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Posts Tagged ‘Takao Okawara’

Well, here’s something which has kind of snuck up on me: having recently watched Takao Okawara’s Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla II, I find myself in the position of having seen all thirty-two of Toho’s Godzilla movies. This has been a long road, to be perfectly honest: there were only seventeen when I started, back in 1990, and the fact that most of the recent films are very difficult to track down in the UK did not help much. Thank the stars for the internet. It seems quite appropriate that this should form the basis of the landmark 1002nd film review on the blog (look, I do literature, not mathematics).

Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla II was released in 1993, and was apparently intended at the time to mark a pause in production for films in the series: the first big-budget American Godzilla was believed to be imminent at the time (in the end it was another five years before it arrived, so Toho made another two movies before finally putting the series on hold). Watching the movie now I suppose you can just about discern the suggestion that things are being concluded, but for the most part it resembles the films around it, not least in the way it reintroduces famous characters from the films of the 60s and 70s.

The film gets underway with the United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Centre unveiling their new weapon to sort the big lizard out once and for all: the severed robotic head of Mecha-King Ghidorah has been fished out of Tokyo bay (where it ended up at the climax of 1991’s Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah) and reverse-engineered so its futuristic technology can be employed in two new vehicles: Garuda, one of those flying tanks which seem to be common in tokusatsu movies, and Mechagodzilla, which is, um, a mecha which looks like Godzilla.

(There is a bit of a departure here from the original incarnation of Mechagodzilla, which – if memory serves – was basically a robot. Here it is essentially a somewhat outlandishly-designed vehicle. This take seems to have gained some traction, for the third incarnation of Mechagodzilla – the Kiryu version, from Tokyo SOS – sticks very close to the same concept. On the other hand, this may have something to do with the same guy, Wataru Mimura, writing all the recent Mechagodzilla movies.)

Flying Garuda, to begin with at least, is lovable lunk Aoki (Masahiro Takashima). In a piece of foreshadowing about as subtle as being hit by a truck, we are informed that Aoki is a huge fan of pteranodons, not that this particularly informs the plot much. However, quite early on he is redeployed to elsewhere in the anti-Godzilla corps, which if nothing else means he gets to wear a snappy cravat with a big G on it (this is actually part of the uniform).

From here we cut to a bunch of scientists on one of those remote Pacific islands which are such a common feature in these films. They are excited to have discovered some impressive pteranodon fossils, and also an actual intact egg. Excitement shifts to alarm when they realise that another egg has already hatched, and a giant pteranodon is roosting in the vicinity. The unlikely size of this beastie is explained by one of the boffins as the result of nuclear waste irradiating the island, though I’m not sure this entirely explains what pteranodon eggs are doing on a Pacific island in the 1990s.

(Now, the pteranodon is – obviously! – a new take on Rodan, one of the A-list Toho kaiju with a long and distinguished career which extends back to his own 1956 movie and is due to continue next year in a new Hollywood incarnation. The American dub of Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla II is unique in that it reverts to using Rodan’s Japanese name, Radon. I’m going to stick with Rodan, however, as it would feel odd not to.)

The scientists go beyond alarm into actual panic when the sea erupts and Godzilla himself appears on the scene. Godzilla and Rodan catch sight of each other and promptly begin to party like it’s 1964, laying waste to most of the island in the process of their rumble. The scientists take this as a cue to make a swift departure with the egg. Being such a pteranodon nut, Aoki turns up to check out the egg in the Kyoto lab where it ends up, meeting nice young scientist Azusa (Ryoko Sano) in the process. Psychic Miki (Megumi Odaka), a regular character in these movies, is also hanging around and discovers that – fasten your seatbelts, friends – some moss sticking to the egg is actually telepathically singing to it. (Well, of course it is.)

As a result of the discovery of the singing telepathic moss, the egg hatches out, not into another pteranodon but a baby godzillasaurus, which everyone refers to as Baby Godzilla. Baby Godzilla seems essentially benign and doesn’t appear to be especially irradiated, which just adds to his cuteness. It’s never really confirmed that Baby Godzilla and the full-sized version are closely related, but big Godzilla certainly seems to take an interest in the newborn and starts heading for Kyoto. There’s only one thing to do: stand by to launch Mechagodzilla!

