Number 11 – “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II” (1993)

 

 

Full disclaimer on “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II” – This is my ultimate guilty pleasure Godzilla movie. This isn’t a particularly well-made Godzilla film, and is more-or-less just a dumb popcorn flick that exemplifies how repetitive the Heisei series could be. But goddamn, I love this movie!

Honestly, there’s a lot to love about it. The soundtrack by Akira Ifukube is one of the best he did since the 1960s Godzilla films. Every monster scene feels unique and carries enough weight that it makes every fight feel substantial, not to mention every monster gets a good chance to shine. The plot, while simple, does its job at creating one of the better “Man vs. Godzilla” films of the Heisei series. But what really gets me with “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II” is its ending, and we will get to that later.

I should note this isn’t a direct sequel to 1974’s “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla” (though that film did have a direct sequel that I’ll talk about later). This film takes place in the middle of the Heisei series, right after “Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth” but before “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla.” There aren’t many films out there that have the number two in the title but are not sequels, and this is one of them.

The film begins with the creation of the G-Force, the worldwide organization tasked with tracking and defeated Godzilla once and for all. The first weapon they build to fight Godzilla is a machine called Garuda, a large jet-like object with two maser cannons on it, but it was put on the backburner after G-Force considered it too weak. Their next big discovery came when they explored the bottom of the sea and found the wreckage from Mecha-King Ghidorah after its fight with Godzilla at the end of “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.”

The G-Force salvaged what they could from Mecha-King Ghidorah and started reverse-engineering its armor and technology, which is pretty big considering it’s made up of tech from the 23rd century. The G-Force then set out to use this knowledge and power to create their next big project – MechaGodzilla.

 

 

The film spends the next little while talking about how badass MechaGodzilla is, describing how they basically took the weapons the Heisei series has built up to this point and put it in MechaGodzilla. It has Mecha-King Ghidorah’s armor and schematics, missiles that can paralyze Godzilla like the first Super-X did in “Return of Godzilla,” and it even has an upgraded version of the Super-X2’s fire mirror, able to absorb Godzilla’s atomic ray to power its ultimate weapon, the Plasma Grenade.

Now the only thing missing for this operation are MechaGodzilla’s pilots. The G-Force basically makes an entire school to teach trainees the best way to fight Godzilla, including lessons on the amount of time between his dorsal spines lighting up and his atomic ray being unleashed. All of this shows just how far Japan has come in their fight against Godzilla and the knowledge they’re accumulated on him.

My only complaint is that the characters they show that will end up being the pilots are pretty big douchebags. The commander is a stickler for the rules and seems to go out of his way to terrorize other people. His second-in-command is an American woman, who wastes no time demonstrating her martial arts abilities (something that I’m sure will come in very handy against the 100-meter tall fire-breathing lizard). And then there’s our main character Aoki (Masahiro Takashima), a bumbling idiot who is a bit too obsessed with Pteranodons and Pterodactyls, too the point that it gets in the way of his job of being Garuda’s mechanic and working as a MechaGodzilla pilot.

While this is going on, a group of research scientists head to a remote island in the Bering Sea. On a rocky cliff side they find two large eggs, one that looks like it was opened from the inside and another unopened and supposedly intact. As they examine the unopened egg and strap it into their helicopter to return to Japan, the egg starts glowing red and the wind on the island starts to pick up.

The scientists quickly find out the cause of the wind – Rodan.

Like most of the other monster scenes in this movie, I adore Rodan’s introduction here, starting out on a long shot of the set where you can barely see Rodan in the background until he finally arrives on a large rock pillar overlooking the scientists’ camp. The whole time the scene remains silent, except for the sound of Rodan’s wings. But once Rodan gets on his perch, his theme music starts playing very slowly, just enough to send shivers down my spine every time. As soon as he lets out his roar and unleashes his attack, then his theme song goes to work, Ifukube providing the perfect match to Rodan’s speed and strength.

I would also like to take a moment to talk about Rodan in general. To be honest, I was never a big fan of Rodan. I really liked his design with the red/brown color scheme and spikes on the chest of a giant pterodactyl, but Rodan’s character in the Godzilla films always made him seem like a coward. In “Destory All Monsters,” after getting blasted with one of King Ghidorah’s gravity beams, he flies away. Rodan is the only monster to retreat during that battle, which really painted my picture of Rodan as a scaredy-cat. He was alright in “Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster” but seemed like the odd-one out compared to Godzilla and Mothra. Same with his other appearance in the Showa series, “Invasion of Astro-Monster.” I didn’t hate Rodan’s appearances in the Showa series, but it really came across like the filmmakers didn’t know what to do with him.

But this version of Rodan? He’s swift, pretty cunning for a giant monster, and isn’t afraid to take on any threat despite how powerful they might be. I’m not afraid to admit this is my favorite incarnation of Rodan.

There’s just one little problem with this scene, as well as with the rest of the film – in the English dub, they call him “Radon” instead of Rodan. I know that’s his Japanese name, but this isn’t the Japanese version of the film. He has an English name, so call him by that name!

 

 

So just as things are looking bad for the scientists, since Rodan has forced them to a precipice over the ocean, the ocean lights up and a familiar blast of blue energy shoots out of the ocean towards Rodan. The scientists point out the obvious and Godzilla rises out of the ocean to do battle with Rodan.

This battle is spectacular. The shot that convinced me of this is later on that reveals how much smaller Rodan is than Godzilla, where the mutated pterodactyl looks like he’s about a fifth of Godzilla’s size. And yet Rodan dominates most of this fight by finding different ways to combat Godzilla. He attacks him from behind, he slashes Godzilla’s ankles and supersonic speeds and even forces him into a giant pile of rocks. This Rodan is one of the few Heisei monsters that doesn’t have any energy attacks, so it’s amazing to see a fight where the monster has been far more creative with their attacks. Even Godzilla doesn’t use his atomic ray that much, mostly just near the end of the fight, though not before downing Rodan and stomping Rodan until he’s as flat as a pancake.

During the battle, the scientists escape in their helicopter with the large egg and Godzilla is victorious, knocking Rodan into a cliff side with his atomic breath, though oddly enough Godzilla seems to chase after the helicopter.

I should also note that all this happens within the first fifteen minutes of the movie. “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II” wastes no time getting straight to the reason we’re watching this movie.

The scientists take the egg back to their institute in Kyoto to study it, believing that it is a pteranodon egg, since it came from the same nest as Rodan’s egg. After hearing about it on the news, Aoki immediately ditches all of his responsibilities at G-Force and drives to Kyoto to see a real pteranodon egg, much to the irritation of the lead researcher Azusa (Ryoko Sano) and the audience. It doesn’t get any easier when he starts hitting on her.

Aoki gets his hands on a plant-like sample that came from the egg and who should come across Aoki and the sample but our dear friend Miki Saegusa. She says that she picks up strange vibes from the sample and takes it to the “psychic institute” so that about a dozen kids can put their hands around it and see if they can feel anything. Sure Miki, you keep telling yourself that you can talk to plants. First “Godzilla vs. Biollante” and now this.

Anyway, the institute can make a recording of what the kids picked up from the plant sample and play for the scientists to hear, noting that it sounds like a very odd piece of music. But apparently they put this music at its maximum volume because the egg hears the music and starts hatching. But instead of a baby pteranodon, a baby Godzilla comes out instead.

While the scientists are initially scared about a baby Godzilla inside their lab, they quickly learn it is a friendly plant-eating dinosaur that thinks Azusa is his mother, since she was the first person he saw. But just as everyone is celebrating this new creature, Miki senses that Godzilla has made landfall in Japan and is rampaging throughout the country.

This immediately gets the attention of the G-Force as they scramble to launch MechaGodzilla. The Captain waits for every pilot to show up, noting that Aoki is missing, since he’s still in Kyoto goofing off. They get a new back-up pilot and this leads to about a five-minute launching sequence of MechaGodzilla. Yeah, good hustle out there guys, Godzilla’s probably destroyed two major cities at this point.

 

 

And so we come to our first confrontation between Godzilla and MechaGodzilla. I have to admit that they suit acting for Godzilla and the props they use to show Godzilla’s facial expressions is wonderful here, since we get a full range of emotions from Godzilla reacting to a monster that looks exactly like him, from confusion to rage to dominating.

The fight itself is exactly the kind of stuff I love from a battle between these two – MechaGodzilla easily overpowering Godzilla with his vast range of beams and weapons and Godzilla not being able to do much in response. My favorite part is when Godzilla finally uses his atomic ray, is shocked to see it did nothing to MechaGodzilla and then gets blasted with the Plasma Grenade, going down in just one shot.

Unfortunately, the pilots get a little bit cocky and forget about Godzilla’s nuclear pulse, which sends their final attack of shocking Godzilla with an anchor right back at them and shutting down MechaGodzilla. Godzilla gives MechaGodzilla one last big body slam for good measure and walks away to continue his rampage.

