their old Godzilla villi ans for the upcoming films, which unfortunately are a mixed bag.
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is the next film in the Heisei era, and it reboots one of Godzilla's most classic foes. Besides Biollante it is my favorite film of this era, and it continues to use Miki Saegusa, but she doesn't appear to do much in this film so her appearance is not really understood.
In this film an alien craft appears and the JSDF fear that it has a connection with Godzilla. The JSDF go and fight the craft and are destroyed in the process. Eventually the craft lands and the people come out saying that they are from the future and have ill tidings about Godzilla.
Although that is the main plot of the film, we are introduced to our motley cast of characters including a paleontologist, a reporter and author, Miki Saegusa, and an old time Japanese military officer from WW2 or as it is known in Japan as the Pacific War.
The main theme of this film is time travel and also Japan coming to terms with it's past. The Japanese military are seen as honorable and loyal to their nation, and putting historical white washing aside, the themes do address Japan's past and looking at it with fresh new eyes. Which is always a good thing when dealing with these sensitive issues.
The futurists plan to take a group back in time and change history by erasing Godzilla. Along the trip we have these things called Dorats who Miki realizes too late were left on the island. Instead of Godzilla, Japan is attacked by King Ghidora. The psychic turned detective Miki deduces that the futurists put the dorats back in time on purpose so that King Ghidorah takes his place in history. This is revealed to be a plan of the radical group within the futurists to make sure Japan does not rise to dominate the world economy.
Godzilla still reappears, as a historical anomaly, but he is not the Godzilla from 1940's the dinosaur that was mutated by radiation. Instead, this Godzilla is one bent on destructive rage of Japan. Godzilla destroys King Ghidorah and starts rampaging on Japan. One of the futurists who is a descendant of the author goes forward in time to revive and make King Ghidorah a cyborg, making Mecha King Ghidorah. The cyborg battles Godzilla and seemingly wins. Everything goes back to normal, and you think the good guys win, but actually, Godzilla survives, because of course we have to keep the franchise going strong.
The themes include that of historical interpretation since the Japanese focus on WW2 in their time travel. The brave Japanese battle the Americans and are saved by a dinosaur. That dinosaur is wounded and then is radiated to Godzilla. That is all fine and good, but the Japanese are portrayed as heroes while the Americans although not portrayed as bad guys, are made to look goofy. This is all fun and games, but the film is supposed to force this theme of accepting the bad of the past, but side step completely Japan's wrongdoings in the war. Maybe, I'm just over-thinking, but this theme is the only thing I don't much care for in the film. Overall, I enjoy this film, and this is the last of the Heisei films that I like.
Godzilla vs. Mecha Godzilla II
Continuing the trend of taking old Godzilla foes and re-imagining them is Godzilla vs. Mecha Godzilla II. The film starts off as a giant pterasaur egg is found on an island. A team consisting of scientists go and collect the egg, but are attacked by Rodan. The scientists take the egg back with them after Godzilla shows up and fights Rodan. Godzilla then leaves the island.
The scientists take the egg back and analyze it. Miki Saegusa reappears in this film alongside a female scientist who has a link with the egg as well as a pterasaur otaku who pilots Mecha Godzilla's special jet back attachment The Garuda. These are the three main characters of the film.
The egg hatches thanks to Miki Saegusa noting that some grass found at the egg site sings and that power is amplified and makes the baby hatch. The baby is not a baby pteradon, but is a baby Godzilla who imprints on the poor female scientist.
The JSDF use Baby Godzilla to lure Godzilla in a fight where Mecha Godzilla armed with Garuda fight Godzilla. Mecha Godzilla is pushed back, but becomes Super Mecha Godzilla and fights Godzilla in a far more superior manner. However, after baby's cries Rodan comes and ends up dying giving it's lifeforce to Godzilla whom becomes Super Godzilla and defeats Mecha Godzilla and Garuda.
Miki is then asked to send Baby Godzilla with a message to take Godzilla away from Japan. The plan works, and Japan is sparred from more attacks by Godzilla, at least for now.
The Themes in this movie are mostly that tampering with nature and an ecosystem can be disastrous particularly with that of Baby Godzilla being moved from his home which is the main reason Godzilla attacks Japan in this film. Another theme is that it is the first film where Miki starts to feel empathy for Godzilla. After all, she did do a mind meld sort of with him in the previous film. The tag line at the end was that it was life vs. artificial life, and pretty much sums up the fight.
