During Godzilla Vs Spacegodzilla there is a few moments that provide a sense of looming finality to this Godzilla series. Certain loose ends from previous films are raised and tied into Spacegodzilla’s origins. Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka) was given a larger role and a fuller character to help give a reason to her continued reappearances. Both weapons the G-Force aimed to use on Godzilla, one passive and one aggressive, both fail leading to a feeling that nothing can stop Godzilla. Godzilla himself is presented is a slightly more humanised and heroic light. These elements were all in place for a reason. Because Toho had an end in sight for this version of Godzilla. This film, Godzilla Vs Destoroyah, is that end. Click the link below for my review of the last Heisei era Godzilla film.
When Godzilla turns up in Hong Kong all pissed off and glowing an alarming shade of red the JSDF realise that something very bad is about to happen. A young genius called Kenichi Yamane (Yasufumi Hayashi), Grandson of Dr Kyohei Yamane from the very first film, has a theory that Godzilla’s heart is like a nuclear reactor. He theorises that Godzilla is going into a state of atomic overload and will soon explode with such a force that it would ignite the atmosphere of the entire planet. That could be an issue. Meanwhile, Miki has been unable to locate Little Godzilla and a scientist has created a new type of micro Oxygen that may be very similar to a weapon created 40 years previously by Dr Serizawa. In his research he accidentally uncovers a microscopic precambrian lifeform that escapes his lab and soon begins to grow. This creature, soon known as Destoroyah displays signs of being able to cause destruction similar to that of Serizawa’s Oxygen Destroyer weapon. Basically the human race is pretty screwed right now.
Man, this is a really good send off for Godzilla. I’m just gonna come out right at the start with that. The film uses Godzilla and his fate as a central theme. The use of nuclear power and the danger it could potentially represent is in the forefront. The self destructive nature of man is raised as, even when trying to create something good, a scientist makes a destructive force. Every plot revolves around Godzilla and his eventual demise and the build towards that moment is a gradual and meticulous, and ominous, march towards the inevitable. This isn’t a film where there’s a monster or aliens that are causing trouble but hopefully Godzilla will sort it out whilst humans stand by and watch. This is, much like the original Gojira and Godzilla 1985, a film where the narrative is entirely reliant on the character and composition of Godzilla himself. What I mean is that you couldn’t replace Godzilla with any other already existing monster and get the same film with the same thematic points. Keep in mind that Godzilla has been shoehorned into films he wasn’t meant to appear in before now so the use of Godzilla as a means to provide just monster action has been done.
Destoroyah is also quite a unique monster for the Godzilla series. Like Godzilla he is born from a weapon, that being the one that defeated the original. He is made up of many small crustacean like creatures that give the humans something to fight and deal with whilst the plot waits for Godzilla to get near the overheating point. Destoroyah also follows a trend in many of the Heisei films of making near direct reference to Western films. His smaller forms is first encountered in an industrial building, lit by blue lights, as marines enter carrying machine guns attached to hydraulic arms and also employing the use of flame-throwers. The smaller Destoroyahs even have a second retractable jaw inside their mouths. The influence of James Cameron is strongly felt in these scenes. Naturally, like the Indiana Jones riff in Vs Mothra, this isn’t pulled off with quite the same panache, but it’s charming all the same. His final form is pure demonic, if very over designed, brilliance. It reminds me of monsters in animes and fantasy games where the person designing the creature wasn’t sure when to stop adding details and extra things. It’s kind of brilliant and awful at the same time.
The film isn’t without it’s issues, but no Godzilla film really is. Well, no film is really. The finale had to be redited somewhat to allow Godzilla centre stage for his eventual death. This leads to a few awkward edits at that transnational point. For example, at one point Godzilla has been jumped on by a group of smaller Destoroyahs. He falls to the ground and then we get a close up of him standing back up as if nothing had happened. If they had just vanished to reform then there really should have been a shot to acknowledge that this had happened. The character of Kenichi starts off as a fairly interesting character, he’s a genius but would rather work on something other than Godzilla. The moment he finds out Miki is involved he leaps at the chance to help. This is never brought up again and there is no pay off. He also becomes a random idea generator in the main JSDF headquarters, which look a lot like a villain’s lair from Power Rangers now.
The film harks back to the original Gojira multiple times, including a number of actors from previous films in the cast also. When you see a flashback to Gojira a nice effort has been made to remaster the footage used so the switch isn’t so jarring. This was before the Criterion and BFI remastered editions were released so, other than the cropped image, it was the best looking Gojira had ever been at this point. The fact they tried to tie everything together, right back to the Oxygen Destroyer and the characters of the original film, helps lend a greater sense of finality to the film. The original Godzilla theme is used to score much of the action, as are variations on other musical themes. As usual, Akira Ifukube has knocked it out of the park, especially in the film’s closing moments.
Godzilla Vs Destoroyah is a great finale to the Heisei era and, pretty much, an essential Godzilla film. Whilst Gojira stands as being the only Godzilla film that can be called genuine cinematic art, Vs Destoroyah does all it can to be a satisfying, entertaining and dramatic addition to the series that isn’t short changing any viewers. The films of the Heisei series may not be the prettiest films in the world but they all have at least some merit. This is one of the top films of this era and manages to be the most well constructed on a narrative level of the vs films of the Heisei era. This film was made to end the Japanese Godzilla films at a high point before the transition to the Sony produced American Godzilla trilogy could begin. Only one film in that proposed trilogy was ever made. Tomorrow I tell you all exactly why that was. As if you didn’t know already. Oh man.