What were some plot weaknesses?
My friend Mark noted that Godzilla movies are written using the same basic model: "A plodding story that may or may not go anywhere until the third act when the rest of the plot is put aside so the big rubber monsters take center stage to duke it out."
And I will be the first to admit that in many ways, the above describes vs Destoroyah. To wit:
- The reliving of the Oxygen Destroyer dilemma. In the first act, there was considerable debate over bringing back the oxygen destroyer to kill Godzilla, lest he explode. Emiko was against it, Kenichi was for it, Dr Ijuin was considering it, and Yukari was stuck in the middle. Yet, once the monsters arrived, the debate vanished and all were relegated to spectator/narrator roles.
- Emiko Yamane's return. Much was made of her appearance, but other than a few dire warnings in the beginning, little was seen of her. In fact, after two brief scenes in her house, she disappeared completely. She did not even witness Godzilla's death, which would've made a nice cycle from 1954.
- The oxygen destroyer itself. After they discussed bringing it back and its relationship to micro-oxygen, little was done. Dr Ijuin was seen gathering samples from a tunnel accident under Tokyo Bay. Said sample just happened to contain a microbe that would later escape from a beaker. Although the microbe was later identified as the oxygen destroyer, it was not the action of people that brought it back (unless you blame the glassmakers).
- Destoroyah as the oxygen destroyer. Was he or wasn't he? In his microbe form, he killed fish by stealing their oxygen. Here was a monster that could possibly effect Japan's oxygen supply. When more appeared crawling into Tokyo, their easy multiplication could've proved more devastating than Godzilla's imminent meltdown. However, as the movie went on, Destoroyah did not live up to his namesake, all his powers did was explode tanks and knock around monsters (like Battra, Ghidorah, SpaceGodzilla…).
- Infanticide. My friend Jim Walsh felt very strongly about this aspect. "Junior was lured into a death trap, betrayed by the human he trusted, beaten near to death, and saw/heard/sensed his father die...
"The ending was so powerful that it made me forget about many of the film's shortcomings, but it left me upset in other ways. For example - the way Miki agreed to join Meru and bring Jr. to Tokyo. Miki should've just said "Fine, you do it yourself. His blood will be on your hands." (Or maybe she should have gotten into a psychic battle with Meru to try to stop her?!) Bringing Jr. to Tokyo was a cruel sacrifice. This was the third movie in a row where she is asked to use her powers in a way she believes is wrong - but she does it anyway. I was appalled, and personally, I hope that we have seen the last of Miki Saegusa. The character has no more room for development - and I have no sympathy whatsoever for her. When she was crying over Jr.'s mortally wounded body, I felt like screaming at her 'Shut up! You have no right to mourn for him - you are the one who brought him to this!'"
However, my friend Mark rebuts: "I do, however, question the theory posted on your page that Miki is somehow at fault in GvsD. I'm going off of memory here, but Miki is blamed for her decision to assist in luring Junior to his doom. But, really, did she have a choice? Junior, Japan, and pretty much everything else was doomed from the moment Godzilla started to meltdown. The decision that Meru and Kenichi came to [lure Godzilla to Destoroyah by sacrificing Junior] was Machiavellian and heartless, but it was the only option available. Godzilla was now a world-wide threat and could go off at any time; more conventional methods of dealing with the situation [trying to find a cure for Godzilla's condition, building yet another giant robot] weren't feasible."
Personally, it didn't really click with me... until I realized Junior used to be Little G. Damn that psychic!
- Return to the 1954 nuclear terror theme. vs Destoroyah did revert to a nuclear theme as Godzilla was threatened by explosion and later meltdown. However, unlike 1954, humans were not at fault (it was an accident on Birth Island), so the lesson was lost. Other than a few solemn (yet somehow throwaway) remarks about the dangers of nuclear radiation during Godzilla's death, nothing indicated we should stop messing with nuclear energy.
What do you mean by "throwaway"?
Most Heisei movies end with what I call a throwaway line. Usually after the people watch the monsters battle, they stand around looking relieved. Then one person blurts a preachy remark to remind us what the first half of the movie was about. Examples: artificial life vs real life in vs MechaGodzilla, genetic engineering in vs Biollante, taking care of the Earth in vs Mothra, and my favorite: polluting space in vs SpaceGodzilla.
What was some of the symbolism?
