Hail to the King: A review of the entire Godzilla franchise Part 2
This is the second part to my overview of the Godzilla franchise. This is the Heisei period.
We’ll pick up from where we left off in part one which ended in 1975 with Terror of MechaGodzilla. This film marked the end of the Showa era of the franchise and in fact the last appearance of Godzilla as a “hero”. From here on out Godzilla was either a villain or a sort of chaotic neutral, keeping in line with the origin of the character that it’s more like a force of nature that cannot be controlled. If he is on your side, you’re guaranteed to win, but if he is against you, all that can be done is try and slow Godzilla down. This era is known as the Heisei era, which spans from 1984-1995.
The Return of Godzilla: The first film to feature the King of the Monsters in nine years saw Godzilla return to its roots as an unstoppable metaphor for the nuclear bomb. It had higher production values and a nice serving of Cold War intrigue added to the mix. Now as this movie is basically a direct sequel and a reboot to the franchise, none of the other films count and this is a brand new continuity. Some fans dislike this movie as it doesn’t feature any other monsters and it’s a bit slow going, but as a movie meant to retell the Godzilla story in a new light, I think it does a pretty darn good job. This is also a perfect time for people who maybe didn’t enjoy this movie the first time around and new comers to see this as the Blu-Ray/DVD of the original Japanese cut has just been released here in the States for the first time. I’d recommend giving it a second look.
Godzilla vs. Biollante: Now this is a strange one. Not strange like Hedorah or Megalon, but strange as it takes its own concept so seriously but is equally weird and unpredictable at the same time. After Godzilla’s attack from the previous movie, skin cells from the monster are used for study to try and genetically engineer a form of super plant that can grow in desert climates. This of course is a horrible idea and the DNA of a rose, Godzilla, and a scientists’ dead daughter create a super monster called Biollante. Does the fact that the scientists’ daughter is part of its DNA make any sense? Nope. Is it used in a meaningful way? Not really. Still, it presents the idea that the monsters are more than just punching bags and have real feelings and personalities. Add in a weird subplot about an assassin and you’ve got yourself a great Godzilla movie.
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah: What could easily be the highlight of this group, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is a wildly imaginative film that not only sticks to the conventions fans are used to, but it subverts them and delivers unexpected results at the same time. Typically with Ghidorah, the story is about aliens. Nope, this time it’s humans from the future who’ve come back to get permission to wipe Godzilla from existence by removing the non-mutated dinosaur from where a nuclear bomb drops, thus it never mutating into Godzilla in the 1950’s during nuclear testing. Turns out they’re holding Japan hostage with King Ghidorah, whom the people in future created in Godzilla’s’ place. Then using modern nuclear weapons, the Japanese create a more powerful Godzilla to fight King Ghidorah and then…well I won’t spoil what happens then, but rest assured, this movie is a favorite among fans for reasons. Also the Terminator is in the movie. https://giphy.com/gifs/film-vintage-1990s-RhcZvHn2KvymY
Godzilla vs. Mothra Battle for Earth: After the absolute craziness and awesomeness of the previous movie, Battle for Earth is a bit lackluster. It’s good enough, the only problem is that it’s too much like other Godzilla movies. The introduction of Battra and its Ying Yang relationship with Mothra is interesting enough, but that’s about it.
Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla 2: This is once again another movie that’s still good, but is just too much a typical Godzilla movie. It is fun seeing Rodan back and the idea that humanity created MechaGodzilla as a weapon to destroy Godzilla is fun and works well. The big thing to mention here is that Godzilla once again becomes a parent, this time his offspring being called Godzilla Jr (or Baby).
Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla: I’ve never been able to really decide on whether I like this movie or not. So at the end of Godzilla vs. Biollante, Biollante kind of flew into space (it’s a long story) and at the end of Battle of Earth, Mothra also flew into space. The significance of this is that both of these events are offered as possible origins for SpaceGodzilla. Some way or another, Godzilla’s cells and a crystalline structure where fused together in a black hole to create this new monster. Then it comes to Earth, kidnaps Godzilla Jr. and creates a crystal fortress waiting for Godzilla to try and rescue it. There’s also a giant robot called M.O.G.U.E.R.A. I think that this is a very love it or hate it film, but for the life of me I can’t decide.
