Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Godzilla Entry #23: GODZILLA VS. DESTROYAH

(Gojira Tai Desutoroiâ, 1995)
Directed by: Takao Okawara
Written by: Kazuki Ohmori
Starrring: Takurô Tatsumi, Yôko Ishino, Yasufumi Hayashi, Megumi Odaka, Kenpachiro  Satsuma, Ryo Hariya, Hurricane Ryu Hariken. 
Synopsis: After an incident on Birth Island, Godzilla's heart begins to meltdown causing him to go in to great fits of destruction. With Godzilla as a walking, ticking nuclear bomb, a new creature Destroyah has evolved, thanks to the Oxygen Destroyer, and starts causing chaos in Japan. 

We have come to the end of an era. The new continuity of the Heisi era in GODZILLA VS. DESTROYAH is one of the most melancholy kaiju movies I have ever seen. This truly feels like the end of an era, and director Takao Okawara definitely went out of his way to show you that he was wrapping up a decades long story of a character both loved and maligned. As a closing chapter, it works better than TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA and dare I say, it got a little misty in this particular movie.

The movie starts off with a tragedy occurring at Birth Island where Godzilla and Baby Godzilla have gone missing after some sort of accident. This has caused Godzilla to become glowing orange full of radioactivity. He is steaming constantly, his atomic breath is now red-hot, and his eyes now have a permanent manic look in them. It turns out that whatever accident occurred on Birth Island caused Godzilla’s internal nuclear heart to start melting down. The movie opens up with the poor guy destroying a city in a desperate attempt at relief.

In a rather clever way of tying this movie to the mythology of the original, Dr. Serizawa’s infamous invention, the Oxygen Destroyer, is brought back as a potential way of destroying Godzilla again. In addition, there is a neat cameo of original GOJIRA actress, Moko Kochi, who once again plays Emiko Yamane 40 years later and warns us of the unforeseen consequences of using the Destroyer. And finally, one of the main characters, Kenichi Yamane, is the grandson of Dr. Kyohei Yamane, and he’s also a huge dick in the movie. In addition, Miki Saegusa, the biggest connecting thread in all of the Heisi movies and who has now ascended to be the director of the psychic division of the G-force continuing with the finality of the movie, spends most of her time with her-soon-to-be-replacement, Meru Ozawa. With all of these ties to the original and with the ending, it seemed that the intent of screenwriter Kazuki Ohmori was to show the unforeseen consequences of our actions and the passing of a torch and thanks to the human aspect of the film. It succeeds exquisitely as much as a kaiju movie can.

The big enemy, of course, is Destroyah, who, as my buddy @Ichab0d put it, is the kaiju Devil. He is horrifying to look at because of his weird hole in his stomach as well as the powerful beam that’s part of an oxygen destroyer beam. In addition, he has the ability to inject enemies with oxygen-killing pathogens. Much like Hedorah, he seems to be able to go through several stages of evolution. Destroyah starts out as small little organisms, giving us one of the most unique and rather fun sequences in a Godzilla movie. When the first Destroyah bugs surface, they attack a squadron of G-Force at a nuclear plant turning the movie briefly into a horror movie with the Destroyahs stalking and viciously killing the G-Force soldiers. While the scene was definitely unique, this was the first time that I personally felt that the special effects felt a little outdated. The Destroyah bugs all looked a 

Unlike Biollante, Destroyah’s constant evolution isn’t so much of a shape change but rather a constant combination of its smaller component. When we first meet it, it’s nothing but tiny Precambrian creatures, but after a mutation from the oxygen destroyer, it evolved over 42 years to the creatures that we see during the movie. Then after the creatures grow, they turn into a bigger version of Destroyah. It’s this version that Godzilla Junior fights preemptively in the movie. His “ultimate” form is the biggest monster that Godzilla fights during this entire series, and his attacks are brutal and dangerous thanks to the the "micro-oxygen" ray he shoots out of his mouth. It has the ability to vaporize flesh and some metals much like the Oxygen Destroyer. In his ultimate form, his deadliest attack is the ability to actually inject the micro-oxygen ray directly into an opponents blood stream. 

