Film Review: Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)

Release Date: December 10th, 1994 (Japan)
Directed by: Kensho Yamashita
Written by: Hiroshi Kashiwabara
Music by: Takayuki Hattori
Cast: Megumi Odaka, Jun Hashizume, Zenkichi Yoneyama, Akira Emoto, Towako Yoshikawa, Kenji Sahara

Toho Co. Ltd., 108 Minutes

Review:

“Godzilla! I still have something to settle with you!” – Lt. Kiyoshi Sato

This was the second to last of the Heisei era Godzilla films and while they tried to up the ante and get really creative, it falls just short of the film before it: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II.

The story picks up the plot threads about Godzilla Junior and the psychic chick from the previous movie. However, it mainly focuses on the arrival of SpaceGodzilla, who basically looks like a larger Godzilla with giant crystals protruding from its body. The creature’s origin isn’t clear in the film but it’s been theorized that he was born from Godzilla’s cells that ended up in the cosmos by either Mothra or Biollante’s spores. It’s believed that the cells were mixed with black hole radiation.

Anyway, the film also features the return of Moguera to the big screen. While this giant robot was never used in a Godzilla film before, it first appeared in Toho’s 1957 film The Mysterians. Moguera had then been used in other Godzilla related media. In the US, the giant robot is probably most recognized as an early boss in the original Nintendo Godzilla game.

In this film, Moguera, now spelled M.O.G.U.E.R.A. is created from the left over tech and armor that was salvaged from Mechagodzilla after its defeat in the previous movie. Since Mechagodzilla was created from left over parts of Mecha-King Ghidorah, it ties all these films together. And frankly, I like that Toho was really trying to keep a tight continuity in this era unlike the Millennium era that followed a few years later.

For the most part, the movie is engaging and enjoyable and it fits well within this series. My only real complaint about it is that the effects feel like they’re a step down from the previous few films. Maybe it’s due to the weird environment changes, like seeing the kaiju battle in a city populated with giant crystals and smoke, as opposed to detailed metropolitan miniatures but it does feel like SpaceGodzilla was created just to find a way to cut the budget in regards to effects.

Also, the Godzilla Junior suit is hokey as hell after it looked really good in the previous chapter.

In the end, though, I really like the baddie and seeing Moguera officially enter Godzilla cinematic canon was cool. But really, this is just more of the same when compared to the rest of the Heisei pictures.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Godzilla films from the Heisei era.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)

Also known as: Godzilla vs. Super-Mechagodzilla (alternative English title)
Release Date: December 11th, 1993 (Japan)
Directed by: Takao Okawara
Written by: Wataru Mimura
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Masahiro Takashima, Ryoko Sano, Megumi Odaka, Yusuke Kawazu, Daijiro Harada, Kenji Sahara

Toho Co. Ltd., 108 Minutes

Review:

“The year is 1992 A.D… In order to try to counter the threat posed to the planet’s survival by Godzilla, Japan’s Counter-G Bureau recruited the most brilliant scientific brains in the world to build a fighting machine. The first machine was called Garuda, but its fighting capabilities were limited. A far more powerful machine was required. They salvaged a robot from the future, Mecha-King Ghidorah, in order to study its advanced technology. Its components were used to build a weapon to fight Godzilla. They called it Mechagodzilla.” – Narrator

I never disliked the Heisei era of Godzilla, although it’s never really hit the mark for me like the Showa stuff has. Although, revisiting these movies has been a fun experience and I think that their legacy has grown on me more over the years, as this film and the ones before it, were really exciting and really took this often times hokey franchise and made them edgier and darker without sacrificing the soul of the series.

These movies still feel like Godzilla movies in the best way but they feel a bit more grown up in how they don’t present the title character as a friendly monster looking out for Japan. They tap more into the sentiment of the original 1954 picture and keep him as a threat, even though he isn’t as bad as some of the more dangerous and deadly Heisei era kaiju.

In this tale, we see the Japanese government use the future tech left over from the defeated Mecha-King Ghidorah to create their own super powered, heavily armored defense kaiju: Mechagodzilla. I liked this approach to this era’s creation of the iconic monster and that it was cooler than just having Mechagodzilla being the superweapon of a hostile alien race. I also like that Kenji Sahara, a Toho legend, got to be in the cockpit of the mecha-kaiju.

This chapter in the Heisei universe also gives us its version of Rodan. I really love Rodan in this and not just because he’s one of my favorite monsters but because they make him so much more badass and dangerous. It also adds in an extra element, as this isn’t simply a Godzilla versus Mechahgodzilla film. It has more layers than that and the monsters and their own stories are well-balanced and come together wonderfully.