 

 

After a pointless fight between Godzilla and military, we learn why Godzilla suddenly showed up now – he’s on his way to Kyoto to get the baby Godzilla. The scientist hide the baby in the basement of their building but Godzilla just starts tearing the building down. In an attempt to calm the baby down, he apparently tells Godzilla through their telepathic link to leave him alone…which Godzilla does so reluctantly. Again, I have to applaud the suit acting here because it really does come across like Godzilla doesn’t want to leave the baby here, especially after everything he went through to get here, and is sad to leave the only other member of his race with these people.

After that, there’s a bit of down time where a few key things happen. Aoki is fired from the G-Force but is given a second chance when he suggests combining Garuda with MechaGodzilla to form a more powerful machine. The G-Force takes in Azusa and the baby Godzilla so they can study its biology in the hopes to learn more about Godzilla. And finally, after a chorus of little children sing the same song that woke up the baby Godzilla from its egg, Rodan apparently hears the song and is not only revitalized but is given a power-up, turning from Rodan to Fire Rodan and makes his way towards Japan.

The G-Force studies the baby Godzilla and learns that it has a large cluster of nerves at the base of its tail, acting almost like a second brain. They assume that Godzilla must have this as well and create a new weapon to take advantage of this – The G-Crusher. Once they destroy that nerve cluster, Godzilla will not even be able to stand up. They also plan to use the baby Godzilla to lure Godzilla into the open and conduct their next attack on a deserted island.

Of course, Miki makes a complaint against this plan, saying that it is too horrible to use on Godzilla. This leads to the funniest part of the movie when the leaders of the G-Force say that they’re not only moving forward with the G-Crusher plan, but they want Miki to be the one to pull the trigger. Her psychic powers will make finding the second brain much easier and she is ordered to go onboard MechaGodzilla the next time Godzilla emerges.

Any movie where someone with authority gives Miki Saegusa a smack down and tells her what to do is great in my book.

But just as the helicopter takes the baby Godzilla and Azusa to the island, it is attacked by Fire Rodan. The chopper is destroyed and Rodan takes the container with the baby and Azusa away. This leads to Fire Rodan’s rampage through a major city (even stopping by Japan’s Disneyland for a moment), and it is a nice attack, especially with Ifukube’s heart-pounding music and the massive shadows Rodan casts over the city.

The scientists speculate that since the baby Godzilla and Rodan came from the same nest, that they have a deep connection to each other. Anytime the baby Godzilla’s eyes glow red, either Godzilla or Rodan have responded by coming to the baby’s rescue. They’re not attacking just for the sake of attacking, but to protect the baby Godzilla.

The G-Force responds to this by sending out MechaGodzilla and Garuda to combat Fire Rodan, figuring that Godzilla will probably be here soon as well. While the G-Force assigns an experienced pilot to Garuda, Aoki decides to be a jackass and hijacks piloting duties for Garuda because “it was his idea.” Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

As the day turns to night, Rodan lands in a metropolitan area and starts to open the crate holding Azusa and the baby just as MechaGodzilla and Garuda show up. We learn that Rodan’s transformation granted him an energy-based attack, which I don’t have a problem with since Rodan still prefers to attack his enemies head-on. The only reason they gave him a beam is so MechaGodzilla could absorb it to power the Plasma Grenade.

This leads to a brief aerial fight between Fire Rodan and Garuda, which ends after Rodan rams Garuda and causes it to crash. After that we get a pretty damn good battle between Rodan and MechaGodzilla that is one of the more brutal Heisei fights. Like his earlier fight with Godzilla, Rodan puts up one hell of a fight, and it works for a while since MechaGodzilla was designed to fight Godzilla and not him. Rodan is able to damage some of MechaGodzilla’s systems with his beak and direct attacks, including knocking out his eye lasers, and actually takes several blasts from the Plasma Grenade before getting a giant hole blasted in his chest.

Of course, just as soon as Fire Rodan is defeated, Godzilla shows up to continue the fight. Suddenly, the mood takes a drastic change as the pilots are convinced that this will be the battle where humans finally overcome Godzilla. The problem is that MechaGodzilla is weakened due to their fight with Rodan and Garuda is out of commission.

 

 

This leads to a fight that pretty much exemplifies the Heisei series, as Godzilla and MechaGodzilla engage in a beam war, where their energy weapons clash in mid-air and cause an explosion of sparks that knocks them both to the ground. The fight does get better once MechaGodzilla is incapacitated and Godzilla starts throwing him around like a rag doll.

Aoki is finally able to get Garuda running again and launches it to fight Godzilla. After a brief struggle where Godzilla gets knocked down, that gives them enough time to link up the two machines to form their ultimate weapon, Super MechaGodzilla, with Garuda acting as a jet-pack for the already stacked robot.

We get another beat down from Super MechaGodzilla, unleashing all of their combine weapons until Godzilla is down long enough for Miki to locate Godzilla’s second brain. While she hesitates, she does target the brain and they unleash the G-Crusher, destroying Godzilla’s nerve cluster and paralyzing him. After a few more blasts of Super MechaGodzilla’s attacks, they succeed and kill Godzilla.

I’m not kidding. According to reports from Toho about this scene and a shot later that shows a motionless Godzilla, the G-Force is successful in killing Godzilla here. It’s not too often you see humans overcoming Godzilla through sheer force and firepower but this is a pleasant change of pace.

But of course, you cannot finish off Godzilla like this. Which leads us to the best part of the movie, as the baby Godzilla can sense that Godzilla is in trouble and breaks through the container and roars as loud as he can. This roar doesn’t do anything for Godzilla, but it does awaken Rodan once again. With the little energy he has left, he gets up to help out in the fight. Super MechaGodzilla sees that Rodan is still alive and blasts him, forcing Rodan to land on top of the dead Godzilla.

With no other options left to them, Rodan sacrifices his life energy and transfers it into Godzilla. This sequence gets me every time. Maybe it’s because of Ifukube’s wonderfully emotional music, or maybe it’s the way Rodan slowly dies, his body glowing like the last few ashes in a fire. But the main reason is that it serves as a perfect cap to Rodan’s character in this film, giving up everything to save the only other life he cared about.

Rodan’s energy revives Godzilla’s second brain and causes a massive storm of radiation, as Godzilla rises back to his feet and roars in triumph. The Godzilla theme music starts up and we see that the storm has caused MechaGodzilla’s armor to start melting. Then Godzilla shows off his newest weapon after gaining Rodan’s energy, the Hyper-Spiral Beam. Anything this beam touches is engulfed in massive flames and explosions.

 

 

While this maybe an incredibly stupid scene, I love every second of it. The way Godzilla is brought back to life, the heroic sacrifice from Rodan, the music, and the effects work on Godzilla’s beam are all wonderful here. When I think of how awesome and badass Godzilla can be, this finale is one of the first scenes that comes to mind.

With Super MechaGodzilla being weakened by the storm and his new power boost, Godzilla is successful in destroying the robot just as the pilots escape. Godzilla finally makes it to the baby Godzilla, who is at first reluctant to go with Godzilla, but after hearing more of the psychic kids singing is convinced to leave the humans and go be with one of his kind. Godzilla and the baby head back out into the ocean and we get some parting words from our heroes about the constant fight for survival or some nonsense.

“Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II” knows exactly what it wants to be – a very dumb popcorn action flick. It gives the audience exactly what it came for, not wasting any time to jump right into the action sequences and building the story around those scenes. The fights are some of the best of the entire Heisei series and the music provides some great emotional punches to accompany the action throughout.

It should also be pointed out that this is one of the few Godzilla films where it doesn’t feel like there’s one true villain. Godzilla and Rodan do everything in this film out of protecting the baby Godzilla, while the G-Force is doing their job by protecting the world from the dangerous giant monsters. While some of the characters are douchebags or idiots, they do make it clear their mission is also protection. In the end, everyone in this film is just trying to save their species.

 

 

The story is nothing special and feels dumbed down on purpose to make people crave the action scenes even more. And while there are a plethora of stupid and eye-rolling moments, I loved just about every one of them, especially those involving Godzilla and Rodan. It is filled to the brim with Heisei clich├ęs, including beam wars, and sometimes laughable special effects, but they don’t bother me in this movie.

I have so much fun with “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II” every time I watch it. As a kid, this was my favorite Godzilla film. The ending is mostly the reason for this, with Rodan’s sacrifice and Godzilla’s triumphant return feeling so grand and badass. But I can admit this still isn’t a great movie, which is why it is my guilty pleasure Godzilla movie.

 

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Number 21 – “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” (1991)

 

 

This is a Godzilla movie that I’m always on the fence about – On the one hand, it might just be the most stupid, ludicrous, poorly written mess in the entire Godzilla series. Yet, when this movie is good, it is the best of the entire Heisei series. The problem is that those scenes are harder to come by than a good scene with Miki Saegusa.

“Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” is the third entry in the Heisei series and almost acts as a soft reboot to the series. In the previous two entries, Godzilla had been scaled to roughly 80 meters tall, but Toho realized that this was just too short and wanted to make Godzilla even bigger, scaling him up to 100 meters. This also marked the beginning of Toho reinventing other classic kaijus outside of Godzilla, with the first being his most classic enemy, King Ghidorah, the three-headed golden dragon.