I saw it simply as a way to conclude the Godzilla series, paying homage to the original, and reminding us that nuclear weapons are dangerous and nuclear energy is still unpredictable. Little did I know how shallow I was until I read some of the allegories found in A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series (by David Kalat):
- Changes in the pursuit of truth through science and journalism. The movie exemplified the generational shift from 1954 where journalists who were once lone reporters, are replaced by mobs of TV reporters. Science moved from Serizawa's "mad scientist" laboratories, to a modern science, which seeks to benefit mankind, often with government or corporate backing.
- Changing of the guard postwar Japan vs today. Emiko represents the old guard, wearing a kimono and sleeping on the floor. She remembers being affected by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, against the nuclear weapons and by extension the oxygen destroyer. She lived through World War II and recognizes the dangers. Kenichi, on the other hand, sees the bomb/oxygen desroyer as dangerous in the abstract, since he didn't live through them. Emiko feels there is no way the oxygen destroyer should be used, whereas Kenichi feels using it would be better than the destruction should Godzilla explode. Kalat drew parallels to the Hiroshima bombing, where some felt the atomic bomb should never have been used, versus those who saw an invasion of Japan as likely producing more casualties on both sides.
- Kalat also found "passing the torch" parallels from Miki to Meru, never mind that both were the same age. Since Meru was trained in America and Miki in Japan, this shadowed Toho's decision to pass Godzilla onto TriStar in the US.
- In this movie, Godzilla never destroyed a tower. All the other Heisei movies had Godzilla attacking a phallic symbol. Since this was left out of Godzilla vs Destoroyah, it is quite clear that Toho intended to get rid of Godzilla so they could turn the reins over to Mothra in 1996, a female monster.
While it may be intriguing to explore these, I don't quite know what to make of them. If they don't make sense, that's okay, they didn't to me either. I suppose they might have some merit, but they weren't obvious while watching the movie, so a lot of his themes have to be taken in retrospect.
Personally, I take some of that hidden/subtle/unintentional symbolism with a grain of salt. From what I've noticed, Toho has never been subtle with its metaphors. For example, take the economic domination (or Japan's ego trip) theme in vs King Ghidorah, the environmental topics in vs Mothra and vs the Smog Monster. There was little doubt about the themes of those movies (the writers and dialogue made it all too clear). Even in Godzilla 1954, while well done, Dr. Yamane comes out and said Godzilla was an allegory for the unpredictability of nuclear weapons.
Case in point: does the last one about Mothra and the phallic symbol look new? I just made it up! Anyone got some ideas for Junior as a Christ-figure reference?
Do you think Toho ended the series because Japan no longer needed him?
Some have asserted that ending Godzilla was a way to show how much the political climates have changed since 1954. Since the end of the Cold War has supposedly diminished the threat of nuclear terror, the metaphor is less useful. Well, I disagree with that. The "end of nuclear terror" today is certainly debatable, but I look at it another way: Since Junior was essentially Godzilla at the end, Toho didn't really end him in this movie!
As for Japan's kaiju genre, since 1995 there have been three Mothra movies and two Gamera movies. Toho is letting TriStar make films and cartoons titled "Godzilla", and now we have Godzilla 2000, GxM, GMK, and another on they way. And you can bet that will have a sequel opening.
You seem awfully cynical toward parts of this movie, I thought you liked this movie
Hey! My entire page pays homage to Destoroyah and Godzilla! I cannot be a "GvD completist" without acknowledging the good with the bad.
Sure, there were plot holes and under-developed points, but aren't we expecting too much from a Godzilla movie? A majority of Toho's audience wants to see the monsters duke it out, and for better or for worse, that's what Godzilla movies give us. As my friend Jim says, "I see the movies first as entertainment and that they were meant to be enjoyed, even the first one."
Besides, this movie hardly had a monopoly on plot difficulties, underdeveloped points, and things that didn’t make sense.
- Biollante: A rose?
- King Ghidorah: Take a wild guess…
- Mothra: Why did Godzilla get top billing?
- MechaGodzilla: Godzilla smashes Kyoto and Chiba (where the stadium was), destroys the outrageously expensive MechaGodzilla, yet everyone is pleased that real life beat artificial life?
- SpaceGodzilla: Mogera got to that asteroid belt and back rather quickly, didn't he?
In short, don't think too much. Sit back and enjoy them.
What were some of the things that set Godzilla vs Destoroyah apart?
- Monsters vs Humans. One of the few kaiju movies to provide direct human interaction with monsters at the same scale. In this case, it was the police fighting the human-sized Destoroyahs, which later attacked Yukari.
- More fisticuffs. Other than Godzilla's fight with Rodan in vs MechaGodzilla, the final fight with Destoroyah featured more physical battling: punching, biting, headbutting, and tail-flinging. While still a far cry from King Kong vs Godzilla, I still enjoyed seeing some good ol' fashioned monster bashing.
