Monday, August 01, 2011

Movie Review: Godzilla vs Destroyah (1995)

Godzilla, with a nuclear reactor in place of his heart, is experiencing a literal meltdown. At the same time, a creature that remained untouched for millennia is evolving rapidly thanks to the results of the Oxygen Destroyer of the original Godzilla movie. The kaiju spawn of this creature are the latest beings to terrorize Tokyo, and what's worse is that they might be the only thing standing between the Earth, and devastation at the hands of the largest nuclear explosive known to man: the King of Monsters himself.

Godzilla vs Destoroyah is unique in a lot of ways. First off, while the standard approach to the Godzilla movies for years has been reboot, vaguely related semi-sequel, reboot, reboot, this film takes into accout as much Godzilla continuity as possible. Also, it's unique in that, while the title villain has a relatively normal name (in the film he's referred to as first "Oxygen Destroyer" and then simply "Destroyer"), the title is particularly not so. It's hard to tell, was this a translational error? A copyright issue?

This film takes place directly after the events of Godzilla vs Spacegodzilla and the rest of the Heisei series, all of which are essential viewing for this film. If you haven't seen many Heisei era Godzilla movies, you may be at a loss when it comes to psychic girls (who apparently debuted as far back as Godzilla vs Biollante) who already know "Little One" (whom they start referring to as "Junior" due to his newfound resemblance to his older cousin), the Heisei version of Minilla. The Island they lived on (again, my Shōwa-centric self was confused at the name "Birth Island" rather than "Monster Island") was destroyed in a nuclear explosion, which was a direct cause of the changes in both Godzilla and his son in this film.

Additionally, this film is loaded with references to the first film. Black and white flashback scenes and dialogue references abound. The character I believe is supposed to the main character is the grandson of Dr. Yamane of the first film, whose work his family considers taboo to utilize due to its destructive capabilities. The latest scientist, whose name Wikipedia does not deem important, has expanded upon Dr. Yamane's research. He is researching the site of the original Godzilla's death- yep, that's how they manage to get all the Godzilla movies into one canon- from which the second premise of the film (the enemy) arises.

But let's get on to Godzilla himself. His very appearance screams "Buy the new toy!" I can't lie- I saw Godzilla, glowing red, arising from the ocean, and I wanted that toy. I can imagine how desperate I would have been had I seen this movie in the late 90s, when giant Power Ranger and Godzilla toys filled the isles of the department stores. But this is where it gets weird. Plot exposition wishes us to know that Godzilla does not have a conventional heart- he has a nuclear reactor. What the hell? Is he a fucking robot? But anyway, thanks to the explosion under Birth Island, Godzilla is now overheating. Somehow, this is powerful enough to destroy the world. Somehow, they pull this all off without technobabble (or at least... *looks at micro-oxygen* a very minimum of technobabble). What does this mean? It means that the science is just realistic enough to leave a guy like me scratching his head, wondering if they used a flute or a Warp Star to jump to their conclusions.

The dialogue is... well, it's a Godzilla movie. Somebody, either a translator or Kazuki Omori, looked at the screenplay and said "Nobody's going to be listening to the dialogue! It's a fucking Godzilla movie for Christ's sake!" And that's how they made the film. The dialogue runs the gammut from unbelievable to uninspired, to the required cheesy. Very few lines are delivered with any emotion whatsoever, and I'm left hoping that the original film in Japanese wasn't quite that bad. There are one or two lines delivered with some emotion- note that I didn't say "delivered well". The first example: "Ah, it's a monster!" Yes, the required cheesiness and over-the-top fear: this truly is a daikaiju genre film. Lines describing a crustaceous creature as "reptile-like" (not reptilian, reptile-like) are perfect examples of the dialogue here.

I believe the mentioned the plot exposition once before, but let me show you some more. That's right, show, don't tell. Less is more. When Godzilla is "frozen for six hours", and then the next scene starts off with "It's been several hours now", that's just poor writing. And that can't be written off as a translation error, either, unless we're translating like how Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger was "translated" into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which I'm not writing off as a possibility.

But let's face it: the writer was right. You're not watching this film for the humans. You're watching it for the monsters. So let's see how those scenes panned out.

The Destroyer first appears as a microscopic creature that seems to have inherited the powers of the Oxygen Destroyer. Confused? Me too, but they're not going to explain it. You do get to see it in action, though. Next time we see them, we've got these three to four meter tall giant crustacean xenomorphs (from the Alien series, or at least, related). You get a cool scene that could be from any military zombie movie, except with monsters, but herein lies the flaw.

Um, background music? Ever heard of it? That's the sounds that play when absolutely nothing is going on, so the audience remembers the movie's still playing. For some reason, there's only any music playing when the monsters are on the sceen. No ominous, "where is it and what's going to happen" music. No, there's just the "badass monster is attacking music". True to Godzilla fame (especially one that nods so graciously to the original) the music is pretty decent- when it plays. It's nothing to write home about, but there is a huge contrast between the silent human scenes and the musical monster scenes.

The fights themselves, though, are pretty badass. You've got man with flamethrower versus little monster. You've got strangely named yet continuity fitting SX-III versus Godzilla (that's right, the military does a surprisingly good job in this one). These simply aren't badass enough, though.

That's right, it's Power Ranger time. Rita Re- I mean, some strange unexplained genetic occurance- caused all of the little Destroyers to fuse into a big one. Ever see an old-school flying monster that should have had to flap its wings, but just glided instead? That's the flying form of Destroyer- or Destoroyah. What? Flying form? That's right, this guy's like a freakin' Transformer. His standing form and flying one don't look anything alike, until he reaches his third stage.

Anyway, now it's epic fight time. No, it's not badass Nuclear Godzilla versus Destoroyah. Not yet. It's the son's turn. He's badass, too, but it's not too uneven of a fight. Picture using nuclear breath as a lightsaber, and Godzilla Junior is Obi-Wan Kenobi. That kind of badass. I'm not going to give a play by play of the rest of the fight, but suffice it to say it's a pretty fair fight, and nobody's fighting fair. Godzilla bleeds from a huge gash in his shoulder, Destoroyah coughs up gouts of blood, it's ON. The humans are keeping track of Godzilla's condition on a chart, and by his shoulder there's an announcement of "CASUALTIES". Casualties? Godzilla bled, and millions of people cried out in fear and were suddenly silenced?

The ending scene, which I really intend not to spoil, is probably one of the best scenes in all of Godzilla. If you know what I mean, you probably know there were radio announcements, the whole nine yards- three years before a smaller version of Godzilla's most famous adversary (not Ghidorah) went through the same thing (I'm trying to be vague, I refuse to spoil this scene). There's an odd moment or two, but it's really effective, leading to another flashback of the '54 Godzilla, complete with epic classic music.

If you're a Godzilla fan, you'll love this movie. If you've never picked up a Godzilla film before, this movie may be too continuity-laden to really follow, more in the vein of a TV to movie adaptation than a truly complete sequel. Godzilla vs Destoroyah is a true to form Godzilla flick, but it's also unique. Definitely worth a watch.

2 comments:

animewookie said...

OMG!!! Love Godzilla! Great review...oh so much fun ;) TY

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