Continuing my weeklong series examining this 1991 monster/time travel/cyborg/political philosophy epic.
With Ghidorah no longer under Futurian control, Godzilla is able to turn the battle in his favor, even destroying one of his opponent’s three heads. Ghidorah tries to escape, but a final blast from Godzilla sends it crashing into the ocean — where it will lie comatose for the next two hundred years. Remeber the opening submarine sequence? That sequence has, now, become the future. But the time paradoxes of that opening will get more tangled yet. His immediate enemy vanquished, Godzilla continue on his way to Tokyo.
Back in the Futurian’s timeship, the evil Futurians explain that while Emmy and Terasawa might think they’ve won, there are two problems: an unstoppable Godzilla has now begun a rampage that will leave Japan a radioactive ruin. The very future they lied about is going to come true. In addition, there is a fail-safe that even Emmy did not know about. An emergency countdown has started to automatically returned them to their own era. To stop this escape, and get some ironic revenge, Emmy and M-11 teleport the entire Futurian craft right in front of Godzilla, who finishes them off in his typically radioactive fire breathing style.
There is still the problem of Godzilla marching through the heart of Tokyo. Even Shindo is beginning to realize things looks bad and is told “this is not the dinosaur you knew.”His savior is crushing the very reborn nation that Shindo helped build. Quietly he acknowledges that fact and refuses to evacuate even as Godzilla arrives literally at his doorstep. There is a moment of them staring into each other’s eyes. Shindo is no doubt thinking of the dinosaur he looked at back in 1944. Even though he sees Death, he accepts it from Godzilla, like a debt he owes an old friend.
Godzilla destroys Shindo’s towering headquarters, and proceeds to level everything else in his path. This sequence is again done in the classic effects style pioneered by Eiji Tsuburaya, of a man in a suit crushing model buildings amidst smoke and flame and explosions. A lot has been updated since 1954 in how this classic monster movie situation is presented. Godzilla’s ponderous tread crashes through the streets into the substructure of the city. There are multiple shots from inside the buildings as Godzilla destroys them. Most strikingly is that the modern Tokyo skyline towers above Godzilla, even after the modern rebirth of the monster has created a Godzilla of 100 meters in height, twice his size in 1954. Something that might take a moment for western viewers to appreciate is that the building Godzilla rampages through are models of real locations, very recognizable landmarks, such as the The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s part of the appeal of monster movies to see such familiar sites destroyed. Though for all the devastation, we can take some comfort that few lives, even fictional lives, are being lost (aside from a few courageous soldiers). There have been the traditional sequences of civilians evacuating as the disaster approaches —and as also seems traditional, you can catch glimpses of children smiling at the fun of performing in such as scene.
Japan’s only hope? Emmy and M-11 travel forward in time to 2204 and our prologue scene, where Ghidorah is found on the ocean floor. But as Emmy explains what she wants to the her companion in the sub, he comments on how Godzilla, in the current timeline, has left Japan a broken, needy nation. So this is not the future that Emmy originally left, one where Japan, led by the Teiyo Group, had dominated the world. Time can be changed, though it would seem Emmy, being outside her normal place in time, in unaffected, and still recalls her original past. The plan is to restore the crippled Ghidorah as a cyborg, and bring it back to 1992 to fight Godzilla.
Back in that year, Godzilla fights off the Japanese Self Defense Force and crushes a lot of the city before the time traveling MechaGhidorah appears and attacks. The rematch is another mostly beam battle as the monsters shoot energy attacks at each other. Mechanical versions of Godzilla are a staple in the movies (and there was a MechaKong in Ishiro Honda’s 1967 King Kong Escapes and in 1993 there will be a Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla) so this cyborg Ghidorah was fun to see. In operation it is something closer to the giant robots so common in Japanese anime, being under the direct control Emmy in a pilot’s chair, with M-11 operating as an AI assistant. The MechaGhidorah suit/puppet looks cool, but is too awkward to do much else. The resolution of the battle is also unsatisfying, with an exhausted, but essentially unconquered Godzilla dumped in the ocean. There’s no anti-nuclear bacteria to restrain him, and no particular reason he couldn’t just continue his assault on Japan — for whatever motivation he had to do so in the first place.
With Godzilla at least deterred from his attack on Japan, we are on the threshold of a new future. It is not clear how many different time lines have existed, been created, and subsequently erased over the course of this movie. This is not the timeline where Shindo and the Teiyo group lead Japan to world domination. This is not the future where Godzilla reduced Japan to radioactive poverty. What future is Emmy actually returning to? We, in the present day, still have a Godzilla to deal with in this series of movies, which has a long run ahead.
Next time we conclude by looking at where we have ended up after all this. What would you see if you looked into Godzilla’s eyes?