Pre-Ramble Trivia Ramble: This film was directed by Shusuke Kaneko, who also directed the Heisei Gamera Trilogy. From what I understand, he went through a few script ideas before settling on a film that would have Godzilla face off against Baragon, Varan, and the classic Godzilla monster, Anguirus. All three of these monsters are super cool, yet none of them are super powerful. If the battle in this film between Baragon and Godzilla is any indication, I can imagine that the original script would have been about three underdog monsters going up against an unstoppable force. However, Toho thought that these three monsters were not popular enough to draw in the crowds, so Varan and Anguirus were replaced with Mothra and Ghidorah. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense to do, as those two have a lot of name recognition and corporate movies exist to draw in a crowd to make money. On the other hand though, tons of people (including me) absolutely love this film’s depiction of Baragon and I can’t help but wonder if this film would have done an equal amount of justice to Varan and Anguirus. As disappointed as I am to not see those two, I did find it kind of nice that this film connected Ghidorah to the mystical dragon Orochi, seeing as how Orochi was a pretty big inspiration for Ghidorah’s design way back in the beginning. So that’s a pretty nice touch that I appreciate.
I love this movie so, so much. I keep on wanting to start writing this in a different way, but I can’t, so I’m just gonna start with that and just list all of the ways this movie delights me to no end.
Usually I tend to gloss over the plots of these films, because while I don’t always think they’re awful, so many of them just aren’t all that amazing that I feel too compelled to talk about them. This movie though, I love this story. One of the biggest reasons is, while most Godzilla movies are pretty heavily based in science fiction, this one has legends and mysticism driving it and it’s a wonderful, refreshing change of pace. In this movie, Godzilla is still a giant, radioactive beast, but with the exception of a couple of lines here or there, that’s not really focused on too much. Instead, everything is focused on why Godzilla has come back to Japan after almost fifty years. You see, Godzilla is straight up haunted by, tormented by, and embodying the souls of soldiers who died during WWII and he’s come back to punish Japan.
As an aside. Like Godzilla ‘54 that came before and Shin Godzilla that came after, this is a film with pretty strong social commentary. Personally, I’m don’t feel knowledgeable enough in history and such to really be able to talk about this commentary in any sophisticated manner, but it’s definitely there. That said, for better or worse, the concepts are handled much more lightly than in those other two films, so while still serious, it’s not as dark as those other two films are.
What ends up happening is, Japan has three legendary, guardian monsters in the form of Baragon, Mothra, and Ghidorah. These monsters were originally slayed many generations ago in history, but their spirits were trapped in stone so that if Japan ever needed protection, they’d be there and a giant, spirit tormented Godzilla is definitely quite the threat. Lots of stuff happens, there are monster fights, I can’t do this plot justice, and I wish I could, cause like I said, I love this story.
I absolutely love the three main characters in this movie as well. The majority of this story is told following around a reporter named Yuri, who happens to work for a junk documentary production company. You know those ancient alien, ghost story, illuminati conspiracy TV shows that have ruined channels once educational channels? Think stuff like that. Anyhow, she practically stumbles head first into the story of Japan’s three legendary guardians after Baragon is awakened and with the help of her friend and colleague, Takeda, she goes about trying to unravel this mystical mystery (random etymology question that just came up, mystery and mystical both start with the word “myst,” I wonder if they’re related). Yuri is an awesome character, because she’s not only driven to create a “legitimate” documentary, she’s willing to risk life and safety to do it. There is absolutely no stopping this woman, from seeing Godzilla in person, to getting injured and almost killed, to being arrested by the military. She has a story to chase and she’s gonna catch it! I freaking love Takeda because even though he clearly believes in mysticism and legends a bit too much to be healthy, like Yuri is driven to get to a good story he’s driven to figure out what’s really going on. Mild spoiler, while he chickens out at the end of the second act, he redeems himself at the end of the third act, and while that redemption isn’t a huge focus of the plot, that’s a pretty decent story arch actually for a Godzilla film. Yuri’s father is the third major character in this film, a commander for the Japanese Defense Force, and I just gotta say I gotta love this guy for being willing to take risks and get his own hands dirty to do what needs to be done. This film really does have some of the better characters I’ve seen for a Godzilla film and they do the story justice.