Godzilla vs. Destroyah: Rivaling Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah for best film in the Heisei era, Godzilla vs. Destroyah was meant to be the final Japanese Godzilla for at least ten years. Godzilla’s heart, similar to a nuclear reactor, has started going into meltdown and once it does, Godzilla will destroy the entire planet. Meanwhile, prehistoric microorganisms that have been mutated by the Oxygen Destroyer, the weapon that killed Godzilla in the original film have begun to combine and form a monster that can kill Godzilla once and for all, Destroyah. This movie is one of the best not only because of higher production values from previous entries, but also having the significance of having a monster be born from the only weapon known to kill Godzilla on the fortieth anniversary of the franchise. Godzilla Jr. actually does most of the fighting and gets his ass kicked, but when Dad gets involved, powered up by his slowly decaying heart, it really feels like a finale fit for a king. Humanity is able to stop Godzilla from blowing up by using ice and freeze weapons on him causing Godzilla simply to melt. Honestly this is one of the most touching scenes of the entire franchise as it was absolutely intended to be the last we’d see of Godzilla for a very long time. However like many franchises that killed off their stars, this wasn’t going to last too long.
Now we’ve reached the end of the Heisei era and will be moving into the Millennium era next time. There’s one last movie I’d like to cover though.
Godzilla (1998): I do not consider this a Godzilla movie. G.I.N.O. (Godzilla in name only) or Zilla is what the monster in this movie is commonly referred to as by fans. It’s not even like I hate this movie, in fact, it’s one of the best laid back popcorn movies I can think of, but it’s not Godzilla. Hell, TOHO, the people who own legally Godzilla, don’t consider this Godzilla. I happen to have three distinct reasons why this movie doesn’t count.
- The Design: This is the least offensive thing about this movie. It’s a bipedal lizard with boney dorsal fins on its back. That’s a pretty broad definition of the design Godzilla, and it allows for artistic interpretation. Sure it’s a total rip-off of the T-Rex and Raptors designs from Jurassic Park, but imitation is the highest form of flattery as far as I’m concerned.
- How it’s killed: Godzilla has died before, that’s not the issue. The issue is that it’s killed by conventional weapons because “WOOO AMERICA”. Roland Emmerich, the director, could’ve still had his finale of the movie be on the Brookline Bridge and everything, I’ll admit it’s a cool visual, but why couldn’t he have used the nature of the character to wiggle around a little bit and at least say “Oh it’s a top secret prototype missile”? The point of Godzilla is that it was created by man’s own desire to destroy each other and it cannot be killed because of that. It totally misses the point of the character. Or even have Godzilla gravely wounded so you could have that sequel.
- It doesn’t have atomic breath: This one is simply unforgivable for me. How can Godzilla no have his atomic breath? I’ve heard that it’s because the filmmakers felt it was to unrealistic. GIANT RADIOACTIVE MONSTER THAT’S FINE, BUT BREATH FIRE? NOPE CAN’T DO THAT TOO UNREALISTIC. The “power breath” doesn’t count.
"Godzilla vs. Destroyah was meant to be the final Japanese Godzilla for at least ten years."
Did your homework. Very good!
I know reading things online can go a bit wonky, but I can't help but feel like that was a bit patronizing.
^It was not intended to be. I'll elaborate though.
This is a case of myth popularity over the truth and it's partially the fault of Toho's marketing campaign. Many were led to believe Destoroyah would be the last Toho movie ever, but that wasn't the case. The former is often quoted over the truth that Toho was (initially) planning to bring Godzilla back in 2015 or so.
This is my favorite of the eras. It didn't hit a home run everytime but I can enjoy all of the movies in heisei to some extent.
The Return Of Godzilla is the best in this series hands down for me. Godzilla vs Biollante is the 2nd best followed by vs. Destoroyah. If the rest of the movies followed the first that I mentioned the whole thing would be the best in the series.
I flip-flop between Return of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Biollante. Both do different things that work for themselves. Return has the mood, the look and overall atmosphere with strong ethics pertaining to the Cold War and how the world deals with his return. Biollante has the energy, the new direction and the answer to how the world accepts Godzilla's existence. Both have character problems, and things that work in Return don't work as well in Biollante, and vice-verse--But both are ultimately the best of Heisei. It all went downhill after that.
I love the way Return makes you feel like the world can come to an end with Godzilla's presence. Either with the giant monster or the use of nuclear weapons. Godzilla felt like a legit threat to mankind. "Return", Gojira(1954) and "Shin" are my favorite in the entire series. I don't think its because Godzilla is solo in each film, but I feel like each one is just amazing and really concentrates on the special fx of destroying a city and the tone along with atmosphere. I love the way he looks in each movie, how he is presented and what goes along with each story.
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