All about the big lizard...
Godzilla is an incredibly huge, nearly invulnerable, dinosaur-like, radioactive monster with the ability to blow some sort of destructive nuclear plasma mist out of his mouth to ignite, explode, or melt things a considerable distance away. He was created by Toho movie studios in Japan, and introduced in the 1954 classic film Gojira.
Gojira would be the first of a fifteen movie series which would span more than twenty years. Starting off as grim and deadly serious horror films, the Godzilla series would lighten up to popular culture, play to the kiddie market, and eventually go camp with silly (but somehow still fun) movies that truly deserve their places on MST3K.
Starting with Gojira, the Japanese movies were not only dubbed into English for American release, but also reedited, reworked, and often had American-shot footage added. For various reasons, this "Americanization" usually confuses the continuity of the series and is best taken with a grain of salt... Basically, if you see a white guy in a Godzilla flick speaking English in correct lip-sinc, don't take anything he says in relation to Godzilla's history seriously.
The old Godzilla movies were usually released in the USA one to five years after Japanese release. Sometimes they were later released to TV under a different title, and then released on video under yet another. So the same movie may be called by three or more English titles... Not to mention the Japanese title or a translation of it, or even the German titles, which always seem to include "Frankenstein". (Godzilla films were reworked for German release, usually including footage of Dr. Frankenstein sending the monsters into the fray.)
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original Gojira, Toho released their first Godzilla flick in almost a decade in 1984. This movie was a direct sequel to the 1954 classic, and ignored the continuity established by the previous 14 sequels. It was reworked and released theatrically in America to limited success as Godzilla 1985.
Most Americans don't know that this film was the start of a new Godzilla series which would run through 1995 and include six more movies which were not theatrically released in the USA. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) was quietly released to video years ago. The remaining five films were released to U.S. video and pay-TV to go with the theater and video releases of the 1998 American "Godzilla" movie.
The new series would return Godzilla to his original Japan-stomping, bad-natured form. Special effects, although still based on a guy in a dinosaur suit, were dramatically improved to the point that the term "suitimation" was coined to describe them.
In 1998 the first American-made Godzilla movie was released with much fanfare and huge first-week box office. This creature-feature bears rather little resemblance to the classic Godzilla, and cost a whole lot more to produce, with CGI effects and a gigantic marketing budget. Although ticket sales dropped radically after the first week, the worldwide release, toy and merchandise sales, and TV/Cable/Pay Per View/Video sales almost certainly kept the studio execs from losing sleep over the huge initial budget.
The results of the American attempt to produce a big-budget Godzilla movie may have prompted Toho resume production of their own Godzilla films sooner than expected. In late 1999 they unveiled GODZILLA 2000: MILLENNIUM, which starts yet a third Godzilla continuity for the Japanese films. The 24th Japanese Godzilla film, Godzilla vs Megaguirus was released in late 2000, followed by Godzilla's 25th film extravaganza Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack! in late 2001. The 26th Godzilla movie is being made at at the time of this update.
The life and times of Godzilla...
From the various Godzilla films we can extrapolate a general origin for Godzilla. (American footage moron who postulated that Godzilla was a T-Rex/Stegasaurus cross ignored!!!)
In the late Cretaceous era (70 million years ago) there was a species of therapod dinosaur resembling a large Tyrannosaurus, but with special amphibious adaptations which allowed it to swim between the islands upon which it hunted. This dinosaur species has been dubbed "Gojirasaurus".
A minimal breeding population of gojirasaurs somehow survived the great extinction event which killed off other dinosaurs and continued into the modern era. (Much the way many postulate that breeding populations of plesiosaurs survived to become modern "lake monsters".) Adaptations which aided the gojirasaurs in their survival probably included the ability to lay dormant for extended periods of time, and to endure high heat and radiation environments like active volcanic regions where man rarely encroaches. Living in the South Pacific, the gojirasaurs were observed only on rare occasions by the island people of simple fishing villages who incorporated the stories of these strange beasts into their folklore.
All but one (or perhaps two) of the gojirasaurs were apparently destroyed in World War II. One gojirasaurus was severely injured by Allied attack, but managed to cling to life on a remote island until post-war nuclear tests caused him to be subjected to a huge dose of radiation. The radiation caused the gojirasaurus' already radiation-attuned physiology to rapidly mutate/adapt. The animal grew and changed until the gojirasaurus had developed into an entirely new form of creature... Godzilla!
Gojira/ Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Japan 1954, USA 1956)...
Ships in the South Pacific start disappearing with only cryptic radio messages about horrible flames. The few sailors found alive are sick and quickly die after telling obviously fever-induced stories. Then the Japanese investigate stories from an outlying island and see something they never dreamed could have existed. Godzilla!
Locating Godzilla later, as he swam under the ocean, the navy bombarded the creature with depth charges and believed him destroyed. It seems all they really managed to do was to tick him off, because he waded up onto land to do some serious property damage. The Japanese assembled their best military defenses, evacuated much of Tokyo, and surrounded the city with high voltage cables to try to fend off the creature's expected attack on the next night.
Godzilla showed as expected, but all defenses proved utterly ineffective. He simply burned away the electric cables with is breath weapon, then stomped and burned mighty Tokyo into rubble. Thousands were left in his wake either crushed or burned to death. Many more were dying of radiation sickness.
Japan's (and mankind's) only hope was a brilliant Japanese scientist who had developed a unique device called the Oxygen Destroyer which might be capable of destroying Godzilla. But the scientist felt that unleashing such a terrible weapon on the world might ultimately be worse than leaving Godzilla unchecked. Eventually the scientist was swayed, but he first destroyed all his notes on the Oxygen Destroyer, then he personally detonated the only existing prototype while diving near Godzilla... Killing the monster and himself, and taking the secret of the Oxygen Destroyer with him to a watery grave.
Continuity: This film introduced Godzilla.
Americanization: To avoid subtitles, reduce dubbing, and boost US box office appeal, footage starring Raymond Burr was added to the film. He was roving reporter Steve Martin, visiting Japan as Godzilla appeared. This is one of the few films that was not seriously affected by the American footage. A bit of dialogue blaming careless US nuclear testing for unleashing the monster was softened. Some fans decry the way that several minutes of monster footage was edited to make room for Burr footage, but others feel that Burr's well-delivered dialogue made up for it.
Technical: Toho experimented a bit with ways to depict a monster (described both as "over 400'" and "30 stories" tall in the American version, but more like 165' in scale) stomping a metropolis... The motion picture standard had been set twenty years earlier with the original King Kong, which was done with great "stop-action" animation of small models. Toho tried the technique, but didn't have the budget or experts available. Nevertheless, they did incorporate a few bits of their test footage into the final film. They also used a sort of hand puppet for close-up shots of the monster's head. Far and away the best-looking shots of Godzilla are those of the full suit, which was designed well enough to make it possible to forget that there was a human inside, and was complete with a long, active tail. Shot in grim black and white, with well-done camera angles and altered film speeds to increase the impression of great size, Godzilla was impressive-looking by the standards of the 1950s and the models he smashed were built with an obsessive attention to detail.