That being said, I actually got mad at how brutal Rodan’s defeat was. But it was effective in showing how powerful and dangerous that this version of Mechagodzilla is before the final showdown. And from the Mechagodzilla vs. Rodan fight to the Mechagodzilla vs. Godzilla finale, the last half hour or so of this movie was superb and featured some of the best kaiju footage of the entire film series.

We also get the introduction of Godzilla Junior, here, which thankfully, wasn’t a modernization of the Minya character. Instead, this monster was human-sized and had the general look of Godzilla, as opposed to resembling the Pillsbury Doughboy after a bad kitchen fire. Godzilla Junior would go on to be more important to the film series, as it rolled out its final two movies after this one.

All in all, this is a pretty awesome Godzilla flick with everything you’d probably want from one. Great action, decent acting, great effects for its time and it still has that Toho magic.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Godzilla films from the Heisei era.

Book Review: ‘500 Godzilla Facts’ by James Egan

Well, this small book is just a collection of facts. So the title isn’t misleading or anything but this is basically just a long list organized into a book format with a section for each film and an area for general facts that don’t specifically fit with one movie.

I guess this is informative for those who might not know anything about Godzilla but this is mostly common knowledge stuff that avid fans will already know.

Additionally, this is written like it was ripped from a middle schooler’s notebook. Plus, some “facts” are more like opinions of the author or what he deems as the opinion of the consensus.

It’s free on Kindle Unlimited, so I guess I can’t really bitch about the investment. Although, I did opt out to buy a physical copy because it was so cheap and I have a nice kaiju/tokusatsu book library.

I guess I can’t really say it was a big waste of time either, as I read the thing in about a half hour.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other books about the Godzilla franchise, many of which I reviewed with higher praise than this one.

Film Review: Godzilla (1998)

Release Date: May 18th, 1998 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Based on: Godzilla by Toho
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Michael Lerner, Harry Shearer, Doug Savant, Vicki Lewis, Richard Gant, Nancy Cartwright, Frank Welker (voice)

Centropolis Film Productions, Fried Films, Independent Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Toho Co. Ltd., 139 Minutes

Review:

“What the hell’s the matter with you people? You’ve caused more damage than that goddamn thing did!” – Mayor Ebert

Yes, Mayor Ebert… you’ve got a fucking point, as most of the actual destruction in this movie is committed by the moronic military and not the giant monster.

I’m not sure if that’s because Roland Emmerich wanted to paint the military and the government as incompetent assholes or because he’s just a shitty director that didn’t have the talent to replicate the success of Independence Day. But his first big mistake was making this story’s heroes the absolute antithesis of those from that much better movie.

Whatever the reason though, this movie is so fucking stupid that it’s painful to watch, which is why I have never actually sat down and watched this in its entirety in one sitting. Sure, I’ve seen the whole film in increments thanks to cable television but as a lifelong Godzilla fan, I had no urge to see this in the theater when it came out and all the footage and sequences I’ve seen over the years has only solidified my disdain for this big budget kaiju-sized abortion.

Many people have claimed that this isn’t a true Godzilla film and that it is the worst one ever made. Those people aren’t wrong, as I’d rather be stuck in a room for 24 hours being forced to watch Godzilla’s Revenge, over and over, than have to watch this film ever again.

It’s completely incompetent from top-to-bottom with brainless characters, impressively bad dialogue and a story that feels like it was freestyled from the mind of a child playing with kaiju toys in the bathtub.

There is no traditional three act structure and this is just a string of sequences where some of them feel like they don’t even fit within the same movie. It also gets so far away from the core of what Godzilla is that it truly isn’tGodzilla movie, it’s some sort of generic kaiju flick trying to borrow more from Jurassic Park than its own namesake.

Had this not been given the Godzilla name and branding, it may have been more palatable but there is nothing about this that can win over the fans they assumed they’d lure in just by using the name of the world’s most famous giant monster. While that may have been a run-on sentence, 1998’s Godzilla was a run-on movie.

About two-thirds of the way into the film they “kill” Godzilla, after destroying half of Manhattan. Then suddenly we’re sucked into a different movie where baby Godzillas are chasing the heroes idiots through Madison Square Garden like an army of velociraptors in a cheap attempt at trying to one-up the far superior Jurassic Park movies. Once the babies are killed, Godzilla miraculously rises from the ashes like, “Fuck you, hoes! Ain’t dead!” It’s a clusterfuck that shows that Roland Emmerich doesn’t have time for any sort of traditional narrative structure. And no, that’s not an artistic choice it’s just the incompetence of a moron that cares more about mass destruction than actually making cinematic art.

