Godzilla X Mechagodzilla (2002)

•May 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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If you are keeping track, this is the third movie in the series with the title “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla”.  After the success of “GMK”, Toho decided to bring back another classic monster.  Mechagodzilla was chosen, and he was refined even further from his last appearance in 1993.  Throughout the movie, Mechagodzilla is referred to as “Kiryu”, a sort of nickname.  This was to help differentiate this version from the previous two.  This version is just as heavily armed as its predecessors, and has an interesting new origin.  This movie would also continue the trend set by “Godzilla X Megaguirus” by featuring a female lead.

Godzilla attacked Japan in 1954 and was defeated by the Oxygen Destroyer (notably leaving the bones behind in this continuity).  Since that time, Japan was attacked by a variety of monsters, including Mothra and Gaira the Gargantua.  Both were repelled using maser weapons, which became the military standard due to their effectiveness.  In 1999, another Godzilla rises from the ocean to attack Japan, and it is found that maser fire is ineffective against it.  During Godzilla’s attack, a young maser cannon operator named Akane Yashiro is unable to stop the monster and her entire squadron is wiped out.  She is made into a scapegoat and is reassigned to a desk job.  The military takes interest in the inventions of Tokumitsu Yuhara, a single father who has created a “DNA Computer” which is able to mimic the mental patterns of a once-living creature when powered by that creature’s DNA, creating a sort of cyborg.  The military reveals it has located the original Godzilla’s skeleton, and wants to use the DNA Computer to create an anti-Godzilla weapon.  Four years later, the military unveils Mechagodzilla, codenamed “Kiryu”, a giant cyborg powered by the skeleton of the original Godzilla.  Kiryu is armed with numerous missiles and lasers, as well as the devastating “Absolute Zero Cannon”, a freezing laser that could freeze Godzilla solid.  Akane is chosen to pilot Kiryu, and faces much opposition from her fellow soldiers due to what happened to her previous squadron.  Tokumitsu and his young daughter attempt to make friends with her, and Tokumitsu even offers to buy her dinner if Godzilla is defeated.

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The mutant reappears and Kiryu is dispatched.  The battle is going well, until Godzilla lets out a loud roar and something stirs deep within Kiryu’s bones.  The cyborg’s eyes turn red and it begins attacking the city.  The military is unable to do anything until Kiryu’s power runs out after an hour.  The Kiryu program comes under heavy scrutiny afterward and the cyborg is mothballed.  Akane is distraught at this turn of events, and talks with Tokumitsu’s daughter, Sara, while waiting to hear about the fate of the Kiryu program.  Tokumitsu’s wife died in childbirth, losing the baby as well, and Sara has been sensitive to the subject of life and death ever since.  She disagrees with the use of Kiryu, believing the cyborg to be a living being and arguing that all life should be preserved.  Akane counters that her life is expendable, and would happily die to take down Godzilla.  One cue, the radioactive beast returns, and the director of the Kiryu program defies orders and launches the cyborg to attack Godzilla.  A massive battle erupts between the two, and Kiryu’s control is severed.  Akane manages to get inside Kiryu and pilot it manually.  She tries to blast Godzilla with the Absolute Zero Cannon, but Godzilla trips up Kiryu and the blast misses.  All the power in Tokyo is redirected to give Akane another shot.  Godzilla attempts to attack while the cannon is charging, but one of Akane’s wingmen who belittled her earlier flies into Godzilla to distract him while begging Akane to finish Godzilla.  Instead, Akane uses Kiryu to wrench the wingman’s plane from Godzilla’s grasp, then grabs Godzilla and flies him into the ocean, firing the Absolute Zero Cannon.  A large plume of ice is created, but Godzilla emerges alive and leaves.  Kiryu is still operational, though damaged.  The leaders of Japan celebrate the victory, as it gives them hope that Godzilla can be killed someday.  In a post credit sequence, Akane tells Tokumitsu that the battle was a draw, and she would buy dinner for him and his daughter.

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Kiryu is the real star of the movie, being presented as the protagonist while Godzilla is most definitely a villain.  The cyborgs interesting design and origin led to it becoming very popular with the Godzilla fandom.  The human drama is also interesting, and the musings of Akane and Sara on the concept of life and death present a nice parallel to the decision to power Kiryu with the body of a formerly living creature.  The fight scenes between the two giants tend to be more physical than the previous movie, at times feeling similar to the old wrestling style battles of the Showa series.  While the plotline of Kiryu losing control presents many possibilities, it is sadly underused in this movie barring the first battle scene with Godzilla (this plot thread, however, would be addressed in the sequel).  Despite a few nitpicks, “Godzilla X Mechagodzilla” is a solid film, and is probably the best overall movie in the Millenium series.  It was also the most financially successful, and was followed the next year by a direct sequel, the only film in the Millenium series to receive one.