Toho took this opportunity to change Godzilla’s size once again and also used it to show Godzilla’s origin. I’m not exactly sure who was asking to see what Godzilla was like before he was hit by an atomic bomb, but here it is, for all of its good and bad points.

The film begins with a UFO circling around Japan. The Japanese government tracks its strange path and learns that it passed right over the location of Godzilla, resting deep in the ocean. Eventually, the UFO lands in a field and the military is quick to surround it. But much to everyone’s surprise, three humans emerge from the UFO and wish to talk to the Japanese prime minister.

The three tell the government about themselves – they’re actually from the future, the 23rd century to be exact, and the UFO is their time machine. They explain that, in the 23rd century, most of the world has been utterly destroyed by Godzilla, who will only grow stronger with time as he absorbs more nuclear radiation. They have come back in time to prevent Godzilla from ever being created and thus ensuring humanity won’t be destroyed by Godzilla.

We learn earlier in the film that a Japanese platoon was stranded on a seemingly deserted island called Lagos, surrounded by American battleships near the end of World War II. They had just about given up hope, when suddenly they were saved by a dinosaur, who killed all the American ground troops before retreating due to injuries. After hearing reports about the event from some of the surviving Japanese troop members, some reporters are able to piece together that this dinosaur was still on Lagos island when an atomic bomb was dropped on a nearby island and the resulting radiation mutated the dinosaur into Godzilla.

 

 

The Futurians, as those three from the UFO are called, plan on going back to 1945 and move the dinosaur away from Lagos island so that it doesn’t get hit with radiation. No dinosaur on Lagos, no Godzilla.

But our first plot hole reveals itself at this point, and it’s a pretty big one – If the Futurians had planned all along to go back to 1945 and erase Godzilla from history, then why did they stop in 1991 first? Why tell the Japanese government about their plans at this point when their only intention was to get rid of Godzilla before he was born? Why not just go straight from the 23rd century to 1945? It’s not like the Futurians needed anything in 1991 that they couldn’t get any where else.

They try to write it off like the Futurians needed to stop in 1991 by bringing along three passengers from the modern day, a novel writer who would eventually write about Godzilla’s extensive history, a dinosaur expert, and our dear friend Miki Seagusa, because…they had to find a way to work her into the movie. The problem with this is these three are just passengers. They don’t do anything while on Lagos in 1945 other than watch this dinosaur stomp on some American soldiers and then make some Gamera roars when it gets shot by the battleships (I’m not kidding, this pre-Godzilla has Gamera’s roars). They serve no purpose other than to look at WW2 in awe.

Anyway, the Futurians succeed in their plan, as they remove Godzilla from the island and return to the present to learn Godzilla no longer exists. Except that, as far as we can tell, very little has changed about the world they live in. You’d think something like Godzilla, the menace of Japan for over 30 years, being erased from history would change things. Maybe Japan would have picked a different prime minister, one who might be more focused on the Cold War or industrial development instead of handling Godzilla. But nope, everything’ is the same except Godzilla is gone. Oddly enough, everyone still knows exactly who Godzilla is and what he did.

 

 

I’m starting to think this form of time travel is stupid.

But the moment everyone returns to the present, the Futurians show their true colors. When they departed Lagos island, one of them dropped off three tiny future animals known as Dorats, empathic creatures that can be controlled by a computer. As it turns out, they wanted the Dorats to be hit by the atomic bomb instead of the dinosaur, which results in an entirely new monster being created, one that they can control, King Ghidorah.

So I have a question – The film implies that King Ghidorah is pretty useless unless someone is controlling him with a computer, which the Futurians don’t start using until 1991. So does that mean King Ghidorah was just sitting on Lagos island from 1954 until 1991 doing nothing? And no one ever noticed the giant three-headed golden dragon just sitting on Lagos until the Futurians activated him?

In any case, the Futurians unleash King Ghidorah on Japan, saying that they will destroy all of Japan except for Tokyo and then rebuild it as they see fit. The military is about as effective at stopping King Ghidorah as they were with fighting Godzilla, except now their enemy can fly. And with Godzilla being erased from history, there is nothing on Earth that can defeat King Ghidorah.

But one of the Futurians, a Japanese woman named Emmy (Anna Nakagawa), turns on the other two when they start destroying her homeland. She tells the novel writer the truth – Japan in the 23rd century basically owns the world. Every major technological advancement came from Japan, causing the country to become the major metropolis of the world. Japan also outright buys entire continents, including Australia and Africa, and uses their advanced technology to defeat Godzilla. There is no war, no pollution and nothing nuclear-powered.

Which means the Futurians are just a bunch of rogue thieves who got their hands on a time machine and want to change history so that Japan isn’t the powerhouse of the world…even though the future sounds pretty sweet from Emmy’s description. She never tells us why the Futurians were so upset with the 23rd century and why they wanted to change it, so let us just chalk that up to another plot hole.

With Emmy’s help, our characters try to find a solution to stop King Ghidorah and the Futurians, with their best plan being to find the dinosaur that becomes Godzilla and hit him with lots of radiation to create a new Godzilla.

 

 

This leads to a complicated series of events involving a private industrial company buying their own nuclear submarine that ignores international waters and orders and then stumbles across Godzilla in the Bering Sea. Godzilla attacks and destroys the submarine and absorbs all of its radiation, growing even larger and more violent than before.

Now that the plot recap is out of the way, I can finally say that this story is stupid. Granted, stories about time travel are beyond complicated, but if films like “Back to the Future” can make it seem plausible and tell it in a way that anyone can understand, then I’d expect something a little less absurd from this movie. It can sometimes be funny with how crazy and nonsensical things can get at times, especially when Terminator-like robots start chasing after Emmy just to bring her back to the time machine. Still, it took the film over an hour and 20 minutes for Godzilla to finally show up so that could also be a pacing problem.

Once Godzilla shows back up in Japan, the Futurians immediately send in King Ghidorah to kill him, resulting in our first fight between the two.

 

 

This is where the film starts getting good, if not great. These fight scenes are some of the best in the entire Heisei series, with the opening fight between Godzilla and King Ghidorah showcasing some great background and setting effects. Their fight takes place on a large grassy field and every once of the monsters’ blasts tears up the field and often shows the type of smoke you’d see with a forest fire. Even though the two monsters mostly use beams throughout their fight, it shows that their attacks do carry immense weight and damage, especially when you see little amounts of damage to King Ghidorah’s wings.

The problem with this opening fight though is the pacing and the need to cram in as many human scenes in the middle of the fight. The scenes with Godzilla and King Ghidorah are always cut short when we cut back over to Emmy and friends infiltrating the time machine to blow up the computer controlling KIng Ghidorah. We hardly ever get a moment to just enjoy the fight on its own when there’s so many other things going on. It turns what would be an amazing five-or-six minute fight, including Godzilla lifting up King Ghidorah by his tails and slamming him to the ground, into a 15-minute sequence. Lame.

Eventually, they are successful in destroying the computer that controls King Ghidorah and Godzilla destroys the time machine with the two evil Futurians inside before they can return to their own time. King Ghidorah tries to escape but Godzilla blasts off one of his heads and a giant hole in his wing, causing King Ghidorah to fall into the ocean. But the Japanese quickly realize that, because of this new more evil Godzilla, they may have created a far more dangerous and more powerful monster than King Ghidorah.

 

 

One thing that annoys the crap out of me about “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” is that the film insists that Godzilla is a good monster who would never hurt Japan. They get this from the dinosaur on Lagos only attacking the American forces and not the Japanese, implying that Godzilla has a soft spot for the Japanese. Except that this is the same Godzilla that already ravaged Japan in the previous two movies. Godzilla’s behavior is hardly any different in this movie from those other two, so they have no reason to act surprised when he attacks Japan after King Ghidorah is gone. If this were the Godzilla from the 1970s when he was a hero to Japan, then I could buy that, but this particular Godzilla has always been portrayed as evil.

Emmy and her friends think of a new plan to deal with Godzilla, coming to the conclusion that King Ghidorah probably isn’t dead at the bottom of the ocean and could be repaired to fight Godzilla again. Emmy returns to the 23rd century to use their technology to rebuild King Ghidorah, but not without admitting her feelings for the novel writer.

In the present, Godzilla arrives in Tokyo and starts to destroy the city. In the middle of his rampage, he spots one of the soldiers he saved back on Lagos and actually seems to recognize him…before blasting him with an atomic ray.

But in the middle of Godzilla’s attack, we get the crowning moment of the movie – In an explosion of electricity and technology, King Ghidorah emerges out of no where, with new metal wings and a metal third head, bringing forth the new monster Mecha-King Ghidorah. Set to Akira Ifukube’s awesome King Ghidorah theme, Emmy arrives piloting the rejuvenated monster to do battle with Godzilla in the heart of downtown Tokyo.

