Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1996)

Title: Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1996)

Director: Takao Okarawa


So far, I haven’t seen a Godzilla film that I haven’t enjoyed in one way or another. Even the ‘bad ones’ have something fun or entertaining about them. Not that the film I’ll be talking about today is one of the ‘bad ones’. Actually, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1996) is one of the best ones; a milestone in the Godzilla Universe. On this one, Godzilla is on the verge of having the heart attack of the century! And it’s because of this forthcoming heart attack that Godzilla’s body now glows red as if he was just about to blow up. His spinal fins glow red, his eyes glow red, and his laser blast is red! Also, his radioactivity levels are out of control! And do you my dear readers know what it means when a creature that is essentially a walking nuclear bomb has a heart attack? Nothing less than the destruction of the world, that’s what it means! If Godzilla blows up (as scientists in this film predict he will) the resulting explosion would take the entire world with it; in other words, Godzilla’s death would destroy the whole planet! Now if that isn’t a good premise for a Godzilla flick, I don’t know what is.

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is one of the best times I’ve had watching a Godzilla flick. There’s lots of action and lots of destruction on this one! It starts out fast and doesn’t let go. Even before the opening credit sequence begins, we’re already hearing Godzilla’s monstrous roar, which can only mean one thing, Godzilla is already on a rampage of death and destruction! No set up, no nothing, right from the get go it’s just Godzilla, glowing red, destroying a city. Interesting note: in the opening sequence for this film, Godzilla is destroying part of China , not Japan as he does most of the time. What’s Godzilla doing in China ? Who knows, maybe he took a wrong turn somewhere, got lost, I don’t know. But there he is knocking down important Hong Kong landmarks and spooking the hell out of the Chinese people. I have to admit that the Red Glowing Godzilla from this film is a very unique image, it’s not every day you see a giant glowing lizard stomping a city! Those scenes with the glowing Godzilla destroying the city look even cooler because most of them take place during the night. So on this film we get a special version of Godzilla, I would call him ‘Nuclear Heart Attack Godzilla’. On previous films, whenever Godzilla isn’t destroying Japan, he spends most of his time residing on ‘Birth Island’, problem is that Birth Island has just disappeared from the planet, and now Godzilla and his son have nowhere to live. Their home destroyed, Godzilla and his son are now nomads, wondering aimlessly through the ocean. Their next destination? Japan ! 

This could happen to the earth if Godzilla explodes!

But wait, there’s more. Complications arise when it is discovered that the weapon that killed the very first Godzilla (a.k.a. ‘The Oxygen Destroyer’) has mutated a life form from the Precambrian Era. In other words, in the same way that nuclear radiation mutated Godzilla, these microscopic creatures were mutated by The Oxygen Destroyer. The creatures look like mutated crab monsters or something. For a while in the film, these crab like creatures go around the city, terrorizing people, turning cars over, and basically destroying the whole city. How deadly are these creatures? Well, they shoot a lightning bolt out of their mouths that opens a black hole on what ever it hits! So imagine what happens when they aim it at humans! Things go from bad to worse when all of these creatures unite and form the most hellish looking of all Godzilla’s enemies: Destoroyah! This guy has got to be one of Godzilla’s most formidable foes ever! I know I keep saying that in my reviews, but in this case, I mean it. Destoroyah is even bigger then Godzilla! He is the meanest and deadliest! He has horns, wings, claws; basically, it looks like Godzilla is fighting against Satan himself! I mean, literally when Destoroyah appears, its as if he came straight out of hell! Coolest part about Destoroyah is that he comes back about three times before he finally reveals his final demonic visage! Each time Destoroyah comes back, he looks even more demonic than before. 