Trivia

At one point, Sara is shown to have a pet hamster.  This is probably a reference to Hamtaro, an anime hamster who was very popular in Japan at the time.  Often, his movies would be on a double bill with Godzilla’s.

Professional baseball player Hideki Matsui appears in the movie as a cameo in a few scenes.  His professional nickname is “Godzilla”.

While the original Mechagodzilla preferred missile weapons, and the Heisei Mechagodzilla preferred laser weapons, Kiryu seems to have an even mix of both.

It is stated in the dub that Mothra was killed by the maser weapon, but the next movie would prove that that isn’t the case.

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Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)

•May 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Some of you may remember Gamera.  At one point in the 1960’s, Gamera was a serious box-office opponent for Godzilla, commanding great popularity with children and adults.  However, his films continued to deteriorate with each succession, and at the end, his legacy was a final movie made almost entirely of stock footage.  He is best known to American audiences as Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder.  He became something of a joke.  Then there was an aspiring director named Shusuke Kaneko, who really wanted to direct a Godzilla movie.  He was unable to, however, so he settle for reviving Gamera in 1996.  This movie was very well received, even famous critic Roger Ebert praised it, and it led to a well received trilogy of movies that changed the public perception of what a kaiju movie could be.  After the lukewarm reception of “Godzilla X Megaguirus”, Kaneko finally got his wish; he was going to direct a Godzilla movie.  His vision for Godzilla is radically different, and the movie re-imagines Godzilla and some of his monster co-stars with a heavy spiritual theme, as well as harsh criticism for the way Japan treats its history.

Godzilla was defeated in 1954, and has become a distant memory for the current generation.  A monster attack in New York City prompts an discussion of Godzilla’s possible return (despite American insistence, the New York City monster was probably NOT Godzilla…)  The tension escalates when an American nuclear submarine disappears and a monster is sighted nearby.  Meanwhile, at Mt. Myoko, Yuri Tachibana is filming a “docudrama” about a local mythical monster.  The area has been plagued by earthquakes lately, and the epicenters seem to keep moving.  When the film crew experiences one of the earthquakes, Yuri spots a mysterious old man who quickly disappears.  Later that night, a biker gang causing trouble in the area prompts the appearance of the monster Baragon, who is causing the earthquakes.  One of Yuri’s camera operators finds an old book that describes a trio of Guardian Monsters named Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah.  The monsters were killed long ago, but their immortal spirits would return in 10,000 years time.  That night, a group of teenage hooligans terrorizing a dog inadvertently summon Mothra, who saves the dog and wraps the hoodlums in cocoons.  Following a lead, Yuri finds the old man she saw earlier two tells her that Godzilla was killed in 1954, but his body is now possessed by the souls of the soldiers who died in the Pacific War (World War II).  The dead soldiers are angry that their sacrifices were ignored, and are using Godzilla to exact revenge.  Only the Guardian Monsters stand a chance of stopping him.  Yuri relates the story to her father, Taizo, who doesn’t totally dismiss the idea since he survived Godzilla’s original rampage.  Meanwhile, the old man from earlier appears in the shrine dedicated to King Ghidorah, as the golden monster sleeps in a block of crystal.

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Godzilla reappears and begins a tour of destruction throughout Japan.  Baragon catches up to him and the two titans battle.  Baragon is clearly outmatched and is killed by Godzilla.  Yuri continues to film the monster as he is attacked by the military.  A large cocoon has appeared at the lake Mothra appeared at, and Mothra emerges from it fully grown.  Godzilla and Mothra head for Yokohama, where King Ghidorah appears in a weakened state due to waking up early.  The two Guardian Monsters, along with the military, attack Godzilla, but to no avail.  Godzilla easily shrugs off the military advance and severely wounds Mothra and Ghidorah.  Mothra is eventually destroyed, but her energy flows into Ghidorah and powers it up.  King Ghidorah manages to wound Godzilla and drag him under the water.  Taizo devises a plan to fire a drill missile into Godzilla’s wound and destroy him from the inside, and commandeers a submarine to do the job himself.  The plan fails, but Ghidorah is powered up once again by assimilating a piece of his broken idol.  The golden dragon, glowing with energy, attacks Godzilla, who seems to absorb Ghidorah’s energy beams.  Godzilla redirects the energy toward Ghidorah and destroys him, but the souls of the Guardian Monsters return and weaken Godzilla.  Taizo sees this as an opportunity to try his plan again, and pilots the sub into Godzilla’s mouth.  He fires a drill missile into the wound on Godzilla’s neck from inside its body, and Godzilla is overtaken by his own rampant radioactive powers and explodes.  Taizo survives and is reunited with his daughter, after he first pays his respects to all those who died to stop Godzilla.  However, Godzilla’s heart survived and explosion, and continues to beat…