Well, if nothing else, I feel like I’m beginning to understand why so many of the sub-par Godzilla movies of the 1990s and early 2000s feel so samey – it’s because most of them were written by Wataru Mimura (Tokyo SOS, which is the best of the post-1992 Godzilla films, was the work of someone else). Quite apart from a rather Gerry Anderson-esque take on Mechagodzilla, what these films have in common is a tendency to treat Godzilla like bad weather – one of those annoying facts of life people just have to come to terms with – rather than the terrifying menace he is in some of the other films. Godzilla just turns up and attacks places in this film whenever the plot slows down a bit.

I say ‘plot’, but the main problem with Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla II is that in a very real sense it doesn’t actually have a plot – not to the extent that it feels in any way structured or thought-through. Things just happen one after the other, frequently without much in the way of explanation or causality, to say nothing of occasional odd tangents. The film is reliant on things happening without any real explanation – where do the eggs come from? What the hell is the deal with the singing telepathic moss? Why does Baby Godzilla seem to have psychic powers? How come Rodan mutates into a more dangerous form halfway through the movie? I could go on.

One result of this is that something rather odd happens with audience sympathy in the course of the film. To begin with, Godzilla is the same ambiguous anti-hero as in all the movies since the 1984 relaunch of the series, and the operators of Mechagodzilla are heroic defenders of Japan. But by the end of the film, one finds oneself rooting for Godzilla – or at least expected to do so – as he takes a beating from characters who are theoretically the protagonists. The only catalyst for this is the fact that the bosses at G-Force are unspeakably cruel to Baby Godzilla, using him as bait even though he is so small and cute. I suppose if nothing else this speaks volumes about the famous Japanese vulnerability to anything cute with big eyes.

Oh well. There are a few good things about this film – Megumi Odaka, perennial second banana in this series, gets some good material, and the monster suits are generally excellent. The Rodan puppet in particular is extremely impressive. The initial battle between Godzilla and Rodan is also boisterously good stuff. Apparently this was choreographed as it was due to complaints that too many monster battles in the previous few films just consisted of monsters standing off and zapping breath-rays at each other – which makes it slightly odd that the other battles in this film consist of pretty much that exact same thing. (Although the traditional scene where the massed model planes and toy tanks of the JSDF trundle out to engage Godzilla and have no effect whatsoever also makes an appearance, and it’s like seeing an old friend when it does.)

In the end, though, one has to remember that this film is predicated on the idea that, having salvaged priceless technology from the future, the best thing the UN can think of doing with it is to build a giant cybernetic dinosaur with laser-beam eyes. Normal standards of logic and sanity are clearly not in effect. In the past I have spoken of the special pleasures of a Good Bad Movie – Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla II is not quite a Good Bad Movie, but it is at least an Okay Bad Movie, and the dedicated Godzilla audience it was clearly made for will probably find stuff to enjoy here.

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One of the awkward structural tropes of the later Godzilla movies (and many other kaiju pictures) runs a little like this: most of the movie is not really concerned with Godzilla himself, who wanders around in the background like a large and exasperatingly badly-behaved dog for most of the film, while the story is really focusing on the human characters and especially the new (or revamped) monster which the movie is introducing. Inevitably, of course, it eventually becomes time for the final showdown, at which point the humans take a smart step back and Godzilla takes one forward, and the monster-rassling begins in earnest.

How well the various scripts and directors cope with this moment is often a reasonably good guide to the quality of the film in general. Unfortunately, Takao Okawara’s Godzilla 2000 (from, of course, 1999) is not really a great demonstration of how to do it – but then this strikes me as one of the weaker movies in the series generally.

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This is the 24th Godzilla movie, always assuming you include the American version from 1998. This was the first Japanese-made Godzilla following the little-loved Roland Emmerich version, and it’s tempting to search this one for indications of a ticked-off Toho rolling up their sleeves and setting out to show the Yankees how a proper Godzilla should really be done. As I said, if this was the intention, they don’t manage it.

The movie has a slightly surprising in media res sort of opening, and – tellingly – assumes from the start that everyone knows who and what Godzilla is and how he has come to be. (That said, there’s absolutely no attempt to either explicitly reboot the continuity or link the film to the previous Toho movie – although there’s nothing to suggest that the Godzilla in this movie can’t be Godzilla Junior following the end of Godzilla Vs Destroyer.) Anyway, we first meet the members of the Godzilla Prediction Network, who are basically a single-parent mad scientist and his precocious daughter (practically another trope of the series). The scientist is played by Takehiro Murata, who turns up in quite a few of these films: this is his biggest role. The GPN are really amateurs, with their equipment looking rather like a TV licence evasion detector van, but Murata is smart enough to figure out where Godzilla is going to show up.