 

 

This is one of the best monster fights in the entire Godzilla series. The effects are always impressive and carry the weight of two huge monsters fighting in the middle of a metropolis, especially when the massive buildings around them start collapsing in on them. Akira Ifukube’s music is at its full strength here, providing an even greater impact to the destruction and battle. The pacing is perfect, with nothing to interrupt the fight this time and every action feeling genuine. There is never a boring moment in this fight also, with each one gaining the upper hand at one point or another, especially when Emmy starts using restraints on Godzilla.

For all the problems I have with this movie, the ending fight between Godzilla and Mecha-King Ghidorah makes it all worth it.

In the end, Emmy forces Godzilla back into the ocean, but at the cost of Mecha-King Ghidorah. As she prepares to head back to the 23rd century again, we learn one last thing about her – Emmy is actually related to the novel writer…the writer that she seemed to have a crush on. I guess this film ran out of things to say or do, so it chose to end on the thought of incest!

While “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” has more than its share of problem, I cannot bring myself to say I hate it or that it is a bad movie. There are genuinely good scenes here, in particular anytime Godzilla and King Ghidorah fight. While it takes forever to get to those scenes, and even then the film suffers from pacing problems, the effects and music really shine through. The story can sometimes be enjoyable bad, if only for the crazy time travel elements and the stupid plot holes. Watch this one with some beer and some good friends and you’ll have a great time.

 

Number 22 – “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” (1995)

 

 

And now we follow up the beginning of the Millennium series with the end of the Heisei series.

“Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is the seventh and final entry in the second Godzilla series, and is the film that continually boasts about how it features the death of Godzilla. Outside of “Godzilla: Final Wars” and “Godzilla 2000,” this is the Godzilla film that got the most attention worldwide. I remember watching a news report when I was five about how, after 40 years of making Godzilla movies, Toho was finally killing off the king of the monsters. This was a huge worldwide event, or at least as big as a Godzilla event could get.

Did it pay off? Financially, “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” did alright at the box office, mostly because everyone already knew Godzilla was going to die before the film started. Critically, the film did okay, but most of the audience reactions seemed to be positive, as they liked how Godzilla’s death was handled. But personally, “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” falls into the same trappings that many of the other Heisei films did. This leaves me with a boring, uninteresting Godzilla movie that is only saved by the last 15 minutes.

If I have to sit through about an hour-and-a-half of crap before we get to 15 minutes of the good stuff that is still a bad experience.

The film begins shortly after “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla” ended – Godzilla has returned to his home on Birth Island to be with his son. But as our dear old friend Miki Seagusa flies to Birth Island to pay a visit, she learns that the island has suddenly disappeared off the face of the planet. Shortly after this, Godzilla appears in Hong Kong glowing bright red and is putting out a tremendous amount of heat, now only able to use his incredibly destructive hyper spiral beam instead of his standard atomic breath.

 

 

The scientists of the world gather at G-Force Headquarters to deposit their theories about what happened to Godzilla. They come to the conclusion that a large volcanic event must have occurred on Birth Island that not only destroyed the island, but caused Godzilla to take on massive amounts of energy at once. Since Godzilla’s heart is basically a nuclear reactor, the energy he took on became too much for him, and now his heart is beginning to meltdown.

To make matters worse, the scientists figure that Godzilla’s heart will eventually give out, not only killing Godzilla, but igniting the Earth’s atmosphere and wiping out all life on the planet. Naturally, the military wants to prevent this from happening, but the scientists deposit that any weapons used on Godzilla might only speed up the meltdown process.

So yeah, by the nature of the plot, “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is a disaster movie, with the fate of the planet hanging in the balance. Or at least that’s what the film wants to you believe.

The G-Force eventually becomes desperate to find anything to stop the meltdown and retrace Godzilla’s past to see if they can find anything. Keep in mind, while all the Heisei films are contained in their own universe, the events of the first Godzilla movie from 1954 still happened. This leads them to a young student named Kenichi Yamane (Yasufumi Hayashi), the grandson of the famous Dr. Yamane from the first film. Kenichi has spent most of his life studying and analyzing Godzilla, so the G-Force asks for his help. He says there is only one solution to stopping Godzilla’s meltdown – Recreate the Oxygen Destroyer, the weapon that killed the first Godzilla.

In the first Godzilla, Dr. Serizawa created the Oxygen Destroyer, a device that splits oxygen atoms into a fluid and then disintegrates those molecules, causing everything to die of asphyxiation. He had intended to keep the device hidden away from the rest of the world until he felt it was ready to be revealed, but the arrival of Godzilla forced him to put his destroyer to use. To make sure something this powerful never fell into the wrong hands, Dr. Serizawa destroyed all his research and notes on the Oxygen Destroyer and sacrificed himself while using his creation on Godzilla. Which means in present day, no one knows how to make an Oxygen Destroyer.

At the same time, one of Japanese leading scientists has begun working on micro oxygen, so G-Force tasks him with creating a new Oxygen Destroyer. But while he’s busying with this, one of his soil samples breaks free from its container. He studies the soil to find out that it was taken directly from Tokyo Bay in same area where the original Oxygen Destroyer was used on Godzilla.

It turns out that soil sample contained a colony of microscopic organisms that had been mutated by the Oxygen Destroyer and have been growing ever since. The colony begins feeding on micro oxygen, while also acting as a miniature Oxygen Destroyer, killing anything it touches. They continue to grow until these crustaceans are bigger than humans and start running amok in the city.

As far as I am concerned, most of that is just techno-babble for “this is how we get a dying Godzilla to fight a physical manifestation of the Oxygen Destroyer.”

By now you’ve probably guessed this other monster is the titular Destoroyah (not Destroyer). Eventually, all the human-sized creatures are able to combine into one monster that is even bigger than Godzilla. Destoroyah’s design is unique, with everything on its body being a dark shade of red or orange, covered in spikes and a face that make it look like a devil. This is a monster that some artistic goth kid would design while he was bored in science class.

 

 

The problem with Destoroyah, like with most other Heisei villains, is its motives or need to destroy everything. We never learn why Destoroyah feels the need to be wreck havoc on the world and we’re just supposed to assume it is because Destoroyah is pure evil. Near the end of the film, when Godzilla messes Destoroyah up, it is clear the colony monster is acting out of revenge and anger, but as a kaiju, Destoroyah as always left me a bit cold.

It also doesn’t help that Destoroyah is born from a device that was used because of the first Godzilla. The last two Heisei films, “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II” and “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla,” both featured Godzilla fighting clones of himself, and now we have another monster closely intertwined with Godzilla. It comes across like the filmmakers of the Heisei series just gave up near the end and could only think about how they could get Godzilla to fight himself.

 

 

So why is “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” this low on my countdown? Well keep in mind this is, at its core, a disaster movie. The world if coming to an end at the hands of Godzilla and even the most advanced minds of the planet feel like there is nothing we can do to stop it. Remember in other disaster movies, like “Titanic” or “The Poseidon Adventures,” how the characters had to fight for their lives while trying to remain rational and logical in a time when all they want to do is panic? We don’t get any of that in this movie.

The acting in “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is stale, wooden, and lacks the desperate emotional punch that could have saved this movie. Most of these characters go about their day like nothing is wrong. Just another day at the office with the possible Armageddon hanging over our shoulders. Nobody seems upset that the world could be ending at any minute. Granted, they’re all actively trying to prevent that from happening, but they do so with all the excitement of a pencil pusher.

The song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” has never been more applicable.

 

As for what’s going on with our buddy Miki Saegusa, she’s still working for the G-Force and is now in charge of studying Godzilla’s son, who survived the explosion on Birth Island as well and has grown up quite a bit as a result, becoming Godzilla Jr. Her annoyance in this film is downgraded, though still present when they give her a sidekick, another psychic person, Meru Ozawa (Sayaka Osawa).

Because if any character in this series needed a sidekick, it was Miki Saegusa!

In my recent viewing of “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah,” there was a point where I had to stop and contemplate something – Meru Ozawa mentions she was at the top of her class with her psychic powers and is upset that Miki hasn’t been practicing with her powers in a while. I stopped and wondered how we’ve gone nearly six movies with Miki and yet this is the first time we’re hearing about a high school or college-like place for psychic users only. We saw a preschool for psychic users back in “Godzilla vs. Biollante,” but I always thought that was a throwaway gag so it could have a hilarious scene of two dozen kids holding up their drawings of Godzilla destroying Japan while cheering like they don’t have a care in the world.

So this entire world is filled with potential psychic users? Miki isn’t a one-in-one-hundred-million chance to get powers like that? How are psychic wielders treated throughout the world? Is it like the X-Men where they’re looked down on by society and treated like outcasts? Are there special schools stationed all across the globe to help them develop their powers? How come we haven’t seen more of them throughout the series? Wouldn’t more of them be helpful in their constant fight against Godzilla? If they’re as common as Meru implies they are, what kind of impact have they had on the world? What kind of job does a psychic wielder normally get in the real world? And why is this the first we’re hearing about all this?