Another thing that makes this Godzilla film special is that Little Godzilla is all grown up. Don’t know how many of you out there are fans of ‘Little Godzilla’, but me, I personally despise whenever he appears because the creature just looks so childish and cheesy. It’s a creation made to sell toys to little kids. Usually, Little Godzilla doesn’t even figure prominently in the plot, its simply inserted there so the kids will get excited about it and buy the toy. Little Godzilla completely takes me out of whatever Godzilla film I might be watching. But this didn’t happen to me on Godzilla vs. Destoroyah because ‘The Little One’ as he is called on this film, is all grown up. He basically looks like his father, only with smaller spikes on its back. On this film the humans try lure The Little One, so that he fights against Destoroyah because Godzilla sort of wanders away and ignores the fact that the city is being destroyed by Destoroyah!

'The Little One' all grown up

Destoroyah Flies!

The best thing about this movie though is that it shakes things up. Nothing is sacred on this one. I kept thinking to myself that this wasn’t just any Godzilla flick, this one was special, and it is. Even if you don’t normally watch Godzilla films, I think you might find yourself enjoying this one. I mean, you’ll keep asking yourself: “Is Godzilla really going to die?” The idea of Godzilla dying might come as a surprise to many because in most of his films, Godzilla is practically indestructible! Godzilla might get attacked by missiles, lasers beams, robotic monstrosities, he might even go up against three headed creatures from other planets, but he takes a licking and keeps on ticking! Always coming back for more, as if nothing had hit him. But not on this one! On this film Godzilla has a level of vulnerability that hasn’t been displayed before. Since Godzilla’s radioactivity is increasing in intensity, you feel as if every step Godzilla is giving might be his last, which of course adds a level of suspense to the whole experience. Will Godzilla blow up in one final nuclear blast? Coolest part of the whole premise is that as Godzilla’s radioactivity increases, so do his powers! So which each passing second, Godzilla is actually getting more powerful and deadlier than ever. When these two monsters finally face off, the fight is epic! It has to be one of the best fights on any Godzilla film. 

Then there is G-Force, an organization that exists solely to study Godzilla and other giant monsters. Their main goal is usually figuring out ways to fight Godzilla. They have created various weapons to go up against Godzilla, for example the giant robot Mogera, seen in Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla (1995). They even created Mechagodzilla so it could go up against Godzilla in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002). In this case, G-Force employs a new battle ship called the Super X III, the follow up to Super X and Super X II seen in previous Godzilla films. Super X III is equipped with special missiles that are meant to freeze Godzilla and stop him from destroying the world with Nuclear Meltdown. In this way, I thought the film was similar to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), in which Mechagodzilla is equipped with a similar weapon called the ‘Absolute Zero’. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah has some similarities with other films as well, most notably James Cameron’s Aliens (1986). The Destoroyah’s look like alien Drones, when they get bigger they look like the Alien Queen. They even have an extendable inner jaw that can emerge and snap at its enemies. This doesn’t surprise me, most Godzilla films are influenced by an American film in one way or another, right down to the first Godzilla film which was influenced by King Kong (1933). 

The Super X III

This was an awesome Godzilla movie, and one I would personally place amongst my top favorites. The only negative thing I can say about it is that the dialog is sometimes overtly simplistic, and it is constantly stating things that are obvious, but that could be due to bad dubbing, or not, I don’t know Japanese, so I don’t know if the dialog sounds equally as cheesy in Japanese. But aside from that minor hiccup, the battles are epic, the storyline is involving, the special effects are great and it’s a suspenseful film. Nothing is sacred on this one; it’s a Godzilla film that wants to shake your expectations of a Godzilla film. And it has one hellish villain for Godzilla to go up against! By the way, Destoroyah was a ‘Kaiyu’ created especially for this film, it wasn’t a creature that came from the classic roaster of Godzilla villains, this one was special. And what a formidable creature it was, a memorable one in deed. This film was the 22nd Godzilla film ever made and it was well received at the Japanese Box Office, actually, it became the highest grossing film in Japan that year! It was also the last of the ‘Heisei Series’ of Godzilla films, which are the films that take place from 1984 to 1995. I guess they wanted to end this era of Godzilla films with a bang, and so they did. Highly recommend this one if you want to see an exciting and eventful Godzilla flick.

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5


venoms5 said...