I haven’t even talked about the special effects yet, which are a mixed bag but mostly shit. Where practical effects are used, things actually look quite good but where the film employs CGI, it looks terrible even for 1998. Hell, this movie came out two years after Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day and it looks significantly cheaper than that film. This is really where big studios started to rely on CGI too much and it killed the immersion into the cinematic world onscreen. I never feel that way when watching Independence Day or Jurassic Park but here, it’s fucking distracting.

The action sequences with dozens of Apache helicopters flying through the canyon-like streets of New York City like swarms of insects just look cartoonish and buffonish. In fact, all these big action sequences between the military and Godzilla look more like a video game than a motion picture. Maybe modern HD makes it look worse than it did in 1998 but the digital flaws are really apparent and it looks like the studio cut corners in post-production or just rushed this out too soon.

Based off of the final product, Roland Emmerich could’ve just invented his own kaiju creature. But I guess less people would’ve gone to see that, so bastardizing something beloved was the easiest route to go when you can’t actually rely on talent.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Roland Emmerich schlock that cost way too much to make.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)

Also known as: Godzilla vs. Megaguirus: The G Annihilation Strategy (full title)
Release Date: November 3rd, 2000 (Tokyo International Film Festival)
Directed by: Masaaki Tezuka
Written by: Wataru Mimura, Hiroshi Kashiwabara
Music by: Michiru Oshima
Cast: Misato Tanaka, Shosuke Tanihara, Yuriko Hoshi, Masatoh Eve, Toshiyuki Nagashima

Toho Co. Ltd., 105 Minutes, 88 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

The Millennium era of Godzilla was pretty weird, at least the first leg of it. This was a film that started out kind of strong but ended up shitting all over itself in the second half.

The movie’s first half has a very good horror vibe to it. In fact, at one point, the much smaller Megaguirus actually violently slaughters a young couple in an alleyway.

The film also features a good subplot with a young boy that comes in contact with a Megaguirus egg. This helps to setup the villainous kaiju monster but the plot with the boy is basically dropped after the first act, which I found to be pretty bizarre, as he was essentially a main character early on.

Now I liked the concept of the Megaguirus creature, as it is an insect that evolves and eventually goes from being a swarm of large killer bugs to a massive singular kaiju.

Sadly, the kaiju action is just kind of meh. While Megaguirus was a cool monster, I felt like he was way too one-dimensional after becoming a giant beast. He pretty much just had his big stinger and flew around in a real nonsensical way that didn’t even work for tokusatsu/kaiju physics.

The film also borrows heavily from the Ultraman series in how it has a specialized military squadron dedicated to fighting giant creatures. And like Ultraman, this squadron acts immature and very un-military-like. The whole thing is kind of confusing, as on one hand, this is an adult film with some actual violence and light gore. But then on the other hand, the plot is structured and presented like it’s supposed to appeal to a younger audience.

I also thought that the special effects are a mixed bag. I mostly liked the kaiju costumes. However, the miniatures looked pretty basic and paled in comparison to the superb work of Eiji Tsuburaya, almost a half century earlier.

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus isn’t a shitty kaiju film but it’s mostly forgettable and a discombobulated, confused film. It’s trying to be multiple things at once without realizing that some of those things exist in contrast to one another.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Millennium era Godzilla movies.

Film Review: Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle For Earth (1992)

Also known as: Godzilla vs. Mothra (alternative title)
Release Date: December 12th, 1992 (Japan)
Directed by: Takao Okawara
Written by: Kazuki Ōmori
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Tetsuya Bessho, Satomi Kobayashi, Takehiro Murata, Megumi Odaka, Akiji Kobayashi, Akira Takarada

Toho Co. Ltd., 102 Minutes

Review:

“There isn’t a job that is too tough for me, except, the one time I was married to a real stubborn woman.” – Takuya Fujita

I kind of forgot how much I enjoy this entry into the Heisei era of Godzilla.

It’s a pretty solid picture, all around, minus some cheesiness. But that cheesiness is mostly from the human actors, as the kaiju interactions and battles are some top notch stuff.

Also, since I hadn’t seen this one in quite awhile, I forgot that it’s actually Godzilla versus both monsters in the end.

While this is the first time that Godzilla and Mothra meet in the Heisei era, it is the first time that Battra has ever appeared. For those who might not know, Battra is essentially the Yang to Mothra’s Yin. He’s a darker and, at face value, an evil looking version of Mothra. The two monsters do battle throughout the film but by the end, Battra and Mothra decide that it would be better to combine their efforts to fight Godzilla, who in this continuity, is still a real threat and not the friendly, kid loving monster he became later in the Shōwa era pictures.