They had a golden opportunity to do some fantastic world building and they messed it all up. Maybe they could have shown that these psychic powers were caused in part by Godzilla’s unique radiation to tie it back to the monsters. Instead, all we get are two increasingly annoying psychic users who do little to the story outside of teasing us about a huge missed opportunity.

 

 

Miki’s dumb contribution to the story is that G-Force wants to use Godzilla Jr. to lure Godzilla closer to the main land so that he would fight Destoroyah, hoping the two would kill each other and prevent the meltdown. Naturally, Miki is against this plan, saying that she doesn’t want to risk killing Godzilla Jr. for all this, because he is his own strong independent man and don’t need no psychic woman telling him what to do! Except that Miki seems to have forgotten that the fate of the world rests on this plan, so maybe she should set her personal attachments and feelings aside and think about the greater good for a change.

Miki Saegusa is like one of those obnoxious, groan-inducing hippie characters who just wants peace and love for all living creatures, except even more poorly-written than that.

Like I said near the beginning of all this, the only good thing about “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is the final 15 minutes, when Godzilla is on the verge of melting down and his power is uncontainable. Suddenly, the film takes a tragic turn when you look at it from Godzilla’s perspective – He just witnessed his son die before his eyes, is unsuccessful at bringing him back to life, his body temperature starts going critical, his body starts to melt, and to top it all off Destoroyah wants a rematch. But even then, it’s the military that gets the killing blow on Destoroyah, so Godzilla doesn’t even get to wipe out his final enemy.

While the effects before this final scene were sub-par at best, especially when dealing with the smaller forms of Destoroyah, they pulled out all the stops for this one. Godzilla’s beam has grown massive and causes explosions that are bigger than both monsters, you can visibly see Godzilla slowly melting away. It does add to the grand scale that this insanely powerful creature is dying.

The actual death of Godzilla is handled quite well. As Godzilla melts down, the military tries everything they can to stop him from taking the Earth with him, and for once it feels like the military does damage to Godzilla. I can almost feel Godzilla’s pain as his body gives up and is reduced to a pile of bones, and his final roar still gives me chills.

 

 

The other highlight of “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is the music. It was composed by Akira Ifukube, who composed over a dozen Godzilla movies, including the first Godzilla film, and this was the final time he would create the soundtrack for Godzilla. That theme I loved so much in “Godzilla 2000”? That was originally written for this movie and was used equally well here when Godzilla makes his stand against Destoroyah. His music sounds more boisterous and grandiose than usual, which adds to this being Godzilla’s final act. If there’s one thing that has always given Godzilla far more impact, it has been Ifukube’s music and he certainly goes out on a high note.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that I had to sit through lots of techno-babble, stale acting and more Miki Saegusa being insufferable for 90 minutes before we got to the good part. The final scenes are some of the best in the Heisei series, but overall “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is not a pleasant film to get through. Watch Godzilla’s initial attack on Hong Kong and then skip to the last 20 minutes and save yourself the trouble.

 

Number 23 – “Godzilla 2000” (1999)

 

 

At this point, I’ve only seen four Godzilla movies on the big screen – the two American films, “Shin Godzilla” and my next entry, “Godzilla 2000.” I saw this movie in theaters when I was ten years old with my best friend and father (who fell asleep in the middle of the movie, though I don’t blame him now), and I remember walking out of the movie theater liking it.

Keep in mind this was only two years after the 1998 American “Godzilla,” a film which left a bad taste in my mouth even at a young age. Then along comes “Godzilla 2000” which felt more like a traditional Godzilla movie instead of some random mutated T-Rex wandering around New York. I recall being bored during many of the human scenes, but my heart was racing during any scene that had Godzilla in it.

Then I let a few years pass before I decided to watch it again. After doing so, the quality was certainly diminished. The initial hype of seeing Godzilla in theaters had died down and now I saw it as the definition of an average Godzilla movie, with some good parts and an equal amount of bad or average elements. I didn’t see it as a bad movie, but it certainly wasn’t good anymore.

But then I rewatched “Godzilla 2000” again while preparing for this countdown, and I finally realized how stupid, nonsensical, and brainless this movie truly is. Before I started watching every Godzilla movie again, I made a list of how I ranked every film in the series. Compared to my old list, “Godzilla 2000” certainly has the biggest drop-off of any picture in the franchise. This movie got bad over the years.

 

 

Toho made “Godzilla 2000” as a direct response to the 1998 film. The American movie proved that Godzilla could once again succeed at the box office, but also showed that American studios needed to be reminded on how to make a proper Godzilla movie. Toho had stopped making Godzilla movies in 1995 after the end of the Heisei series, with “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah,” where they killed off Godzilla and wanted to give him a long rest. That rest ended up being four years before they were back to making a movie every year, leading to the creation of the Millennium series.

As with every new series, the image of Godzilla was tweaked ever so slightly, in this case giving Godzilla a change in his design and a new roar. This new Godzilla has a pretty similar body structure – bulky, thunder thighs, stubby little arm. The major changes to his design are his spines, which are now massive, taking up almost as much space as the rest of his body, razor sharp, almost crystal-like and had a distinct purple tint to them. Godzilla’s roar now has a reverb effect and still sounds like something you’d expect from Godzilla, so I have no complaints with that.

What I do have complaints with is the story. Right off the bat, we are thrown into this world without an explanation as to how or why Godzilla is here or how long he’s been around. What we do learn is that there are small teams roaming around Japan, known as the Godzilla Prediction Network that track Godzilla’s movements, like storm watchers who go out looking for tornadoes. While each team seems to have only two or three members, they do have advanced technology that alerts them to every movement Godzilla makes and allows them to take data on Godzilla’s biology and radiation development. And yet, we hardly ever see the government use this same technology.

The film follows one of these teams, a father/daughter team, Yuji and Io Shinoda (Takehiro Murata and Mayu Suzuki), as they spend the first half of the movie following Godzilla around as he destroys a city and makes an attack on a nuclear facility. They are able to keep up with Godzilla and learn a lot of new information on him with their tech, but I tilt my head when we learn they make little to no money from doing this. They have this great and useful technology that even the Japanese government doesn’t seem to have, yet they are broke. How have they turned this into a profitable endeavor? Where did they get all this technology? How come they haven’t sold the tech to the government so they could use it to protect all of Japan and the world? None of these questions are answered.

 

 

The two end up getting most of their money from a passenger they sign on as their third member, Yuki Ichinose (Naomi Nishida), a photographer for a big newspaper in Tokyo. She agrees to become a member of the GPN, as well as pay for all their meals and gas, as long as they can get her close enough to take some good pictures of Godzilla. Except that her boss doesn’t seem to be that interested in getting pictures. My guess is that there are only so many pictures you can take of Godzilla in this world before you’ve seen them all, so Godzilla photos probably don’t go for much anymore.

Yuji and Yuki spend almost the entire movie fighting about whose the bigger imbecile and bickering like an old married couple. Yet the film wants you believe there is some sort of romance going on between the two, even though they never share a tender moment together or show anything for the other outside of annoyance and dislike. To Yuji, Yuki is just there to get in the way and only keeps her around because she has money. While to Yuki, Yuji is stopping her from doing her job but is her best way of getting to Godzilla. Their relationship never evolves beyond that.

The final character worth mentioning is the head of the CCI, Crisis Control Intelligence, Mitsuo Katagiri (Hiroshi Abe). Apparently, he has a history with Yuji, after they worked on the same team for a while, but Yuji left and they had a bitter falling out. So Katagiri spends the entire movie dissing Yuji, talking about how worthless Yuji is and how much better he has it. Outside of a small scene which is extremely vague about Yuji and Katagiri’s past, we never learn why these two hate each other so much.

But before Katagiri focuses his attention on Godzilla, he finds something ancient on top of a bunch of underwater volcanoes. When his team starts to remove it, the giant rock starts moving on its own, rising to the surface and then moving again based on the position of the sun. Eventually, it starts flying on its own once Godzilla makes land fall and reveals itself to be a UFO.

After the UFO and Godzilla have a short exchange of beams, the UFO becomes the primary focus of the film, as it makes its way towards a major city and starts hacking into every electronic device in the city to gain information. Yuji, Io and Yuki take a back seat to Katagiri’s attempts to bring down the alien ship and stop it from destroying everything electrical.

 

 

At one point, Yuki decides to go into the building the UFO is resting on to find out anything she can, even though she only finds out one thing – this alien is interested in Godzilla. Even after the military says to clear the building so they can blow it up, Yuki still goes in and Yuji and Io have to rescue her. Hey remember when this movie was about Godzilla and not a bunch of idiots trying to rescue other idiots from an exploding building in a “Die Hard”-like sequence? Good times.

Our characters eventually come to the conclusion that whatever is controlling the alien ship is a shapeless mass and is looking for the perfect life form on our planet to copy and imitate so that it can conquer our world. Of course, the life form the alien has chosen to copy is Godzilla, mostly because of a new element Yuji found in Godzilla that allows to regenerate major cellular damage in seconds.

