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THN’s Godzilla Countdown #18: Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah MAINOn 16th May 2014, Toho’s greatest monster will return to the big screen in an American reboot. With just 12 weeks to go, we here at THN are counting down the GODZILLA back catalogue.

Director: Kazuki Ohmori,

Starring: Kosuke Toyohara, Anna Nakagawa, Megumi Odaka, Katsuhiko Sasaki, Akiji Kobayashi, Tokuma Nishioka, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Chuck Wilson, Richard Berger, Robert Scott Field

Plot: A UFO reveals itself to be piloted by humans from the 23rd century. They have travelled back in time to prevent Godzilla from destroying Japan in a nuclear holocaust.

GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE was considered a box-office failure. Whenever a film fails, it’s time to place the blame, and here the blame rested on Biollante himself. Being a fan-created brand new monster, it was decided he just didn’t have the draw of Godzilla’s other nemeses, even though Godzilla is surely the main draw for such pictures. It was decided to revert back to the tone and plot devices of the Showa Era, which meant an increased focus on the sci-fi elements, including UFOs, androids, and for the first time in the franchise, time travel. It also meant that an old favourite would be Godzilla’s combatant in the form of King Ghidorah. Although it may sound as though the franchise is taking steps backwards, a number of key decisions remained; such as Godzilla NOT becoming an all-out hero.

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This wasn’t the only thing to remain, with Godzilla’s more animalistic looking design and the character of psychic Miki (Odaka) returning. This was the first time an actor had returned to the series in the same role since Takashi Shimura in GOJIRA and GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN. Bringing back Ghidorah proved to be a brilliant idea, with a box-office success of $11 million. That’s $4 million more than the previous entry. It also resulted in a Godzilla film made every year until 1995. However, the film also courted controversy, due to its depiction of Japan as a promising economic super-power, the villains being portrayed by Westerners, and scenes in which a dinosaur protects Japanese soldiers from American soldiers during WWII. Although Kazuki Ohmori always denied any anti-American sentiment, such coincidences are very noticeable even to casual viewers.

We start in the future, where an underwater vessel discovers the corpse of King Ghidorah. He’s missing one of his three heads and comments made suggest that Godzilla was the one responsible for his defeat. This raises questions as to how Ghidorah fits in to this specific timeline, bearing in mind his previous appearances are not cannon in this universe. As it turns out, this is actually the ending just edited to the beginning, an explain-how-we-got-there kind of opening. We then travel back to 1992 where a UFO is spotted over Tokyo. The reintroduction of possible alien antagonists isn’t something that excites me too much, as the more grounded features tend to appeal to me more. We’re quickly introduced to our protagonist, Kenichiro (Toyohara), your typical wet-look gelled 90s heartthrob. He’s an author that has made his fortune through science fiction writing, but now wants to be taken seriously. He decides to research into Godzilla, as it will appeal to both his past ventures and future ambitions. Deciding to ignore the talk of UFOs in the sky, he looks into Godzilla’s past, and a theory that suggests Godzilla may have once been a dinosaur that protected Japanese soldiers from American soldiers during WWII, on Lagos Island.

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This plot element may destroy some of the mystery behind Godzilla for some, but the backstory is interesting in some regards. Shindo (Tsuchiya), a rich businessman who commanded the troops on Lagos Island, reveals pictures of the Lagos dinosaur, and it is proven that this dinosaur would become Godzilla after testing of nuclear weapons. The idea that such a protective creature would turn into a source of mass destruction has a certain amount of dramatic irony, but it also brings about a lot of questions as to the intent of the writer and director. Godzilla has never been a malicious creature, he is just a creature, but here they show not just the corruption of nature, but also turning something clearly good (for the Japanese at least) into something terrible. Meanwhile, the UFO is tracked to Mount Fuji where it is revealed Miki (Odaka) heads up the Godzilla Team, where they track his movements since being weakened in the last instalment. Humanity is contacted by the aliens, which turn out to be not aliens disguised as humans (as was often the case before) but are humans from the future. They represent the Earth Union, and it is their job to make certain shifts in time in order to prevent mass catastrophe. The problem here is that Godzilla will soon destroy all the nuclear power plants in Japan and radiation will spread over the whole of Japan, making it an uninhabitable area.

It is decided that the only course of action is for a trip back in time, to remove the Godzillasaurus from Lagos Island, and place him at the bottom of the ocean. This way Godzilla will never be created. Kenichiro, Miki, Professor Mizaki, the Japanese envoy from the future Emmy (Nakagawa) and Android M-11 (Field), are the team responsible for sedating and teleporting the beast. They carry off their mission, but upon returning home the Dorats, a strange but adorable trio of small creatures, are suddenly missing. As you can imagine the World Union are not all they’re cracked up to be, and have left the Dorats behind on purpose, which means they are transformed by radiation into the creature known as Ghidorah. With no Godzilla to stop Ghidorah, Japan is set to be destroyed. The Dorats are actually very cute, but don’t blend in well with the surroundings. They may as well have been cartoons. The film also looks good, but dated, with the CGI scanning technology looking pretty cool, until you remember Hollywood was just 2 years away from JURASSIC PARK.

