I like the Heisei films.
Here are the things I liked about the series as a whole.
1) I like the continuity between the films. To compare to the Showa films, there is a continuity there, but it is very loose. You get the big brushstrokes (Godzilla defeated Mechagodzilla in the previous film) but the finer details were not as important (the location of the Mechagodzilla remains are completely different from the previous film). I chalk this up to the lack of home video in that era. Back then, you saw a movie in the theater and then that was it. Maybe you'd see it on TV, but the idea of being able to watch a movie time and time again and memorize every little detail was close to impossible.
With the rise of home video, the Godzilla series adapted accordingly. Events of one film (Godzilla Vs. Biollante) would impact events 2, 3, or 4 entries down the road (Godzilla Vs. Spacegodzilla). For the first time in the Godzilla series, we had regular recurring characters, most notably Miki Segusa.
I liked this because it rewarded fans that had a memory and showed a cause and effect dynamic between the films. Time travelers bring a giant cyborg to the past to fight Godzilla and it is destroyed in the process. That technology is then salvaged and adapted to build a more powerful weapon by the present government. The Anti-Godzilla force in 1989 is basically a few dudes in an office. By 1993, it is a mutli-national coalition. That type of stuff worked well for me and gave it a comic booky vibe with each new entry building off of what was already established.
2) Godzilla. I mean, yeah, he's the reason we're here right. When I think of Godzilla, the 90s version is the image that instantly pops into my head. While I will always praise Haruo Nakajima's work with the character in the Showa Era, there is just something about the 90s version that felt true to me. The design of the suit forced this version to be less mobile and doesn't do anything fancy, but that felt more believable. I mean he's just this massive forward moving hulking mass that can't be stopped, a tower of power that blows up and stomps everything in his path. That always worked for me. Granted, I love the gravity defying dropkick as much as the next guy, but the 90s version just felt the most appropriate.
3) The Reimagining of the Classic Monsters. This series features some great re-imaginings of Toho's greatest stars. King Ghidorah's origin was awesome in 1991 and delivered one of my favorite versions of that monster. Tying him in with Godzilla's origin pretty much cemented him as Godzilla's greatest foe in my eyes. While I prefer the harsher industrialized look of the 70s version, reimagining Mechagodzilla as a weapon to counteract Godzilla was a creative way to redo the rivalry without feeling like a rehash of the original series.
And I gotta say, the Heisei version is my favorite version of The Son of Godzilla. OK ok, Little Godzilla in 1994 was an overly and obnoxiously cute misstep, but the other two designs were great. Two of my biggest complaints about Minilla was that he never looked like Godzilla and he never aged throughout the series. Well, this version fixes both of those, starting him off as a Baby Godzillasauras that was cute, but also recognizable as Godzilla. And then we ended it with the Junior version, showing his growth towards becoming a fully realized Adult Godzilla, the greatest danger of a baby Godzilla running around. And hey, Junior held his own against the smaller Destroyahs and gave us one of the bigger heartbreakers of the series, as Godzilla mourns the loss of his son. That counts for something.
And screw it, I like this version of MOGUERA! He's a frigging transformer! What's not to love?! And he was not useless in the final battle against Spacegodzilla. He blew off those shoulder crystals like a champ!
Rodan was always a personal favorite of mine and while I am not overly fond of the design in GVMG93 when compared to the original, it was nice to see him get to play a role in the series and comeback. And hey, his fight with Godzilla at the start of the film is a highlight of the film and the series.
I guess the only one that didn't quite work for me as well was Mothra as basically everything about her was derivative from the Showa series. It wasn't bad...they just didn't do anything new. I guess all the new stuff came in the trilogy, but in GVM92, it just felt like a big retread, which was disappointing coming off the heels of a great reimagining of King Ghidorah.
It also would have been nice if Anguiras had made the cut, but I guess you can't get everything you want.
4) The New Monsters. In addition to redoing some of Godzilla's most classic co-stars, this series also gives us a new batch of kaiju to contend with and some of them are down right awesome. So much so, that I wish some of them would make a comeback in future films.