This movie (referred to as “GMK” by fans) dared to try something different with Godzilla.  The monster has been the antagonist before, but this is the first movie where Godzilla is absolutely evil.  During the scenes of his rampage, he is obviously targeting humans, as opposed to his usual displays of indifference.  His eyes are completely white in this movie, just to further emphasize his wicked nature.  For the first time in a long time, Godzilla is truly terrifying, and the scenes where he attacks the city can be frightening.  Godzilla is also very cunning, forming battle plans and tricking his opponents.  He even uses Ghidorah a shield in one scene!  While Godzilla is the villain, there was at least one unusual choice for the hero.  Baragon, a popular monster from “Frankenstein Conquers the World”, and Mothra are obvious choices for the heroic monsters, but King Ghidorah appearing as a hero was not without some controversy in the fandom.  While it was forgivable in “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” due to him being a cyborg, it is a bit unsettling to see Godzilla’s most famous foe as the “big good” in this movie.  In addition, both Mothra and King Ghidorah were weakened to make Godzilla seem stronger (this may be the only movie in the series where Godzilla decisively defeats Mothra).  This decision was criticized by many fans, though it should be noted the monsters in the film were not the director’s first choices.  While the spiritual aspect was really played up, the most notable portion of the script has to do with Godzilla’s motive for attacking.  Godzilla is powered by the angry souls of the people that died in World War II.  Japan as a whole has had a history of not talking about World War II, and in more recent years information on the war has been censored and outright changed to hide what many leaders would consider “embarrassing”.  This has led to ignorance about this period in history among the new generation of Japanese youths.  With this movie, Kaneko is essentially saying that ignoring the past is irresponsible and potentially dangerous, and it would be best to learn about what came before even if it might be painful or embarrassing, and throughout the movie the more outspoken members of the older generation are portrayed as the heroes as opposed to the irresponsible younger characters.  While the themes may be lost on a non-Japanese audience, and many of the changes are not for everyone, the action is solid and the fight scenes well choreographed.  “GMK” may not ultimately be as genre-defining as Kaneko’s Gamera trilogy, but the movie is a solid and interesting take on Godzilla.  The movie did well enough at the box office to save the Millenium series, and another classic Godzilla foe would return for the next one…

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Trivia

The Guardian Monsters were supposed to be Baragon, Anguirus, and Varan.  Toho wanted Mothra and King Ghidorah instead, believing them to be more profitable.  One of the suit designers was upset that Varan had been cut, so he designed King Ghidorah to have Varan’s face.

One of the first drafts of this movie had Godzilla battle a space suit that had been mutated into a strange giant creature.  Kaneko rejected the first draft as “too depressing”.

Many of the fantastic, spiritual elements were introduced because Kaneko thought that there was no good way to explain a 60 meter tall monster, so he thought people would accept a fantastic origin for such a creature.

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Godzilla X Megaguirus

•May 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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“Godzilla 2000” was mildly successful, so Toho decided to bring back the beast the following year with “Godzilla X Megaguirus” (the “X” in the title is just a stylized way of writing “vs.” or “against”).  In a lot of ways, this movie set the style for the Millenium series by establishing a few things that would become consistent throughout the 2000’s.  The movie opens with a brief history of Godzilla’s presence in this particular timeline, since none of the movies are related by continuity barring the two Mechagodzilla movies.  The movie also features a strong female protagonist, something that wasn’t as common in the older movies.  Finally, the movie contains a post-credits sequence that helps wrap up small plot threads from earlier in the movie.  The titular monster, Megaguirus, is a new creation, but is based on the Meganulon; large insects from the original “Rodan”.  In fact, the Meganulon appears as a younger version of Megaguirus.

The film begins with a newsreel-style montage of Godzilla’s history.  He first appeared in 1954, but survived and left after Tokyo was destroyed.  The capital was moved to Osaka and alternatives to nuclear energy were found.  Godzilla would return every time mankind tried to re-use nuclear energy, and the group G-Graspers was formed to study and learn to combat the monster.  During one of Godzilla’s rampages in 1996, Kiriko Tsujimori’s commanding officer is killed and she swears revenge on the beast.  Five years later, the G-Graspers recruit a young inventor named Hajime Kuro to perfect a new anti-Godzilla weapon; the Dimension Tide.  The Dimension Tide is a large cannon that creates and fires small black holes.  During a test firing, a small wormhole is opened up by the weapon.  Only a curious young boy sees that a large dragonfly-like creature has come through the wormhole and laid an egg, which the boy steals away.  The next day, he dumps the egg into the sewer in an attempt to hide it.  The egg hatches into a large insect, Meganulon, and begins attacking people throughout the city.  The Meganulon molts into a winged Meganula and flies away.  As sightings of the monsters increase, a section of G-Graspers set out to study the insects while Kuro perfects Dimension Tide.  The G-Graspers find that the egg was actually a swarm of eggs that have hatched into hundreds of Meganula, who proceed to flood the city to increase their spawning area.  The Meganula become attracted to Godzilla’s heat energy, and a battle between them seems inevitable.