Godzilla seems to be a fact of life like earthquakes or typhoons for people in this movie – all right, there’s a lot of running around and screaming from the locals when he does appear somewhere, but no-one in power seems particularly alarmed or exercised by it. The head of the Japanese crisis response agency (Hiroshi Abe) certainly isn’t fussed, but then he’s more interested in raising an ancient meteorite from the sea-bed, believing it has properties that will help with the Japanese energy crisis.

The film becomes very interested in the meteorite at this point, and Godzilla is presumably abandoned to wander around off-screen. Rather surprisingly, the big rock displays the ability to move under its own power, rising to the surface unaided and then flipping onto its edge to catch more sunlight. Clearly there is more than meets the eye going on here.

However, everyone is distracted as Godzilla marches on a coastal nuclear plant and the army have yet another go at stopping him with massed tanks and missile batteries. They even have a new armour-piercing rocket which the top brass assure Abe ‘will go through Godzilla like crap through a goose’, which doesn’t sound like an exact translation of the original Japanese dialogue to me, but never mind. Here perhaps we can see the film cocking a snook at Emmerich and Devlin, for while Godzilla indeed has chunks blasted out of him by the missile barrage, he keeps coming, just as one would expect from a giant mutant nuclear-powered dinosaur.

Murata figures out just how Godzilla can stand up to this punishment in every film: his cells contain something he christens ‘Regenerator G1’, which is the source of his incredible self-healing power. However, someone else has come to the same conclusion, and the space rock shoots off to have a close encounter of a violent kind with the big G: inside the meteorite is an ancient spacecraft, and whatever is inside has its own reasons for wanting access to Godzilla’s regenerative powers…

So, in addition to the missile-proof Godzilla, this film features a giant UFO doing battle with the big lizard. Again, it’s easy to interpret this as an attempt by Toho to do a ‘classic’ Godzilla storyline following the American debacle. The basic plot is more to my taste than that of the Emmerich movie, certainly, and to my mind it seems quite obvious that the makers of this film have been watching Shusuke Kaneko’s Gamera trilogy – the shot of the UFO perched atop a Tokyo skyscraper at dusk definitely recalls one of Gyaos on top of Tokyo Tower in Guardian of the Universe, while the conclusion (a defiant Godzilla rampaging through a wrecked and burning city) is startlingly like that of Incomplete Struggle, which came out only nine months before Godzilla 2000.

However promising the signs, though, this is hardly premier-league Godzilla. I’ve already mentioned the fact that the film seems much more interested in the UFO than in its title character, and that’s obviously a problem – prior to the final battle, Godzilla’s appearances feel like contractual obligations. Is he supposed to be implacable and inscrutable? Vicious and terrifying? Grandiose and misunderstood? The film gives no guidance, perhaps because it isn’t sure itself. It doesn’t help that the UFO itself is not particularly interesting to look at. Not having bothered to do my homework before watching the movie, I did wonder if a proper monster was going to show up to fight Godzilla at all: but of course one does, and it’s the seemingly-little loved form of the mightily-clawed Orga (though he’s never named as such on screen). Orga’s one of those Toho monsters who never came back (though he did make it into some of the computer games), and it’s hard to see why – the design is striking, and the monster suit decent. Perhaps it’s just that he gets very little screen time, only appearing for the climactic battle.

As I say, at least the monster suits are good, because many of the other special effects in this movie are not that special. The CGI of the flying saucer is mediocre, and many of the shots in which models and monsters are composited into shots with ‘real’ buildings and landscapes are actually quite poor. Like so much of this film, they feel sloppy and not properly thought-through.

Watching Godzilla 2000, one is left with a terrible sense of a missed opportunity – this was a great chance to relaunch the character, to restate all the things which have made the best films in this series so entertaining, and perhaps do something new in creating a memorable new opponent for Godzilla. In the end, all the film can offer is a derivative and somewhat familiar set of visuals, a vague and poorly defined setting and set of characters, and a Godzilla who seems to have been one of the last things that the makers of the film were worried about. This isn’t a textbook example of how to make The Bad Godzilla Film, but it’s getting there.

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Imagine the scene as the Prime Minister of Japan, who’s out of the country on a brief golfing holiday, phones his office to find out how things are going in his absence:

‘Well, sir, do you remember a few days ago, when that mutant radioactive dinosaur had a fight out at sea with the spiky mystical caterpillar, cracked open the ocean floor, and they both fell through into the Earth’s molten core? Well, unfortunately it seems that the dinosaur swam through the superheated lava, climbed out of the volcano of Mount Fuji and is currently advancing on Yokohama. Luckily in the meantime a giant grub swam into Tokyo bay, demolished half the city, and turned into a cocoon on top of the parliament building. It just hatched out as a gigantic moth with magic powers and it looks like the moth and the dinosaur are going to have a battle to the death near Yokohama harbour.’