Comments: Godzilla fans almost universally agree that this was the best Godzilla film ever. Many non-Godzilla fan film critics agree that it is a horror classic. When you keep in mind that most of the Japanese audience had lived through the *real* destruction of residential Tokyo by allied firebombing, and the aftermaths of the only two atomic bombs ever detonated in anger, you can really begin to understand the impact of this movie.
Gigantis the Fire Monster/ Godzilla Raids Again/ Godzilla's Counterattack (Japan 1955, USA 1959)...
Another creature of the same species as the first Godzilla with a similar history of mutation shows up along with the quadruped, spike-armored monster Angilas (various spellings/pronunciations considered correct on this name). The two monsters wreck Osaka, battle it out, and Angilas is apparently killed by Godzilla. Catching Godzilla at the foot of a mountain, military planes manage to bury him in an avalanche of snow and ice.
Continuity: The continuation of the series enabled. Godzilla's first battle with another kaiju (giant, supernatural monster).
Americanization: This one probably suffered the most in translation. The American plan was originally to completely restructure the movie, adding footage of the monsters attacking American cities, and basically creating a whole different movie called The Volcano Monsters which would have nothing to do with the original Godzilla movie. The reediting team seems to have started out with that plan in mind, then switched to the more modest approach of translating the Japanese storyline with only a little added footage. The end result in the American release was a movie that couldn't decide whether or not it was a sequel to the original. Godzilla wasn't even called by name, but was instead referred to as "Gigantis".
Technical: Angilas would be one of the most commonly seen monsters in the series, despite his apparent death in this film. There was some difficulty in making a quadruped dinosaur costume work, since a man on all fours goes on his hands and knees, while no quadruped animal would do so. Solution? Avoid filming Angilas' hind legs whenever possible.
King Kong vs. Godzilla (Japan 1962, USA 1963)
A Japanese businessman with a bit of P.T. Barnum in him wants to exploit an island berry with a non-addicting narcotic effect. He also figures that, if the island natives' talk of a monster god turns out to be true, he can have the monster captured and exploit it as well. His men go to the island, make nice with the natives, then drug and capture King Kong, a huge ape. They put him on a raft and tow him towards Japan.
Meanwhile, Godzilla is finally breaking free of that ice we left him buried under at the end of the last flick.
The Japanese government wisely informs the businessman that gigantic apes are considered a menace, and that he will not be allowed to bring Kong into Japanese waters. But it's too late! Kong breaks free of the raft and heads for Japan on his own.
After stomping around Japan for a while, the two titanic creatures meet in the climactic battle. Godzilla appears to be too much for Kong, until thunderheads role in. Seems lightning makes Kong stronger. After a few strikes, Kong is able to hold his own against Godzilla. The two do some more property damage, then tumble together off a cliff into the sea. The water churns, there's an earthquake, then Kong surfaces. Apparently swimming back to his island. Since Godzilla didn't surface, this fight was declared a victory for Kong... Not a decisive one though. Failure to surface is hardly very ominous for an amphibious creature like Godzilla.
Continuity: This film was a box office hit, and guaranteed that the Godzilla series would continue. It was also the first major injection of humor into the series, with silly cigarette trading scenes between the Japanese and natives, as well as a sort of burlesque, pro-wrestling fight between the monsters.
Americanization: With the confusion as to Gigantis the Fire Monster's place as a sequel, the American editors didn't quite know how to relate this Godzilla film to the previous two. So they didn't. They tried to pretend that this was Godzilla's first appearance. That Godzilla had been dormant in that ice for 100 million years. Wielding a children's dinosaur picture book, an American "expert" explains that Godzilla is a Tyrannosaur-Stegosaur cross (?!?!?!?!?!) that got caught in ice long before the rise of man. Never mind that the chopper pilot who first sees the monster instantly recognizes it as Godzilla, or the fact that the Japanese characters all act as though they are familiar with the monster... Even worse, the original music score, which included the first uses of some of the series' greatest themes, was replaced by stock music from old Hollywood films.
Technical: This King Kong is obviously not the same creature who climbed the Empire State Building with a wonderfully leggy blonde in-hand back in 1933. That Kong couldn't have been much more than 40' tall. This one may be nearly ten times that height. Frankly, the Toho Kong was pretty ugly... A dime-store gorilla suit with arm extensions that make it look like he has two elbow joints in each arm. The island natives were even worse. Japanese extras made-up to look dark-skinned and dressed to look like a cross between African and Polynesian. But Godzilla looked pretty sharp.
Comments: This movie is rarely considered to be one of the best Godzilla films, but is always a favorite to watch for a laugh.
Godzilla vs. The Thing/ Godzilla vs. Mothra (Japan 1964, USA 1964)...
Toho made kaiju movies other than the Godzilla series, and Mothra was one of the best of them. It introduced a gigantic, and generally benevolent moth creature who was considered a god on Infant Island and had a pair of six-inch tall twin girl singers as priestesses/ambassadors. Through her telepathic link with these priestesses (called the Twins, Twin Fairies, Cosmos, or Peanuts) Mothra seemed to express sentient intelligence.
In Godzilla vs. The Thing a big storm washes a huge monster egg ashore where some Japanese capitalists lay claim to it as a money-making attraction. The Twin Fairies arrive to ask the Japanese to return the egg to Mothra, its rightful owner. But, even with the help of the movie's human heroes, the Twins are unable to convince the capitalists to return the egg. Disappointed, the Twins take Mothra and return home.
Then Godzilla shows up. (Toldja' Kong didn't kill him!) In desperation, the Japanese ask the Twins for Mothra's help in fighting Godzilla off. The Japanese don't deserve it, but Mothra agrees to help anyway. (After all, her egg is in Japan and at risk.)
The Japanese military is pulling all the stops trying to subdue Godzilla, but succeed only in getting him angrier. Mothra shows up and gives the big guy a pretty good fight before getting hit with a fatal blast of atomic breath. With her dying effort, she glides over to the egg, and lands with a wing draped over it. Godzilla looses interest and goes back to stomp the military some more.
After much singing from the Twin Fairies, the egg hatches to reveal TWO silkworm Mothra kaiju. They swim to a nearby island where Godzilla is now menacing a class of school kids. Fighting from cover, the clever caterpillars spray Godzilla with enough kaiju silk to immobilize him before he falls off a cliff into the ocean and vanishes.
Continuity: This film connects the Godzilla series with the other Toho movies, consolidating the Toho "universe". It was also Godzilla's last appearance as a real villain in the original series.
Americanization: The American editors *finally* decided to let a movie not be Godzilla's "first appearance". They didn't muck about with the film too much. They did insist on calling Mothra "The Thing" for dramatic marquee effect for the theatrical release. There was also a tendency to refer to Mothra as "he".