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The swarm attack Godzilla, who manages to destroy many of them, but not before some of the insects draw energy from him with their stingers.  Kiriko attempts to blast Godzilla with the Dimension Tide, but the Meganula disrupt the targeting system and the shot misses.  The Meganula head off to sea to transplant the energy they have stolen from Godzilla into their queen, Megaguirus.  Godzilla and Megaguirus both head toward Tokyo, the former capital.  The two battle as Kiriko watches from her jet.  Dimension Tide is charged up to fire, but the high frequency created by Megaguirus beating it’s wings shorts the system, along with the systems of every other device in the area.  Kiriko is stranded while Kuro attempts to fix Dimension Tide with a backup program.  After a long battle, Godzilla defeats Megaguirus and reveals the reason for heading toward Tokyo; one of the professors in the G-Graspers had been in charge of a secret nuclear project in the city in violation of the nuclear energy ban.  Dimension Tide begins to fall from orbit and is unable to lock onto Godzilla, but Kiriko pilots her jet toward the beast in order for the black hole gun to lock on to a target.  She ejects as Dimension Tide fires, and Godzilla is seemingly buried by the blast.  Later, Kuro has returned to his old ways as Kiriko finds him.  She tells him that several tremors have been recorded, and Godzilla may be the center of them.  In a post-credit scene, the boy who found the Meganulon egg is tending to his insect collection, while a familiar roar is heard…

“Godzilla X Megaguirus” isn’t one of the more memorable Godzilla movies, but it does have a few noteworthy things going for it.  Kiriko may be the first female action hero in a Godzilla movie.  She is single-minded in her quest to defeat Godzilla, and isn’t presented as a damsel to be saved or as a major love interest for another male character.  Godzilla is also at what is probably his most cunning.  During his battle with Megaguirus, he is obviously devising battle strategies to fight the insect, and comes up with some smart moves such as cutting Megaguirus with his back spines and catching the insect’s stinger in his mouth.  However, the movie has plenty of faults.  Megaguirus is poorly animated.  The monster is mostly static as it is dragged around by (often visible) strings while computer animation is used to give the monster expression and some action with the wings.  While the design of the monster is good, Megaguirus doesn’t have as much personality as Mothra or even Kamacuras from the Showa era.  The movie is also undeniably goofy.  The Dimension Tide is probably the silliest weapon ever devised to attack Godzilla (it shoots black holes, let that sink in), and the battle with Megaguirus feels like slapstick at times with the insect zipping past Godzilla and grinning as it drops buildings on him.  In the end, “Godzilla X Megaguirus” is sort of in the middle when it comes to Godzilla movies.  It isn’t the best, but it isn’t the worst either.

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Trivia

There was a conscious decision to have Godzilla use his atomic breath more in this movie since he used it so sparingly in “Godzilla 2000”.

The director, Masaaki Tezuka, is an admitted fan of the Tokusatsu genre (like “Ultraman” and “Power Rangers”).  The scene where Godzilla leaps high into the air and crashes onto Megaguirus is an homage to similar scenes from Tokusatsu shows.  There are also many Tokusatsu-like touches with the variety of vehicles driven by the G-Graspers.

The new Godzilla suit (from the previous movie) was digitally inserted into scenes from the original “Godzilla” for the opening segment.

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Godzilla 2000 (1999)

•May 14, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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“Godzilla is inside all of us!”

While the American “Godzilla” was financially successful in Japan, the overwhelming view was that the monster portrayed was far too dissimilar to the original.  It just wasn’t Godzilla, and the Japanese began to feel nostalgic for their beast.  Toho decided to capitalize on these feelings and brought Godzilla out of retirement early to begin what is often referred to as the “Millenium” series (named for the Japanese title of this movie, “Godzilla 2000: Millenium”).  Each entry in the Millenium series stands by itself and does not continue from the previous movie (barring the two Mechagodzilla movies).  Typically, each movie will begin with a montage that states what the history of this particular timeline is concerning Godzilla.  The movies also use more computer effects than before and tend to include women in starring action roles.  This first movie was a real attempt to bring Godzilla back to his roots, and even featured a monster from outer space as the villain.