‘Ah. A pretty typical week, then.’

Does the appeal of a great Japanese monster movie really need any more explanation than the plot synopsis given above? I thought not. That one is from Godzilla Vs Mothra, released in 1992 (and – obviously – not to be confused with Mothra Vs Godzilla, from 1964). Directed by Takao Okawara, this was for a long time my very favourite of all the Godzilla series, and watching it again now hasn’t done a great deal to make me revise my opinion.

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Let’s have a slightly more serious look at that plot: a meteorite falls into the Pacific Ocean, setting off a remarkable chain of events. Firstly, it manages to wake up not one but two giant monsters which happened to be asleep in that area of the ocean floor – Godzilla, taking a rest after disposing of King Ghidorah in the previous film, and Battra, an ancient embodiment of the planet’s righteous fury. (Battra looks like a sort of spiky slug.) The meteorite also causes storms which trigger a landslide in Indonesia, exposing a huge egg which has been buried for thousands of years.

Having cheerily ripped off The Terminator in the previous film, the Godzilla people proceed to do the same with the Indiana Jones series as we meet our hero, Takuya (Tetsuya Bessho), a shady archaeologist and generally irresponsible fellow. In exchange for being sprung from prison, he agrees to go and get the egg, accompanied by his ex-wife Masako (Satomi Kobayashi) and a representative of a big corporation looking to exploit the site.

The expedition to the egg is not especially convincingly-mounted (Masako wears a pith helmet, the salariman a suit and tie) and it’s played for laughs, not very successfully. However on reaching the egg, our heroes meet the Shobijin (also known as the Cosmos fairies in English-language dubs), tiny twins who explain the provenance of the egg and the back-story of the film.

The egg belongs to Mothra, protector of the planet (and embodiment of Earth’s kind and nurturing side), who in the past had to work quite hard to keep Battra from destroying civilisation. With all the terrible things mankind is doing to the planet, the revived Battra is sure to be on the warpath again, and this time there’s no Mothra around to stop him…

So what’s Godzilla doing all this time? you may be wondering. Wonder no more. The boss of the corporation, who is a bit of a tool, decides to ship the egg to Japan and put it on display. Unfortunately a giant egg being rafted across the Pacific is just the sort of thing that attracts Godzilla’s attention, and he shows up looking for a fight. Battra and a newly-hatched Mothra oblige while the humans make their escape – but the boss, looking to replace the now-destroyed egg, decides to keep the Shobijin as a replacement attraction. And Mothra disapproves of this, and heads back to Japan to make this clear…

The opening twenty minutes or so of Godzilla Vs Mothra are a bit clunky and frivolous, but as soon as the Shobijin appear it starts to turn into a really accomplished and fun monster movie, with strong fantasy overtones. That said, the scenes with the humans, particularly Takuya and Masako, never stop clunking. There’s a whole subplot about Takuya being a bad husband and father and having to shape up and take responsibility which is crashingly unsubtle and rather patronising. On the other hand, it has strong competition in the crashing unsubtlety stakes, because – as you may just have guessed – this film has a strong message about protecting the environment which it beats the audience about the head with at every opportunity. It’s hard to fault the actual sentiments – I’m all for responsibility in family affairs, and sympathetic to Green ideas – it’s just the manner of their delivery which is a bit exasperating.

Never mind. Making up for this are a load of spiffy monster sequences – most of them, it must be said, focussing on Mothra rather than Godzilla. The previous two films were both fundamentally about humans trying to find a solution to the problem of Godzilla – in this, he is a much less central presence (arguably a questionable precedent being set), and if you are a Godzilla purist you may find the imbalance of screen-time between Godzilla and Mothra rather objectionable.

It’s probably as well to keep in mind that Mothra is a big-name monster in her own right, starting her career in her own movie before moving on to a distinguished career in other Toho kaiju pictures (as one of the few monsters to be able to fight Godzilla to a standstill unassisted). If you think of Godzilla Vs Mothra as being at least partly a remake of the original Mothra, and partly a method of reintroducing Mothra to the wider Godzilla continuity, the relative lack of Godzilla becomes a little easier to understand.