Technical: Godzilla looked very good in this film, with angry golden brows, good camera work, and nice supporting effects. There were some shortcomings like the Fairies appearing transparent in some of the scenes where they were superimposed over full-sized people in the background, and the Mothra silkworms' mouths being a bit to evidently silly-string nozzles, but overall, this was a sharp-looking movie.
Comments: Many Godzilla fans rank this movie as the second best of the original series after Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster (Japan 1964, USA 1965)
King Ghidorah (multiple spellings considered correct), a huge, three-headed, flying, lightning-breathing dragon from outer space shows up to ravage the Earth. Through the Twin Fairies, the Japanese ask Mothra (one of the silkworms from the last movie) to defend the world against Ghidorah. Mothra knows Ghidorah is way out of her weight class, so she pays a call on Godzilla and Rodan (a gigantic Pteranadon, previously established in his own movie) who were slugging it out in the countryside. Mothra asked them for help against Ghidorah, but they weren't interested. But when the plucky caterpillar squirmed off to fight the huge dragon on her own, the other kaiju relented and the three teamed up to drive King Ghidorah off the planet.
Continuity: This movie started Godzilla on the path to being a "good guy". It also established that he was far smarter than his previous primal behavior had lead us to believe... He could actually argue/converse with other kaiju and, through Mothra, communicate with humans. This movie also introduced the mighty King Ghidorah, who would be Godzilla's toughest and most frequent adversary.
Technical: Ghidorah is bigger than Godzilla, has three heads, a pair of wings, and can fly. A difficult costume to build and animate, but it was done very well. Throw in a plasma-breathing, tail-wagging Godzilla, a silk spraying Mothra, and Rodan flapping around, and you've got a whole lot nifty stuff going on at once.
Monster Zero/ Godzilla vs Monster Zero/ Invasion Of The Astro-Monster/ Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (Japan 1965, USA 1969)
Earth discovers Planet X here in the Solar System and sends a spaceship to investigate. The astronauts discover that there are aliens (skinny guys with no fashion sense) living underground there. They say they can't live on the surface because King Ghidorah attacks anything topside. The aliens want to rent Godzilla and Rodan to get rid of Ghidorah, and promise to pay with their advanced technology. The astronauts take the aliens' proposal back to Earth, but the aliens show up to pick up Godzilla and Rodan (some sort of force field tractor beam deal) before an answer is given.
The astronauts don't like the aliens' attitude, and decide to do a bit of investigating. They discover that the aliens aren't on the up-and-up. They also discover that the alien females all look exactly alike... Which isn't a bad thing since they're nowhere near as shapeless as the guys, and those space outfits look much better on them!
Then the aliens initiated their master plan. They established mind control over Godzilla, Rodan, and Ghidorah, and used them as weapons against the Earth. But the Japanese were smart enough to put an end to alien broadcasts, so Godzilla and Rodan turned on Ghidorah and drove him off the planet again.
Continuity: Reinforced the "Godzilla as hero" concept. The first of a long series of alien attacks.
Americanization: American actor Nick Adams was listed as the star of this film for its American release. His role is more of a supporting part though, and integral to the storyline. So I think he was actually in the Japanese version. I don't know why there was such a long lag between Japanese and American releases, but my guess is that American distributors thought it was too much like the previous film. Maybe it had to do with Adams' death. Whatever the reason, three later Godzilla movies would be released in the US before this one.
Technical: Flying saucers were pretty cool, and convincing in the close-up shots with people. The tractor beam energy bubbles used to carry the monsters were great effects for the era.
Godzilla vs The Sea Monster/ Godzilla vs Ebirah (Japan 1966, USA 1966)...
Trouble with a secret nuclear weapons plant. Godzilla takes on Ebirah, a big crab-like monster. Mothra (in moth form) makes an appearance to evacuate people off an island before it gets nuked.
Continuity: Godzilla is definitely thought of as a good guy here. The Japanese shout for the big guy to get off the island before it blows.
Comments: This flick makes me want to go out for king crab or lobster, and I don't even like seafood!
Son of Godzilla (Japan 1967, USA 1967)
People find an egg on a remote island that hatches into a baby Godzilla called Minya. Godzilla arrives in time to save the little guy from gigantic mutated insects.
Continuity: Introduces Minya, the "son" of Godzilla.
Technical: This movie is notorious for bad monster suits. Possibly the worst Godzilla costume of all was used, and Minya looked something like the Michelin Tire Man. Rather than deadly nuclear plasma breath, Minya struggles to cough up fairly harmless smoke rings.
Comments: Since Godzilla is a very macho male, we have to assume that he didn't lay the Minya egg. So either he has an unseen mate hiding somewhere, or a female gojirasaurus laid the egg long ago and it was dormant until radiation revived it and started the mutation process. Whether Minya is Godzilla's own offspring is questionable. There certainly isn't much of a resemblance.
Destroy All Monsters (Japan 1968, USA 1968)
Set in 1999, we find Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and all the other Toho monsters from Earth confined comfortably on Monster Island. Then alien chicks infiltrated Monster Island and took control of all the monsters. These they released and sent to attack the major cities of Earth. (Godzilla got to stomp on New York!)
The Japanese managed to get control of the monsters, and sent them against the alien stronghold. So the aliens called in King Ghidorah, who the Earthlings couldn't control, and who they thought could whip all the Earth kaiju. They also called in "the Fire Dragon" which turned out to be a disguised flying saucer. It managed to break the control of the Earth monsters. But even without control, they knew what to do.
Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, Angilas, Minya, and a bunch of other kaiju ganged up on King Ghidorah and flat stomped him to death. Then Godzilla destroyed the alien base.
Continuity: Although King Ghidorah was killed in this movie, the future setting meant that he could return for films with contemporary settings, which he did. Despite the fact that this film was set in the future, Monster Island would appear in later movies with contemporary settings. In these appearances, the kaiju would not be confined on the island, but would stay there by choice and merely be watched by the Japanese.
Comments: Some fans, particularly those who love lots of monster action scenes, think this is the best of the series after Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Other than King Kong, almost every one of Toho's monsters put in an appearance here.
Godzilla's Revenge/ Godzilla's Leverage (Japan 1969, USA 1971)
A Japanese kid takes time out from dodging school bullies and bank robbers to dream about Minya on Monster Island who is having his own problem with a monster bully. After watching stock footage of of various Godzilla fights to build up their courage, Minya takes on his bully. Then the kid wakes up, gets the better of the bank robbers (ala Home Alone), beats the stuffing out of the school bully, and causes a workman to fall off a ladder to prove to the other bullies that he's not a wuss.
Continuity: This film is most definitely out of continuity. All the monster action takes place in the kid's imagination. Events here have no bearing on the rest of the series. Nor does Minya really have the abilities to shrink down to human boy-size and speak human language as he did in this movie.
Technical: Most of the monster footage is recycled from older movies. The new footage shows Minya's bully, a rather silly-looking critter who can electrify his body something like Kong did when he battled Godzilla.