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Godzilla has been a regular sight in Japan since he first appeared in 1954.  Several agencies pop up in an attempt to study and understand the creature.  One such agency is the Godzilla Protection Unit, comprised solely of Yuji Shinoda and his daughter, Io.  The duo, along with reporter Yuki Ichinose, are studying Godzilla’s most recent rampage, and Yuji is rewarded by finding a sample of Godzilla’s blood, which he takes back to study.  Meanwhile, the Crisis Control Intelligence (CCI), headed by Shinoda’s rival Katagiri, find a piece of rock on the ocean floor that rises to the surface on its own.  The rock is following the sun, and is revealed to be a UFO that heads off to fight Godzilla to a standstill.  Katagiri is intrigued by the Godzilla sample, and study reveals that Godzilla’s wounds can heal themselves due to the unusual regeneration properties caused by new particles which Shinoda names “Regenerator G-1” (Organizer G-1 in Japan).  The UFO reappears in the city and begins downloading all information about Godzilla that it can.

Eventually, the UFO broadcasts its intentions to absorb Regenerator G-1 cells from Godzilla so they can become powerful and take over the Earth.  Godzilla battles the UFO but it manages to grab him and absorbs some of Regenerator G-1.  Godzilla destroys the UFO but the aliens inside have created a new form for themselves.  As they admire their new form, they are unable to control Regenerator G-1 and their form mutates into the feral “Orga”  Godzilla and Orga battle, with Godzilla unable to make any lasting damage as Orga keeps regenerating damage.  Finally, Orga unhinges its mouth to swallow Godzilla, who runs in and destroys Orga from the inside.  The human characters wax philosophical as Godzilla destroys a huge portion of the city.

“Godzilla 2000” was a very obvious attempt to appeal to the fans of the Japanese Godzilla.  The original poster had portions of Godzilla that form the Japanese Islands.  There are also many scenes that seem to reference the 1998 movie, including: a swarm of helicopters rising from seemingly nowhere, a chase through a car tunnel, a protagonist standing in Godzilla’s footprint, and Godzilla’s arrival heralded by him creating a sea swell as he appears in the bay.  His design is also updated to be green and “spikier”  Unfortunately, all this throwback means that “Godzilla 2000” is very by-the-book, and it fails somewhat to distinguish itself.  Orga is a passable monster, but not particularly memorable.  This movie was shown in American theaters a year after its release in Japan, and a whole new dub was created and the movie re-edited.  Each change was approved by the original director, and many who have seen both the Japanese and American versions claim the American version is better due to streamlining and a tighter pace.  The movie was only mildly successful in Japan, but it was successful enough to try again a year later…

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Trivia

Godzilla doesn’t use his nuclear breath much in the movie since the director wanted to make it “special”.

The original American version included a large question mark next to the words “The Ends”  This was cut from every American print after the movie went to video.

Yes, the page quote is in the movie.  American and Japanese.

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Godzilla (1998)

•May 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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“Size Does Matter”

An American made Godzilla movie had been in the planning stages for some time.  While many different versions and many different directors were attached at various times (James Cameron was involved at one point), the most famous non-starter was to be directed by Jan de Bont and featured Godzilla battling an alien shapeshifter called the Gryphon.  Eventually, the task fell to Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, the duo behind “Stargate” and “Independence Day”, to bring Godzilla to American cinema.  As it turns out, neither were fans of the original movies, and had their own views on how Godzilla should be presented.  The results were not received well by the fandom, to put it lightly.

A Japanese fishing boat is attacked by a large, unknown creature.  The only survivor is severely traumatized, and when interviewed by a mysterious Frenchman, he can only utter the word “Gojira”.  The American military is interested in the creature due to the proximity of the attack, and recruit scientists Niko “Nick” Tatopoulos who has been studying irradiated earthworms at Chernobyl.  Tatopoulos theorizes that the giant monster is a creature mutated by radiation and it may be looking for a place to hide.  The creature appears in New York and causes massive amounts of destruction before it seemingly disappears.  Tatopoulos theorizes the creature can be drawn out by a large amount of fish, as it seems to be looking for food.  The monster reappears and is chased unsuccessfully by the military.  All of this is watched by a group of Frenchmen, including the one interviewing the boat survivor from earlier.  Tatopoulos studies a blood sample from the creature and theorizes that it reproduces asexually and may be pregnant and nesting.  As he studies, he is approached by his former love, Audrey, an aspiring journalist.  After some catching up, Tatopoulos leaves and Audrey takes a tape that contains footage from the destroyed ship and his notes on the potential nest.  She attempts to air the footage, but is one-upped by her boss, who mispronounces “Gojira” into “Godzilla”.  Tatopoulos is booted from the military operation, but is picked up by the Frenchman, who reveals that his name is Phillipe Roache.  He reveals that Godzilla was created by French nuclear tests several decades ago.  They believe his nesting theory and set out to find it, secretly followed by Audrey, who is trying to make amends, and her cameraman Victor “Animal” Palotti.

