So here we are, already halfway through 2017, and somehow I’ve managed to not review a single Godzilla film. What the fuck?! Godzilla’s my mutated, radioactive bread and butter! How did this happen?
Let’s correct that right now! Between Ultraman and Mothra I’ve been living and breathing 60s golden age kaiju action, so this month I’m reviewing 1991’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. Gimmick CGI! Time travel! Evil white people (which stirred up enough controversy to temporarily kill the series Stateside!)! This was almost a Mothra movie (co-starring fan-favorite “lost” monster Bagan!), a King Kong movie, and a Mechanikong movie! Back to the Future II directly inspired this flick (writer/director Kazuki Omori even said so!)! Ghidorah like you’ve never seen him before (or since!)!
And that’s still just a sample of the delightful (if ultimately pretty uneven) madness in this very 90s entry in the Godzilla series. We’ll talk about all that, plus the most direct (and pulpy!) Godzilla origin ever filmed, and maybe most importantly: M-11’s off-brand Terminator shenanigans. Fire up the Delorean, shit’s about to go bonkers.
There’s a LOT to unpack with this flick, so let’s start with a trailer:
No English-language trailer: Godzilla 1985 was the last G-flick to get a US theatrical release until 1999’s Godzilla 2000.
Godzilla+a year=Hollyweird gold!
The trailer focuses mainly on the “holy shit a UFO!” plotline and the monster action, giving away the big Mecha King Ghidorah reveal in a suspiciously toy-commercial-esque fashion (complete with flashy text and “NEW” branding). Then it’s followed with an actual toy commercial. The 90s, everybody!
Those sawing strings and that thundering percussion might sound familiar: the score was composed by series+genre trailblazer Akira Ifukube! My pick for this movie’s best piece of music is a little different than what I might normally go for:
“Farewell to the Dinosaur” is a melancholy ode to a fallen beast and an unlikely savior. In a movie chock-full of batshit madness, it’s a moment of surprising emotional depth. That goes for the subplot that it scores, too. It reminds me of the incredibly moving “Beauty and the Beast” music from King Kong Escapes, and that’s definitely a good thing.
“Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” is my runner-up, and a more traditionally bombastic piece of kaiju movie music. It gets runner up because it nails the lumbering power and chaos of two titans duking it out, but it lumbers so much that it verges on plodding. That kind of goes for Ifukube’s whole score (which you can listen to here): I love the dude’s work, but at times it feels old fashioned, out of place, or just too familiar. They lean heavily on the classic Godzilla march, and it starts to feel ridiculous when it punctuates every single thing Godzilla does. The “sleek”, computerized world of 90s Japan (not to mention the 23rd century) just isn’t the ideal setting for Ifukube’s more classical scores.
So we have Ifukube composing, Kazuki Omori writing and directing, plus Koichi Kawakita on special effects, and Shogo Tomiyama producing. We know Ifukube had been banging out incredible monster music since Gojira in ’54, so who are these other dudes? I talked about Kawakita (and the Heisei Godzilla flicks in general) a bit in my review of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II. His visual effects career goes back at least as far as 1962 when he worked on Gorath and King Kong vs. Godzilla. With Godzilla vs. Biollante he became Toho’s go-to effects guy:
That leaves Omori and Tomiyama as the two folks I haven’t yakked about before. Previously Omori wrote and directed Biollante, and would do the same for Godzilla vs. Mothra and Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. For me that’s a resume that varies wildly in quality: I personally rank Biollante and Ghidorah high-ish, while Godzilla vs. Mothra (sometimes called Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth) is in my bottom three.
Tomiyama took over for the original series producer (Tomoyuki Tanaka) when he died, and handled all of Toho’s Godzilla output from Biollante up through the meth-and-Skittles fueled insanity of Godzilla Final Wars… which he also wrote.
Tomiyama looked at Biollante’s lukewarm reception and determined that the series needed to move in a lighter, more fantasy-oriented direction. For better and/or worse, that brings us to this movie! Let’s get into it!
