Synopsis: The aftermath of the Oxygen Destroyer brings forth Destoroyah, a beast intent on killing Godzilla, who is on the verge of a nuclear meltdown.
Starting today and running for the next week in a limited North American theatrical engagement is the 29th Godzilla film in the long standing franchise (not including the two Hollywood versions) and the first Japanese Godzilla in 12 years. It’s with Shin Godzilla (which loosely translates as True Godzillla or God Godzilla and was at one point going to be released in the rest of the world as Godzilla Resurgence) where Toho has done something with a major property that very few movie studios could even dream of by licensing Godzilla’s likeness out to Hollywood to help build a multi-million dollar blockbuster franchise all the while having the creative freedom to continue forward with their own Godzilla productions that happen in completely independent universes. The beauty of having six decades worth of Godzilla is we’ve reached a point where if a person isn’t happy with how one incarnation of the King of the Monsters was handled they can move both backwards and forwards exploring how creature designs and the overall tones shifted with the ever changing times. I can’t think of any better time to be a Godzilla fan and with the constantly evolving manner that Toho is taking to keep their property as culturally relevant as when he first set foot out of Tokyo bay.
At first glance the designs of Shin Godzilla and Godzilla ’95 don’t share a lot of similarities in common that is unless you count how both are radical departures from what kaiju fans define as the quintessential Godzilla look. When Godzilla 95 first stomps into frame he’s a lot more bulkier and covered in glowing sores. The previews for Shin Godzilla have shown footage of the King glowing in an eerily similar fashion and considering I haven’t had the opportunity to see the finished product yet I can only assume that his glowing is a side effect of how he absorbs radiation. Focusing on Godzilla vs. Destoroyah it had always been the so called black sheep of the series where I didn’t want to view it in its entirety until it got a proper Blu-Ray transfer with the Japanese language track. Oddly enough the first time I watched it was last Halloween and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Released during the coveted Heisei era Godzilla vs. Destoroyah was the first Godzilla film to incorporate the bleaker messages and imagery of the 1954 original since The Return of Godzilla a full decade prior. References to the Oxygen Destroyer and having a plot point where there is a scientist following a similar path as Dr. Serizawa is where Godzilla vs. Destoroyah takes the series’ mythology into some bold new areas. Toho was also at their creative peak with their special effects work going beyond standardize miniatures and men in rubber suits. In my opinion this is where Suitmation crossed over from being an art form and reached a pinnacle of storytelling in the kaiju genre that since then hasn’t been reached. This is one of those rare accomplishments where in the year since my initial viewing I can sit here with goosebumps as I write this trying to imagine how in the hell the special effects crew were able to film this masterpiece without being driven to insanity. It’s one of those phenomenons that was designed to close out the Japanese film series for a while by passing the baton off to Hollywood. Unfortunately we all know how the first attempt at an American Godzilla went and it would take 16 years to course correct that mistake. I do find it somewhat ironic that back when Godzilla In Name Only was released in 1998 Toho was forced to end their sabbatical less then a year after Hollywood got the entire concept wrong. Now here we sit a couple years after Godzilla roared back on to the silver screen and Toho once again decided to end their sabbatical, not because of any negative feedback no instead this was to reaffirm that the king of the monsters could return in multiple forms bigger, badder, and more bad ass than ever. Once more – Welcome back king! Please stay around for as long as you see fit.
Final Grade: A+
*** Before closing out this year’s Godzilla entry I wanted to share an article that SciFiJapan did last year about the American Godzilla that unfortunately wasn’t. Some of you might be familiar with a few images of a Godzilla design the late great Stan Winston worked on. This was for that American Godzilla which would have been directed by Jan De Bont (Speed and Twister) and initially had Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt attatched to be in the lead roles. Check out the detailed article here — Godzilla Unmade: The Story of Jan De Bont’s Unproduced Tri-Star Film