Godzilla Mothra- Battle for Earth
This next film Godzilla and Mothra- Battle for Earth was the end and the beginning of the Godzilla Heisei era in many ways. It was far more successful than the past few films in the series, but because of it's success and it is generally well reviewed the next films continued to make it's same mistakes. In addition it allowed Mothra to get her own trilogy in the 90's.
The film begins with an asteroid that lands in some islands in the Pacific. A Japanese Company wants the meteor recovered and send a 'not Indiana Jones' to retrieve it. Along with one of the company members as well as it's secretary whom is 'not Indiana Jones' ex-wife embark on shenanigans. I think their banter is supposed to be funny, but it just falls flat and you don't know why these two even love each other. They discover that the asteroid is an egg and take the egg back with them.
Two faires called Cosmos tell them that the egg belongs to Mothra and they should not deal with the egg. Godzilla appears to destroy the egg, but is stopped by 'not Indiana Jones' cutting the rope where the egg hatches into a Mothra larvae. Mothra larvae gets it's butt kicked until Battra's larvae form appears and sinks Godzilla with it into a deep trench.
The fairies are then captured by the company to be used in their marketing campaigns. The fairies respond by calling Mothra which causes it to come save them. Which doesn't make any sense, because of course the JSDF are going to attack a monster. I could almost make a case that the real antagonists of this film could be Cosmos. They are the cause of everything, no serious they summon Mothra. The reason Battra is defeated, and then why Mothra has to go commit suicide by fending off a meteor that apparently Battra was supposed to be defeated.
I am not even finishing the summary, because I just eluded at it. This film's human story is atrocious because the human characters are not characters they are cardboard cut-outs of tropes that are not even written well or enjoyable. I don't know why this film was so successful, and unfortunately that same style was used in the last two films.
Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla
Godzilla now has to fight it's space version cousin. Again, we discuss G-cells, but this time we go timely-wimey with space/time mechanics that don't make sense. Space Godzilla looks cool, but this film makes little sense.
Pretty much Space Godzilla is an evil version of Godzilla who locks Young Godzilla in crystals and then sucks up energy that will destroy the planet. Godzilla fights Space Godzilla with help of Super XIII, and pretty much those last two films where they tried to kill Godzilla, is seen as bad. Miki only briefly appears and instead the pathos is switched this rogue soldier who wants revenge on Godzilla, but ends up showing appreciation for him. It is a basic plot, and doesn't fit the last few Godzilla portrayals and is back peddling at best, and at worst is just a corny and cheesy film.
The themes include putting empathy on Godzilla much like Miki was used in the past few films. Instead Miki is put into a position where they want to weaponize Godzilla using telepathy. But, the telepathy never actually works. There is also a subplot about Miki being captured by the yakuza. It makes no sense, and since the Project M does not work, the whole plot point is pointless. The film had promise, but they kept making the same mistakes of the last film.
Godzilla vs. Destroyah
With the failure of Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla for obvious reasons, Toho decided to end it's Godzilla run especially with Tri-Star doing their own Godzilla film.
This film starts off with Godzilla dying by going nuclear. The JSDF then enact plans to try to destroy him. One plan is to use the oxygen destroyer the one that killed the original Godzilla in 1954. Miki does not agree with this plan. But, at the same time another scientist named Dr. Injun creates micro-oxygen which is eerily similar to Dr. Serizawa's Oxygen Destroyer.
Injun creates an experiment and one of the microbes emerges from pre-cambrian earth and mutates into creatures that attack the JSDF. These action scenes are funny, because they are similar to Gamera vs. The Legion.
Much like in Legion, the smaller creatures combine to create Destroyah who first fights and defeats Young Godzilla the grown up and radiated version of Baby Godzilla from Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II. Young Godzilla is seemingly killed by Destroyah, but then battles Godzilla. Godzilla defeats it not one, but twice. The JSDF manage to cool Godzilla down, but he still blows up making Tokyo an atomic wasteland. However, in the explosion Young Godzilla is revived and will be the new Godzilla.
Themes include that the past has come back to haunt you. Much, like the themes in some of the earlier Heisei films, so it gets that right. This film doesn't have the mistakes of the past three films, but was a decent way to end the Heisei era. Godzilla would come back in five more years, and we will talk about the Millennial Series next week.
Overall I feel that the Godzilla Heisei Cinematic Universe did some interesting things. It was the first film franchise to take a product and tie it all together in a way that was only through films. Yeah, Star Trek and Star Wars have their films, but Star Trek was based on a TV show and Star Wars only had those three films. Godzilla's Heisei series could be seen as inspiration for Marvel and DC's Cinematic Universes and they could use a history lesson to not repeat what happened to Godzilla.