Ghidorah throws you face-first into time warping adventure: we open on a high-tech mini-sub in 2204, trawling the ocean floor for the corpse of King Ghidorah. Yes, the movie opens centuries after what you might have assumed would be the film’s climactic showdown.
I also realized very quickly that the picture quality on my DVD is pretty turdish. On-Demand and Starz to the rescue! Here’s a quick comparison:
I can’t speak for the Blu-ray, but I would guess that’s the version Starz is using. ANYWAYS they find Ghiddy’s rotten bod, scan it with 1991’s finest stunt CGI, and we’re treated to this movie’s deliciously dorky dub. If (for some reason) you didn’t already appreciate the terrific dubs of the 60s films, you will after a couple minutes of this. It’s fine enough, but almost every line is delivered with a sort of halting awkwardness that tends to kill any momentum or drama the movie builds up. The lines themselves sound like literal translations instead of being tweaked to sound like natural, conversational English. This is technically a bad thing, but it really adds to the charming, cheeseball nature of the film so I end up loving it as-is.
So after that hype-ass title card I posted up above, we bounce back to 1992 where a UFO is flying around and freaking everybody’s shit out!
These shots, especially compared to the fine looking mini-sub and dead Ghidorah just minutes prior, are surprisingly rough looking. That ping-ponging in SPFX quality is pretty much par for the movie (and if we’re being 100% honest, the Heisei movies at large). But hey, let’s meet our male human lead!
Kenichiro Terasawa (played by Mr. Baseball‘s Kosuke Toyohara!) writes sci-fi schlock for Super Mystery Magazine Mu (which sounds like the funnest fucking job ever), but he wants to switch to writing respectable non-fiction. His first scene establishes his motivation and also gifts us a big dose of the dub’s signature weirdness. He’s on the phone with his editor when he delightedly explains “Yeah! I’m already showered!” …C-congratulations?
He also has an English accent? Anyway he tells his editor he doesn’t want to write about the UFO, he wants to write about the whackadoo that’s been harassing people about dinosaurs down at the natural history museum. We’re whisked away to him mid-rant:
He’s Masukichi Ikehata, a World War II vet played by Koichi Ueda (who appeared in every Godzilla movie from Biollante through Final Wars!). It’s ultimately a pretty small role, but dude does such a great job playing a burned-out weirdo that even the dub doesn’t detract from his performance. Ikehata is megaphoning at everyone that a dinosaur “watches over all of us!” and will “save us from tragedy and disaster just as it did before!”
With all this in mind, I would like to point out that we are barely five minutes into this movie.
In <5 minutes we have: DEAD Ghidorah, future civilization studying dead Ghid, a for-real UFO, and a WWII vet evangelizing about our guardian angelsaurus. AND THERE’S STILL A BUNCH MORE TO ESTABLISH.
Ikehata (understandably) gets dragged out of the museum, and Terasawa tracks him to the street food hut he works in. While he’s closing down the shop, Ikehata opens up to Terasawa and explains that he was stationed on Lagos Island in the South Pacific back in the day. They were pinned down by US forces, and it all sounds pretty normal (albeit harrowing) until Ikehata explains that an honest-to-god live dinosaur came out of the woodwork and saved his (and his entire garrison’s) ass.
Ikehata says they didn’t even try to report it, knowing nobody would ever believe them (military victory via dinosaur is in the same ballpark as chance Bill Murray encounters). Also: betcha can’t guess why this movie was controversial in the US!
This is one of those rare cases where I can go “yeah, I see where you’re coming from, easily-offended moral watchdog groups.” Of course by the end of the film we see Japan suffer Godzilla’s wrath more than anybody and it’s clear that G-man doesn’t bear any special hate for the US of A. But in that immediate, isolated moment, a “heroic” proto-Godzilla slaughtering an entire battalion of American soldiers, fighting for Imperial Japan can look pretty fucked up. Oh, and our human villains look like this:
As they say, the optics aren’t great here.
But I’m getting ahead of the movie! Ikehata tells his incredible story to Terasawa, and we meet our next lead, the psychic Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka).
