Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, Part Six: The Problem with Godzilla

Continuing my weeklong series examining this 1991 monster/time travel/cyborg/political philosophy epic.

Ghidorah lightning

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.

Shindo & Godzilla

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.

Godzilla & Skyline

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?

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, Part Five: Everything Old is New Again

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.

Oxygen Destroyer

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.

Godzilla & Ghidorah fight

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.