Friday, May 9, 2014

GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH (1995): 30 Days of Godzilla

DAY 23


Today, for the first time since 1954, Godzilla dies. Get out your tissues, G-fans, this one's a tearjerker. Not only does Godzilla vs. Destoroyah bring the Heisei series to an close with the destruction of Godzilla, but Godzilla's fate is directly linked to that of the original Godzilla in 1954, bringing the franchise full circle.

In Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Godzilla is having a melt down. Literally. The nuclear reactor that is his heart is finally melting down, and if the JSDF doesn't intervene, Godzilla will self-denote and destroy Japan. Ironically, for all the years spent trying to destroy Godzilla, it's Godzilla's own natural death that will threaten the world most of all.

He's a hunka hunka burning love
To make matters worse, a powerful new monster has arisen with a disturbing link to Godzilla's past. In the 1954 film Gojira, in which Godzilla made his first appearance, the only thing that could destroy him was Dr. Serizawa's Oxygen Destroyer: a weapon of mass-destruction that could reduce biological creatures to bones within seconds. Fearing the Oxygen destroyer would start a new arms race, Dr. Serizawa sacrificed his life to uses the Oxygen Destroyer on the original Godzilla, killing both himself and the King of the Monsters in the process. In 1995's Godzilla vs. Destroyah, we learn that the use of the original Oxygen Destroyer in the sea awakened and mutated a species of microscopic crustaceans. These creatures continue to mutate and grow, aggregating into the terrifying shape-shifting monster known as DESTOROYAH which is capable of delivering a powerful energy blast equivalent to that of the Oxygen Destroyer.

The devil came down to Tokyo
Facing the threat of a Godzilla bomb, the human cast -- including psychic Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka), news reporter Yukari Yamane (Yôko Ishino) and science-genius Kenichi Yamane (Yasufumi Hayashi) the latter of which whom are the adopted descendants of Dr. Yamane from the original Gojira -- attempt to perfect a new freezing technology to contain Godzilla's imminent melt down. Meanwhile, Destoroyah makes several attacks on Japan in various forms. With the help of Godzilla Jr., the former Little Godzilla who has now mutated and grown into a 40 meter tall spitting image of his adopted pop, as well as some interventon from the JSDF's new Super X3 aircraft, Godzilla takes on Destoroyah in a series of brutal and heart-wrenching battles.

He has his father's eyes.
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah may be a little too full of lazy sci-fi / fantasy science for my liking, but it is definitely one of the best Godzilla films of the Heisei series, and without a doubt one of the most heart-felt. Tasked with ending the Heisei series with Godzilla's death, director Takao Okawara and classic Godzilla composer Akira Ifukube (scoring his final Godzilla film before his death) handle the monster fights and the final bow of this particular Godzilla with a real sense of respect for the character. There is an almost beautiful and rhapsodic quality to Godzilla's final scenes. Destoroyah murders Godzilla Jr. before Godzilla's eyes, and after mourning the loss of Godzilla Jr., Godzilla launches into an all-out attack on Destoroyah. Destoroyah is defeated, but not without a price. Godzilla's internal nuclear heart goes critical while the JSDF bombards him with freezing agents to contain the blast. Then, Godzilla returns to the blazing nuclear inferno that spawned him in a spectacular and sombre final goodbye.

Yes, Godzilla movies are, at their heart, silly fun. Yet, by 1995 Godzilla had become an international pop culture icon. Beloved by fans for 41 years, Godzilla may have gone away from time to time, but he had only died on screen once way back in 1954. The death of Godzilla in 1995, from a pop-culture perspective, was a very big deal. It would be like the death of Mickey Mouse in America: he's not real, but generations of people have a strong and personal attachment to him nonetheless. For many kids, Godzilla was a hero. But as the final scenes of Godzilla vs. Destoroyah suggest, heroes never truly die. They just move on. In this case, Godzilla Jr. is revived by the radiation and mutates into an adult Godzilla for a new generation.

Godzilla went to Hong Kong and came back complaining of a
 burning sensation. Should have used protection.
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah both manages to capture the majesty and the terror that Godzilla had represented for four decades. If you're a monster movie fan, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah definitely hits a bitter-sweet pleasure center despite some of its technical and narrative imperfections. It's an exciting and, at times, somber love-letter and fond farewell to one of Japan's most iconic movie monsters.


If the intention was to take a break from making Godzilla movies for a while, it didn't last long. Shortly after Toho had laid Godzilla's bones to rest, German action director Roland Emmerich and American producer Dean Devlin dug up Godzilla's bones and pissed in his eye sockets. That's right, in 1998 Sony/TriStar released an American take on Godzilla that is so reviled by fans it's better known as GINO (Godzilla In Name Only). 

For the next chapter in 30 Days of Godzilla we begrudgingly revisit the grossly hyped, shamelessly merchandised, and aggressively advertised flop of 1998: Roland Emmerich's GODZILLA.

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