Miki’s a recurring Heisei-series character introduced in Biollante, and she’s been tasked with studying the UFO. She reports that it parked close to Godzilla’s last known location in the ocean after he was “driven there by Biollante.” Miki feels pretty pointless in this movie: her psychic abilities barely come into play, so she’s shoehorned into functioning mostly as a mundane government agent. I like Miki and it’s cool to see her for continuity reasons, I just wish the script made better use of her.
Terasawa’s still got dino fever so he meets up with Professor Mazaki to hash shit out. Mazaki’s a classically schlubby, Dad-ish nerd played by Katsuhiko Sasaki. Sasaki’s no stranger to Godzilla or playing nerds: dude was inventor Goro Maki in Godzilla vs. Megalon and marine biologist Akira Ichinose in Terror of Mechagodzilla (plus he was a soldier in Biollante, but that doesn’t fit with the nerd motif). Dude must also have great pipes in his native tongue: he’s not only a prolific voice actor, but the go-to dub man for Robert De Niro and Alec Baldwin.
Mazaki thinks Ikehata’s story is plausible, and that said dinosaur most likely became Godzilla: the dino is in the right time and place to get bombarded by fallout from nuclear weapons testing. Terasawa follows the
money dino-story to big business mogul Yasuaki Shindo. How big of a deal is Shindo? According to Terasawa “he’s the man who owns Dinosaur World!”
Shindo’s played by Yoshio Tsuchiya, a Kurosawa regular (including Seven Samurai and Red Beard) who insisted on being in Godzilla Raids Again back in the day. I say “insisted” because despite his leading man-level talent and charisma, dude is actually a huge nerd: he’d leave the set of Seven Samurai to sneak into the Gojira set and watch them make it. He’s crazy about UFOs too: he loves them so much he’s written books on the subject and he’d always lobby to play aliens (or people possessed by aliens) in sci-fi films.
Knowing a little background on Tsuchiya, it seems like the role of Shindo was written specifically for him. Terasawa starts grilling him about Lagos Island, and Shindo eventually opens up and reveals his awesome photos of the dino. The pics corroborate Ikehata’s story AND the Godzilla theory.
But hey, there’s still a UFO in this movie!
The JSDF creates a perimeter around the flying saucer, and it isn’t long before they start receiving transmissions from it. In classic little green man fashion, they want to talk to our leaders, who agree to cross the defense line and meet the visitors.
So are the pilots of this amazing craft big-brained, bug-eyed mutants? Tentacled terrors from another world?
Well actually, holograms of 90s douchers!
They’re not aliens, they’re time travelers! The UFO is a big ol’ time machine! It’s a fun, weird twist on an old premise that actually jives with certain schools of UFOlogy.
The time travelers (which have been unofficially but awesomely named “Futurians” by the Godzilla fan community) want to speak to Japan’s Prime Minister, so they teleport there!
The Futurians claim they’re here to warn us and help us. According to them, Godzilla’s about to go so apeshit on Japan’s “nukuler” (this dub, man!) power plants that the entire country will become an uninhabitable, nuked-to-death hellscape. Then they pull out a book by our hero Terasawa… that hasn’t been written yet! The book elaborates on the Godzilla theory he’s been piecing together, and the Futurians claim there’s a 98% chance that it’s dead-on.
The Futurians’ plan is
simple… a plan: they’re going to go back to Lagos Island in 1944, find proto-Godzilla and teleport him away from the nuclear test site, preventing his creation.
In addition to their own crew, they request Terasawa, Saegusa, and Mazaki come along. Everybody agrees, because holy shit how could you say no to a time travel trip to go see a dinosaur? But most importantly, these three blessed souls get to meet M MOTHER FUCKING ELEVEN:
Getting to go inside the massive UFO is a really fun reveal. Some of the interiors look awesome, and some look they were ripped from Tim and Eric sketches (which is awesome [show] in a very very different way):
As our heroes are getting ready for their incredible time flight, they run into the DORATS!