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The military lures Godzilla out again and seemingly destroys him.  Tatopoulos and the Frenchmen find the next in Madison Square Garden and attempt to set off bombs to destroy the eggs.  Unfortunately, the eggs hatch and the group is picked off one by one by the Baby Godzillas.  In the end, Tatopoulos, Audrey, Animal, and Phillipe manage to contact the military who bombs Madison Square Garden as the heroes escape.  They begin to celebrate, but Godzilla reappears, angry that its offspring have been killed.  The giant lizard chases the crew through the city until it is trapped on a suspension bridge.  Missiles are launched at Godzilla, and it dies from the onslaught.  Tatopoulos and Audrey reunite as Phillipe disappears.  Unknown to everyone, a single egg survived the explosion, and begins to hatch…

“Godzilla” was supposed to be the movie to beat for the summer of 1998, but the lukewarm critical reception led to the movie not being quite as successful as it was supposed to.  While it was still financially successful, it was the third highest grossing movie of the year, the cool reception led to the scrapping of plans for a trilogy of movies.  The problems with the movie itself are well documented, but there are some silver linings to pull from it.  The score by David Arnold is very well done, and the soundtrack is solid (Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs ruining Jimmy Page aside).  The creature itself, Godzilla or not, is well designed, and the scenes of the helicopters chasing it through the city are fun to watch.  The scenes with the Baby Godzillas are standard summer action movie fare, but passable.  The chase scene at the end is also enjoyable, and stands as probably the best scene in the movie.  The movie stands as a decent, even good, giant monster flick.  However, this is also the main problem with the movie.

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The title monster does not look, act, or feel like Godzilla.  The creature in this movie is presented as a large animal attempting to find its place in the world, and failing.  In that sense, it is thematically similar to King Kong, a theme that is hit home by an ending scene that is almost directly taken from the 1933 classic.  This Godzilla directly addresses the humans around it; it watches them, acknowledges them, and seeks revenge on them.  The Japanese Godzilla, on the other hand, is more or less indifferent to humanity.  It is often stated that Godzilla is a “force of nature” in the way he goes about his business.  He can’t be stopped or reasoned with, any more than a tornado or flood could be stopped or reasoned with.  The American Godzilla attempts to “fit in” to the surroundings.  The Japanese Godzilla makes the surroundings fit him.  Also, while it may seem trivial to some, the American Godzilla does not have radioactive breath, although it seems to breathe fire in two scenes.  The radioactive breath was a symbol of the difference this creature had from any other living thing.  It had been mutated to the point that it literally breathed radiation.  By removing this, the American Godzilla loses a little of the original intent to portray the monster as a symbol of nuclear war.  While radiation still plays a part in its origin, the omission of the radioactive breath lessens the impct it could have had.  These differences make the 1998 Godzilla more of a throwback to 1950’s B-movie monsters, such as the endless parade of giant mantises and dinosaurs, that were mutated by atomic energy as a plot device and not as a theme.  In fact, the 1998 Godzilla is similar appearance-wise to the Rhedosaurus from “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms”, who was released by atomic testing but was otherwise a large animal on a rampage.  In the end, “Godzilla” 1998 is a decent enough giant monster movie, but not a very good Godzilla movie.  Apparently, Toho agreed.  The lukwarm reaction to this movie with Japanese critics caused them to pull the original Godzilla out of retirement early, and he would return just one year later.

Trivia

After some time, Toho inducted the creature from this movie into it’s pantheon of monsters under the name “Zilla”.  Before that, many fans would refer to the creature as GINO – Godzilla In Name Only.

The scene where lightning strikes the Twin Towers was something that was caught on camera by chance, and was inserted into the movie because the crew thought it was neat.

There is an Independence Day figure on a monitor inside Madison Square Garden.  There is a scene in “Independence Day” where a child is playing with Godzilla figures.

The New York City mayor and his assistant are obvious caricatures of critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, who had criticized Devlin and Emmerich’s previous movies “Stargate” and “Independence Day”.  Ebert later wondered aloud why they would go to the trouble of finding a look-alike of him and end up not killing him in the movie.

The movie was followed up by a 40 episode cartoon series featuring the grown up baby Godzilla from the very end battling various mutant creatures.  It was better received by the fandom than the movie was.  One of the best-loved episodes featured the new Godzilla fighting the Godzilla from this movie that had been reanimated as a cyborg.

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Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

•May 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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“Godzilla dies!”

This was the tag line for the final film of the Heisei series, and it made headlines around the world.  While the last several movies had been successful, Toho felt it was time to go out on a high note, and Godzilla would be retired until his 50th anniversary in 2004.  This would also allow the American film company Tristar to create a trilogy of American Godzilla movies set in their own continuity (more on that in another post…)  And so, this would be Godzilla’s swan song, for now, and the movie would center around the one thing that managed to utterly destroy Godzilla once before-the Oxygen Destroyer.