Of course, Mothra is almost always the good guy monster, which means that Godzilla is firmly back in the role of unstoppable menace for this particular film (no-one seems to have told Megumi Odaka this, as she seems genuinely upset every time Godzilla has a skyscraper toppled onto him). But it suits him, and when he’s on screen he’s handled respectfully, as a terrifying force of total destruction. ‘This is beyond our present knowledge or understanding,’ declares one of the government boffins in tones of awed horror, upon learning that the Big G has survived his dip in the Earth’s core. 1990s special effects mean that the climactic three-way clash between Godzilla, Mothra, and Battra more than lives up to the equivalent battle at the end of the 1964 film.

I like this film a lot, no matter how clunky or obvious many of the scenes with the human characters are. It has some really memorable visuals, very entertaining monster battles, and a terrific soundtrack – for some reason, it seems that for a kaiju to really work on-screen it needs a killer musical motif of its own, and none of the monsters here are let down. And I just enjoy the fact that people were actually prepared to make a film so way-out and imaginative in its ideas. It’s partly this kind of sheer craziness which attracts me to kaiju movies – and it’s an element that I think the makers of next year’s Hollywood Godzilla will neglect at their peril. But I digress: this is a highlight of the series, and the genre.

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Well, initial reports that Pacific Rim turned out to be a bit of a flop seem to have been somewhat overstated, with the film currently well on its way to turning a healthy profit. Nevertheless, what this means for the future of the Hollywood kaiju movie remains to be seen – I suspect a lot is riding on the success (or otherwise) of next year’s remake of Godzilla.

If we’re talking Japanese-style monster movies then as far as most people are concerned we’re basically talking Godzilla and Toho Studios. For the last ten or twelve years, though, I have felt vaguely guilty simply because my own personal favourites in this genre have emanated from elsewhere: specifically, the Gamera movies made by Daiei in the late 90s. Part of the problem may be that simply getting hold of the more recent Godzilla films is, in the UK, rather challenging: most of the Showa movies made between 1960 and 1975 have had some sort of proper release, but with a few exceptions it’s very hard to track down anything made since the late 80s.

In an attempt to rectify this lamentable gap in my knowledge I sat down and watched one of the mid-90s Godzilla films via the medium of a popular video-sharing website: I know this is ethically dubious, and I do feel a bit guilty, but it did mean watching the film in a dodgy Tamil dub with atrocious subtitling, so I think I paid my penance at the time.

The movie in question was… well, here’s a thing. The Japanese title is Gojira Tai Destoroyah, which is fair enough, it’s Japanese. You would therefore expect the English title to be Godzilla Vs Destroyer, right? But no: apparently it’s still called Godzilla Vs Destoroyah. Apparently this is due to trademarking issues and Toho not being able to copyright ‘Destroyer’ as a monster name. I’m not terribly impressed with ‘Destoroyah’ as a fix for this so-called problem and have half a mind to just call the beastie in the film Destroyer and let the writs fly as they may. I suppose it is just possible there are bigger problems in the modern world.

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Anyway, Takao Okawara’s movie opens in traditional style with Godzilla rocking up in Hong Kong, intent on some of the usual colossal property damage. But all is not well with the great beast: his usual greenish hue and healthy blue-white aura of Cherenkov radiation have changed to a fierce red-orange and he appears to be giving off colossal amounts of heat. (The image of Godzilla striding through boiling water, his skin glowing like lava, is a striking one.)

The world’s assembled Godzilla experts (I love the fact this film is set in a world where ‘Godzilla expert’ is a respected career) come to the conclusion that Godzilla has developed a heart condition: and as his heart is a nuclear furnace this is potentially bad news for the whole world. If the reaction inside Godzilla continues to escalate out of control, very shortly he will either detonate like a enormous nuke or melt his way through the earth’s crust.

Meanwhile – and, believe it or not, the Godzilla-is-about-to-inadvertently-devastate-the-planet plotline is arguably the B-story for much of the film – digging work in Tokyo bay is disrupted by the discovery of a colony of incredibly ancient organisms from the pre-Cambrian era. The creatures appear to have been mutated by exposure to the Oxygen Destroyer, a fearful weapon deployed in the bay in (and against) the original Godzilla in 1954 (is the Godzilla in this movie the same one or not? I must confess to having lost track). They are rapidly mutating and growing as they do so, posing serious problems for the Japanese defence forces.

The mutant creatures soon coalesce into a single giant monster, which the awe-struck boffins who’ve been prodding the plot along this far realise is the embodiment of the Oxygen Destroyer: hence, they christen it Destroyer (let’s not argue about this).