They are… supposed to be cute but super are not. I mean they are kind of, but they’re mostly horrifying. There’s three of these fluttery little shits, and Emi Kano (the lady Futurian) explains that they’re genetically engineered creatures designed to be perfect pets. Then she plays a light-up kazoo to make them stuff themselves into an overhead compartment:
Emi claims “they’ll be helpful if we get lost, because–” they have a natural sense of direction? They can always find their way back to the ship? We can eat them for sustenance? NOPE! “–they can always cheer us up!” ಠ_ಠ I don’t know if any pet could make me happy to be trapped in a bloodsoaked jungle warzone fifty years in the past on a remote island.
It is a suspect explanation at best, and the Futurians are sketchy to begin with. The guys at the Kaijusaurus Podcast pointed out that the Dorats seem to be inspired by the lil’ monsters in Gremlins. Their general schtick of being cute little things that turn into big evil things speaks to that, but even the weird soft focus closeup I posted earlier made me think of similar shots of Gizmo in Gremlins:
Once these ominous little stowaways get buckled in, we’re ready to blast off to the past! And if you weren’t sure about the Back to the Future connection, the Futurian time machine has a display that’s eerily similar to the time circuits in Doc and Marty’s Delorean:
It’s impossible for me to look at this and not hear Alan Silvestri’s score in my head.
The timeship rockets back to 1944, and we’re treated to this movie’s most (in)famous gag:
Our heroes land on Lagos… taking heavy fire! The Futurians assure the… Pastians? Presentarians?… the 1992 people that WWII ballistics can’t even scratch their timeship and send the super-fast and super-durable M-11 out to investigate. The way the film depicts M-11’s super-speed is both inconsistent and hilarious:
I think my favorite is when they make sure to obscure him from the waist down, and he sort of glides/rollerblades along really quickly (though his glow-running in that first screenshot is great too). I worry that this review will sound too snarky or hyper critical, because I really do mean it when I say I love all these off-kilter effects and odd choices. M-11 is genuinely a joy to watch and never stops being entertaining and engaging… even if it isn’t intentionally so. Just the simple act of him finding Shindo’s garrison is funny:
M-11 broadcasts Shindo’s rousing speech and the ensuing bloody battle back to our heroes back in the timeship. It’s all run ‘n gun WWII mayhem… until a dinosaur roar splits the eardrums of every combatant!
It is… the dopest shit ever. Dinosaur vs. WWII infantry is kick-ass imagery straight out of pulpy, bloody, old school comic books:
I’m a Marvel man first and foremost, but there’s no denying that DC cornered the market on WWII/Dino stories.
It’s probably pretty clear that this time-warping clash pushes the bejeezus out of some kind of radness button in my brain. It’s audacious, imaginative moments like this that smooth over this movie’s rough spots and make it my favorite entry in the Heisei series. M-11 usually looks accidentally hilarious, the Futurians’ UFO looks like crap on the reg, but this scene is pulled off damn well:
Godzillasaurus (the pre-Godzilla dino) is portrayed by Wataru Fukuda (who notably played Mechagodzilla in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II and MOGEURA in Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla), and he does a fine job. More importantly, Godzillasaurus is shot right: low angles and foreground elements combine to make him look appropriately huge. It’s super exciting to watch a wildly different type of monster action setpiece, especially in a franchise that at this point was nearly forty years old and 18 entries deep. Plus it gives us two of the funniest lines/line deliveries in the movie! First, “it’s attacking our BOOOYYYS”:
And more (in)famously, “Take that you dinosaur!”
It’s… so much fucking fun. Godzillasaurus makes Gamera sounds when it shrieks out in pain, and I can’t tell if that’s Toho shitting on Gamera or paying homage to him. Goofy dialogue and possible Gamera-shade-throwing aside, US battleships eventually get their shit together and nail Godzillasaurus:
Godzillasaurus effectively chased off the US forces, but he got blown the fuck up for his trouble. Shindo is acutely aware of this, and holds an impromptu memorial for their unlikely savior. Shindo passionately thanks GZ for his aid and begs his forgiveness: he and his men can do nothing to aid the fallen creature. They salute earnestly before leaving their prehistoric comrade behind.