Comments: This film is considered by most fans to be the absolute worst Godzilla movie of all time. Geared for six year olds, its message to them is even highly questionable. As a Godzilla movie, it just plain blows chunks!
But it is interesting from a sociological standpoint. The other Godzilla films are set in a fictional Japan, which is militarily strong, has a great space program, and in which everyone is a scientist, astronaut, or some such. This fictional Japan would be Utopia, were it not for the alien invasions and monster attacks! Godzilla's Revenge is set in a realistic Japan where latch-key kids have to fend for themselves while both parents work endless hours at menial jobs to try to make ends meet. In this Japan, the economy is weak, crime is a problem, and lonely kids have to look to movie monsters to find imaginary friends and heroes.
Godzilla vs The Smog Monster/ Godzilla vs Hedorah (Japan 1971, USA 1972)...
Man's relentless pollution of the seas spawns nasty, giant, mutant tadpoles which come together and merge into a single blob monster called Hedorah. (Pronounced "Head-ra", not to be confused with King Ghidorah, whose name is usually pronounced "Ghee-doh-rah".) Hedorah comes up on land, sucks smog from the factory smokestacks, and runs into Godzilla. But Hedorah can morph into a flying form, and is able to cut the confrontation short.
Hedorah flies about Japan, raining acid and causing civilian loss of life on a scale not seen since Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The Japanese develop a way to erect plates which generate a lighting field between them, and plan to use them to dehydrate Hedorah. But they foolishly plan to power the plates with the local electric grid, which is knocked out as Godzilla and Hedorah fight. When Godzilla wrestled Hedorah between the plates, there was no power to energize them. Smarter than the average lizard, Godzilla energized the plates with his atomic breath. Just when he though he had cooked Hedorah down to nothing, the smog monster morphed into his flying form and made a break for it. Not to be outdone, Godzilla turned his back to the retreating Hedorah and directed a continuous blast of atomic breath downward, sending himself FLYING up and backwards toward Hedorah at overtake speed. He catches Hedorah and drags him back to the electric plates which, by this time, are supposed to be fully operational. The General in charge has a fit when the power fails again. Godzilla gives a disgusted look and fires up the plates with his atomic breath again. This time he tears apart Hedorah's corpse and makes sure the core gets fried.
His job done, Godzilla stomps away past the polluted cities of Japan, saddened and angered by man's lack of care for the world.
Continuity: Godzilla's flying trick would not be repeated in later movies, although he ran into situations where flying would've been a real boon.
Technical: Hedorah rained acid, popped what appeared to be acid pimples on Godzilla, and excreted toxic goo on him. Truly the big guy's most disgusting adversary. One scene has Godzilla in a pit being covered with toxic goo, which was a fitting last use for the awful Godzilla costume left over from Son of Godzilla.
Comments: This movie could've been titled "Toho Discovers LSD"... It is truly bizarre. There are animated interludes that remind me of Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail. Although it does play to kiddies at times, it is also a return to darker, more serious material. Not a bad movie... Just very, very strange... Surreal... Odd... I do think that this movie gets the award for best acting by Godzilla. His reaction to the General's "Why won't anything work today?!" hissyfit was great, and I could almost hear him wonder if he should've let Hedorah destroy mankind as he surveys the rampant pollution in Japan.
Godzilla on Monster Island/ Godzilla vs Gigan (Japan 1972, USA 1978)...
Alien cockroaches disguised as Japanese theme-park builders are out to take over the Earth before we nasty old humans ruin it. Of course, the first step to subjugating the Earth is to kill Godzilla. (?!?!?!) And the aliens had a plan to do just that... They called in King Ghidorah (remember, it's 1972, and Ghidorah wouldn't be killed until 1999) and a new monster called Gigan, who was a sort of flying, beaked cyborg creature with huge metal hooks for hands and feet as well as a nasty chainsaw-like blade running the midline of his belly.
Ghidorah and Gigan set about doing some major property damage until Godzilla showed up to defend his stomping grounds, bringing along Angilas for backup. Directed by the aliens, Ghidorah and Gigan maneuvered Godzilla toward the alien headquarters in the unfinished theme park... The headquarters happened to be a building in the form of a life-sized Godzilla. As Godzilla approached this mirror-image of himself, the aliens inside blasted him with the powerful laser cannons in the tower's mouth.
While the aliens were working poor Godzilla over with the lasers, the flick's human heroes managed to sneak some explosives into the Godzilla tower and blasted the control center. Even without alien direction, the mean-spirited space monsters took the opportunity to brutalize the unconscious Godzilla while Angilas was kept at a distance with Ghidorah's lightning. But then Godzilla came-to and got a second wind. Along with Angilas, he turned the tide and put a whoopin' on the space monsters, climaxing with repeated suplexes on mighty Ghidorah. The bad monsters retreated back to space, and Godzilla went back to Monster Island with Angilas.
Continuity: Last appearance of Ghidorah in the original series, excluding flashback clips in Terror of MechaGodzilla.
Americanization: Because of the long delay in American release, US audiences wouldn't recognize Gigan in his return in Godzilla vs Megalon, which was released first in the USA.
Technical: A great deal of old footage was recycled in this movie, and the use of very different Godzilla costumes was overly obvious. Very poor, out-of-scale, rigid models were used for some of the space monster flying scenes. Poster paintings of Gigan showed him using a forehead laser, but, aside from one brief flash when he was hit on the head, it wasn't seen in the film. There was some interesting blood spurting by Godzilla when Gigan got the upper hand in a couple of spots. A playspeed-distorted voice sound was used to represent kaiju language, and was actually translated into human language for the audiences' benefit.
Comments: Godzilla's Revenge is almost always sited by fans as the worst Godzilla film. Godzilla on Monster Island and Godzilla vs Megalon compete for the second-worst slot... I have to say that Godzilla on Monster Island is the "winner" of the competition. It's hard to do worse than talking monsters, real cockroaches as aliens, and hard plastic toys as flying kaiju! That being said, this is a fun movie to watch in popcorn-throwing, make up your own dialogue, name the source of the stock-footage, MST3K mode.
Godzilla vs Megalon (Japan 1973, USA 1976)...
It seems the people of the ancient, undersea civilization of Seatopia are ticked off because nuclear testing is wrecking their country. So their leader (a white dude in a toga having a bad hair day) makes a speech to his people (after being introduced by dancing girls wearing white bikinis under clear plastic macks) and sends their kaiju god Megalon up to attack Tokyo in retribution. (TOKYO?!?!?!?!!)
Megalon is a sort of flying cockroach or beetle creature with a lightning-shooting appendage on his head and the ability to spit napalm bombs from his mandibled mouth. He also has big metal spearhead-shaped appendages in place of his hands.