Great review, Fran, and I see you liked it a lot more than I did. Don't get me wrong, I do like this film, but it was very much a disappointment to me for a variety of reasons. The effects had drastically regressed by this point. It was as if Kawakita had grown bored and tired with the series. He even employs toys for some effects shots for crying out loud. Sloppy composite shots have crowds of cars driving TOWARDS the monsters instead of away and the monsters wings never seem to flap the way they should. Also, the final form of Destroyer was a letdown to me. It looks like they took the Space Godzilla suit, repainted it and added a bunch of horns to it. And we get another laser battle again between the monsters for the most part. Lots of flashy lights and not much else. Also, Heisei series regular character, Miki Saegusa gets little to do here as opposed to the other movies. The Japanese version is much better, too. The English dubbing is horrible, I think.

There were some great things here, though. The opening credits sequence, the darker tone, the use of some of the original GODZILLA's cast members from the '54 movie and especially the death of Godzilla. However, Toho marginally messes this up when the younger Godzilla seemingly absorbs his dad's energy and pretty much negates the big guys death just seconds before. The end credits were also nice, too.

As much as I liked it, I was so glad this series was over and Kawakita wasn't asked to participate in the Millennium series, whether he would have wanted to or not. Still, BIOLLANTE is undoubtedly Kawakita's best work. Incidentally, Kawakita was one of the two different Japanese effects crews that worked on the Shaw Brothers MIGHTY PEKING MAN (1977) back in 1976.

Manuel Marrero said...

I knew you would dig this flick. The movie had a great somewhat emotional ending, great way to end that eras series.

Mr. Fiendish said...

awesome review to an awesome movie. keep those G-movies coming!

I have but one critique, and it might make me sound like a cinema snob, but of course I am. You mentioned that Godzilla was influenced by King Kong....well, the truth is, the movie was made to cash in on The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, another giant reptile movie that came before and was a HUGE hit in Japan. Of course, Godzilla now is way more famous than the "Rhedosaurus", so yeah....

the more you know...

Franco Macabro said...

@venom5: The effects were sloppy? I dont know man, this movie actually won some awards for it's special effects, for the most part I liked the effects work on this one. A few glitches here and there, but I guess thats to be expected. These movies are usually made for about 10 million bucks.

The best effects work to date is still Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, for me thats as high as Godzilla films have gone in terms of effects, but this one wasnt bad either.

I do agree about the composite shots, I counted two composite shots where Godzilla was destroying a city and the cars and the people were not reacting accordingly, but its a minor hiccup.

Destoroyah final form was awesome to me man, he looks so monstrous and gigantic, an imposing villain for Godzilla. All I kept thinking was how huge he looked next to Godzilla!

I read about the Japanese version of the film, which has a montage of scenes from Godzilla films in the closing credits. For the U.S. dvd, they only show scenes from the classic Gojira and then fade to black and to the credits.

Agree about the dubbing, it sucks ass, I think it was the only reason why I didnt give this one a five. The dialog was so atrocious, way to simplistic, I hate it when they say things that have already been stated with the visuals.

The whole death of Godzilla was an emotional moment, I wasnt expecting to see the big guy go. When The Little One absorbs his dads energy was just a way of making sure Godzilla would return. I guess this means that if we follow the chronology of the series, the Godzilla seen in the Millenium series is actually 'The Little One' all grown up. So there's been three Godzillas. The original which died in the first film, then the one that died on this one, and finally, The Little One which survives in the end of this film.

Still need to see Biollante!

@Manuel Marrero: Yeah, a fitting end to an era. They went out with a bang.

@Mr. Fiendish: The original Gojira was actually influenced by both of these films, but for example Gojira, lives in an island, used to be worshipped by the inhabitants of said island, and he was fed women to appease him...so I guess yeah, Godzilla does have a thing or two in common with Kong. But all these giant monster movies have elements in common between them.

But I do think Kong was the major influence here, I mean, they actually went and used Kong in the third film! King Kong vs. Godzilla! And it was one of the most successful Godzilla movies ever.

Thanks for your comments people!

venoms5 said...

