Continuing my weeklong series examining this 1991 monster/time travel/cyborg/political philosophy epic.
There’s a problem. Saegusa is still receiving mental impressions from Godzilla, as if the monster does still exist. This is backed up by scans that show Godzilla’s energy signature in the Bering Strait. It turns out that the Soviet Union lost a nuclear sub in that area (the date this happened in not stated clearly, which is too bad, since it would have helped establish the sequence of events). Could it be that this was the event that mutated the godzillasaurus? The whole H-bomb test at Lagos theory might have been wrong. Time has not changed at all and Godzilla still exists. Maybe time cannot be changed, even if time travel is possible. Except that we will eventually see that it can.
It is worth mentioning, briefly, that the Godzilla who appeared in 1954 is a separate monster in both the Showa series (Godzilla movies from 1954 to 1975) and this, the Heisei series of movies. That first Godzilla was disintegrated by the Oxygen Destroyer weapon. It doesn’t often get mentioned but it can help to occasionally remember that fact, especially when trying solve the time paradox of this movie. And it ends up being an important plot element in 1995’s Godzilla vs Destoroyah.
Why though did Godzilla appear to vanish from the Sea of Japan and then be spotted again just where the dinosaur was expected to be? Just chance, or that he felt like the Bering Straight location was a home to return to? Just a few sentences of exposition could have cleared this up. How much of this plot twisted — that Godzilla has not removed from history, though people continued to think he had — did the English translators “get”? Much of the English language version comes across as if the translators didn’t quite understand what was supposed to be going on.
Emmy’s attempted escape from the schemes of her fellow Futurians leads to another sequence where the movie attempts to emulate Hollywood — but with its comparatively meager budget. For instance there is a futuristic flying pack that Emmy uses. The prop itself looks constructed from cheap plastic and has the mass of a cheap plastic when she straps it on. Well-concealed wire works lifts her off the ground in a believable stunt, but the next shot is a composite of the actor standing still while her image is optically, and very unsteadily, moved across a background plate. It is puzzling just why this was done so poorly. Just the addition of a fan blowing across Emmy as she flew would have greatly improved the effect. When they realize she has gone, Wilson sends M-11 after her, and we have the most Terminator-like moments yet. There is a car chase, stunt driving, and an obligatory fiery wreck, where M-11 steps out, clothes burning, one side of his face stripped of human flesh to reveal the mechanics underneath. It’s fine for the money they had to do it, but does it really have a place in a Godzilla movie? Unable to resist, Emmy returns with M-11.
The submarine does finds not the sleeping godzillasaurus they expected, but a fully formed and active Godzilla, which destroys the sub and absorbs its energy, growing larger and more powerful than ever. Without any additional direction from humans (and one wonders how they had been expecting to do that in the original plan) this Godzilla heads for Japan, where King Ghidorah, under the control of the Futurians is ready for a fight. The only person who seems to think things are working out well is Shindo, who still considers Godzilla to be the spirit of a formidable Japan protecting itself. “Once again you fight for us,” he says.
Godzilla and King Ghidorah first meet in a forested countryside. Often in monster movies, such as late in the Showa series, when a confrontation is set up in a natural settings it is clearly a way to save money: no buildings or other elements to destroy. The countryside here is expansive and covered with forests and rolling hills. Ghidorah’s lightning blasts cause impressive explosions and fires. This is before computer effects so the various energy beams, lighting blasts, and futuristic blast weapons are created optically. I imagine that Ghodorah’s lightning and Godzilla’s breath are created by hand painted animation. There are some fun shots here and in a later climactic laser gun battle, where attacks and blaster bolts fly directly at the camera.
Beams, etc. need to look good because they are, increasingly with each movie, the majority of the actual conflict between monsters. In this series of movies, the monster suits become increasingly heavy and restrictive. The actors can barely walk, with most of Godzilla’s expressions being conveyed by puppetry, rather than the performance of suit-actors such as Haruo Nakajima in the earlier era of Godzilla movies. As the Heisei series continued, more and more battles consisted of monster stiffly standing and blasting each other from a distance. There are some direct confrontations here and they are striking when they do happen. In close combat Ghidorah has an advantage as its snaky heads entwine around Godzilla, biting and constricting him. At one point Godzilla is close to a suffocating defeat, spewing foam from his mouth as he suffocates.
This might have been the end of Godzilla, if not for our other plot line. Emmy has convinced her fellow Futurians that 20th Century Earth has no hope and that she’s abandoned helping them. Gullible, they completely believe her, leaving her unobserved as they exult over the destruction King Ghidorah is unleashing. Emmy reprograms M-11 to consider her “Boss.” They recruit Terasawa and together sabotage the Futurian computer controlling Ghidorah. A gun play and robot-fighting-robot action sequence ensues, putting us clearly in Terminator II homage territory. M-11 now not only fights for the good guys, but drops quips as he laser blasts his former comrades. Though it is Terasawa at one point who, in English, gives us a “Make my day,” leaving me wondering if they forgot which Hollywood movie currently being referenced.