Heisei Godzilla Movies

I have taken upon myself to review the "Heisei" Godzilla movies ("Heisei", meaning "perfecting peace", denotes the era under Emperor Akihito). Basically, these are a series of seven newer Godzilla movies which have only recently been released in the US (Godzilla 2000 and the later movies are not part of this series). Even though they are now available in video stores, I prefer the wide-screen subtitled fansubs over the horribly-dubbed videos or DVDs.

Since most of the movies were made in the 90s, they feature better special effects, modern buildings, and actual Japanese landmarks. The people look more stylish and use updated technology and military equipment. The monsters are more powerful, all having beam or fire weapons (but sometimes this degenerates most monster "battles" into laser-light shows). Godzilla is also bigger, buffer, and a lot meaner.

However, not all of the campiness is gone from the Godzilla we grew up with. If one wanted to make a "realistic" Godzilla movie, you'd have give him a more reptilian form, take away his maple-leaf spikes, and remove his atomic fire breath. In short, you'd have a disaster!!

After seeing all the Heisei movies, here's my ratings (For what it's worth, consider all these to have Spoiler Warnings):

Gojira * Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954)
(This is not a Heisei movie, but I want to start at the beginning)

Objective Synopsis: This is the original Godzilla movie. Strange occurrences happen in the ocean off Japan; boats disappear and villages are smashed. An expedition to Ohto Island reveals a dinosaur awakened and mutated after some nuclear testing. He appears in Tokyo, laying waste to the city, while all of Japan's tactics to stop him are fruitless. The only hope lies in the "oxygen destroyer", a device potentially more lethal than any atomic weapons or even Godzilla.

Logical flaw: I always wondered why a 400-foot monster was barely taller than a 10-story building. The Japanese subtitled version clears this up, revealing Godzilla as 50 meters tall (182 feet). Other than that, the only other problem was how Godzilla reappeared in Tokyo in 1984, despite being a pile of bones at the end of this movie.

Favorite Part: The allegory of nuclear terror run amok. I was weaned on the entertaining 60s and 70s Godzilla movies on Sunday afternoon and was really surprised by the somber and serious tone of this movie, especially with oxygen destroyer dilemma.

Part I could do without: I know he was the original Godzilla and the effects were great for 1954. However, I cannot stand those front facial views where the Godzilla puppet sprays aerosol "fire"

My take: My favorite still remains the original, which I consider one of the best movies of all time. Can you name any other movie that spawned 25 sequels? Make sure to watch the Japanese subtitled version, without Raymond Burr. You'll be amazed how deep the story is (and how many Godzilla scenes were cut out).

Return of Godzilla * Godzilla 1985 (1984 in Japan)
(Not made during the Heisei era in Japan, but still considered part of the timeline)

Objective Synopsis: First of all, ignore all Godzilla movies since the original in 1954. He never fought King Kong, teamed up with Jet Jaguar, did a tail slide, or saved the earth from the Smog Monster. He destroyed Tokyo in 1954 and now he's back. He's a bad monster again and stomps Tokyo.

Logical flaw: Japan, essentially disarmed since WWII, has all these laser tanks and Super-Xs.

Favorite part: Godzilla toppling the building on the Super-X. Godzilla downing the helicopter and incinerating the crowded freeway.

Part I could've done without: Getting rid of Godzilla by making him follow birds. Godzilla's eyes. The obvious robot/puppet scenes.

My take: Why do I get an irresistible urge to drink Dr Pepper? I am going a little out of order here, as this is my least favorite of the new ones. The special effects are disappointing for a modern movie and Godzilla looks hideous (especially those eyes!). I just put this up here because it begins the Heisei series.

Addenda: I have just watched the subtitled Godzilla 1984, without Burr & Dr Pepper. I now look at the movie in a better light. The tone and miniatures were among the best of the Heisei series. It was plain to see a lot of money and thought went into this one (esp the Prime Minister scenes). However, Godzilla still looked ugly and there were no exciting monster battles, so it still ranks below the others.

And now my favorites:

  1. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
  2. Objective Synopsis: Try to stay with me on this one. Japan asks time-travelers to help get rid of Godzilla. Then the nefarious time-travelers send Ghidorah (Ghidrah) to destroy Tokyo. Japan gets Godzilla to defeat Ghidorah and the time-travelers. As Japan applauds its savior, Godzilla turns around and stomps Tokyo. Japan asks the time travelers to stop Godzilla with Ghidorah (now MechaGhidorah). Whew!

    Logical flaw: Even though they went back in time and prevented Godzilla from ever existing, everyone seemed to remember him. And I'm sure someone will point out Godzilla's "new" origin invalidates all the other movies...

    Favorite part: Lots of battles: Godzillasaurus vs US Army, Ghidorah vs Japan, Godzilla vs Ghidorah, Godzilla vs Japan, MechaGhidorah vs. Godzilla.

    Part I could've done without: "Take that, you dinosaur!" and the Terminator guy running. Normally, I wouldn't criticize the human actors, but you'll just have to watch the movie to appreciate these gems.

    My take: This was the most entertaining, because there seemed to be so much happening. To wit: Godzilla's roots, Ghidorah without the beards, MechaGhidorah, the silly Terminator guy, and the "unique" take on the Grandfather paradox.