Interestingly enough, major plot elements of “Godzilla 2000” were changed when the film was released in America. The plot description I just gave is for the American version, the only way I’ve ever known the film. But the Japanese version is different, namely that the UFO was supposed to be responsible for the Y2K bug. Yeah, remember that random bit of nothing from 1999 when experts believed every computer and bit of software was going to crash when we switched to the new millennium? Apparently the Japanese version of this movie was centered around that, and it was removed completely from the American film.

Now we get to the best part of “Godzilla 2000,” the one scene that made my face light up when I was ten and still gets my heart pounding to this day. I give you – one of the best uses of the Godzilla theme song in any movie.

 

I know this scene may not seem like much. It’s just Godzilla coming out of Tokyo Bay and walking to the UFO to begin the fight while the Godzilla theme plays. But imagine a little kid, who spent his childhood loving everything related to Godzilla. Now he finally gets the chance to see Godzilla rampage through Tokyo, set to the tune of one of the greatest theme songs in cinema. I may not like the majority of “Godzilla 2000,” but this one short scene of Godzilla doing what he does best makes it all worth it.

There’s something so awe-inspiring about the Godzilla theme song that I cannot help but love it. It is so intrical to Godzilla, so foreboding and powerful at the beginning, and yet so triumphant near the end without ever losing its strength. It makes Godzilla even more menacing than he already is, complimenting his size and ferocity, like a good theme song should do. This theme is played a lot throughout all the Godzilla movies, and this one always stands out to me. Maybe because of nostalgia, but I think it has to do with how well the theme song compliments Godzilla’s movements.

After this awesome sequence, Godzilla and the UFO fight for a while until the alien gets the upper hand and starts copying Godzilla’s cells to create a physical body, leading to our true antagonist – Orga. It starts out as a lump of gray mass with huge forearms that become claws and its head being the entire upper body. It has Godzilla’s healing factor, so every time Godzilla blasts chunks away from Orga, they just grow back within seconds. As long as Orga is touching Godzilla, the more Orga begins to look like Godzilla, even growing spines and turning green.

 

 

Even though Orga doesn’t appear until the last fifteen minutes of the movie, I’ve always thought it was an effective villain monster. His design is unique and weirdly alien that it’s almost terrifying. He’s unlike most of the Heisei villain monsters, relying more on close combat tactics and using how huge claws to fight, and only uses his beam attack a couple times. Plus, his introduction gives us a modified version of the Godzilla theme song, which I’ve always called the nega-Godzilla theme. Fitting for a monster that’s trying to be a copy of Godzilla.

In the end, Godzilla is victorious over Orga, destroying an alien space ship that sat at the bottom of the ocean for millions of years in less than a day after it awoke. Then Godzilla goes out of his way to kill Katagiri for some reason, and we are left with our final lines of dialogue that make the whole movie stupid.

One of Katagiri’s men says, “We scientists produced this monster, Godzilla. And ever since we’ve tried to destroy him.” Yuki then asks, “Then why? Why does he keep protecting us?” This leads to the closing line from Yuji – “Maybe because Godzilla is inside each one of us.” And then Godzilla sets most of Tokyo on fire.

No further comments.

 

 

 

Number 25 – “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla” (1994)

I like to divide my favorite Godzilla movies into different tiers, mostly defined by my own grading system. Everything that I’ve previously looked at, from “Godzilla: Final Wars” through “Godzilla’s Revenge” was in the F-grade tier. Now we’re moving up into the D-grade tier, the ones in this series that are still not very well made movies and should be outright skipped on their own, but they still manage to have one or two good moments. Basically, these ones are more bad than good, but maybe have a few things going for it.

To start us off we have the Heisei film that just barely missed being in the lower tier, “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla.” The title is our first indication that it is an unbelievably stupid and insane idea for a movie, but don’t worry that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It also doesn’t help that this one probably has some of the worst special effects of any Godzilla movie, including a point where Godzilla’s tail falls off in the middle of a shot, some very noticeable gears inside the mouth of a monster and the notorious asteroid belt fight sequence.

Let’s start by talking about Godzilla’s opponent, Space Godzilla. His creation is supposed to be the culmination of everything the Heisei series was building up. At this point in the series, two of Godzilla’s previous opponents, Mothra, and Biollante, had gone into space with some cells of Godzilla attached to them. The theory of our main characters is that these cells fell off Mothra and Biollante at some point, combined together, then fell into a black hole, were pushed out through a white hole, and then combined with the explosions of stars and other planets to create Space Godzilla.

Every time I hear this plan, I burst out laughing just because of how ridiculous and impossible it all sounds. You cannot make any of that sound plausible in the slightest, but the movie tries its damnedest to make Space Godzilla seem threatening. Then you’ve got the giant shoulder crystals, the crystal tail and the overall blue design that just looks so silly. Space Godzilla might be the least threatening looking monster in the entire series. Hell, even Gabara from “Godzilla’s Revenge” looked scarier than this thing.

Space Godzilla’s personality consists of unexplained destruction and a need to rule over everything. So basically like every villainous monster in the Godzilla series. Other than that, um…

I think Space Godzilla is a terrible villain. His only strength is that he seems to have an endless supply of powers and energy weapons that he keeps pulling out of his ass, so he fits in with the beam-happy Heisei series. We’ll see some other Godzilla villains later on in this countdown that seem to have lots of powers, but also have a distinct personality behind that power. They’re not just a threat for Godzilla to take down, but something that both Godzilla and the audience fear. Space Godzilla does not fit that bill.

The film also continues one of the human organizations of the Heisei series, known as the G-Force. Their mission is to keep track of Godzilla and create something that could finally finish him off. Their previous attempt was to create MechaGodzilla (so this is two films in a row where Godzilla has to fight one of his clones), and that almost worked. Now they’ve created something supposedly even stronger than MechaGodzilla, known as M.O.G.U.E.R.A. (Mobile Operation Godzilla Universal Expert Robot Aero). This monster is actually a redesign of another kaiju from the 1957 film “The Mysterians” complete with pin arms, a drill for a nose and giant bug-eyes.

While Moguera was made to fight Godzilla, the G-Force eventually sees Space Godzilla as the bigger threat to the planet and sends it in to fight alongside Godzilla to take down Space Godzilla. I do see what this film was trying to go for – attempting to make Godzilla and the G-Force work together for once to take down a bigger monster, something neither of them could take on their own. But this is gummed up by our main cast of characters and just how unlikable they are.

I guess the lead character is Yuki (Akira Emoto), a man who lost his best friend to Godzilla back in “Godzilla vs. Biollante” and how now sworn to find a way to kill Godzilla as a way of revenge. He’s tracked Godzilla to a remote island, befriends his adopted son Little Godzilla (imagine Minilla except not as cute or as convincing due to bad animatronics) and sets up tear gas mines all around the water front just for Godzilla. He’s also developed a special blood coagulant that could supposedly kill Godzilla if Yuki hits him in his one weak spot, underneath his arm pit.

I like to think Yuki is just making up everything as he goes, because then he’s just a crazy selfish man living on a deserted island for years and is far too absorbed in his need for revenge who doesn’t realize that Godzilla’s arm pit isn’t his weak spot or that his coagulant is just Kool-Aid.

Also, Yuki shows his bare butt cheeks to our other main characters. So yeah, I stand by my statement that he’s crazy.

In the final act of the film, Yuki ends up being the lead pilot of Moguera, for some reason. As expected, he takes every opportunity he can to turn on Godzilla and take him out instead of Space Godzilla. Our hero, ladies, and gentlemen!

But the most irritating character in “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla” is none other than our dear friend Miki Saegusa, who has her biggest role of the series in this movie. In the last couple films, she has decided to join the G-Force and wants to start up a new plan to telepathically control Godzilla by placing in implant in the back of his head and using her own powers to make him leave Japan alone. This plan ends up taking up about the first half of the movie and ultimately feels like a waste of time, since after Miki tries to control Godzilla once and fails, the plan is basically forgotten.

It is never brought up or used during the final battle, even with Miki sitting on the sidelines watching Godzilla get stomped by Space Godzilla.

Even worse, Miki has supposedly joined this military operation to take down Godzilla of her own free will, yet won’t stop talking about it is wrong to kill Godzilla. That he’s a living creature and that women are so much better than men because all men want to do is destroy other living creatures. Anytime she opens her mouth about how Godzilla deserves the right to live I just want to slap her and remind her of all the lives Godzilla has taken and will continue to take if he isn’t stopped. And if you’re so against killing Godzilla, then why did you join G-Force?

Miki’s incompetence is really on display in this movie and anytime she tries to accomplish anything, it just comes across as annoying and unnecessary. Her plot takes up the first two-thirds of the movie, when she wants to control Godzilla and then she gets kidnapped so some shady organization can use her psychic powers for their own use, and it is almost always cringe worthy.

Now I did say early on that these particular Godzilla movies do have one or two good points, and while it is small, I do think there is one redeemable factor to “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla” and that is its final battle. The fight between Godzilla, Moguera, and Space Godzilla in the middle of downtown Fukuoka is filled to the brim with nothing but laser blast after beam war and goes on for what feels like 45 minutes, but I was never bored during the fight. In fact, there’s a lot of fun parts in this final battle, like when Moguera separates into two vehicles to goes underground to disable Space Godzilla’s power source.