A routine check of Birth Island, the home of Godzilla and his son, goes awry when it is found the island has disappeared and there is only a boiling section of sea where it once was.  Shortly after, Godzilla appears in Hong Kong, glowing red and smoking.  His once blue radiation beam has permanently changed to its powered up red “spiral” form, previously only used to finish of enemies.  A meeting of dignitaries and scientists is called, and Kenichi Yamane, the grandson of Dr. Yamane who studied Godzilla in 1954, puts forth the theory that Godzilla’s inner workings simulate a nuclear reactor.  Birth Island was destroyed by an underwater uranium explosion, and Godzilla absorbed all the energy from the nuclear blast.  He is now approaching meltdown, and he will destroy the world when he does.  Meanwhile, Kenichi’s sister Yukari, a reporter, is interviewing a scientist who has developed a breakthrough with a new form of oxygen called “micro-oxygen”.  It turns out that this scientist used some of Dr. Serizawa’s surviving notes to create micro-oxygen, and it is fundamentally similar to his Oxygen Destroyer.  Some of the scientists working on the micro-oxygen project are studying dirt excavated from the area where the Oxygen Destroyer was detonated, and a small life form is found.  It escapes and heads to the local aquarium, where its presence reduces the fish to bones, just like the Oxygen Destroyer did in Serizawa’s lab.  In lieu of creating a new Oxygen Destroyer, the committee decides to use “freeze weapons” to slow the meltdown process.  The new Super X3 is outfitted with a cryo-laser and Godzilla is frozen, for a time.  Meanwhile, Miki Segusa is attempting to locate Little Godzilla, who has not been seen since Birth Island disappeared.

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Image youtube.com

Godzilla eventually thaws as a swarm of crab-like creatures invade parts of Tokyo.  While this new threat is being dealt with, the Little Godzilla reappears, and the Birth Island incident has mutated him into Godzilla Junior, a smaller version of Godzilla.  It is theorized that Godzilla is searching for Junior, so Miki uses her powers to try to bring the two together.  The crab creatures fuse together into one large monster, and Kenichi Yamane theorizes that the being was an ancient organism altered by the Oxygen Destroyer, and dubs the monster Destoroyah.  Junior arrives and battles Destoroyah, and is eventually victorious.  Godzilla arrives in the city and finds his son, but the reunion is brief as Destoroyah reappears in a large, demonic form.  It grabs Junior and drops him from high in the air, killing the young monster.  Godzilla retaliates angrily and a dynamic fight breaks out between the two monsters.  As Godzilla approaches meltdown, the area around him begins to burn, and Destoroyah attempts to retreat.  The military intervenes and blasts Destoroyah with cryogenic weapons, and the beast is destroyed.  The military then turn their weapons toward Godzilla in an attempt to prevent his out of control radiation from destroying the world.  They succeed in containing the meltdown, and Godzilla roars weakly as he overheats and melts.  There is a flash of light, however, and Godzilla’s remains cover Junior’s body, and the young monster is revived as a fully grown Godzilla.

“Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is a fitting end for the Heisei series.  It isn’t perfect; there are many scenes in the middle that drag and the small crab-like Destoroyah creatures could be better animated.  However, the emotional impact the film leaves more than makes up for any flaws it has.  Even though they don’t share much screen time, Godzilla’s relationship with his son is at the forefront of his story arc and their relationship is better shown here than the previous two movies Junior appeared in.  It is a sad thing to watch Godzilla search for his son, as if he knows he is dying and wants to see him once more.  Junior dying, and Godzilla trying to breathe life back into him, are also emotional high points.  While the argument could be made that a more familiar monster like King Ghidorah or Mechagodzilla should have had the honor of being Godzilla’s final opponent, Destoroyah is perfect as a thematic foil for Godzilla.  Destoroyah, like Godzilla, was a by-product of a weapon of war, and symbolizes the out-of-control destruction such a (fictional) weapon could cause, mirroring Godzilla’s own origins as a symbol of nuclear war.  He was also created by the weapon originally used to kill Godzilla, so in a sense, the original weapon is returning to finish the job.  This would mark the end of many associations with Godzilla.  This was the last Godzilla movie produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka before his death, the last movie scored by Akira Ifukube before his death, and the last time Godzilla was portrayed by Kenpachiro Satsuma.  Momoko Kochi reprised her role as Emiko Yamane from the original Godzilla in a cameo appearance, and many other actors from the Heisei series made appearances.  This film is an absolute must-see for any Godzilla fan, and is a wonderful tribute to all that came before it.  In the end, Godzilla was brought out of retirement early.  After the 1998 American movie, the Japanese Godzilla would return to kick off the Millenium series in 1999.

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Image gvsdestoroyah.dulcemichaelanya.com

Trivia

The ending credits are played out over scenes from the previous entries in the Godzilla series.

The original concept was to have Godzilla battle the ghost of the original Godzilla from 1954.  This idea was dropped when it was pointed out that this would mark the third movie in a row featuring Godzilla fighting a version of himself.  Some aspects of this original idea were later used for “Godzilla X Mechagodzilla”.