  3. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)
  4. Objective Synopsis: This is Godzilla's final movie, the one where he dies (even CNN ran an obituary). He is about to undergo nuclear meltdown, and Japan must figure out how to stop him before he destroys the world (like the China Syndrome). They decide that Godzilla must be in Tokyo when he blows up, so they lure Junior (that's what they call Godzilla's son) to Japan to act as bait. It doesn't help that a powerful new monster, Destoroyah, appears when Junior arrives in Tokyo. I found Godzilla's death at the end very moving, especially with Akira Ifukube's haunting music.

    Logical flaw: Just what were Destoroyah's oxygen-destroying capabilities?

    Favorite part: The final form of Destoroyah rising out from the fire. Very, very impressive!

    Part I could've done without: The "Aliens" scene with the people-sized Destoroyahs. Why did that one spend so much time going after the girl in the car?

    My take: Do I rate this high just because it was Godzilla's grand finale? No, I rate it high because Destoroyah looked so awesome, Toho's best looking monster since Gigan. When I saw the movie, I knew I had to get a figure of Destoroyah's final form.

  5. Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (1993)
  6. Objective Synopsis: Rodan is found on an island defending an egg, which the humans wisely procure (Oh, he won't come looking for it ). Out of the egg hatches a baby Godzilla, who is people-sized and quite friendly. Oddly enough, Godzilla starts smashing Japan looking for his son. The UNGCC (United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center) builds MechaGodzilla to stop Godzilla and Rodan.

    Logical flaw: The UN built MechaGodzilla, as if Godzilla attacks anywhere but Japan! And why did they build arms on MechaGodzilla?

    Favorite part: Seeing Rodan again. Note the improved beak (watch "Destroy All Monsters"). And the cool skull-cracking sound when Rodan pecked Godzilla

    Part I could've done without: Baby Godzilla's eyelids. Looking at MechaGodzilla as a good guy; looking at the controllers more than MechaGodzilla.

    My take: This is one of my favorites, along with the Destoroyah and King Ghidorah movies. Even in the 70s, MechaGodzilla was the toughest opponent. This has some of the best fight scenes, especially since he nearly kills Godzilla.

  7. Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)
  8. Objective Synopsis: The UNGCC builds Mogera, a robot who looks simply stupid and ridiculous, and I cannot exaggerate this enough. Imagine a penguin and a power drill. Anyway, Mogera is supposed to fight Godzilla, but the powerful SpaceGodzilla arrives and becomes a greater threat.

    Logical flaw: Mogera was an improvement over MechaGodzilla? In the island scene, did that guy really think the bullet was going to penetrate Godzilla?

    Favorite part: SpaceGodzilla deflects Godzilla's blast by creating a shield (which he didn't use enough); Little Godzilla playing with the "dangerous" land mines; "Mogera, what a piece of crap you are!"

    Part I could've done without: The battle around the styrofoam asteroids; Mogera

    My take: Is "SpaceGodzilla" the best name Toho could come up with? Little Godzilla looks "cute", and I'm sure a lot of fans didn't like him. But I did and thought he was a bright spot in the film. Seeing Godzilla protect his baby reminded me of when Godzilla was a good guy. Godzilla seemed to be in the background, the movie easily could've been titled "Mogera vs SpaceGodzilla."

    Check out the Internet Movie Database for my expanded user comment on this movie.


  9. Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)
  10. Objective Synopsis: Godzilla meets Jerry Springer. This love triangle involves Mothra, who smashes Japan because those irritating twins are kidnapped. Battra, an evil black moth who fights Mothra. And Godzilla, who shows up just hating everyone in general. The monsters are awakened by a meteor. Even "Armageddon" didn't cause this much trouble!

    Logical flaw: The meteor and monsters are somehow linked to the way we mistreat the Earth. Why did Godzilla get top billing?

    Favorite part: The final fight around Yokohama, with the Landmark Hotel and the ferris wheel (yeah, we knew that was going to last in the battle).

    Part I could've done without: Those annoying twins; the not-quite-so-subtle environmental message

    My take: I never figured out why people liked Mothra: A useless grub or a "beautiful" fuzzy moth, not really much of a powerful monster. I liked Battra's larval form and the fight around the ferris wheel. However, I disliked how the fights were choreographed. It seemed like a laser-light show; oh, for the days when monsters would simply bash each other. And, of course, I really dislike those damn twins!

  11. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
  12. Objective Synopsis: After Godzilla's raid in 1984, a scientist picks up Godzilla cells to create an anti-Godzilla monster. They combine the cells with a rose (?) and the scientists deceased daughter (!?). Biollante appears as a stationary rose, and later a huge monster. I couldn't really tell you what the monster looked like, all you see are a set of jaws with lots of teeth and tentacles/vines with teeth.

    Logical flaw: Picking a rose to complete Godzilla's opponent. Why not an alligator, lion, shark, or at least a venus fly trap? How did the final form Biollante move?

    Favorite part: Godzilla torching the rose. Finally, a breath weapon that actually damages a monster! Also, when the psychic children draw what they were dreaming about.

    Part I could've done without: The daughter's "aura" looked like a photograph. And I had quite enough of the Super-X2 song.

    My take: A rose? A rose? Then again, there was a first glimpse of the new high tech type movies. The good parts are the Osaka stomping scenes, the battle with the laser tanks, and the improved, bad-boy Godzilla.

Uh-oh! I did something besides Godzilla vs Destoroyah. I compromised the integrity of my web page by exploring other movies, right?

Hey, look that review #2. Actually, this article was originally written in July 1998 for my friend Mark's Guillame web page. Check his site out, because in addition to Godzilla reviews, he tackles other movies, pop culture, and presents many more amusing rants! My Godzilla 2000 review can be found on his page.

Head back to the The Movie page.