This month I will be doing something a bit different with the blog. Those of you who know me personally already see my undying love for kaiju, particularly for that king of daikaiju, Godzilla. So in celebration of Shin Godzilla and October, I'm going to watch all the Godzilla films I own. 30 films in total. Then every Sunday I will write a review of all the shows I have watched.
Starting this tradition off will be me watching two Godzilla films and then reviewing them. The reviews will all be similar. I will analyze the story, characters, themes, and acting to rate where I think they fit on the Godzilla totem pole.
Today, we will be looking at two Godzilla films. The first one is Godzilla 1984 aka known as Godzilla Returns. Then we will go back to 1966 and watch Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster aka Ebirah: Horror of the deep.
Godzilla 1984 aka Godzilla Returns
Toho had stopped making Godzilla films in the eighties, due to the financial failure of Terror of MechaGodzilla. Multiple times in the 80's a reboot had been attempted, and more films even one attemped to get an American director. Most of those plans fell through, and eventually Toho brought a team to create a sequel to the original 1954 Godzilla film. That would become Godzilla 1984, and would return to the darker roots of the monster.
Godzilla 1984 begins on a boat where fisherman during a volcanic eruption see Godzilla appear. Godzilla awakes and wrecks havoc on the world once more. We are introduced to our main character Goro Maki a reporter who finds Hiroshi Okumura, the sole survivor of the tragedy.
Goro wants to report the findings, but can't as Okumura's professor from his college days Makoto Hayashida has confirmed that the monster is Godzilla and the government forces a gag order on all reports dealing with Godzilla. During this time Maki sees Hiroshi's sister Naoko and for some reason or another is drawn to her. He is the one who reunites brother and sister.
Eventually, Godzilla sinks a Soviet sub looking for nuclear energy. This creates an international incident which almost makes the US go to war against the the U.S.S.R., but the Japanese government led by Prime Minister Seiki Mitamura stops the contention by releasing the information about Godzilla. To make matters more complicated the Soviets and the US want to test nuclear weapons above Japan if Godzilla appears. The Prime Minster gets them to call off their nukes, and instead favors the SDF new weapon called Weapon X.
Godzilla attacks a nuclear plant, drawn by the energy. This incident is important for two reasons. The first being this is the first time we actually see Godzilla in all his glory, but it is also important because this is when we find out that Godzilla has a magnetic part of his brain like a bird which homes in like a bird. Professor Hayashida wants to use this to try and trap Godzilla in Mt. Miura.
Professor's proposal is gawked at by most of the Japanese cabinet, but the plan is still allowed to take place as long as Project X doesn't end up destroying Godzilla. It is pretty much their back-up plan.
Godzilla comes to Tokyo and starts destroying it. Weapon X confronts Godzilla and we get some tension of our main characters as they try to escape Tokyo in the ensuing chaos. Weapon X uses Cadmium rounds to make Godzilla go to sleep. This allows Hiroshi and Hayashida to flee and set up the trap while Maki and Naoko stay and escape Godzilla's rampage.
Although the cadmium rounds work, a misstep by the Soviets allow a nuke from their satellite to launch, which gets intercepted by the Americans. This creates an EMP field which temporary disables Weapon X, but causes a lightning storm that revives Godzilla. Once he is awakes he makes quick work of Weapon X, ultimately destroying it by sending a skyscraper on top of it. Then Godzilla is lured to Mt. Miura where he falls into the crater and dies.
The story works as a return to form, many reviewers have called it boring. It defiantly is not the most action packed Godzilla films. The tension is not really there and the sense of dread unlike the original Godzilla is not there either. They force tension with the scenes in Tokyo with Maki and Naoko, but those are ultimatly pointless scenes. We already know people are running from Godzilla, so adding those scenes to try and put in ethos doesn't really fill the void.
The story may fall flat and is quite boring, but the characters and acting are phenomenal. Ken Tanaka as Goro Maki the main character is quite an interesting character who has a motive in the beginning, and stays with the scientists through his somewhat attachment to Naoko. I feel his character arc would have been improved by making Naoko a stronger character. She just simply exists, and isn't really a strong female character. This is remedied in Godzilla films to come as they will all star female cast members who kick butt and are memorable.
The real actor who steals the show is the prime minster played by Keiji Kobayashi. His acting in the film is the best. He is always trying to do something best for his country. The scenes with him are enjoyable, because he just has that presence that controls the scene.
