Friday, June 14, 2013

GODZILLA Entry #19: GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH


GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH (Gojira tai Kingu Gidorâ, 1991)
Directed by: Kazuki Ohmori
Written by: Kazuki Ohmori
Starring: Kosuke Toyohara, Anna Nakagawa, Megumi Odaka, Katsuhiko Sasaki, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Hurricane Ryu Hariken, Chuck Wilson.
Synopsis: When Godzilla's origins are traced to World War II, a group of humans from the future go back in time to try to stop Godzilla from ever being created.

For better or worse, reboots are now a mainstay of the current cinematic landscape. With this summer’s STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, a lot of people seemed to hate on the fact that this wasn’t the old school Star Trek they were expecting but a new interpretation. 1991’s GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH made me think of the conflict that a lot of Trekkies have had since the new rebooted movie franchise dealing with familiar characters being interpreted in new ways or new situations. While we’re three movies into the Heisi Era, we’ve had very few ties to the previous universe. There have been no aliens from Planet X, and no other classic monsters along the lines of Mothra or Gigan, but this movie obviously changes that. The movie is full of time travel, new ideas, wacky early CGI, the actual origin of Godzilla, and the reintroduction to my favorite villain of the series, King Ghidorah, and the movie succeeds in changing the timeline of the universe a few movies into a rebooted continuity.


The movie starts out with us seeing the mysterious remains of what looks to be Ghidorah with one of his three heads chopped up at the bottom of the sea through a computer screen. We cut back to 1992 Japan where were are introduced to Kenichiro Terasawa, a reporter/author who has discovered that Godzilla is actually a dinosaur from Lagos Island who inadvertently saved the lives of Japanese soldiers by killing the U.S. troops stationed there. One of the soldiers saved is another protagonist, Yasuaki Shindo, who is a swanky business man that claims to have no knowledge of the dinosaur. Turns out that after the battle, the wounded dinosaur would become Godzilla after nuclear testing occurs in the area.


Simultaneously, UFOs are sighted on Mt. Fuji. Instead of aliens, the UFO contains “Futurians”, who are humans from the 23rd century where Japan has finally been completely destroyed by Godzilla. The three Futurians recruit people from the present, Terasawa, Miki Sauegusa (a psychic), and Professor Mazaki to help them locate Godzilla in 1942 when he was just your regular, run-of-the-mill, time displaced Godzillasaurus (Fuck yeah, science!) to zap him out of Lagos Island, therefore he never becomes Godzilla in order to save future Japan.


While going back to the present, one of the Futurians, Emmy, the Japanese envoy, introduces us to the Dorats. The little guys are adorably bizarre winged creatures that have become quite popular in the future. While they are successful in making the dinosaur disappear and out nuclear radiation's way, Emmy “forgets” the Dorats in the past, leading to a whole new origin to King Ghidorah, who attacks Tokyo in the present.


At this point in the movie, I was loving it. My knee-jerk reaction is to hate this weird retcon until I realized what a bold new direction for one of the most iconic characters from this franchise this new origin was. His origin from the Showa Era was that of just a space monster that became a puppet for the various alien factions that were trying to destroy Earth during the various movies. This gives him a rather interesting origin that is unique, actually explaining a lot of his similar traits to Godzilla such as the beams he shoots out of his mouth.

The reason that Emmy forgot the Dorats back in Lagos Island is because in the future, Japan wasn't destroyed, it was actually the biggest super power in the world toppling the U.S. and Russia as a superpower. The Futurians, who are all white males I might add, came to the past to prevent that from happening by creating Ghidorah and thus, destroying Japan. Reading too much into pop culture again, the obvious political and economic strains between the Japan and the major superpowers were pretty evident in this movie with the Westerns being depicted as and taking such an active role as antagonists. 


What they didn't count on is the fact that Godzilla (to put it in DOCTOR WHO terms) is a fixed point in time. Even though the original dinosaur was never in the island when the nuclear testing occurred, the fact that there is nuclear testing in the world means that when he was sent to the future, the dinosaur still mutated into Godzilla. But this is not the same Godzilla from the two previous Heisi era movies, this one is a lot more violent, tougher, and meaner. Whenever Ghidorah and Godzilla fight, it's just as a vicious and violent fight as anything seen in the series so far. As was foreshadowed to in the beginning, Godzilla defeats Ghidorah when he blows off one of Ghidorah's three heads, and it explodes with golden blood coming out of its neck.


What follows after this is an the most crazy and convoluted use of time travel this side of the Terminator franchise, without getting into too much detail here, I'm just happy that we are able to get Mecha King Ghidorah out of this. My friend Ichab0d reviewed the S.H. Monsterarts King Ghidorah figure, but I feel that the Mecha version would be such a better toy given its great design; the rebuilt torso and robot wings along with the new middle robot head. Of course, when you think about the fact that it's a resuscitated monster from 200 years ago with a rebuilt head, being piloted by a tiny Japanese lady like a video game, it's MKG is actually a pretty morbid and sick character.


Most time travel movies that are not called PRIMER are bound to have some contradictions here or there which has stopped bothering me. Time travel is usually a means to an end in order to tell a more allegorical story. Now, it seems that the larger theme is that despite the many machinations and plotting by the Futurians, they cannot stop mankind's reliance on nuclear energy. It's as if  the movie is saying that mankind's nature is inherently evil thus nuclear power being created in the first place is now a constant threat to the safety of the world no matter who holds the nuclear missiles.

The fact is that while time travel is such a huge part of this movie, the screenwriter/director didn't bother trying to make sense of the cause and effect of time travel. Minute details like the fact that after the initial time travel, there is no Godzilla, but people from 1992 Japan still remember him. Or the fact that they say that two versions of the same entity/person/monster can't be in the same time period or else there would be grave consequences, and yet when Mecha-King Ghidorah comes back to the past, he is in the same space as his first self doesn't seem to matter. Even one of the most emotional scenes where Shindo makes peace with his place in creating the monster doesn't make sense because in this timeline, he never left the dinosaur behind to become Godzilla.


There's not much of a problem with this necessarily. There's so many great movies that sort just establish the rules only to carelessly or by design break them so that didn't deter from my enjoyment of it. If there was going to be an issue with the movie is that the movie feels very very rushed at the end of it. We spend over 45 minutes of the movie establishing this version of the world, setting up the time travel, and then get hurried through a couple of fight scenes which weren't choreographed as well as the Biollante ones for example. Also of note is just how badly dated the effects were. The computer graphics and special effects all felt very of their time. Strangely enough, the model work seems very "obvious" and cheap.


Following on the footsteps of GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE, GHIDORAH takes the franchise in a new direction with its wacky nonsensical time travel and the new origin story for both Godzilla and Ghidorah. It is a fun if not flawed addition to the canon of Godzilla.





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