While Godzilla’s plan of attack just seems to be hit Space Godzilla over and over, Moguera’s pilots keep the fight from getting stale by using different tactics. They vary up their plans and weapons and it actually works on Space Godzilla, to the point where his shoulder crystals get destroyed and he begins to lose power. It is a change of pace compared to the other Heisei films to have an extended fight scene that isn’t interrupted by human interactions. I like how both Space Godzilla and Moguera constantly seem to have this rivalry going on that evolves from annoyance to pure rage and hatred and both get plenty of battle scars from the other as a result.

If anything, Godzilla feels like a third wheel to the ongoing fight between Space Godzilla and Moguera. But then Godzilla brings back his red spiral ray at the end of the film to land the killing blow on Space Godzilla, and it is glorious to see this beam in action, making everything it touches explode in a massive ball of bright-red flames.

While the fight does go on for much longer than it needs to, it is an entertaining exchange. It’s just too bad that we have to sit through an hour of pointless and terribly acted scenes with our characters to get to it.

Overall, “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla” is not good by any means, but it does have a surprisingly fun finale. The villain kaiju is a mess, the acting is atrocious, the plot doesn’t go anywhere and the effects range from passable to laughable. The only reason this film isn’t lower on this countdown is because I was sometimes entertained by its badness and because the final fight was handled competently. It is certainly not the worst Godzilla film out there, but you can definitely find way better ones out there.

Number 28 – “Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth” (1992)

Now we move on to one of the more controversial eras of Godzilla, the Heisei era.

This would be every movie in the franchise that was made between 1984 and 1995, which spans seven movies, most of which are a mixed bag at best. This was also a series that tried to have an ongoing continuity where each film leads into the next one, though very often the continuity nods were small and often insignificant.

The problem I have with the Heisei series, along with most other Godzilla fans, is that most of these movies have no staying power. You want to watch most of them once and then you are done with them, while we’ll be seeing many films later on in this list that have plenty of rewatchability. The Heisei series focuses far too much on sparkly effects and selling toys and not enough on having quality storytelling or likeable characters.

Case in point, “Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle For Earth” is everything despicable about the Heisei series all rolled into one. As a kid, I sorta liked this film, but mostly found myself skipping the human scenes and going straight to the monster fights, a common occurrence to the bad Godzilla movies when I was young. But even back then, I knew this one wasn’t that great. Now that I’ve had more time to think about it, this one just constantly had me shaking my head at the terrible writing and the characters who are even worse.

The film opens up with our “hero” Takuya Fujita (Tesuya Bessho) literally reenacting the first scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He’s infiltrated some ancient temple in search of its hidden treasure, only to run in to a bunch of booby traps, before stumbling upon the treasure, which sets off everything and the temple starts falling apart. He of course makes it out by the skin of his teeth, only to be immediately apprehended by Japanese officers.

Right off the bat, this movie tells you that it lacks shame. It’ll blatantly rip off more successful films in an attempt to make everything seem epic and grand, when in fact its nothing but a poor imitation. Trust me, this will not be the last time this movie does something like that.

After Takuya is taken to prison for…achelology I think, his ex-wife Masako (Satomi Kobayashi) gives him an ultimatum – spend the next fifteen years in prison or go on this dangerous mission with her to a remote island. He chooses the later and he accompanies his wife and the right-hand man to the owner of a company known as Marutomo to their destination of Infant Island.

Upon arriving, they notice how the island looks terrible, with large landslides, empty planes and more Indiana Jones-style traps, this time from “Temple of Doom” when they get stuck on a rope bridge that breaks in half. But these three constantly keep making comments about how terrible man is for causing such destruction. This makes me tilt my head, since the opening of the film establishes that a large typhoon, caused by a huge meteorite that crashed in the south Pacific, was what led to Infant Island looking this way. This wasn’t a man-made tragedy, a goddamn meteor caused this.

But of course, with this being the famous Infant Island, the three eventually run into a giant monster egg and two tiny twin fairies known as the Cosmos, the speakers of Mothra.

I am going to take this opportunity to say that something about these twin fairies has always rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe its because they always seem so happy and will always speak the same words at the same time, often very cryptic words like “Mankind will be punished” or “There’s no need to worry. Mothra will save us.” I always imagine these two laughing on the inside, like they’re aware of all our impending doom and just want to watch us suffer. They’re like if the twin girls in “The Shining” got control of a giant monster.

Anyway, the Cosmos give the three of them Mothra’s backstory – she’s been a protector of the Earth for thousands, if not millions, of years and will take care of anything that threatens all life on the planet. But as our protagonists point out, “anything that threatens the planet” could eventually extend to eliminating humanity if they continue to pollute and destroy the planet. Suddenly, our heroes feel guilty for causing such destruction.

Again, I tilt my head at the claims these guys are making. The film never directly shows us how mankind is ruining the planet, nor do these characters tell us exactly what we are doing that’s hurting the planet. While it is implied that the film is referring to pollution and deforestation, if you’re going to put a “Save the Earth” message in your movie and make claims that we should treat our planet better, then at the very least you should tell us what we’re doing wrong, but this movie dances around that question.

It would be like if I saw you were doing math homework and all I said was, “Goddamn, just answer these questions correctly already!” without saying anything else and walked away.

So remember when I said this movie was full of rip-offs of better movies? Well, after our protagonists consult with the Cosmos, they convince these little hell-spawns to take Mothra’s egg with them back to Japan, where it will be the main attraction at a new theme park. So not only do the Cosmos see no problem giving up their God to be treated about as well as the world’s largest ball of twine, but now we get a plot ripped straight from “Mothra vs. Godzilla.”

 

Of all the routes to go with involving a giant egg, including scientific research, philosophical curiosity or even religious implications, why did they have to go with the same type of story as a near perfect monster movie? There’s no way they could tell it better than “Mothra vs. Godzilla” did, not when you open your movie ripping off Indiana Jones. Again, no shame.

But of course, as they transport Mothra’s egg back Japan, they run into a massive fire-breathing problem – Godzilla. It seems that same meteorite landed very close to where Godzilla was hibernating (that’s a happy convinience!), and now he’s pissed off and wants to wreck their ship. At this point, the right-hand man reveals his true intentions and says that he plans to sell both Mothra’s egg and the Cosmos to his company, which Takuya fights him for until Mothra erupts from her egg to fight Godzilla.

Before I go any further, I should briefly mention the third monster in this movie, Battra. The Cosmos describe Battra as an evil Mothra, who sees mankind as the true threat to the planet and will stop at nothing until we’re all eliminated. To me, Battra is a huge waste of potential – an evil-version of Mothra is a great idea in concept, but the film doesn’t do anything with it. If we got to see all of Mothra’s unqiue concepts turned on their heads, like a truly evil version of Mothra’s fairies or a island that worships Battra like a God and hear their philisophy that would have been amazing. But instead, Battra is just another monster for both Mothra and Godzilla to fight and that’s about it.

It also doesn’t help that Toho gave Battra the same roar as another one of their monsters, Rodan. Lame.

 

After Godzilla and Mothra fight for a while, Battra suddenly shows up and interfers in the fight, going after Godzilla specifically. The two start battling underwater while Mothra uses this opportunity to escape. Eventually, an underwater volcano just so happens to erupt right underneath Godzilla and Battra (that’s a happy convinience!) and the two are swallowed up by the volcano, with everyone assuming the two are dead, even though this particular Godzilla survived five years inside of a volcano already.

Spoiler alert: Godzilla and Battra survived the underwater volcano! Though this does eventually lead to the coolest scene in the movie: Godzilla making Mt. Fuji erupt so he could climb out of it, with the implication being that he swam through molten lava from the south Pacific all the way to Japan. Badass.

Oh wait, I actually said something good about this movie! Let’s balance that out with another movie this one rips off, the original “Mothra.” The right-hand goon ends up stealing the Cosmos away from Takuya and Masako when they’re not looking and he takes them back to his boss. Almost immediately, the Cosmos start singing to Mothra, the sign that she is on her way get the two of them back.

It’s not enough that this film wants to rip off not just one successful Mothra movie, but two. This was the major story focus in the 1961 film – a bunch of greedy selfish assholes steal from Infant Island and Mothra rampages her way through Tokyo to get the fairies back. It gives off the feeling that this movie lacks soul of its own, just bits and pieces borrowed from other films and pieced back together to make it look whole. But if you look in the right places, you see the cracks and how the pieces don’t fit together.

So Mothra waltzes through Tokyo, the military cannot do anything, the selfish assholes realize they messed up and ruined their company by bringing the fairies here, and then Mothra starts her metamorphosis into her adult winged-form. At this point, Godzilla, and Battra show up again, Battra changes into his winged form (with a little less pomp-and-circumstance, unlike Mothra who emerges from a cocoon to a crowd of thousands of stunned on-lookers and the Cosmos singing to her: Battra just flips a switch and boom, he has wings). This all leads to our big showdown in the heart of Yokohama between our three monsters.

