I must admit that the Heisei era of Godzilla has been a mixed bag up to this point. The special effects have been an improvement over what was previously offered. There is also greater continuity between the films. However, some of the plots have been convoluting and musical choices a little uneven at times. So the question going into Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is really whether or not this era will end on a high note or go out with a whimper.
The movie starts off with a bang as Godzilla enters Hong Kong glowing and looking like a walking volcano. The destruction is impressive and enhanced by Godzilla’s new appearance. The steam rising off his body immediately brings one to think Godzilla is essentially burning up. It is soon discovered that Godzilla is in jeopardy of exploding due to his radioactivity, which is now out-of-control. When he does explode, he’ll take most of Japan with him. As work is underway to use anti-nuclear cold weapons to freeze Godzilla, creatures appear from the site of the original Godzilla’s death. They are called Destoroyah, although they are pronounced as “destroyer” in the American version. This was due to copyright reasons Toho faced when bringing their movie to the United States.
The Destroyer (as we’ll call them) is a result of the oxygen destroyer from Gojira in 1954. We get some rare flashbacks that tie this era directly into the original film. The character of Kenichi Yamane (Yasufuni Hayashi) is the grandson of Dr. Yamane, also from Gojira. He’s a young college student who wrote a paper on Godzilla’s condition and G-Force believes he can help before Godzilla explodes. Meanwhile, we have a sub-plot involving psychic Miki Saegusa (played one more time by Megumi Odaka) and another psychic. Personally, I never grew to like the character of Miki. While I can appreciate the continuity of her appearances, she was not a very convincing actress and her scenes tend to drag a little. It was good to see Commander Takaki Aso (Akira Nakao) in the last three films, again bringing a familiar face to a series of films that all connect to each other.
The bulk of the film centers on Godzilla’s impending meltdown and destruction, which was really amazing to watch. It was a great to see how far the special effects have come since the 70s. I also thought the Destroyer, both as smaller individual creatures and the one big morphed crablike beast was one of the better rivals to Godzilla. Godzilla Jr., which had previously annoyed me, has grown up by now and works much better. With Godzilla Jr. eventually killed by the Destroyer, Godzilla seeks revenge before he too meets his end. It is almost sad as we witness Godzilla die on screen. But fear not, Godzilla’s radiation is transferred to Jr., which clearly sets up Jr. as the new Godzilla going forward.
Musically, this movie is back on track as well. Akira Ifukube’s score is ever present in the final credits as we see highlights from the original Gojira as well as of the films in the Heisei era. A fitting end as Godzilla was to be absent from the big screen for a decade. However, with the American flop in 1998, Toho had no choice but to revive the franchise in 1999 with the start of the Millennium era.
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah was a commercial success and is my favorite of the Heisei era, slightly edging out Godzilla Returns. Although it was not released theatrically in the United States, it finally saw a DVD release in 1999, paired up with Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla. Check out the trailer on YouTube and get ready for one of better films in the series.
Before anyone asks, no, I will not be reviewing the 1998 American film. That is a Godzilla film in name only and most will agree is not the true Godzilla. I’ll be picking this review series up again in November with the 23rd film in the Toho series, Godzilla 2000: Millennium. Meanwhile, things are gearing up here for the 2nd Annual 31 Days of Halloween.