A Japanese scientist responds to Megalon's appearance by sending his flying, humanoid robot Jet Jaguar to fetch Godzilla from Monster Island. (Jet Jaguar looks sort of like Ultraman.) Jet Jaguar finds Godzilla and appears to appraise him of the situation through some kind of sign language. Then Jet Jaguar flies back to Japan ahead of Godzilla and surprises everyone by growing to kaiju size. Using nifty karate and judo moves, Jet Jaguar was a match for Megalon.
The Seatopians sent out a call to space to borrow Gigan, who showed up in time to double-team poor Jet Jaguar with Megalon. Then Godzilla showed up to fight by Jet Jaguar's side, and the tag-team battle was on. The good guys naturally won the day, with Godzilla delivering several gravity-defying drop-kicks against Megalon. Gigan scampered back into space, Megalon ran back to Seatopia, Godzilla swam back to Monster Island, Jet Jaguar shrunk back to human-size and returned to his creator, and we're told that the authorities will be warned not to damage Seatopia further.
Continuity: This movie appears to have been intended to launch Jet Jaguar as a new character for the series, or perhaps his own series. But he didn't catch on.
Technical: Again, an awful lot of stock footage was employed from old movies. It's no coincidence that Megalon emitted lightning, as it allowed old footage of King Ghidorah's lightning strikes to be used. Also, if you look closely, you can see that when Megalon swats at airplanes, it's actually Gigan's metal hook that hits them, as footage from Godzilla on Monster Island is inserted. Although he can fly, Megalon inexplicably jumps like a flea in certain segments of the film. If I'm not mistaken, we see Megalon pass behind the same "hillside" that Godzilla appeared behind in Godzilla: King of the Monsters from 19 years earlier. Gigan neglects to utilize his belly saw.
Comments: No talking monsters (although Godzilla and Jet Jaguar do shake hands). No awful rigid models. Growing/shrinking robots, awful Seatopian strategy, and some silly fighting moves rank this movie as third worst in my book... Also as one of the most fun to watch in an MST3K frame of mind.
Godzilla vs The Cosmic Monster/ Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla/ Godzilla vs The Bionic Monster (Japan 1974, USA 1977)...
Godzilla arrives in Japan and seems to be in a really foul mood. Stomping and rampaging... Even severely wounding his best kaiju friend Angilas. Then another Godzilla shows up and attacks the first. In the battle, the skin is burned off of the first Godzilla to reveal a robotic doppleganger! Who would build such a thing? Why, invading aliens, of course. Godzilla and his metal counterpart clash. Godzilla is injured and falls into the sea. MechaGodzilla is damaged and has to fly back to base for repairs.
The movies human heroes struggle against alien agents who want to keep them from using an ancient statue that can summon King Seesar, a mythical kaiju lion-god, when placed in a space in an Okinawan temple. Despite the aliens' efforts, King Seesar is called to battle MechaGodzilla, who is a very imposing walking/flying arsenal without his fake Godzilla hide. Godzilla, who has been healing and rejuvenating himself in some kind of energy storm, arrives to team up with Seesar. Godzilla somehow generates a powerful magnetic field which draws the flying MechaGodzilla helplessly to him, then rips the metal wannabe's head clean off.
Continuity: This 20th anniversary film gave us the chance to see what appeared to be Godzilla back in Tokyo-stomping form without permanently undoing his hero status. It was also the last appearance of the brave Angilas.
Technical: MechaGodzilla was pretty impressive with his lasers, lightning shooter, and projectile weapons fired from each finger. He employed a spinning-head heat field effect that bent under Godzilla's hands as he touched it and got burned. He also reconfigured nicely for flying. King Seesar unfortunately looked like a guy in a silly costume.
Comments: This was a late attempt to play to an adult audience with a more serious story. Even so, MechaGodzilla had a lot of toy store potential. This film is considered by fans to be a contender for best Godzilla movie other than Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Terror of MechaGodzilla/ Terror of Godzilla/ Revenge of MechaGodzilla (Japan 1975, USA 1979)...
Still more aliens come to invade the Earth. They rebuild MechaGodzilla and team up with a disgruntled human scientist who has discovered a living dinosaur called Titanosaurus and a way to control it.
While the human good guys manage to incapacitate Titanosaurus, Godzilla wrecks his metal counterpart again. The aliens are thwarted and destroyed once more.
Continuity: This was the final film of the original series. Godzilla swam away as usual, and we know he was okay because the Destroy All Monsters storyline had him alive and well 24 years into this film's future. So, technically, the original series continuity is still open for more movies.
Technical: Titanosaurus wasn't perfect, but he was a serious improvement over King Seesar.
Comments: A little sad to see the good guy Godzilla of the old series wade off into the Pacific for the last time, especially after the upswing in quality of the last two films... But I suppose there are just so many alien races to send evil monsters for Godzilla to fend off.
Gojira/ Godzilla 1985 (Japan 1984, USA 1985)...
Thirty years ago the colossal, Tokyo-obliterating monster Godzilla was defeated with the Oxygen Destroyer, never to be seen again... Until now! Bigger, meaner, and deadlier than ever, Godzilla is back to kick the living daylights out of Japan. Surviving the military's best high-tech efforts to destroy him, Godzilla is only stopped when scientists remember that dinosaurs like Godzilla are related to birds. They use bird-like sound waves to lure Godzilla into a volcanic fissure, where he is trapped.
Continuity: This film started a new continuity which acknowledged only the original Godzilla: King of the Monsters as history while ignoring all the previous sequels.
Americanization: In the tradition of Godzilla: King of the Monsters new footage featuring Raymond Burr as Steve Martin was added for the American release. On a Cold War note, there was a scene in the Japanese version where a Russian Captain died valiantly trying to avert a nuclear strike. In the American version the evil Russian Captain dies after successfully causing a nuclear strike.
Technical: The traditional rubber suit approach was used in this film. Effects were upgraded a bit from the earlier series, although perhaps not as much as might be expected considering Star Wars and other movies had greatly raised the stakes in the interim. No clear explanation was given for Godzilla's return after being completely destroyed in 1954. Perhaps his regenerative capabilities were so great that he could even recover from disintegration given 30 years.
Comments: This movie wasn't a big hit with American audiences, and would be the last Toho Godzilla film released in American theaters.
Godzilla vs Biollante (Japan 1989, USA video only)...
Godzilla left more than radioactive, flaming rubble in his wake in 1984... He left tissue samples containing his DNA, complete with its phenomenal regenerative and radiation-metabolizing codes. A superspy from the Middle East managed to steal a sample and take it back to his country, which hired Japan's greatest genetic scientist to come and use the G-cells to develop badly needed agricultural products for the oil-rich desert empire. But agents of an American biological corporation bomb the lab, destroying the G-cells and killing the scientist's daughter. Insanely desperate to keep something of his daughter alive, the scientist splices her DNA into that of a rose bush.