With all the bystanders dead or vamoosed, our heroes can beam Godzillasaurus’ bullet-riddled bod someplace where he won’t get nuked into the mutated maniac we all know and love.
The teleportation sequence looks like this, because 1991.
Meanwhile Emi shoves the Dorats out the door-at so they can get nuked into a mutated maniac!
Miki tries to press Emi about the missing Dorats, but she just straight up ignores her and they all fly Back to the Future™ without discussing it further. As soon as the timeship returns to the Futurians’ UFO, they explain that Godzilla’s been wiped from existence (which can’t be true otherwise they wouldn’t, you know, know about Godzilla) and King Ghidorah has appeared in his place.
At first I took this to be the Futurians cockily and clearly admitting to removing Godzilla so they could install their new monster, but apparently our heroes don’t put that together within a couple minutes? Like it’s a real head scratcher for them and they need to consult another scientist about it? I can’t tell if this is the script being goddamn crazy (as it is wont to do) or if I just know this movie too well and the “twist” just does not work at all on repeat viewings. But who cares, King Ghidorah’s going buck-nutty on Kyushu!
King Ghidorah makes his grand entrance by doing a window-blasting flyby of Shindo’s opulent tower. It’s an awesome moment, but more in concept than in execution. The flying Ghidorah puppet is stiff and unconvincing, especially compared to the full-body suit which looks pretty damn rad:
The city miniatures are bland and featureless compared to what I’ve come to expect from a Toho production. There are exceptions (like the signage in the gif above), but the overall quality of the effects is at odds with the incredibly cool moments being staged. That combo of bitchin’ ideas and lackluster effects leaves my imagination generously filling in the blanks and making the kaiju rampage action better in my brain than it is on screen. By now the film has won a lot of goodwill from me with its out-there story, the WWII dino-attack sequence, and just how damn cool Godzilla and Ghiddy are and how good they look:
Ghiddy leaves Shindo alive to swear vengeance on the gargantuan golden gargoyle while our main heroes are still debating whether or not there’s a connection between the Futurians, the Dorats, and King Ghidorah. Once they agree the Futurians may be linked to Ghidorah, they finally manage to ask a reasonable question: WHY?!
Turns out even Emi didn’t know the full extent of their plan, and is horrified to see her fellow Futurians gleefully controlling Ghidorah during the onslaught.
Kyushu is just gone before long, and the Futurians move the Ghidster North to Hokkaido. Their plan is to level every major city except Tokyo and “show [the people of Japan] the proper way to rebuild their country.”
Emi is way not into this whole thing (which makes me wonder what the fuck they told her in the first place?) so she sneaks out of the mothership that night. Does she teleport out? Hijack the timeship? Hack the mothership’s security so she can ninja her way out undetected?
It is… so delightful. My appreciation doesn’t come from a place of snarky irony or hipster schadenfreude, it just legitimately makes me smile because it’s goofy and weird and imperfect and charming. I haven’t decided yet how it ranks compared to Mechagodzilla II’s derp-tastic pteranodon air-scooter:
Emi (wondefully) hovers out to Terasawa’s house to warn him of the Futurians’ true intentions. They’re from the Earth Union, an international revolutionary group trying to reset the balance of power between nations. Specifically they’re trying to destabilize Japan, which in their future has become an unstoppable super-power, literally buying up continents. Godzilla Chernobyling Japan was just a cover story they made up so they could get rid of Godzilla, replace him with Ghidorah, and then look like benevolent superheroes when they provide Japan with the computing power (ha, 90s!) needed to defeat Ghidorah the Explorer.
This leads us to another confusing plotpoint. Shindo’s holding a top-secret conference with the Japanese Prime Minister and some other ultra-high level bigwigs. Shindo, diehard Godzilla fan he is, offers up his company’s secret and more or less-illegal nuclear sub to find the Godzillasaurus and turn it into a new Godzilla. We get some neat (if brief) drama here: someone objects to Shindo’s plan, arguing that he’s trying to play god(zilla), Shindo tries to impart that Godzilla is a savior, not a savage.
