Posts Tagged ‘Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah’

Our current city-flattening rampage through the Godzilla series reaches the 90s with Kazuki Omori’s Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah. (Yes, I know we’re jumping about within the series  – we did the 1995 movie less than a week ago – but, well, you see… oh never mind. Look, we’re going to be doing a couple more of the Heisei movies and then see how it goes, okay?) I was actually quite surprised when I saw that Omori was the same director who did the previous movie, as they are tonally rather different. Godzilla Vs Biollante comes across as quite a serious and brooding film (as Japanese monster movies go), but this one is a much brighter and more freewheeling piece of work.


Things open promisingly enough with a UFO appearing over Tokyo in the year 1992. In a textbook example of how to crowbar the introduction of a second plotline into a movie, Terasawa (Kosuke Toyohara), a writer contacted with a view to doing a story on the sighting, is more interested in following a lead about alleged dinosaur sightings in the Marshall Islands during the Second World War.

The dinosaur plot and the one about the UFO trundle along in tandem for a while. So far there has been no sign of Godzilla or any other monsters, but the script is so engagingly bonkers that you don’t miss them that much. Terasawa, in association with a dinosaur boffin and psychic Godzilla expert Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka), comes up with the theory that the dinosaur sighted at the end of the war was eventually hit by radiation from  A-bomb tests in the 1950s which mutated it into Godzilla.

When in the inhabitants of the UFO emerge, they confirm this is the truth. Rather than aliens, they are from the 23rd century and have come back to the present day to save Japan. They claim that Godzilla will eventually devastate the country to the point where it has to be abandoned, but offer a solution to the problem of his existence. They propose a further time trip back to 1944, to locate Godzilla in his pre-mutant form and teleport him out of the way of the radiation – thus preventing him ever being created!

With the help of a cute girl from the future (Anna Nakagawa) and an android (Robert Field), the mission seemingly goes off without a hitch. But on their return to 1992, our heroes discover that Godzilla may have vanished, but he has been replaced by an equally destructive and possibly even more savage monster, King Ghidorah. Can it really be that, if catastrophe is to be averted, they’re somehow going to have to get Godzilla back…?

The temporal mechanics of this movie are essentially gibberish (having successfully averted Godzilla’s creation, the protagonists return to the present day only to find everyone still knows exactly who and what Godzilla is, apparently because the 20th century is so bursting with nuclear radiation that his creation is actually ‘inevitable’), and the overall throughline of the plot is far from the last word in elegance: protagonists want to get rid of Godzilla. Time mission to do so produces King Ghidorah. Protagonists recreate Godzilla to get rid of King Ghidorah. Protagonists realise they are now back at square one. Protagonists recreate King Ghidorah to get rid of Godzilla… you can almost imagine the various iterations of this going on forever, but the budget would only stretch to 102 minutes and the actual resolution is pretty satisfactory.

Despite these issues, Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah is rather more fun than I remembered it being: it’s pacy, colourful, and keeps whacking you with fun and interesting ideas. Other peoples’ ideas, of course – as you may be able to discern, the plot and imagery are heavily derivative of 80s Hollywood blockbusters, particularly The Terminator (although the super-human attributes of the android in this film are realised rather more variably than in Arnie’s case) – but at least the movie holds its hand up to this, by the rather knowing inclusion of a scene purporting to feature a new-born Steven Spielberg’s father.

The Second World War sequence, in which a pre-mutation Godzilla takes on a platoon of American soldiers, was apparently quite controversial at the time, and together with the overall arc of the plot (bad guys are motivated by a desire to stop Japanese economic dominance of the future world) apparently led to claims this film is anti-American. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it’s at least a film prepared to touch (briefly) on serious issues connected with history and Japan’s place in the world – at one point King Ghidorah is shown flying over the site of the first A-bombing in Hiroshima, a fairly oblique reference but still a first for the series.

But mostly it’s just about giant monsters laying into each other. Godzilla himself looks better than ever in his latest incarnation, and is just about on the cusp between anti-heroism and outright villainy in this film. Possibly wary of making him too amiable, the film-makers  include a memorable subplot about a character who was saved by Godzilla during the war and constantly insists that he is ultimately benign, a force for salvation. And when they eventually meet… well, let’s just say he gets the opportunity to amend his opinion, provided he does so loudly and very fast.

You can understand why Ghidorah was the first of Godzilla’s Showa-series opponents to be revived, as the two of them clashed more times than any other monsters and the King has a good claim to be Godzilla’s arch-enemy. Even by the 90s, though, suitamation technology was not quite up to the challenge of creating a Ghidorah who does not look ever-so-slightly camp and ridiculous. All part of the fun, of course, and the various battles between the two of them are hugely enjoyable.

So, even if the plot with the human characters doesn’t actually make sense, the character s themselves are engaging and the film is full of ideas, while the monster battles are spectacular and destructive. This is the first of the Heisei Godzilla movies to really capture the crazy spirit of the older films from the 60s and 70s, but incorporates it into a film which a modern audience could find just about credible. If you already ‘get’ Godzilla, then this is a film which will live up to expectations – if you don’t, then it’s probably one of the best places to start.

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