The simulated meltdown sequence has Godzilla explode next to the Wako Building and the Diet Building.  These two buildings were destroyed by Godzilla in the original 1954 movie.

The antagonist monster’s name was supposed to be “Destroyer”, however, Toho found it difficult to trademark that name, so “Destoroyah” was used instead.  In the dubbing, the monster’s name is pronounced “Destroyer”.

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Image digplanet.com

Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla (1994)

•May 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Image animevice.com

After three successful films starring monsters brought back from the Showa series, Toho decided to take a gamble on another new monster.  Spacegodzilla, Godzilla’s evil twin (from space!) would be the first new creature to headline a movie since Biollante.  In many ways, this movie was a throwback to the Godzilla movies of the late 60’s and early 70’s, with a space monster and sidekick in the robot MOGUERA.

A large, crystalline object hurtles through space, firing smaller bits of crystal towards Earth.  Meanwhile, G-Force is pouring resources into two anti-Godzilla projects.  Project T, headed by Miki Segusa, is an attempt to use telepathy to dissuade Godzilla from attacking populated areas.  Project MOGUERA sees the creation of a new anti-Godzilla robot to replace the lost Mechagodzilla.  Two G-Force members, Koji Shinjo and Kiyoshi Sato, are sent to Birth Island to plant a psychic amplifier on Godzilla.  While there, they meet Akira Yuki, an off-kilter military man with a massive grudge against Godzilla, and Little Godzilla, the baby from the previous movie.  The amplifier is successfully planted on Godzilla, and Miki has some success controlling him, but she is unable to hold him for too long due to some interference from another scientist.  Before they can try again, Spacegodzilla lands near a set of crystal formations it had sent to Earth beforehand.  Godzilla and Spacegodzilla battle, and Godzilla is defeated and Little Godzilla placed in a crystal cage.  The Cosmos appear to Miki and warn that Spacegodzilla is malevolent, and will destroy the Earth if not stopped.

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Image godzilla.wikia.com

Scientists study Spacegodzilla’s cells and discover they are almost the same as Godzilla’s.  It is theorized that some of Godzilla’s cells flew through space, taken there by either Biollante or Mothra, and fell into a black hole and out a white hole.  The cells combined with a crystalline life form and created Spacegodzilla, who is focused on killing Godzilla to prove it is superior.  Miki’s colleague reveals he is actually a member of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, who are interested in using her to control Godzilla for their own purposes.  G-Force saves Miki and sets a plan in motion to battle Spacegodzilla.  MOGUERA, piloted by Shinjo, Sato, and Yuki, is sent to battle Spacegodzilla.  However, Yuki diverts course and attacks Godzilla instead.  He reveals that his friend was one of the soldiers that injected Godzilla with the Anti-Nuclear Bacteria from “Godzilla vs. Biollante”, and he was killed in the rampage.  Yuki is primed for revenge, but his co-pilots subdue him and return MOGUERA to its course.  MOGUERA battles Spacegodzilla, and Godzilla joins the fray, but ultimately, Godziila is destroyed.  Godzilla continues to battle Spacegodzilla, and finally manages to defeat the creature by using his red “Spiral Breath”.

If “Godzilla vs. Gigan” and “Godzilla vs. Megalon” had more budget, they would look like this movie.  “Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla” is an exercise in audacity from start to finish.  Spacegodzilla’s origin is absurd (black holes don’t work that way!)  In addition, the human plot is a mess.  Yuki claims he can kill Godzilla with a blood coagulant, but nothing is made of this later, nor is it ever stated whether or not it would even be successful.  The Yakuza plotline comes from nowhere and serves little purpose, and Miki’s psychic powers are overused compared to previous films.  The real strength of this movie is in the monsters themselves.  Spacegodzilla is a design that really shouldn’t work, and yet somehow manages to be genuinely imposing.  MOGUERA is also an interesting robot; it has an array of weapons and can transform into two vehicles.  There really isn’t much like it in the Godzilla universe.  While the movie is definitely flawed, it a fun ride, and should really be watched with the mindset of the late Showa movies in mind.  After this movie, many people wondered aloud what Toho would do with Godzilla next, and they got their shocking answer…

…Toho planned to kill him.

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Image godzilla.wikia.com

Trivia

Spacegodzilla’s design is similar to the design of Super Godzilla from the Super Nintendo game of the same name.  That game featured Godzilla fighting familiar foes, and powering up at the end to fight longtime Toho placeholder Bagan.

The concept of a gang leader using a giant monster as an enforcer was revised years later in the IDW comic, “Gangsters and Goliaths”.

MOGUERA is based on a robot, named Moguera, from an older Toho invasion movie called “The Mysterians”.

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Image skreeonk.com