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As it turns out, Japan wasn’t destroyed in the 23rd century, but instead became the dominant superpower. The country managed to buy other countries, and the World Union is actually attempting to generate an equal share for the future by damaging Japan’s prospects. It’s all like a giant game of Monopoly meets Risk, which would be absolutely awesome in every sense of the word. They’re also a bunch of terrorists who have stolen their time machine, although the film fails to address whether or not they are timelords. The whole film attacks the idea of supreme wealth and capitalism, and rightly so in this instance. Although their methods are a tad cruel, it’s still easy to understand how a supreme power in the future may become oppressive. Ghidorah’s first attack on Tokyo also sees him blowing up a number of product placements such as Nikon, once again emphasising the anti-capitalist sentiments of the future folk. Interestingly enough though, the film doesn’t begrudge becoming wealthy, but questions the methods of how wealth is obtained. This is brought forward by the fact that corporations, as well as countries, are able to own their own nuclear weapons.

One thing that should certainly be addressed is exactly how the ripples through time work in this universe. The answer is…I have no idea. Once returning to the present, everybody seems to be aware of the mission but we do not know if Godzilla ended up attacking in 1954 or if the effects are instant. Godzilla has certainly been moved, as per the plan, but if I think about this any harder my head will explode. As Emmy tries to help the present day humans, she is pursued by Android M-11. This is where the effects look truly awful, as Android M-11 tries to demonstrate super speed against very noticeable sped up footage and poor green screen. I wouldn’t be so harsh, but TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY had already done the fast running trick using a very simple method of trailing a carpet behind the vehicle and running on that. As Emmy is taken back to her people, who are controlling Ghidorah with soundwaves, she is also given the job of polishing up Android-M11. This seems oddly trusting towards someone who just betrayed you. Emmy takes advantage of this and changes M-11’s programming, making him an ally. Silly futurians.

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Ghidorah continues to lay waste, as our human protagonists set about sabotaging the controls of the time machine. Meanwhile, it is discovered that Godzilla still exists, due to a nuclear Russian sub sinking exactly where Godzillasaurus had been transported to. Not only that, but once the Japanese send their own sub, Godzilla ends up with a double dose and it is declared that he is bigger than before. This gives the impression that as long as nuclear weapons exist, they’ll always be a ‘Godzilla’ of some kind. His birth is inevitable. Godzilla fights Ghidorah and it is another epic battle for the series that prided itself on the monster confrontations. Godzilla is strangled by Ghidorah’s long necks, and he foams at the mouth giving a very violent image. Godzilla is eventually triumphant, but then the humans realise that now they have to deal with Godzilla. Fortunately, Emmy returns from the future with Mecha-Ghidorah and another destructive battle begins, filled with beautiful costume and model work. As the two monsters float to the bottom of the ocean, it is revealed that Godzilla is actually still alive.

The series obviously felt that it was necessary to return some of the camp, without being full-blown silly. It works for the most part, and only true naysayers will completely discredit this entry. Those such as myself, who loved the darkness of the previous two films, are going to feel a little putout. When it comes down to it, if this had been released in the Showa Era, then it would be one of the greatest entries in that series. But as it stands, it’s more of a return to something that many were hoping to get away from. The darkness would eventually return in the Heisei Era, but that’s a tale for another day.

Dub-Misstep: A simple dub which isn’t too bad. The voices match as well as usual, and it’s not always synchronised, but nothing to really detract from the film as a whole. Toho commissioned a Hong Kong company to do the dub, and it wouldn’t be released in the UK until 1995 and the USA had to wait until 1998, the year of the Hollywood attempt.

Monsters: Godzilla is claimed to be bigger than ever and he certainly looks ripped. King Ghidorah is always a fun villain to watch, and he also impresses in his Mecha-Ghidorah form as well. Best of all, the film has monster battles, but flips between who is a villain and who is a hero, reminding us that these are simply wild animals at heart.

Notes For GODZILLA (2014): It isn’t terrible, but I would imagine time-travel is a no-go area for the new franchise. Although I’d love to see Ghidorah on the big-screen once again, I’m still unsure if his origins could translate to film. The battles are epic though, and the connection between man and beasts is something to add cohesion between the human and monster characters.

G-RATING:

3 G

View all the articles in our countdown right here!

GODZILLA will be released 16th May 2014. It stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston, Sally Hawkins, Akira Takarada, and David Strathairn.

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Luke likes many things, films and penguins being among them. He's loved films since the age of 9, when STARGATE and BATMAN FOREVER changed the landscape of modern cinema as we know it. His love of film extends to all aspects of his life, with trips abroad being planned around film locations and only buying products featured in Will Smith movies. His favourite films include SEVEN SAMURAI, PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, IN BRUGES, LONE STAR, GODZILLA, and a thousand others.

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