I find that Destroyah doesn’t work for me nearly as much as a villain as he does as a symbol for the unforeseen consequences of our actions. Just like was foreshadowed in the movie by various characters, the development of a new Oxygen Destroyer needs to be stopped due to the unforeseen side effects, and while the new weapon being developed, the rest of the movie is spent dealing with the worst type of side effect in Destroyah. Not sure what my hang up was, but as terrifying as a villain as Destroyah is, he's still no MechaGodzilla in terms of menace. Yes, he is powerful and he's huge, but it always felt like the biggest threat in this entire movie was Godzilla's impending meltdown which drives the majority of the plot forward.

Moving onto Godzilla Jr., it’s important to note that this is a completely new design and suit, and I quite enjoyed seeing the evolution of the Baby Godzilla to Junior. His design is not one of the flashiest in the series by any means, but I personally love how it very subtly works as a "teenager" version of Godzilla, and it is one of my favorite designs in the entire franchise.

By the time we get to the climactic battle we come to see that Godzilla's meltdown could be so big that this would destroy all of Japan in a nuclear holocaust. The G-force uses the Super X3, a new powerful ship, that comes equipped with cryolasers to help cool Godzilla down and prevent the worst type of meltdown. While it's completely heartbreaking seeing Godzilla in such pain that he's steaming, I found his behavior towards Godzilla Junior rather endearing. When G. Jr. is in danger against Destroyah, Godzilla comes to the rescue and when Jr. "dies," he actually lets a roar of pain at the through of his "son" dying.

The two biggest complaints about the movie from a script stand point are the fact that the incident on Birth Island that caused or was caused by Godzilla's heart melting down is just talked about and you briefly see the aftermath. It is completely understandable that the writers wanted to have some suspense since most of the movie you don't know if Jr. is alive or not, but it felt like the catalyst for the events of this movie should have been shown a little more. Finally, the most egregious aspect of the movie was the fact that the G-Force are the ones that bring down Godzilla. To put it in perspective that's is Neville would've killed Voldemort at the last minute instead of Harry Potter. It just doesn't seem right and it was reminiscent of those ridiculous TRANSFORMERS movies where humans are the heroes of the story and not the creatures that the movie is named after. On a thematic level, it feels a bit of a let down to have your main character not even get the chance to defeat his "worst" and final opponent by himself.

The big marketing hype of the movie at the time included the fact that they were going to kill off Godzilla. Toho even marketed this as such a big event, they even held a "funeral" for him. In addition, according to some sources, the poster you see above depicts Godzilla in the background because his meltdown and subsequent death are seen as the bigger threat within the movie. In all previous posters, the enemy has always been in the background, so G's placement as such in the poster signifies his death as the bigger threat. Once Destroyah is killed and Godzilla finally starts melting, it's actually a rather gruesome scene which along with the rather dramatic music, and it was one of the most emotional scenes in the entire series so far. The fact that the movie ends with a triumphant roar from Godzilla Junior, after the adult Godzilla's life force revived him, actually kept the movie from ending in such a dour note. 

As a closer to a continuity with this character, GODZILLA VS. DESTROYAH does a fine job of ending this Godzilla's story and Junior becoming the "new" Godzilla. It leaves the doors open to more adventures. Between its great design of Destroyah and a rather sympathetic storyline, the movie is one of the best Godzilla movies so far. It's pretty telling that the story ends with a new Godzilla but with Tokyo finally being declared a ghost town that's uninhabitable after the kaiju fights. There seemed to be both a respect of the past and a pessimism of the future with this movie.

Of special note is the fact that this is the last Godzilla movie until the infamous American one. This is of important note because it would have been the last movie in ten years, but due to the whole "the American version sucks" situation, we would get a brand new continuity and movie only four years later. 


  1. Nice write-up. I was really affected by this movie when I saw it on the big screen last year at G-Fest. Had to buy it the following day at the Con. Are you covering the '98 Godzilla next?

    1. So, I don't want to do the '98 Godzilla until I'm done with the Toho movies just because it feels like such a weird break in the series. That's gonna be its own special thing at the end. Let me know how G-fest goes I'm so jealous!