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.