Hail to the King: A review of the entire Godzilla franchise Part 3
The Third part of this Godzilla retrospective will now look at one of the more recent runs of Godzilla films. This is known as the Millennium series and spans from 1999 to 2004. Arguably the best series in terms of production values, many would argue that this run of the franchise falters in terms or originality as only one of the films truly breaks the form that fans are used to. Godzilla is portrayed here as mostly an anti-hero, but is a villain for the most part and even strays into a neutral role in the final film.
Godzilla 2000: The first film produced in the Millennium series, Godzilla 2000 was seemingly made mostly as a reactionary response to the critical and fan backlash for the American made Tristar Godzilla film covered in the last article. Again, this is a soft-reboot, ignoring all the previous films made excluding the original. This film follows an alien spacecraft landing on Earth millions of years ago attempting to find the perfect lifeform to replicate. Humanity discovers it and the spacecraft awakens. It’s a fairly standard plot, the number one thing to mention here is the fantastic redesign used for Godzilla, a similar design was used for the majority of the Millennium films. It is worth mentioning that this film and the next one are the only two Godzilla films where his skin isn’t charcoal black, but green.
Godzilla vs. Megaguirus: Once again, another reboot, this film follows humanity experimenting with satellite based miniature black holes to trap Godzilla inside but instead release a prehistoric predatory dragonfly. In a fun twist, the larva of Megaguirus, Meganulon, make their first appearance in over 40 years from the original Rodan film as food for the titular monster. The Meganulon metamorphoses into Meganula, which absorb nuclear energy from Godzilla to feed their queen, Megaguirus. With the exception of the wild idea behind a miniature black hole, this is another standard Godzilla flick. The finale however does prove to be exciting and fun with several really cool moments.
Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack: As you can see, this is a very unwieldy title, so most people simply refer to this movie as GMK. GMK is arguably the best film in this run and one of the best in the entire franchise. Godzilla this time around is not some sort of nuclear monster, but is reincarnated as a sort of amalgamation of the forgotten angry souls of those who died in WW2. They’re angry specifically because Japan has done what it can to just let the war forgotten. Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Baragon (who wasn’t important enough to be in the title apparently), are the Guardian Monsters, ancient beasts who protected Japan from invasion thousands of years ago. They have risen again to defend Japan against Godzilla. That’s right, King Ghidorah, who’s practically been the evil monster in the franchise, is a good guy here. The biggest thing about this movie is the monster fights, you get a real sense of the destruction that these monsters can cause. If you have to see only one Godzilla movie excluding the original that gives you a good idea of the darker themes the series has, I’d personally recommend this one.(Excluding Shin Godzilla now)
Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla: Another reboot, this movie sees the return of MechaGodzilla, this one happening to be my favorite version of the bionic monster, called Kiryu here. This also happens to be one of my favorite Godzilla designs as well, so as far as I’m concerned. The production values and the fights are A+ even if it takes a while for the movie to get going. The cool thing about this is that MechaGodzilla is built on the bones of the original Godzilla and the movie has some nice subtext about man’s abuse of nature to further themselves.
Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.: The only sequel during this run of movies, this one picks up a sometime after the events of the last movie. Kiryu is almost done with repairs after its last fight with Godzilla and unexpected visitors come pleading for the robot to be dismantled and the original Godzilla’s remains to be returned to the sea. Again this movie has top notch special effects and the fights are really entertaining. I really can’t speak for the plot as it really just expands on the ideas of the previous film somewhat and to talk about it would spoil a lot of it.
Godzilla: Final Wars: The film that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the franchise, Final Wars is…well saying that it’s give or take is an understatement. Choosing to celebrate the goofy, monster bashes and ludicrous alien storylines, the movie really is a love letter to the Showa era. But then it also wants to be the Matrix for some really dumb reason. Like it is not subtle in ripping off the Matrix either. Unfortunately, the movie focuses on being a rip-off a little too much for my taste and for what it is, it doesn’t have enough monsters or Godzilla to be a satisfying 50th anniversary movie. Godzilla is also really OP in this, he takes down about 90% of the monsters in this movie, and there’s a lot of them, with relative ease. However, I forgive the movie for all of this because of this one man.
In the same breath I find this both an underrated and justly criticized series of films. Are they great movies as a whole? No. Do they try new things? Yes. Do they try old things? Yes. Did they often work? No. But I suppose in most cases I'd rather watch a creative failure than a safe success. The latter is sometimes necessary, but I was happy when Toho finally shook it off in 2016.
On the whole I'd say this is a very safe run of Godzilla movies. Nothing in here is bad, but only one movie is notable as being good. The risks they do take are hit-or-miss, but I do agree that Toho finally shook off their creative failure trend.
I would argue quite a few movies in this series are "bad" or at least below what I consider the average for the series. Godzilla vs Megaguirus and Final Wars standing out amongst them. I'm not too big a fan of this era, I don't hate all the movies in it, but if I was to make a top 10 G movies maybe only 1 from this era would make it and it would be a later number.
I thought Godzilla 2000 and GMK were great. The rest felt not as up to par with the previous series. Don't get me wrong I do enjoy these films and watch them religiously, but I feel like things could have been different or in this case "better". There are some great highlights that do stand out in this series. Most of it being in GMK. Final Wars should have been a home run, but it was a foul ball only to be caught in by only a few fans.
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