Our heroes speculate that Godzillasaurus just happened to get teleported somewhere that also got bombarded with nuclear radiation (and they find out a nuclear sub sunk in his approximate area too). The Futurians didn’t prevent Godzilla, they just accidentally created a different one. The movie’s sort of going for the stable time loop version of time travel, but the threads of the story are getting pretty unwieldy.
Miki confirms that not only is Godzilla alive and well in the Bering Sea, he’s on the move! Terasawa and Emi haul ass to get to Shindo to try and stop him from sacrificing his (now unnecessary) sub. GUESS WHO WANTS TO STOP THEM FROM DOING THAT?!?!?!
M-11’s appearances up to now have been brief but awesome. Now he finally gets a big action setpiece of his own, and it does not disappoint! First he pulls up alongside Terasawa’s Jeep and does… this:
M-11’s awkward lean out the window is goofy, but the stunt itself is pretty dope! Shit gets even nuttier when they get cut off by a flatbed truck:
Terasawa’s Jeep “jumping” is classic movie-physics nonsense, but M-11 flipping up on two wheels is bananas. But hey, looks like he’s gonna be O.K.!
So far M-11’s Terminator-ness has been low-key: the fact that he’s kind of genial and isn’t played by an Austrian body-builder makes him feel like just as much an homage to Data from Star Trek.
In full Terminator mode, M-11 gifts us with more super-speed. Sometimes it’s only mildly funny, like when he ultra-rollerblades:
But other times it is goddamn hilarious:
In a movie chock-full of favorite things, this sequence might be the very best. It’s the perfect mix of “Oh shit he’s a Terminator!” and “HAHAHAHA!” At any rate, he stops the Jeep and takes Emi back to the UFO.
Emi is not thrilled by this, so after she tells the other Futurians that they’re dickheads, she reprograms M-11 to be a good guy.
This leads to my favorite line delivery in the entire movie. Here it is in a bunch of different languages. The English dub is the funniest, but it’s neat to hear ’em all:
Emi and Good M-11 go pick up Terasawa, while Miki and Mazaki ride around in a chopper to try and pinpoint G-money’s exact whereabouts.
Oddly enough the score introduces him with… sort of romantic sounding harp strums? I guess I get it though, we’ve been teased with him all movie long, and the suit is fantastic, making for a cathartic reveal. It’s stiff as hell, like all Kawakita suits, but his head looks great. It’s ferocious and expressively animated. Speaking of our titular monsters…
The jet assault on Ghidorah is a ton of fun. The puppet/prop actually looks pretty good here. Maybe like any human actor, it’s got a good side and a bad side, and they were just shooting it on its bad side earlier? Ifukube’s music fits perfectly, the mini jets look great, and the stock footage integrates well. This sequence is rock solid. 👍
I’m really hoping we get the 200 million dollar Hollywood version of this in Godzilla 2/King of the Monsters in 2019. Kong: Skull Island‘s chopper attack has set the bar pretty high for aerial assaults, so I’d love to see Legendary try and outdo themselves. Okay, now let’s jump back to Godzilla!
He’s made landfall, and he’s huger than ever! One shot in particular drives this home:
Our heroes speculate that modern nuclear power has made this Godzilla bigger and badder than his alternate timeline self, and the Futurians are not geeked about it. I goof on a lot of the line deliveries in this movie, but Wilson (the head Futurian) nails this scene with just the right mix of cocky swagger and frustrated rage:
Godzilla and King Ghidorah meet in a big woodsy meadow to beat the piss out of each other. This battle is one of the all-time greatest in my book, even though “two Kawakita monsters in an open field” doesn’t sound great on paper. Usually that would mean two hyper-detailed but nearly immobile kaiju standing about a screen-length apart, shooting an endless array of colorful beams and rockets at each other. Thankfully this fight is not the case:
Of course, there is some beam spammery, but it doesn’t drag on forever.