Tonally, this movie works in a really interesting way. On the one hand, it’s pretty colorful. It’s full of colorful characters, the battle scenes have some really romping choreography, a lot of the special effects are bright and dynamic and border on the cartoonish in the right kind of way. On the other hand, it’s also pretty dark. The underlying metaphor, while not handled too heavily, is heavy, Godzilla is an absolute killing machine, there’s tons of destruction, and while we’re not shown deaths directly, there’s a lot of people getting killed in this movie and unlike some Godzilla films (and many modern super hero films), they’re not implied deaths. They’re deaths. Yet somehow those two very different yet very present tones don’t conflict each other, instead they strike a pretty nice balance. I think one of the few times I think things weren’t handled well is that towards the beginning of the film we see Godzilla destroy a small research submarine that’s investigating a nuclear submarine he destroyed earlier and it happens very abruptly and no else in the scene acknowledges it, let alone addresses it. I mean, a multi-million dollar machine is destroyed and its pilots are killed and no one bothers to care? Really? Kind of dumb.
I gotta talk about the special effects. When people ask me about Kaiju films I recommend, this one is always in my top five list because they’re very well done. First of all, the practical effects are great, from explosions (oh how I love the explosions in this movie, they’re so satisfying to see and hear) to landslides to storms to buildings collapsing (they’re almost as satisfying as the explosions), they all just look wonderful. Yeah, it’s obvious that the creators are working with scale models, it’s always obvious, but they’re so well done that it’s impossible to not admire them. Man. Those explosions. Love them. The suitmation is a slight mixed bag for me. Godzilla looks great, absolutely terrifying and so well detailed, and the actor just brings him to life as a giant, relentless psychopath. Baragon equally, is quite the treat. He looks good, he’s the perfect mix between menacing and cute (as weird as that might sound) and he’s equally full of personality. Mothra and Ghidorah on the other hand, they stand out as looking a bit more cartoonish. Mothra has these really bright colors this time around and Ghidorah’s face sculpt has odd proportions and both of these two don’t seem as realistic as Godzilla or Baragon. Don’t get me wrong, they both still look great, but they both look like they were built with a different movie in mind. The ray effects and the particle effects in the movie are awesome. From Godzilla’s breath to Ghidorah’s gravity beams to Mothra’s mystic dust, they’re all bright and colorful but also seemingly so powerful and dangerous. Great work. Great work all around. What’s really amazing is that the special effects team did a wonderful job of blending practical effects and computer effects together to the point that while they stand out from each other still, they compliment each other really well. My only complaint is that the CGI models still aren’t the best, but they’re still quite the step up from the previous two films.
The battles in this film are a real treat. By far the best one is the second act encounter between Godzilla and Baragon. It’s well choreographed, wonderfully paced, and so dynamic. The size disparity between the two monsters is illustrated really well and Baragon is such the underdog but so full of gumption, you can’t help but to root for him. It’s by far my favorite battle in this whole film and I’d gladly watch this movie just for that scene alone. When Godzilla faces off against the jets? Love it. It’s the perfect length, neither too long nor too short, and it does a great job of showing that maybe, just maybe, the Japanese Military have found themselves in over their heads. The fiery finale is a wonderful touch too. The final battle between Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidorah, and the Japanese Defense Force is also quite the treat. It’s well paced, well animated, and while I don’t think it’s as well choreographed as the battle with Baragon, it’s still very well done. It also has enough twists and change ups to keep the viewer engaged. Action wise, this is just a very exciting movie to watch.
This is, and probably will always be, one of my all time favorite Godzilla films. It’s a great change of pace, story wise, has wonderful characters, and I’m delighted by the special effects every time I watch this film. I give it a 5/5. It has some flaws, but they’re so minor and the overall package is so great, this movie is an easy one for me to recommend to anyone who’s curious about Godzilla films.