Five years later, back home in Japan, the scientist is a recluse carefully tending his precious, but evidently normal, rose bush in a small greenhouse. Japan is mildly worried about the fact that the volcano containing Godzilla is showing signs of increased activity. After a half decade without a peep from the monster, most people don't really expect him to come back, but they are making preparations just in case. A new remote control flying battle platform capable of reflecting Godzilla's breath weapon back at him has been built, and a multistage Godzilla warning system has been structured.
As seismic activity increases around the volcano, and everyone in the Japanese school for the ESP gifted starts having vivid Godzilla dreams, the Japanese higher-ups decide to take the precautionary measure of developing a radiation-digesting bacteria from Godzilla DNA. This is expected to provide an effective biological weapon against Godzilla should he return. They ask the reclusive scientist to take on the project, but he initially refuses. Then a tremor wrecks his greenhouse and damages the rose bush. So the scientist accepts the project, using it as an opportunity to merge some Godzilla DNA with the rose bush's, hoping to create an indestructible, immortal plant form to keep the last living trace of his daughter alive.
American agents and the Middle Eastern superspy separately get the idea to break into the lab and steal G-cells. Unfortunately for them, the Godzilla/rose/daughter conglomerate doesn't like burglars. After dealing with them, it escapes to the middle a nearby lake and grows into a peaceful, flowering plant twice the size of Godzilla and called Biollante. Undaunted, more American agents threaten to blow out the side of the volcano to release Godzilla unless the radiation-eating bacteria is turned over to them. The Japanese have to agree, but the Middle Eastern agent (who'd managed to escape the lab fiasco alive) queers the delivery, gets the bacteria for himself, and allows Godzilla to be released.
Godzilla goes on the rampage, proving to be too much for the Navy and the flying battle platform. He's drawn to Biollante, and appears to destroy the plant with his breath weapon, burning it up into a shower of floating sparks. In the midst of doing more major-league property damage, Godzilla gets hit with several doses of bazooka-launched radiation eating bacteria, which the Japanese had managed to recover from the Middle Eastern spy's contact office. The bacteria appears to have no effect, and the Japanese theorize that it's because Godzilla may have a low body temperature. So they try to lure him into an experimental artificial lightning field where they can heat him up. They have some success, but Godzilla starts to leave the field before the job is done. A shower of sparks floats down from the sky and materializes a new and more monstrous form of Biollante. A bloody battle ensues, and Godzilla manages to set Biollante ablaze again. But the lightning and the battle have heated Godzilla up enough for the bacteria to take their toll, and he staggers to fall face-first onto the beach.
Biollante went up in sparks again, sending out a telepathic message to reassure the scientist that his daughter's essence still lived. Apparently, falling with his head in the ocean cooled Godzilla enough to allow him to survive the bacterial attack, as he suddenly stood up. But he didn't feel up to any more fighting, so he went out to sea instead.
Continuity: This movie introduced something new to Godzilla movies... Human characters who would be regulars in the new series.
Americanization: The video version of this movie available in the USA is pretty much a direct translation of the Japanese version, complete with anti-American elements, crude remarks and language, and complex storyline intact. It's even in the original wide screen letterbox format.
Technical: This film marked a huge step up for the series. Godzilla looked great. Huge, mean, and animalistic. Lips that worked separately from the jaw, a neck that flexed, eyes that glared, all used together to create realistic, primal movements and expressions. Jim Henson would've been proud.
Comments: If you know someone who thinks that Godzilla films are all silly, childish, out-of-date schlock, this is the movie to show them. A serious, complex, viable story with interesting folks acting like real people... And a guy in a rubber dinosaur suit can still be a really convincing monster.
Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (Japan 1991)...
Time travelers from the 23rd Century come to 1992 Japan to get info on the origin of Godzilla so that they can launch a mission from there to prevent the monster from ever being created. Going back to 1944, they move the wounded gojirasaurus to the Bering Sea, away from the radiation which would mutated him into Godzilla...
But the time travelers are not quite on the level. They put three genetically engineered critters in the gojirasaur's place, and the radiation merges and mutates them into King Ghidorah. The time travelers unleash this new and nastier monster on 1992 Japan.
The Japanese realize that their only hope is Godzilla, so a nuclear sub is dispatched to the Bering Sea. There is a mishap, and the already half-mutated gojirasaurus is subjected to a far greater dose of radiation than what had originally created Godzilla. As a result, the gojirasaurus mutates into a much bigger and more powerful Godzilla and apparently kills King Ghidorah.
Back in the 23rd Century, one of the time travelers finds Ghidorah under the sea, clinging to life. Repaired and enhanced with some nifty bionics, he goes back to 1992 for a rematch with Godzilla. Even Mecha-King Ghidorah couldn't kill Godzilla, and wound up dead (again) in 1992.
Continuity: This movie finally details Godzilla's origin. It also brings 23rd Century technology back to the 20th Century for use in later movies.
As with all retroactive alterations in history, this story loads the continuity with paradox. If they prevented Godzilla from being created in 1944, did his 1954, 1984, and 1989 attacks never happen? Was Biollante never created and the Oxygen Destroyer never used? How did the Japanese know they needed Godzilla to fight Ghidorah if Godzilla had never existed? Most importantly, how did the time travelers know to tamper with the origin of a monster who never was?
I consulted my old friend from Gallifrey, and he explained that retroactive alteration of history through normal time travel never really works right. Temporal inertia keeps the main time/space continuum on its track despite attempted tampering. The time travelers couldn't really move Godzilla from his destined position in history. The moment they tried, they created an inferior parallel continuum that arched from 1944 back to 1992 (the point from which the mission was launched) outside of the main continuum where Godzilla's history was unaltered. When the inferior continuum reentered the main continuum in 1992, only the then-current situation of the item tampered with (Godzilla) was affected.
Put simply, the history of Godzilla from 1954 to 1992 was unaffected. In 1992 Godzilla simply vanished from wherever he was and rematerialized as a partially mutated gojirasaurus in the Bering Sea.
Godzilla vs Mothra (Japan 1992)...
The ecology of Earth is spinning seriously out of balance, bringing Mothra and Battra back into the world... Battra (a black Mothra) is the response of the Zen of Earth to the environmental situation. Mothra, along with the Twin Fairies, is the last remnant of a lost civilization. Battra defends the Earth, Mothra seems to defend people. The two are ancient enemies.
Godzilla is back on the scene too, and Battra sees him as a threat to the Earth, and attacks. Godzilla wounds Battra, and Mothra comes to heal and aid its old enemy. Together, Mothra and Battra fly Godzilla far from Japan. But Godzilla manages to hit Battra with a point-blank atomic breath blast, and Mothra has to let Godzilla and Battra plummet together into the sea.
With Battra gone, Mothra feels the responsibility to take on its old enemy's duties, and flies off into space to divert a meteor that is heading our way.
Continuity: Like Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, this movie introduces a new version of a popular kaiju from the old series.