This one didn't win any awards, though. KING GHIDORAH from 1991 did, and for its effects work. There's two scenes in DESTROYER where toys are used for effects shots and that's sloppy, at least to me. I liked this one a lot when I first saw it and still like it, just disappointed with it in some ways. I'm thrilled you enjoyed it, Fran, it's just an average entry for me right now. Still a lot of fun, just not up there with the best in my opinion.

The younger 'zilla can't be the one in the Millennium series because that series ignores all previous Godzilla pictures except for the first movie. But it does acknowledge OTHER monsters, though. All the Millennium films are like this save for the two Mechagodzilla movies.

GODZILLA (1984) also ignores the previous Showa movies save for the first one. BIOLLANTE picks up where that one left off and so on. The two Millennium Mechagodzilla movies are the only two of the 'X' series that follow any order.

Actually, GODZILLA did get made because of the huge success of BEAST FROM 2O,000 FATHOMS. Tomiyuki Tanaka wanted a movie like that and commissioned a movie along those lines. Eiji Tsuburaya, according to books about him and interviews with those that worked with him, was ecstatic to be finally getting the chance to do such a movie as he was a huge KING KONG fan. There was also a Japanese giant ape movie made a few years after the RKO original (1938, I think), but it is reportedly a lost movie now.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Francisco, why did you give this movie 4 and-a-half out of 5 but only 3 and-a-half out of 5 to the transformers movie ?, wouldn`t it be much simpler and truthful to always give these kinds of movies the top 5 out of 5 rating because as i`ve said before its these kinds of special effects extravaganza's that represent the best that the medium of cinema has to offer, lets be honest everything else is laughable out-moded garbage in comparison ! ! !.

Franco Macabro said...

The answer is simple Jervaise, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is a better film than Trasformers 3, at least in my opinion.

Cal said...

I realy need to check some of these more modern godzilla films...

Franco Macabro said...

If you want to check out the more modern ones, I highly recommend Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla! An awesome film with great effects, it's the best one I've seen so far in terms of action and effects.

Franco Macabro said...

@Venom5: Sorry Brian, I didnt see your reply!

I know the Millenium Series ignores all previous ones and and is basically an alternate Godzilla universe, a sort of what if type of deal, but if we follow the films chronologically, thats the way it went. The original Godzilla dies, then the next one didnt die until Destoroyah, and according to that one, Little Godzilla continues the tradition, because his father gave him some of his radioactive energy before he died. I mean, thats what happens in the movie.

I was just watching the Gihdorah The Three Headed Monster (expect a review soon!) on dvd and it has an extra feature where they do this mini biography on Eiji Subaraya, he mentions on that one how much KING KONG changed his life, after he saw that one, he knew he wanted to make something like that, and so Subaraya and Honda ended up working on the original Gojira.

So yeah, it was both of those movies (and many more Im sure) that influenced the creators of Godzilla.

As always, your comments are much appreciated Brian!

venoms5 said...

Hey, no problem, Fran! Still, Tomoyuki Tanaka was the one who saw the figures for BEAST and the one that greenlit the production. It would be great if a print of the Japanese giant ape movie from the 30s were to be found.

Tsuburaya was enamored with apes, but could never seem to design one that looked reasonably good. Speaking of Kong, Both the Japanese and English versions of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA couldn't be more different.

Incidentally, I think this is the only Godzilla movie where Tsuburaya experimented with stop motion animation. It's briefly used in a couple of shots. More or less two totally different movies. It's amazing that that film still holds the record for most tickets sold after all these years and all the films in the series that have come after it.

Franco Macabro said...

I got my sights on King Kong vs Godzilla, Terror of Mechagodzilla, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus and Godzilla Raids Again. Those are the ones I'll be watching next.

But I'm most curious for the one with King Kong because its one of the most popular, and one of the biggest money makers in the franchise. Also, wasnt it one of the first vs movies ever? I mean, it must have been. Should be exciting to watch.

Kaijinu said...

I got a question: who's that third kaiju grabbing Big-G by the tail? I never seen him before. I don't think it's Gabara the suit looks different...


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