The themes of this film go back to the original Godzilla with threat of nuclear war. This is in the end of the Cold War, and Japan a country that had seen not one but two atomic bombs. The director wanted to bring back the fear of nuclear weapons, and the nuclear threat was important theme used. Godzilla himself is a nuclear weapon, a living nuclear weapon as they say in the film.
There is a hint of anti-Soviet propaganda as it is the Americans who defeat the Soviets weapon. The Soviets are the ones who are attacked by Godzilla, and you almost see them as the victims. But, the biggest victims is that of the Japanese people. The destruction of Godzilla and nuclear weapons is ultimately defeated not by Super X. Godzilla is defeated by man using nature to get rid of it's problems. Working with nature can man defeat it's demons. This theme of the power of nature as an ally is what defeat's Godzilla.
They use the magnetic homing trait of Godzilla to lure him into the volcano. The volcano destroys Godzilla. Life finds a way, yes I stole that from Jurassic Park. Godzilla was created by power-hungry humans, and was destroyed by humans working together with nature instead of exploiting it. This is a very Miyazaki theme, although this predates the Miyazaki films that use that trope, it still fits to describe this film.
In all Godzilla 1984 is an interesting Godzilla film. It may not have the best story, but Godzilla films have never had the best story or plot. If you want to see Godzilla as a bad guy and not a good guy mixed with themes of man vs. nature and a cold war rhetoric then this film is for you.
Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster
Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster came hot from the heels of other 60's era Godzilla film. Godzilla continued to fill in for Gamera as the protector of Japanese youth. The main characters are all 60's Japanese teenagers and the film has a very hippy vibe. The teenagers use their head and are creative against the man. Although, the man is a terrorist group called the Red Bamboo who have at their disposal a giant lobster named Ebirah: The Horror of the Deep.
The story starts off with a psychic telling a mother that her son is still lost at sea. Ryoto goes in search of his brother. First he teams up with some friends to win a dance contest. After befriending these individuals he goes to look at boats. Once on a boat they see a suspicious person in the boat who says that it is his boat.
The three stay on the boat with the crazy man who may or may not be a wanted criminal who is a lockpick. While they sleep, the boat maniac Ryoto has already sat sail in search of his brother. On the way they are attacked by Ebirah and wash up on Demon Island.
On Demon Island they see the evil organization called Red Bamboo who enslave Infant Islanders to make a yellow liquid which stops Ebirah from attacking them. They rescue a girl named Dayo and hide in the caves on the island.
It is in the caves that they see Godzilla hibernating in a cave. Not wanting to stay in a cave for Godzilla and wanting to know more about the Red Bamboo the group of five head into the Red Bamboo base. They find out that Red Bamboo are making nuclear weapons.
The five of them escape, but in the escape are split up. One of the dancer friends, Nita is captured by the Red Bamboo and is forced into labor like the islanders. Meanwhile Ryoto jumps on a surveillance balloon and lands on Infant Island , where he is reunited with his brother.
In the ensuing chaos and now in dire straits the remaining three decide to wake-up Godzilla. They do this using some wire that Dayo mistook for a necklace from the Red Bamboo base. The wire and a sword as a lightning rod that they found earlier wakes up Godzilla. Godzilla battles Ebirah in the sea, allowing Ryota and his brother to escape the monsters wrath.
While in captivity Nita brings the islanders together and they decide to delude the yellow liquid and make phony copycat to teach the terrorists a lesson. Meanwhile Godzilla appears on two occasions, one time to scare away the Red Bamboo and another time to destroy the base. In the destruction, the captives are set free, but one of the scientists sets the nukes off to blow the island to smithereens. They try to stop it, but to no avail. Instead the Infant Islanders awaken Mothra who saves the islanders and Godzilla who defeats Ebirah, also tries to fight Mothra briefly before Mothras creates a dust storm allowing it and Islanders to leave.
The film is a very cheesy 60's take on Godzilla. Continuing with the very silly Godzilla who is more of an anti-hero than a villian. The common themes of nuclear weapons is addressed like in many Godzilla films. This film also has a few more themes such as brain over brawn, which is show in the case of the lockpick/safecracker and even Nita as he suggests that they delude the yellow liquid allowing Ebirah to get rid of the terrorists.
The acting is typical acting, and no real characters stand out. Too many characters to focus on and none really have character arcs. I will say I noticed that all the male actors had a thing for Dayo as they kept touching her on the ass. It might have been just a nitpick, but seriously everyone was touching her in the butt. Overall, the film is hilarious. It isn't bad, but it isn't good. The writing falls flat and characters do interesting things, but the writing isn't anything worth crying over. If you like Godzilla as an anti-hero and Deus Ex Mothra endings then this is for you.