At this point, credulity goes off on one of those tangents familiar to any viewer of Godzilla’s exploits, as – faced with the unstoppable incarnation of one of the most horrifying weapons ever devised – the Godzilla experts perk up and realise they could potentially use Destroyer to solve their meltdown problem. All they need to do is lure a colossal, dangerously radioactive super-powered dinosaur into the centre of Tokyo where it can battle another even more dangerous monster to the death! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, on one level, this is a fairly standard Godzilla movie from the 90s, as you can see. Godzilla wanders around in the background being vaguely menacing for most of the film, while his final opponent is given an origin story in the foreground. Fair enough, but the thing that should make Godzilla Vs Destroyer distinctive is more apparent from one of its alternate foreign titles, to wit: The Death of Godzilla.

Some historical context for the uninitiated: this movie was made in 1995, at which point Toho had been cranking out Godzilla movies at the rate of one a year for about half a decade. A rest for the big feller was prescribed, as far as Japanese movies were concerned: meanwhile, an American remake was in the early stages of pre-production (ultimately to appear as the reviled Emmerich Godzilla). So this was the first attempt to deliberately and permanently conclude a series of Godzilla movies.

Here is the main problem with Godzilla Vs Destroyer: as a regular vehicle for its star, it’s acceptable – but as a grand finale and last hurrah for a screen legend, it’s simply not quite there. There’s an attempt to tie the plot of this film into that of the 1954 original by using stock footage from it and referring to various characters (and it’s always nice to see Takashi Shimura in a film), but it does feel a tiny bit contrived, and the fact remains that the appearance of Destroyer just at the time Godzilla enters his terminal condition is an enormous coincidence.

The nature of Godzilla’s demise is also far from satisfying. It’s never really explained just why Godzilla has gone into meltdown (although I am prepared to admit this may be down to dodgy Tamil subtitles), and it appears to happen off-screen prior to the film’s start. Apparently it’s just one of those things which eventually happens to you if you’re a radioactive mutant super-powered dinosaur. (For all of this, the actual scenes of Godzilla snuffing it are undeniably potent, even though they are instantly undercut by the final shot of the film.)

The movie also suffers from one of the key problems with the Heisei Godzilla films, which is that Godzilla doesn’t really have a consistent characterisation: it’s understandable that Toho wanted to shy away from the jolly superhero version of Godzilla who was firmly in place by the late 60s, but they never quite found a satisfying replacement for this. the result is a series of films in which Godzilla is the star, but also the primary menace. As the former, he has to appear impressive and powerful; as the latter, he has to ultimately be defeated. Needless to say some convoluted plotting results, and Godzilla remains an ambiguous, monolithic figure, difficult to identify with.

I think it would have been a much more resonant conclusion to the series if they had finally resolved this, making Godzilla a much less ambiguously heroic character in his final battle. It would have been relatively straightforward to have Destroyer brutally beat up Baby Godzilla, as happens in the actual film, and for an enraged Godzilla to embark upon a quest for revenge – but for him to have to overstretch his powers in order to defeat Destroyer, with the final meltdown coming as a result of this. This would have the advantage of making Godzilla’s death a heroic self-sacrifice, worthy of such an icon, rather than just something that happens, as is the case in the actual film.

Anyway, decent as this is by the standards of 90s Godzilla movies, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Shusuke Kaneko’s Gamera trilogy, the first film of which was also released in 1995. This isn’t to say that the two series have nothing in common – they’re in the same genre, after all, sharing the same influences and reference points. At one point Godzilla Vs Destroyer tips a nod to Aliens in the same way that Gamera: Advent of Legion doffs its hat to Them!, while it looks like Kaneko himself was paying attention to Godzilla’s demise: a scene in which Godzilla is swarmed by multiple small Destroyer-beasts seems to me to directly anticipate an identical sequence in Legion.

Perhaps the main problem with Godzilla Vs Destroyer is the sheer weight of significance it is inevitably required to carry: the need to treat Godzilla and his demise with appropriate respect, homage the original movie and its characters, wrap up the Heisei continuity, and include various other necessary elements (ranging from music to some plot devices) doesn’t leave it with much room to be its own movie. At least dealing with a previously-ridiculed character like Gamera gave Kaneko more room to innovate. As it is, Godzilla Vs Destroyer is a workmanlike entry to the series, but it doesn’t come close to hitting the targets it sets for itself.

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