- Godzilla appeared early in the movie during his Hong Kong attack in the opening credits. I liked this change rather than waiting halfway through the movie to see the title character. In some movies, like Godzilla (1954), waiting built suspense. In others like vs Mothra (1992), it just made me impatient!
- It did not follow the typical two-round battle formula: bad monster meets and beats the good monster; good monster returns with help (either a new form, a new weapon, or an ally) and wins the rematch. This movie featured fights on a gradient scale:
- Humans vs small Destoroyahs (but overmatched by the medium one)
- Junior vs medium Destoroyah (but overmatched by the bigger one)
- Finally, Godzilla vs the big mama Destoroyah (sorry, couldn't resist!)
- A monster was killed by humans. I remember watching the movie thinking: "What the heck is this?" Here was a huge Destoroyah, Godzilla's supposedly ultimate enemy, created from the one weapon that killed Godzilla… and puny humans finished him off. My favorite monster was the only one to get killed by the army.
As noteworthy as those were, there were two main themes which made Godzilla vs Destoroyah unique among Godzilla movies. Even though I may focus on Destoroyah and the battle between the two, there were two things that made this one of the most significant Godzilla movies ever. Each are covered in their own sections:
- References to the original Godzilla 1954
- Godzilla's Death
What are some of your ideas then?
I'm not the first fan to criticize parts of the movie. But I am perhaps the first to give my ideas on what I'd like to do!
I've never had too much interest in fan fiction or online novels, especially in writing them. So if my ideas contradict themselves or have more holes than swiss cheese, well, that's just me. As I have established earlier, I enjoy the monsters more than the plot, and my ideas will reflect this. In no particular order:
- Take all that energy used to give us those subtle plotlines, allegories, imagery, literary devices, and subtext, and put that into making better monster and vehicle effects. The time wasted thinking up ways to express changes in the TV versus print media should be used to edit special effects gaffes.
- Let Destoroyah change forms at will, like the Smog Monster. When he flies, make him go back to the flying form (but leave the wings on the Final Form, so my SuperWalk Destoroyah will still look cool).
- Make Destoroyah live up to his moniker! When he flies over people, let them start choking from lack of oxygen (again, like the Smog Monster). When he blasts Godzilla, have skin start melting off.
- Get rid of Godzilla's meltdown throughout the whole movie. While the countdown was an excellent way to build suspense, it took away the impact of Destoroyah. Godzilla was going to melt down when he reached 1200° whether Destoroyah battled him or not. Have his meltdown be caused by his desperate fight with Destoroyah. How about in order to rejuvenate his oxygen destroyer-induced wounds, he must use all his power? This extreme use will be too much for him and meltdown will commence.
- No more Heisei-style battles. Give us something different than monsters getting blasted by rays and bouncing back up as if nothing happened. Show us who's winning or losing, not who's scoring more hits and knockdowns. In my opinion, one of the best Godzilla battles occurred in the 1974 Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla (aka vs the Cosmic Monster). Godzilla was beaten badly and showed it. He later needed a special power to win, as all his present ones were useless.
- Have Destoroyah brutally defeat a monster (or a G-Force mecha) before Godzilla, to establish his power. MechaGodzilla thrased Angillas and King Seesar with ease and this showed how powerful he was. True, Destoroyah killed Junior, but my reaction was not so much "wow, how powerful", but "pick on someone your own size!"
- In the first battle, have Destoroyah totally overwhelm Godzilla, with resilience to Godzilla's attacks (physically and breath-wise). Show Godzilla exhausted and bleeding, like he did vs MechaGodzilla in 74. Thoroughly beaten and unable to cope, Godzilla is on the brink.
- Round two, Godzilla is able to regenerate (via his trademark burst) and deals some blows to Destoroyah. Then Destoroyah unleashes his oxygen-destroying ray, melting the skin off Godzilla. Near death, Godzilla musters his last bit of strength to regenerate and blow away his enemy. This strain, mixed with the exposure to the oxygen destroyer, causes Godzilla to melt down.
Now that I look at my final battle scenario, it isn't too much different than what happened in the final battle, with a bit of vs MechaGodzilla '74 and Gamera vs Legion thrown in. There is still room to fit in the battle with Junior, the Aggregates crawling on Godzilla, the meltdown scene, and Junior rising in the end (parts most fans loved).
Where to put all those extra monster scenes I want? Cut out parts of the first half. They were ignored in the second half anyway, so it wouldn't be a big loss.