Here, let me show you the exact moment this Godzilla suit becomes one of my all-time faves:
Ghidorah gets the upper hand (he doesn’t have hands though so… upper wing? Upper head?) by peppering Godzilla with flyby shootings and then knocking his big ass down!
Meanwhile, our heroes are having better luck sabotaging the UFO! They knock out the computer controlling Ghidorah!
It’s SUPER satisfying when the actions of human characters impact the actions of kaiju characters and vice versa. It’s a really cool give and take that almost all of the best kaiju movies have in common. With Ghidorah now out of Futurian control, Godzilla gets the upper hand (he even has hands!) and just starts whomping the shit out of him.
Our heroes blast their way through the UFO and get to Wilson. He spits at them that the Godzilla they’ve brought about will destroy Japan: “You nuclear fanatics don’t know what you’ve created!” Not only that, but the UFO will automatically timewarp them to safety in 15 minutes, so it’s all been for nothing!
People are dicks in the future.
When we cut back to Godzilla, he’s still bodyslamming the bejeezus out of Ghidorah! They tussle a bit, and Ghidorah starts choking Godzilla with one of his necks! It looks incredible in close-ups:
Our heroes are about to escape in the mini timeship, but hate the thought of Wilson and his crew of time-hopping fuckbois getting away with all this. Then they remember they have a
for real goddamn time machine teleportation beam and cook up a plan! Meanwhile, Godzilla is just done with Ghidorah:
HAHAHAHA HOLY SHIT! It’s the best guys. It’s so good. Then guess which flying garbage can full of neon-suited dipshits pops up right next to G-Fresh while he’s still in full rage mode?
HAHAHA YES!!!!! HOORAY! It’s such a funny, satisfying ending for these dick-butts. Honestly, I would have been perfectly happy with them ending the whole movie right here. Everything wraps up pretty nicely at this point… and it’d make this insanely long review a little shorter. If anyone’s actually still reading this (and willing to keep reading), thank you!
So what the fuck? Why ain’t movie over? Because we’ve spent most of New Godzilla’s screentime establishing how much bigger, badder, and madder he is than Godzilla Classic. King Ghidorah tries to fly away with 2/3rds of his heads (and way less of his dignity) intact, and this Godzilla is super not into that:
Godzilla makes his way to Sapporo to fuck shit up, and is greeted by a squadron of maser tanks. Our heroes regroup and try to figure out what, if anything, can be done to stop Godzilla. They come up with something appropriately bananas: if they use 23rd century technology, they could revive Ghidorah and use him to ward of G-fresh! The best part is when they wonder if Ghidorah could still be viable after hundreds of years, and Mazaki helpfully informs us that “[he] should be well-preserved, sea water’s cold.” The “ld” in cold is italicized because the movie cuts him off mid-word, and the dub actor tries to compensate by trailing off… quickly?
It gives the line the goofy cadence of a Trey Parker character and it cracks me up every time.
But yeah, this loops us back around to the movie’s very first scene! Emi isn’t just a kaiju historian, she was scamming around for monster scraps! It’s uh… very fortunate that Emi’s able to return to the same future she left behind, despite all the fucking around they’ve done with the time-space continuum, but I guess that falls in line with this being a stable time loop?
Godzilla of course has plowed his way through Sapporo, and is on his way to punish Tokyo for existing. Despite all the warnings and evacuation efforts, Shindo refuses to leave his skyscraper in the city and bitterly laughs at the irony of his country falling to the creature that saved him so many years ago. Paying off the Shindo story thread alone justifies this chunk of the movie.
Godzilla smashes his way through the mostly-abandoned megalopolis, but mysteriously stops when he reaches Shindo’s tower!
It’s brutal! The music swells somberly (they even removed the sound effects for a few beats to heighten the drama), and we feel this moment. It’s complicated, it’s vague, and it really is emotional. Despite how wacky the rest of this movie is, it totally works. Tsuchiya delivers a slam-dunk performance, and that hyper-expressive Godzilla head can emote right along with him. The Futurians’ point-blank atomic murder is gleeful and cathartic: Shindo’s is not. But hey, LOOKA DIS!
