Film Review: Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (dir by Takao Okawara)


With the new Godzilla film scheduled to be released in just two more days, we’ve been taking a look back at some of Godzilla’s previous adventures.  We’ve looked at everything from Godzilla vs. King Kong to Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster.  We’ve even taken a look at Godzilla’s adventures in the Marvel Universe.  Today, we consider the 22nd Godzilla film, 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destoroyah.

As Godzilla vs. Destoroyah opens, the task of monitoring and managing Godzilla has been entrusted to a military organization known as G-Force.  To be honest, my first impulse was to mock G-Force because their headquarters is known as G-Center and I kept expecting to see a tour group walking through the building while their cheerful guide explained, “This is the spot — the G-Spot.”  However, I have to admit that if I ever somehow found myself as a member of the military, I would want to be a member of G-Force, just because some of the female G-forcers get to wear a really nice uniform with a cute black skirt and a beret.  Seriously, I’d enlist just to get the beret.

It's all about the beret.

It’s all about the beret.

Anyway, G-Force may have cute uniforms but they’re apparently not very good at doing their job because they’ve lost track of Godzilla.  When last seen, Godzilla and his son — Godzilla, Jr. (yes, that’s what they actually call him) — were living on the charmingly named Birth Island.  However, Birth Island has been destroyed and when Godzilla, Sr. finally resurfaces, he’s glowing red and destroying Hong Kong.

Yes, Godzilla, Sr. has some issues.  As the G-Force scientists eventually deduce, Godzilla’s heart — which also acts as a nuclear reactor — is on the verge of a meltdown.  Not only is Godzilla dying but his death will probably cause a nuclear chain reaction that will lead to the end of the world.  As silly as this particular plot twist might sound, it actually works pretty well.  It’s a much-needed return to Godzilla’s roots, a reminder that, before he became a film star, Godzilla was meant to be the living embodiment of the atomic nightmare.  As well, the fact that Godzilla is slowly being destroyed by the same thing that brought him to life gives him a certain tragic dignity.  You may not believe that you could feel sorry for a big rubber lizard but you would be wrong.  Once it becomes clear that Godzilla is using his last remaining strength to search for and protect his son, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by his plight.

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah

Unfortunately, G-Force is apparently full of men with hearts of stone and, instead of trying to make that father-son reunion happen, they instead decide to trot out the old Oxygen Destroyer that was used to defeat the original Godzilla back in the 1954.  (In the 90s, the series was retconned to explain that the first Godzilla was destroyed in 1954 and that all the subsequent Godzilla movies featured the original’s successor.)  However, what G-Force has failed to take into account is that experimenting with the Oxygen Destroyer will also create a giant mutant crab known as Destoroyah.

Destoroyah, despite having a bit of a name problem, is actually pretty scary and, at times, feels like something that could have sprung from the imagination of H.R. Giger.  An extended scene, in which Destoroyah menaces a woman trapped in a car, is particularly well done.

Since this is a Godzilla film, all of this inetivably leads to a gigantic fight between Godzilla, Junior, and Destoroyah that manages to destroy Tokyo for the hundredth time.  Of course, even as Godzilla steps up to save the world from Destoroyah, he still remains a ticking atomic bomb…

godzilla-destoroya-screenshot

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah was meant to be the final Japanese Godzilla film, a final hurrah for the series before the American version (directed by noted Shakespearean scholar Roland Emmerich) was released.  As such, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is very much a tribute to Godzilla’s long history (clips from the first film abound) and an attempt to give Godzilla a proper and heroic send-off before he would be reinterpreted by the Americans.  There’s an elegiac feel to much of Godzilla vs. Destoroyah and it works a lot better than you would have any reason to expect.  If this had been the final Japanese Godzilla film, it would have been a perfect chapter to end on.

However, as we all know, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah was not the final Japanese Godzilla film.  Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla was a notorious flop and continues to be reviled by good people everywhere.  Toho bought back the rights to the character and went on to produce 6 more films starring Godzilla.  And now, in just a few more days, a second attempt at an American Godzilla film will be released.

Will it be as good as Roland Emmerich’s film?

Yes.  Of course, it will.  How couldn’t it be?  Roland Emmerich is basically just Uwe Boll with a bigger budget, after all.

Will the new Godzilla be as good as Godzilla vs. Destoroyah?

That’s a question that remains to be answered.

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