The fight scenes here are okay. They’re pretty standard compared to the other Heisei films, with a particular focus on beam and energy weapons that cause lots of sparks and grunts and very little physical contact. Films like this and the next one, “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II” are what gave the Heisei series the nickname of “The Beam Wars” or “The Beam Era,” where every monster had an energy-based attack, even ones who didn’t use them before like Mothra. So because every monster is always throwing beams around that leave no visible damage marks on the opponent, it’s often hard to feel invested in these fights when it feels like nothing is being accomplished.

 

Finally, I didn’t care for a single character in this film. Every single one of them felt like they were too far up their own asses to care about anyone other than themselves. Takyua constantly endangers his wife and daughter, as well as all of Japan, on multiple occassions, while Masako hardly ever shows any emotions towards her husband aside from contempt and regret, taking every opportunity to ridicule him. The right-hand goon gets a lot of screentime and he is all over the map, sometimes feeling bad about what he does and then moments later being fine with selling a God to his boss.

And then you have the glue that holds the Heisei series together, Ms. Miki Saegusa. She appears in six of the seven Heisei films and has little to no personality outside of having psychic powers, and mostly just uses those powers to know that Godzilla has already landed in Japan. As you can probably guess, I don’t like Miki. She is annoying, pointless, and continues to show the wasted potential in the Heisei series by introducing individuals who have psychic powers and yet never doing anything with it. This is her most minimal role, where she can somehow track the Cosmos when they’re lost, but we’ll be seeing a lot more of Miki Saegusa soon.

Overall, if you want to watch “Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth,” save yourself the trouble of watching this terrible movie and just watch the two great ones that this mostly rip-offs, “Mothra” and “Mothra vs. Godzilla.” Otherwise, this is the bottom of the barrell and my pick for the worst Heisei film.

 

Number 30 – “Godzilla” (1998)

 

 

Part of me feels like I shouldn’t be reviewing this movie. This one is so far away from how other Godzilla films feel and act that it should not count. The 1998 “Godzilla” is like an alien trying and failing to blend in with a group of humans. But, it has Godzilla in its name and a monster that uses bits of Godzilla’s roar, so I guess I’ll give my thoughts on the film.

I remember going to see “Godzilla” in theaters when I was eight years old on Memorial Day. I had been excited to see this movie for months, thinking how amazing it would be see my favorite monster on the big screen. Then I went to the theater and was almost immediately disappointed.

Keep in mind that I was in second grade at the time, so it was very easy to keep me entertained. Just put on something pleasant or slightly intriguing and I won’t move for hours. But even as a little eight year old, I was so bored and uninterested in “Godzilla” that it still blows me away to this day. How could this film mess up one of the most simple concepts – have Godzilla rampage through New York City and have lots of eye-candy visuals. That shouldn’t be hard for the director of “Independence Day,” Roland Emmerich, which had some of the most memorable movie images of the 1990s when the Empire State Building and the White House were destroyed. But like “Godzilla: Final Wars,” the filmmakers found a way to screw it up royally.

 

 

The film follows Dr. Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), a scientist who is researching the growth rate of earthworms around Chernobyl (fascinating work, I’m sure). He gets called in by the military to study contaminated areas in Panama and Jamaica that had recently been attacked by a giant monster. Unbeknownst to Niko and the military that same monster suddenly shows up in New York City and makes a slight mess.

And when I say “slight mess” I’m not being sarcastic – to start things off, the monster only slightly damages the harbor around NYC. Throws a fishing boat here, knocks part of a roof off a building there, nothing that cannot be fixed in a day or so. I’m not even sure Godzilla killed anyone in first attack on the city.

So the military is called into deal with the monster, and they do a real bang-up job at first. To start things off, they lose track of the beast almost immediately. In a city filled to the brim with vast skyscrapers and state-of-the-art technology, you lose track of a giant dinosaur. This thing isn’t like a spy that can easily blend into the background of a city with eight-million people, it is a monster the size of a small building. The film wants you to believe this is because the monster is an expert in stealth, but I don’t buy that for a second. It’s because this military sucks at their job.

 

 

Don’t believe me? Then I give you exhibit two of the moronic military and wasted potential – After they have successfully drawn the monster out of hiding, they panic and open fire all their weapons on the creature…except every single missile and bomb misses and destroys the surrounding buildings. A whole squardon of helicopters chases down the monster through the city, while the monster just casually avoids the buildings causing no real damage, and the military continually fires everything they have got only to miss and destroy major landmarks in the New York area, like the Chrysler Building.

In other words, it’s not the monster that destroys New York, but the incompetent military that never bothers to stop and aim at their target.

But anyway, let’s address the elephant in the room – I have yet to refer to the monster in this movie as Godzilla. That’s because, for all intents and purposes, it’s not Godzilla. You don’t need to be a detective to look at this monster and the classic design of Godzilla to see these two look absolutely nothing alike. This monster looks and behaves like a slightly bigger T-Rex with a few spikes on its shoulders. It is fast, hunched over like most dinosaurs and loves to eat fish. You know, those classic Godzilla traits!

I’d be willing to forgive all that if we got the two things Godzilla is mostly known for – his indestructibility and ability to breathe fire. And we don’t get either of those. The best we get is that he can breathe a flammable gas that can cause a bit of fire when exposed to a flame, but that’s not even close to being the same thing. Then, as the film ends, the mosnter gets caught in Brooklyn Bridge, giving the military a clean shot at him, and he gets killed by just four or five standard missiles.

This Godzilla is pathetic, with a lame design and no cool abilities that make him standout. The only reason he’s remembered today is because of the name, the only thing he has in common with his Japanese counterpart. Which is why most Godzilla fans have taken a liking to the name GINO, an accronym for “Godzilla In Name Only.” What’s even more hilarious is that Toho bought the rights to this monster in the early 2000s and renamed it to Zilla, because this character is unworthy of having “God” in its name.

 

 

This also leads to the only slightly good scene in “Godzilla: Final Wars” where Godzilla and Zilla fight, with Zilla being utterly oblierated, but the fight is over in five seconds so we don’t get any time to savor the defeat. It’s also set to a Sum 41 metal song that feels very inappropriate for that fight.

If you asked me a few years ago why I hated this movie so much, I would have told you it was only because of how disrespectful it was to the character of Godzilla. Other than how it treated a classic character, it was an okay B-movie. That if the monster wasn’t called Godzilla and they changed the title, this film would have been fine.

Nowadays, while I’m still upset at how awful Godzilla is handled, I have come to realize this is a terrible movie all-around. Aside from the military that sucks at every aspect of their jobs, the characters are all selfish arrogant pricks who all think the world revolves around them. They don’t care if the city or the world is in danger, they just want to use this opportunity for their personal needs, like Audrey Timmonds (Maria Pitillo) who sells out her boyfriend and ruins his career to get a news story that doesn’t even go her way. Or Philippe Roche (Jean Reno), a French agent who thrusts “duty” upon himself by trying to bring down the monster without anyone’s help by sneaking into the city and blowing up a nest full of velociraptor eggs.

 

 

It also doesn’t help that none of these characters seem to learn anything or change. Audrey feels sorry for actions getting her boyfriend fired, but by the end of the film she still comes across as the same smug douchebag who will do whatever it takes to get a story. Character development is non-existent in this movie.

There is also a strange sense of hate in this movie, like no one in this film trusts or likes other characters. Characters like Dr. Tatopoulos, Audrey, and her “quirky” cameraman Animal (Hank Azaria) lack chemistry because they only ever show contempt for each other. Even a giant monster destroying their city doesn’t bring out positive emotions for other people.

But the oddest feeling of resentment comes from two side characters, the mayor of New York simply named Ebert, and his aide named Gene. This movie doesn’t even try to hide it – these two are supposed to be parodies of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, the famous film critics. These two act like bumbling morons, with the Ebert character being obsessed with candy and Gene basically being a “Yes man” to everything Ebert says.

Of all the things to parody in your giant monster movie, why Siskel and Ebert? My best guess is that the two of them gave director Roland Emmerich bad reviews on his previous films, including “Stargate” and “Independence Day.” Here’s an idea Mr. Emmerich, instead of handling negative criticism like a five-year old, you take what they say to heart and learn to make better movies. Because if that’s your response to someone saying your movie sucks, then it comes across like Siskel and Ebert know more about good filmmaking than you do.

But the wierdest part of all this? Nothing that bad happens to the Siskel and Ebert parodies in the movie. You’d think if Emmerich hates the two enough to put them in his monster movie that he’d have his giant creature either eat or stomp them, but they’re fine at the end. Why go to all this trouble if they don’t have a gruesome ending?

Overall, “Godzilla” is just a bad time. If it’s not resorting to terrible disaster movie cliches, it is doing a disservice to the character of Godzilla. The action scenes are irritating due to the inept military and devoid of tension because of how unlikable these characters are. Like with “Godzilla: Final Wars” save yourself the time and headache and stay away from this movie.