It’s Mecha King Ghidorah! Emi’s in that thing driving it like it’s a high-tech four-wheeler!
Mecha King Ghidorah is pure 90s excess brought to gaudy, wonderful life. It’s a delightfully cuckoo premise, and the only bummer about it is that we never saw it fight/team up with Mechagodzilla.
Kawakita, having slightly restrained his beam-blasting insanity in the Godzilla-Ghidorah fight, goes full on laser crazy here and I ain’t even mad:
Now if this fight was just beam-battles it’d be pretty lame, and thankfully it’s not. We only get a little monster wrasslin’ before Emi unveils her secret weapon. It keeps the fight interesting, and it explains why they bothered building a Cyborghidorah instead of a tank with tons of laser cannons on it. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, so here’s like a billion words explaining Emi’s nutso plan:
Hahaha, wheeee! It’s great. This sequence is achieved fantastically. The movie’s gotten progressively crazier as it’s gone on, and this is a perfectly dizzying height to end on. This whole thing (Stage 1 is “Godzilla Grip” and Stage 2 is “Machine Hand”) is a delightfully weird, non-lethal way to dispose of Godzilla, and it’s so damned cool they used a similar gonzo super-weapon in Mechagodzilla II. Of course, New Godzilla isn’t just going to take this loss lying down:
Emi escape pods out, everybody cheers, Godzilla reminds you he’s the fucking bawss even when he loses, and that’s pretty much it! PHEW!
This review got… it got away from me this month. I try not to write a play-by-play when I do these, but it’s hard not to, especially when it’s a movie I really like (like this one), and even more so when it’s a movie I like that’s chock full of crazy shit (like this one). Believe it or not, even though this is my longest single review ever, I still left a bunch of shit out!
Let’s do a quick behind the screams round up and call it a month! At the top of this (so like, almost 7000 words ago!) I mentioned what this movie almost was. The movie that eventually became Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah was scheduled to release on the 50th anniversary of Toho, so they wanted to do something big. King Kong vs. Godzilla still holds the record for highest ticket sales for a Godzilla film, so naturally Toho wanted to make an epic follow up to that 1962 classic.
Turner demanded an astronomical amount of money for the rights to Kong (I’ve usually read it was between 1 and 9 million dollars–maybe not a lot for Hollywood blockbusters, but a non-starter for a relatively smaller Japanese production), so Toho had to back off this idea. They didn’t secure the rights to King Kong, but they’ve always had the rights to Mechanikong!
Turner caught a whiff of that and demanded the same amount of money for a character they didn’t own. It was enough to put Toho off of any Kong, so they switched Kings and started developing Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.
Toho had plans pre-Kong, but they’re less clear. Scribe Omori was developing a script for Mothra vs. Bagan, and sources list a miasma of unused projects that starred different combinations of Godzilla, Mothra and Bagan. The Godzilla series was in kind of a weird place after Back to the Future II beat Biollante at the box office in ’89, hence Ghidorah’s time travel plot and lighter tone.
Technically, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is not a great movie. It probably tops out at good, and I can see why some would think even that’s being generous. There are a few too many characters, the story’s all over the place, and the miniature work is rough. It’s flat-out ugly in a general kind of way too: even when the special effects come off flawlessly, it always looks a little like I’m watching it through a grimy fish tank (not even watching it on Starz! helped that). …Movies like this helped me understand the big difference between “best” and “favorite.”
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is always entertaining, even if not on purpose, without ever fully falling into so-bad-it’s-good territory. It’s an uneven film where the highs are high and the lows are never actually low: instead of lows, they’re “funny & weirds.” This movie is audacious and imaginative, if flawed. It’s not the best the series has to offer, but it takes you on a totally unique ride and shows you a bunch of wild shit you’ve never seen before, and I’ll always love it for that. See you in the 23rd century, jabronis.