The rubber suits and animatronics in this chapter are amazing. While I find the previous film, Godzilla vs. Biollante, to be more impressive overall, this looks like a pristine and well crafted production, top to bottom. It’s certainly one of the best kaiju films of its era from a technical standpoint.

This also has one of my favorite final battles because the location looks unique, the monsters look great and the action itself is well choreographed.

If you’ve ever wanted to see a giant, neon Ferris wheel dropped on Godzilla, than this is the movie for you.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Heisei era Godzilla films, as well as Mothra vs. Godzilla from 1964.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

Also known as: Gojira vs. Biorante (original Japanese title), Godzilla 1990 (South Korea)
Release Date: December 16th, 1989 (Japan)
Directed by: Kazuki Ōmori
Written by: Kazuki Ōmori, Shinichirō Kobayashi
Music by: Koichi Sugiyama
Cast: Kunihiko Mitamura, Yoshiko Tanaka, Masanobu Takashima, Megumi Odaka, Toru Minegishi, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Yoshiko Kuga, Ryunosuke Kaneda, Kōji Takahashi

Toho Co. Ltd., 104 Minutes, 83 Minutes (VHS screener cut)

Review:

“Godzilla and Biollante aren’t monsters. It’s the unscrupulous scientists who create them that are monsters.” – Dr. Shiragami

This is the hardest of all Godzilla movies to track down if you didn’t actually buy the VHS, DVD or Blu-ray when they came out. It’s been out of print for years and if you want a copy, you’re going to pay an arm and a leg for it. Luckily, I had a hook up because I was too poor to buy this way back when it came out and as much as I love the movie, I’m not going to pay nearly $100 for a copy now.

Anyway, we never got a real sequel to Godzilla vs. Hedorah due to Toho hating it when it came out in 1971. However, this is a sort of spiritual sequel to it in that it pits Godzilla against another environmental threat… or in this case, a biological one.

After the lukewarm reception to The Return of Godzilla and the complete failure of the United States’ King Kong Lives, Toho was really cautious about rushing out another kaiju sequel. Although, the success of The Little Shop of Horrors remake got their attention and I’d have to assume that the plant monster designed for this film was somewhat inspired by the plant monster from that picture.

Although, Toho did hold a writing contest to see if fans could come up with a great Godzilla story worth telling. So I’m not sure how much of this came from fan input or from Toho’s writers trying to emulate The Little Shop of Horrors.

Needless to say, the studio was looking for a new kind of threat for Godzilla to fight and they wanted something fresh that was born out of science run amok. Where Godzilla was born out of man experimenting with atomic energy, Biollante was born out of man experimenting with biological engineering.

The end result is one of the coolest kaiju ever created, as well as one of the greatest threats Godzilla ever faced. Additionally, the monster, like Hedorah before her, had different stages of evolution throughout the movie. This would also go on to start a trend that saw Godzilla fight monsters that would evolve into more dangerous versions of themselves as movies progressed.

Godzilla vs. Biollante is one of my favorite films in the Heisei era and honestly, one of my favorite, overall. It just looks fantastic, I love the monsters and the effects and this boasts some of the best kaiju on kaiju violence in the franchise. Between the early fight where Godzilla fights Biollante in her flower form to the big, grand finale, everything in regards to the kaiju action is tremendous!

I also really like the story, I thought the actors were better than average for these sort of pictures and this movie has pretty solid cinematography for something from the tokusatsu genre.

Plus, this movie just has an epic feel to it that builds off of the spectacle of its predecessor in a great way.

This is one of the best looking and most interesting chapters in the long running franchise.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Heisei era Godzilla films, as well as Godzilla vs. Hedorah.

Film Review: Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)

Also known as: Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Monster Zero (alternative US titles), Battle of the Astros, Invasion of Planet X, The Great Monster War (alternative Yugoslavian titles)
Release Date: December 19th, 1965 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Takarada, Nick Adams, Kumi Mizuno, Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Keiko Sawai, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Yoshifumi Tajima

Toho Co. Ltd., 93 Minutes, 74 Minutes (re-issue)

Review:

“[about the victory over King Ghidorah, while Godzilla is outside dancing] A happy moment.” – Controller of Planet X

This is the last Godzilla film of the Shōwa era that I had left to review. While I didn’t watch the movies in order, I did save one of my favorites for last. But honestly, I like all these movies and don’t think there is a bad one in the bunch. Nope, not even All Monsters Attack a.k.a. Godzilla’s Revenge.