Technical: Mothra (along with Battra) gets some serious artillary upgrades this time around. The larval silk appears to burn Godzilla. In moth form, they have powerful energy beams, lighning-generating wings, and exfoliate some kind of glitter that seems to weaken Godzilla. Mothra uses a cocoon to go from larva to moth. Battera transforms in a burst of energy. Battra is pretty monsterous-looking, but his larval form moves rather unconvincingly on land. Between the three kaiju, an incredible amount of property damage gets done, and the models they wreck look pretty good.
Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla (Japan 1993)...
An expedition discovers Rodan and a big egg on an island, and takes the egg back to a lab where it is monitored by Azusa, a young woman who seemed to be "adopted" as a foster mother by whatever was growing inside the egg. That something turned out to be a baby gojirasaurus about eight feet tall... And Godzilla was looking for it!
Meanwhile the Japanese had reverse-engineered the remains of Mecha-King Ghidorah and used the 23rd Century technology to build MechaGodzilla. Studies of the baby gojirasaurus suggested that Godzilla should have a dinosaur-like auxiliary brain in the lower body. The Japanese planned to use ESP to pinpoint the location of this auxiliary brain in Godzilla, then use MechaGodzilla to fry it.
They flew the baby to a secluded area to draw Godzilla there, but Rodan showed up first and surprised the Japanese by exhibiting increased powers as a result of his exposure to Godzilla's radiation. But the Japanese were still able to overpower Rodan before Godzilla's arrival.
The plan to attack Godzilla's auxiliary brain worked, and the mighty creature was fatally wounded. But then something odd happened... Wounded Rodan went to Godzilla's body, exposing himself to lethal blasts from the Japanese. Reaching Godzilla with his last bit of strength, Rodan infused Godzilla with his own life force. Godzilla's nervous system quickly regenerated, and he got to his feet in as bad a temper as a rattlesnake with a toothache. After wrecking his metal counterpart, he laid claim to the baby gojirasaurus (hereafter "Godzilla Jr.") and the two swam out to sea.
Continuity: This film introduces still more revised versions of creatures from the old series in the forms of Rodan and MechaGodzilla, but these were short-lived. Ultimately more important was the introduction of a new "son" of Godzilla.
Comments: The movie suggests that the egg is 65 million years old, but it seems more probable that it was laid by a gojirasaurus as recently as the early 1940s. Possibly Godzilla's own mate. In any event, this new Son of Godzilla is a far cry better than old Minya!
Godzilla vs Space Godzilla (Japan 1994)...
Some Godzilla tissue was floating in outer space... Probably got there with Biollante when she sparkled up into the sky and reformed in high orbit at the end of Godzilla vs Biollante. Might've been carried up by Mothra when it went out to stop the meteor at the end of Godzilla vs Mothra. However it got there, cosmic rays mutated it into a new and terrifying monster... Space Godzilla! An extra-large version of Godzilla with telekinesis, crystal-generating abilities, and other strange powers.
The Japanese had used their reverse-engineered 23rd Century technology to build a replacement for MechaGodzilla called MOGERA. (Mogera had a different origin when he first appeared in Toho's non-Godzilla film The Mysterians in the 1950s.) Nifty as this Power Ranger Megazord-like MOGERA was, it was no match for Space Godzilla. But it did help the real Godzilla defeat him by destroying a crystal power source to weaken Space Godzilla.
Continuity: Mothra and the Twin Fairies make supporting appearances. Godzilla Jr. is seen and is apparently growing rapidly from exposure to Godzilla's radiation. The references to Biollante bear-out the fact that Godzilla's history was not wiped out by the Godzilla vs King Ghidorah plot.
Godzilla vs Destroyer (Japan 1995)...
Godzilla is not well. He's acting fevered and glowing oddly as he clobbers Hong Kong for no particular reason. The Japanese realize that he is heading for some sort of nuclear catastrophe. Something that could do global damage... Perhaps ending life on Earth as we know it!
As if that wasn't trouble enough, the mutagenic chain-reaction set into motion by the Oxygen Destroyer which was used to defeat Godzilla in 1954 is coming back to haunt mankind. Horrible mutations of primordial sea life are becoming a menace... And they are combining into a huge monster called the Destroyer.
Godzilla Jr., now a kaiju of fairly impressive size and strength, comes to take on the Destroyer. Junior puts up a good fight, but Destroyer kills him. Godzilla, already half-insane from fever, now goes totally nuts on Destroyer, pausing only to try and revive Junior with an infusion of energy, apparently without success. The fury of Godzilla and an attack from Japan's latest hi-tech battle platform finishes Destroyer... But time is running out for Godzilla.
His energy levels growing far beyond what his flesh could contain, the King of the Monsters begins to glow so brightly that people cannot stand to look directly at him. As his body is consumed, Japan and the world brace for a release of nuclear energy and radiation that will do unimaginable damage... But instead the radiation levels quickly drop. Something absorbed it. And, in the clearing mist of smoke, we see what it was... Godzilla Jr. is back on his feet, fully the size of his lost mentor, and roaring in triumph. Junior no more, he is now GODZILLA!
Continuity: This was the last movie for this continuity's original Godzilla. The new Godzilla (formerly Godzilla Jr.) is expected to continue the series in a few years, perhaps after the American "Godzilla" films have run their course. Once again, references to Godzilla's 1954 attack and the Oxygen Destroyer verify that the Godzilla vs King Ghidorah plot didn't affect the earlier history of Godzilla.
Comments: Considering the new Godzilla's history with Azusa and humans as a baby, it seems likely that he will have a more amicable relationship with humans when the series resumes. Most Godzilla fans hope it won't go back to the "Godzilla as superhero" silliness of the 1970s, but it might be nice if the Japanese can keep Godzilla from stomping cities without trying to kill him in the future.
Godzilla/ G.I.N.O.: Godzilla In Name Only (USA 1998)...
French nuclear testing mutates a modern lizard into a 200' tall, bipedal, spike-backed, burrowing, amphibious, carnivorous reptile. After a quick international tour, the critter tries to take up residence in New York. But the pesky humans infesting the place don't take kindly to him. The military comes in to shoot the animal, but he's a bit too quick and clever to be easily dispatched, so they wind up doing a lot more property damage than he had! Eventually they manage to get him out in the open, where they kill him using fairly conventional weaponry.
Oops... Almost forgot that somewhere along the line the beast nested in Madison Square Garden and left a bunch of eggs. (Asexual reproduction, we're told.) The babies start hatching, are more than man-sized, and pretty darn mean. Fortunately, the military blasts the Garden before more than one of the "little" guys gets away.
Continuity: This movie has no connection to either of the Japanese Godzilla film continuities or Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The survival of one mutant sets up at least one sequel.
Technical: CGI and other big budget effects were used to create the monster in this movie. This enabled him to move in any fashion imaginable at any speed desired and to interact seamlessly with living actors.
Comments: A pretty cool giant monster flick, but not really Godzilla. See Dave's analysis of Godzilla.
Godzilla 2000: Millennium (Japan 1999, USA 2000)...
Godzilla is BACK! Devestating cities and smashing nuclear power plants. The Japanese counterattack with some serious big guns, but Godzilla isn't stopped.
