Commentary: Godzilla vs Destoroyah

Hey guys, commentary Sunday here!  Let’s take a look at one of my first Godzilla reviews: Godzilla vs Destroyah!

Godzilla, with a nuclear reactor in place of his heart, is experiencing a melt-down- physically.  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.

A few wording choices I could have made a little better here.  I was trying to do something with the fact that when most people talk about experiencing a meltdown, they’re talking about a break down, but when I bring up the nuclear reaction, it comes more down to “physically?  Shouldn’t it be atomically?”  My bad.  Hey, look on the bright side; it gives me things to actually improve on throughout the years, despite being under the impression that my actual writing hasn’t changed in a decade.  Good to prove to yourself you can improve, right?

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?

I first learned about this from James Rolfe, and I had to bring it up, but I didn’t want to plagiarize Monster Madness.  I settled for a minor reference in this paragraph.  The reboots thing was through research- Monster Madness, Wikipedia, IMDb, whatever else I picked up.  I don’t know if I’ll disagree, but that’s what the “facts” told me.  More and more, though, I’m finding sequels.

This film takes place directly after the events of Godzilla vs Space Godzilla.  Having not seen this film, I was a little confused at first, wondering why psychic girls (whom apparently debuted as far back as Godzilla vs Biollante) were referring to already knowing “Little One”, also called “Junior”, who happens to be the Heisei series‘ 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.

“Whom” should have been “who” here.  Not sure why I made that mistake.  The continuity of this movie was very confusing and probably lowered my score here.  You’re probably expected to watch all of the Heisei series before watching this, but it’s hard to realize that when you’re looking at a list of thirty Godzilla films in no particular order.  This all just made it more confusing when, as kaiju films are liable to do, they changed “Little One”‘s name to “Junior” upon realizing that he was no longer so little.  And Junior isn’t actually Godzilla’s physical son, apparently- it was the aforementioned nuclear blast that transformed him into a full-fledged Godzilla.

Had I reviewed Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II prior to this, I would have been a lot less confused.  This is a good movie, but not a good choice for a newcomer.

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.

And yet, despite referencing the first film, they don’t use a terrible looking CGI Godzilla like Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla does.

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.

I still want that toy!  He looks exactly like he was created for a toy, doesn’t he?  That toy would probably be bigger than all the other Godzilla toys.  I believe I had a few, along with the Super Zeo Megazord that I used for all sorts of games.  I taught the Zeo Rangers how to role play and like it.  I also had some Iron Man figures of varying sorts, and whatever all of my Godzilla stuff was, it had Heisei era descriptions at a time when every movie I watched was Showa era.

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’m still not sure 100%, but I think this was largely to do with the translation.  Even in the 60s, when they didn’t expect any modicum of respect and just wanted to make shitty movies a la Ed Wood, they at least put some effort into the dialogue.  They apparently didn’t hear.  Or here.  And okay, I guess people might react to seeing Godzilla in the ocean a little more nonchalantly than you or I would, but even given that, “Ah, it’s a monster” is not a great line.

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 Himitsu Sentai Goranger was “translated” into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which I’m not writing off as a possibility.

I could talk about the movie now, and bad writing.  But that wouldn’t excuse the obvious mistake that I just made even more obvious by allowing Zemanta to make a link out of.  I’m referring, of course, to trying to sound smarter than I really was at a time when “word word prefixranger” was all that I really knew about Zyuranger.  How the fuck I even came across Goranger while making a search for this, I don’t know.  Why I didn’t watch Jew Wario’s video (which was fairly new at the time), I don’t know.  All I know is, this was incredibly stupid and ignorant and could have completely destroyed my credibility as a reviewer of Japanese things motion pictures.  Looking back two years later, this line alone makes me think the writer of this review was an imbecile and that I don’t want to finish the review.  Incredibly stupid mistake and that’s what I forget for doing partial research and trying to act like I know what I’m talking about.

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.

Yes, we were watching for the monsters, which Godzilla vs Destroyah does a great job of, but making the human plot inane just brings back bad memories of Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla.

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.

Military zombie movie.  I was going to say something about the xenomorphs, but that line just distracted me.  Are there military zombie movies?  Did I just pull that shit out of my ass, assume it exists, and then make an analogy with it?  I mean, I do that shit with words all the time, but at least I have a precedent for it.  Was I thinking of a movie that I completely forgot since then?

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.

Suspenseful music would have really done this film well.  The human plot could have been a really interesting horror movie if it was just scored properly.  As for the monster themes, you have to work hard to make that not work- oh damn it, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla!  Why is there an example of every flaw you can find in the Godzilla franchise!

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.

Considering how funny this looks, I should remind you that “little monster” is essentially a red version of the Xenomorph from Alien.  Flamethrower versus that, not some half pint shit.  That would be hilarious.

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.

Man, all I can picture now is this scene with some MMPR music playing.  I ought to do a video review of this some time.  I think that’s the real reason I do video reviews- I write text reviews and wish I could put things to video form.

The flying form of this thing is like Mothra in some movies.  You can all but see the strings on the prop- and if you have a better TV and look closer than me, you probably can see the strings.

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?

Wow, this paragraph is uneven. Which Obi-Wan fight was I referencing?  I have no idea at this point.  How did I go from talking about Junior to Godzilla?  I don’t know.  The “CASUALTIES” thing is still really, really stupid, though.  Translation error?

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.

It took me a moment here to realize that I was referring to Chewbacca as a smaller version of King Kong.  No, really, how the fuck did I expect anybody else to make that out?

For those not aware, there was a ton of attention given to this as the death of Godzilla.  Of course, Junior was kept around as sequel bait so he could grow up into the Godzilla of Millennium, but the ending was just that good.  Then, several years later, Chewbacca went through the same treatment.  Only Lumpawaroo and Lowbacca survived Chewie, and despite some authors’ intentions, neither of them went on to replace the elder Wookiee.

If you’re a Godzilla fan, you’ll love this movie.  If you’ve never picked up a Godzilla film before, I hope I explained the cheesiness and badassery inherent in the series.  Godzilla vs Destoroyahis a true to form Godzilla flick, but it’s also unique.  Definitely worth a watch.

Thanks for reading my commentary of Godzilla vs Destoroyah.  I hope this commentary was a bit more substantial than some I’ve done, and I hope you enjoyed.  See you next time, same Godzilla place, same Godzilla channel!

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