What I liked about this film is that it is a true follow up to its predecessor Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and also features the same lineup of monsters, minus Mothra. This also introduces the Xiliens from Planet X, who were (and still are) the best alien villains in Godzilla lore. In fact, they should’ve been regular antagonists throughout the Shōwa pictures but Toho decided to introduce new hostile aliens with almost every movie after this one. Although, I did like the ape and the cockroach aliens, somewhat. But leaving the Xiliens behind, after this film, was a mistake.

Anyway, the plot in this one is interesting, as it sees the Xiliens bring two Earth astronauts to their planet in an effort to get them to agree to let them borrow Godzilla and Rodan due to King Ghidorah being a major nuisance. It’s all a trap, however, as the aliens take control of Godzilla and Rodan and force them, along with Ghidorah, to attack Earth, leaving it defenseless. I guess King Kong, Mothra and Anguirus were taking naps on Monster Island.

Despite its hokiness, I really like the set designs and costumes in this chapter. Everything just looks really unique and seeing just one frame of this film lets avid Godzilla fans know which movie it is. Especially, in regards to any scenes involving Planet X or its people.

The special effects are great and consistent with the other films where Eiji Tsuburaya handled them.

All in all, this is just another really fun chapter in the franchise during its greatest run.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Shōwa era Godzilla movies.

 

Film Review: Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

Also known as: Mosura tai Gojira (original Japanese title), Godzilla Against Mothra (Japanese English title), Panik in Tokyo (Germany), Godzilla Fights the Giant Moth (Worldwide English title)
Release Date: April 29th, 1964 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Takarada, Yuriko Hoshi, The Peanuts, Hiroshi Koizumi, Yu Fujiki, Kenji Sahara, Jun Tazaki, Yoshifumi Tajima

Toho Co. Ltd., 89 Minutes

Review:

“I’m not as afraid of Godzilla as I am of the editor… he’s meaner.” – Reporter Jiro Nakamura

While not my favorite Godzilla movie of the Shōwa era, this one still holds a pretty special place in my heart, as it pits Godzilla against Mothra for the first time. Granted, they’d become solid allies after this movie, as Godzilla would evolve into a hero and Earth’s protector once King Ghidorah shows up in the picture following this one.

This is still a fun film that merges the two monsters into the same franchise, this being Godzilla’s fourth movie and Mothra’s second after 1961’s simply titled Mothra.

The story sees one of Mothra’s eggs get taken from Infant Island, the kaiju’s tropical Tiki-esque home, and put on display in Japan. Godzilla shows up, the egg hatches and we get some great kaiju action. In fact, the battles and the effects are some of my favorite in the series, so hats off, once again, to effects maestro Eiji Tsuburaya.

And while I’m mentioning Tsuburaya, his miniatures in this are some of the best he’s done. The vehicles looked and performed superbly.

The film also stars some of Toho’s regular actors from the tokusatsu genre, which I always consider a good thing despite familiar faces appearing multiple times throughout the franchise as different characters. In this one, we get Kenji Sahara, who I always enjoy, and Hiroshi Koizumi.

Mothra vs. Godzilla has a simple story but it works. This is a kaiju movie from the best kaiju studio from the best era in the kaiju genre. It brings together two of the most popular characters in film history and it is pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be while slightly exceeding those expectations.

This doesn’t have much of anything wrong with it and its just enjoyable through and through: a true tokusatsu classic.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Shōwa era Godzilla movies.

Book Review: ‘Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishirō Honda’ by Peter H. Brothers

Not all books on kaiju motion pictures are considered equal. There are some good and some bad. This one, specifically focusing on the work of Ishirō Honda, is in the upper echelon, however.

I really enjoyed this, as it is well researched, covers a lot more ground with a lot more detail than I thought possible and it still finds room to include a lot of great photos.

For those unaware, Honda is the director of the original Godzilla film, as well as many of its sequels. He would also go on to be the number one tokusatsu (Japanese sci-fi) director at Toho, who were the top studio for those style of films.

This book covers Honda’s life and the bulk of his filmmaking career, looking at his kaiju films, as well as other sci-fi and horror pictures he did.

The book’s title is in reference to the atomic age that birthed kaiju cinema, as well as the mushroom men that starred in one of his greatest and most bonkers films, Matango a.k.a. Attack of the Mushroom People.

If you’re into Honda’s work or even just the genre he was the godfather of, this is certainly a worthwhile read.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other books on Toho Co. Ltd., Godzilla and kaiju film in general.