Meanwhile, a huge alien rock is discovered under the sea. Attempts to bring it up are interrupted when it brings itself up, flying into the sky. Turns out that it's a rock-encrusted spaceship.
Godzilla and the spaceship fight it out, and the spaceship is blasted out of the sky. It appears dead for a while, but then springs back into action, attacking the Japanese computer systems. The Japanese attempt to destroy the spaceship, but cannot scratch it.
Godzilla then attacks the spaceship again, splitting it in half. The ship reforms into a huge monster called Orga. Orga attempts to swallow Godzilla, but gets the world's worst-ever case of indigestion when Godzilla cuts loose with his nuclear breath, incinerating Orga from the inside-out!
With Orga dealt-with, Godzilla finally gets around to obliterating Tokyo as the movie ends.
Continuity: This film is the first of a new series that recognizes only the original 1954 Gojira as a prequel. In this new continuity there have been several Godzilla appearances between 1954 and 1999, but these are apparently not the appearances documented in other Godzilla movies... There are rumors that this new continuity is just for a trilogy of films, and that the previous Japanese Godzilla continuity will be revived, with Godzilla Jr. as star, after the "G2k trilogy" is done.
Technical: The new version of Godzilla is a leaner, meaner, greener version of the classic Toho Godzilla. His breath weapon is more powerful than ever, is red-orange instead of blue, and takes more of a build-up than it used to. Godzilla's size has been reset to only a little larger than he was in 1954. (The previous Toho Godzilla version had been increased in size for his 1984 return, then made even bigger by the 1991 Godzilla vs King Ghidorah storyline.) CGI was used to enhance scenes, especially those featuring Orga. Orga was a bit of a shape shifter, and began to develop Godzilla characteristics as he swallowed Godzilla. This made Orga look a lot like the American version of Godzilla... Until the new Toho Godzilla nuked him. (Perhaps a little shot at Tri-Star from Toho?)
Americanization: This was the first Japanese Godzilla movie released in US theaters in 15 years. Overall, the minor trims and edits appear to have been of no great consequence, and may have improved the movie's pacing. As usual with Godzilla dubs, there are some odd-sounding lines. A military officer's comment that some new Japanese missiles will go through Godzilla "Like crap through a goose" is a new classic. One of the most famous scenes from the Japanese trailers has a main character facing Godzilla from a rooftop and screaming "GOJIRAAAAAAAA" from the depths of his soul. This scene is diluted to about 10% of it's original intensity by the half-hearted dub voice delivery. At the end, there is a line added from a female character who wonders why Godzilla is always helping mankind despite what we did to him... Darned odd thing to say as Godzilla starts incinerating Tokyo with his Atomic Breath.
Comments: Pretty good effort by Toho. Special effects are sometimes impressive, but (as usual) have some notable lapses. The story is simple, and has considerable humor without being campy or in any way a spoof. Good popcorn flick in the Godzilla tradition, and it was sure nice to have him back up on the big screen.
Godzilla vs Megaguirus (Japan 2000)...
In an attempt to get rid of Godzilla, the Japanese open up an interdimensional porthole, hoping to transport him to another reality. But the plan backfires, and the meganura, huge bug-like creatures from another dimension, come through the rift in time and space to infest Japan. The creatures eventually combine to form the gigantic monster Megaguirus, who takes on Godzilla in a colossal battle.
Continuity: It's not known exactly how (or if) this film meshes with the previous movie. Like Godzilla 2000, this movie suggests that Godzilla attacked in 1954 and has made other attacks since then, but these are apparently not the attacks seen in Showa or Heisei films. Scenes from the original Gojira (1954) are blended with images of the 2000 design Godzilla to show that, in the Godzilla vs Megaguirus continuity, the current Godzilla is the same one who attacked in 1954.
The meganura who come in from another dimension originally appeared in Rodan (1956). This could mean that the dimensional porthole now connects the Showa and Millennium universes, and could open up the potential for inter-continuity stories with Showa, Heiesei, and Millennium monsters interacting.
Comments: No word yet on a potential US release. Godzilla 2000 was a profit, albeit not a huge one for TriStar, so it is a possibility.
Gojira Mosura Kingu Ghidora: Daikaiju Soukougeki/ Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack!/ GMK: Battle on Fire! (Japan 2001)
A half century of peace has brought forth a generation in Japan that no longer remembers or appreciates the price paid by so many men in the second World War. The anger of the forgotten dead manifests itself in the rebirth of the atomic nightmare that menaced Japan 47 years earlier... Godzilla!
Japan's only hope for salvation are the ancient guardian creatures who have slumbered for centuries. Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah. But can these three defeat the unstoppable rage and incredible power of Godzilla?
Continuity: Like the 1984 relaunch, this movie is set in a continuity where only the original 1954 Godzilla attack happened, with no other Godzilla appearances until the events of this movie. Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah have completely new origins. Baragon, although not enough of a star to be mentioned in the title, is a bit of a cult favorite. This burrowing, semi-quadruped first appeared in Toho's Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965) and showed up in Destroy All Monsters (1968). The ending sets up a sequel, but that seems to be S.O.P. whether there are any plans for continuing a storyline or not.
Strangely enough, this film ties its continuity to that of the 1998 American "Godzilla" movie. Characters in GMK refer to the attack on New York a few years ago by a creature the Americans equated with Godzilla, but state that the animal wasn't the real Godzilla.
Technical: This Godzilla design is a throw-back to the classic, but more animalistic with spooky white eyes... And boy-howdy, does he look like one mean mutha! Mothra has never looked so good, or flown so realisticly. It looks like Toho has really outdone themselves with this one. Godzilla's atomic breath is truly End-Of-The-World stuff this time around. There has been some criticism about the way King Ghidorah, usually depicted as bigger and sometimes more powerful than Godzilla himself, is smaller and weaker than befits him. (At least when he first appears in this movie.) But his role in this movie is not his usual Destroyer Of Worlds, so it's fitting that he is apparently outmatched by Godzilla.
Comments: This is a serious attempt to make Godzilla meaningful, like he was in 1954. Not just a big lizard that attacks the city and fights with other giant critters, but a metaphysical force unleashed by by those who should have known better. This may be the best Godzilla movie in quite a while, and might surprise a lot of folks if it gets an American theatrical release... It's a big screen kinda movie.
"Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla" (In production for release at end of 2002)
Little is known about this one just yet except that it'll be yet another matchup between Big G and his bionic doppleganger. They first fought in Godzilla's 14th flick, had a rematch in the 15th, and did it yet again in the 20th. Even Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier gave it a rest after three times, but not these guys!
Like the Heisei era (1990s) Mechagodzilla, this one will apparently be built by Earthlings with a human pilot. Rumor has it that the new version of Mechagodzilla will be a cyborg, with cloned Godzilla biological aspects.
They're going to have a tough job making this one without getting into "been there, done that" territory.