Pre-Ramble Ramble: As I said in Pubski, I’ve been putting off reviewing this film because I just don’t really like watching it anymore. It’s not because it’s a bad movie, because it isn’t, but it also isn’t a great movie, and that’s where the problem lies. If you ever go to more Godzilla focused places on the internet, this movie comes up in discussion a lot. To make a long story short, a lot of fans absolutely fawn over this particular title, often speaking of it like its the Magnum Opus of the Godzilla franchise. I think somewhere along the line, there evolved a counter reaction to this viewpoint, because there are people out there who feel like it’s absolutely awful and will nitpick it to no end. The two sides are so extreme in their views that when I watch this film now, after reading opinion after opinion on it, I find myself flipping back and forth between enjoying it and hating it over and over in a single viewing. It’s an uncomfortable emotional whiplash. I promised myself I’d watch it again this time around, to try to see it with an open mind, and honestly, I really don’t get the polarization. It’s very much a middle of the road film for me and I can’t help but think maybe all this back and forth over it is unnecessary. I do know though, that I don’t really know how to talk about it, so I guess I’m just gonna ramble on and see where things go.
Plotwise, I kind of like this movie. There was a nuclear accident and Godzilla is no longer able to maintain his radiation levels and is starting to burn up, think of it like a fever except of instead of just a spike in body temperature, there’s also an accompanying spike of radiation levels to go along with it. The clock is ticking because if Godzilla isn’t able to get things under control, he’s gonna pop and there’s a good chance he’s gonna take the whole world with him. That part strikes me as a bit ridiculously high stakes, but I’ll talk more about that in a bit. So G-Force and company gotta figure out a way to stop all of this from happening and there’s a guy experimenting with micro-oxygen and everyone figures, “Hey, the Oxygen Destroyer stopped the original Godzilla back in ‘54, we’ll give that a shot again.” Weird stuff happens, a bunch of Precambrian crustaceans were mutated by the original Oxygen Destroyer, and that’s how we get a super weird but kind of cool monster, Destroyah. So then G-Force decides that “Hey, since we got this guy, we don’t need to remake the OG Oxygen Destroyer, so let’s use Godzilla Junior (cause that’s his name now) as a lure to make these other two duke it out.” Stuff happens. Godzilla Junior dies. Destroyah dies. Godzilla dies. We’re treated to a closing shot of Godzilla Junior coming back to life in a triumphant manner because sci-fi, cue the credits with a fan service montage of clips from previous films. Close this chapter of the Godzilla franchise and pass the baton on to Tri-Star for their ‘98 film.
It’s an okay story. It’s also a fan servicey story because it throws back to previous films, namely the original ‘54, by bringing back elements such as the Oxygen Destroyer (man, I’m typing that way too much) as well as previous characters such as Momoko Kochi as Emiko Yamane from Godzilla ‘54 (who is sadly under utilized in this film) and includes her relatives as central characters. We have some clips from the original film sprinkled in towards the beginning, the Super X makes a come back, on and on we go. There’s parts of the script I don’t like though. I’m not a fan of Kenkichi Yamane at all, because through the whole film he comes off as very cold and impertinent. Then there are statements like “If Godzilla does explode, it will be a force greater than all of the atomic weapons on earth and will set our atmosphere on fire” and I can’t help but think that A) that’s a bit over the top, even for a Godzilla film and B) that’s a really bold speculation to make without showing us even a hint of data to back it up. Overall though, it’s not that bad of a script.
Speaking of not that bad, there are a few sub-par special effects decisions in this film. I don’t know if they exist because the creators were pressed for time or budget or talent or what, but they’re there. Know how I said there are a lot of haters who like to nitpick this film? This is something that is brought up repeatedly and while there are some flubs here and there, these flaws really and honestly don’t detract from the film that much. There’s some pretty good special effects too though. I for one think they did a delightful job with Burning Godzilla’s suit and the pyrotechnics are a blast (pun!). The Super X III model struck me as a bit on the cheap and dull end, but I have that complaint about every version of Super X.
If we’re gonna talk special effects and designs, I just gotta talk about Destroyah. He has multiple iterations in this film and as static pieces, every design looks great. He looks menacing, imposing, dangerous, and just downright evil. In action though, every version falls short in their own way. The mini swarms of Destroyah are poorly animated, his second form looks loose and floppy, and his third and final form, while grand and imposing, is too big and clunky to properly animate through suitmation. We only get to see his third and final form walking once, briefly, for less than five seconds. Otherwise, he’s standing still or hanging from wire. It kind of reminds me of the first few films from the Showa Era with King Ghidorah, where the suit is big and ambitious and impressive, but maybe too ambitious, because the special effects team struggle to make it work. Overall though, he’s a fun design, and while he’s not one of my favorite Kaiju, I can see why people like him.
Pacing wise, the film is a bit of an odd mix. On the one hand, we have high stakes and a limited time frame to work with, as Godzilla is a metaphorical ticking time bomb who, if and when he pops, he’s taking the whole world with him. On the other hand though, while there is a sense of urgency to keep this disaster from happening, at least to me, it feels very muted. The film just kind of unwinds at an even pace, even the third act battle. At no time did I ever feel like time was running out, even though there were graphs and clocks and such literally illustrating “OH NO! TIME IS RUNNING OUT!” Maybe that’s just me though.
Speaking of the third act battle, eh, it’s there. It wasn’t awful, but it doesn’t blow me away either. Maybe I’ve seen the film one too many times. I will say though, that I genuinely enjoyed watching the Japanese Military take on Godzilla and for once, be an effective force. Then again, Godzilla was obviously sick and in distress, so it also came across kind of one sided.
I dunno. I just gotta say, it’s not amazing guys, it really isn’t, but neither is it awful. I’m gonna give it a 3/5, because it’s more good than it is bad. I’d really only recommend you see it though if your goal is to see all of the Heisei era of films, see one of the more “important” films in the franchise, or see a flawed yet unique and interesting enemy Kaiju in the form of Destroyah. Otherwise, you can skip it and you’re not missing much.
It is a noticeable small step up from Space Godzilla though.