My number one favorite Heisei creation is Biollante, who is just a masterpiece to view on screen. When I praise practical special effects over CGI, this is the type of stuff I'm talking about. Biollante looked imposing, grotesque, and powerful. You had the tendrils moving all over the place, and I am still shocked that they were able to get that massive thing to move across the stage the way it did. I remember the first time I saw that film and I was blown away by how that thing was executed.
I also really loved the design for Destroyah, who looks like something born from hell. And Battra was a great doppleganger/twisted/Bizarro version of Mothra and had a great design in both forms. Mecha King Ghidorah was a huge highlight the film and looked cool. And hey, I even liked Spacegodzilla. Yeah its just a blue Godzilla with crystals all over him, but I always liked the personality of him. He was just so mean! lol. I guess for me he was to the Heisei films what Gigan was to the Showa. Cool monster, I just wish the movie that debuted him was better.
When it comes to Godzilla returns, we always get Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Mechagodzilla, with Rodan sprinkled in once in a while. But come on! Lets get some of those Heisei monsters back in the mix! Its time!
5) Humanity's Ingenuity: The Showa Series gave us some great weapons and strategies to take on the monsters on a more equal footing. The Oxygen Destroyer comes to mind, as well as weapons like the Attragon Super Sub, the Maser Tanks, and Moonlight SY-3. The Heisei series follows suit with some of the most creative ways to solve their monster problems.
In G85, we see the Super X, the first of the Super Anti-Kaiju weapons that we'd see throughout the films. I also loved the strategy of using Godzilla's biology against him by luring away with bird calls. Godzilla is an animal after all and using that to their advantage makes a lot of sense to me.
Godzilla Vs. Biollante features some of the greatest creativity displayed by humanity against the big guy. We get the Super X-2 (my favorite of the Super Xs) which directs Godzilla's atomic ray back at him. We get the Anti Nuclear Energy Bacteria, which is brilliant, but his body temperature causes it not to work, so they have an artificial lightning field to help raise his body temp to get the bacteria to take effect. So they have to use the tanks and planes to direct him into that position, as well, as using the Super X to set him up to get the ANEB shot down his throat. Too many times, the military attack scenes can seem cliché in a movie like this, but when there is a clear strategy behind it and a motive behind everything they do, it is more interesting than just marching people off to their death in a useless fight.
And then we get the G-Force weapons of Mechagodzilla, Garuda (which for all intents and purposes of the film, is basically Mecha-Rodan), and MOGUERA. They used the tech from Mecha King Ghidorah to advance their chances against Godzilla and it made for some interesting material in the films. And then in Godzilla Vs. Destroyah, we get the freezer weapons. Okay, lasers that freeze about as scientifically impossible as me being able to fly to the moon with my farts, but still, its cool, haha. Also Super X-III. Isn't that great?
Like I said, sending out tanks and plans just to get stomped with no rhyme or reason can get old and stale, but with a little creativity and actually showing some kind of strategy for their actions, the military can appear quite competent or at least show that they can roll with the punches and change their plans if needed.
6) The Characters = I've often found that the Godzilla movies I tend to like the most feature at least one character aside from the monsters that I can latch onto and make the story more engaging. In the original film, it was Dr. Serasawa. In Mothra Vs. Godzilla, it was the villainous Kumayama. In Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero, it was Glenn. In Terror of Mechagodzilla, it was Katsura and Dr. Mafune.
But what about the Heisei films?
Well in Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah, I really felt for Mr. Shindo and his relationship to the dinosaur that became Godzilla. This resulted in what might be my favorite scene in all of Godzilla as he reunites with his old friend. Its funny that I connected with him so much over Emi Kano, who might be the worst Godzilla character of all time (seriously, how dumb is she?).
Miki Segusa being in six films in the row also gives us a chance to see her perspective on events as well as her evolution throughout the series. She starts out as someone trying to stop Godzilla, but then develops more of an understanding and connection to the creature, resulting in her tearful goodbye at the end of Godzilla Vs. Destroyah, as well as the loss of her psychic powers. She is not the most dynamic character in each movie, but she is just always there taking everything in and reacting to it and it feels like if there was a book to right about these events, it would come from her perspective. Also, she used her psychic powers to drive Godzilla away and (unwillingly) destroyed Godzilla's 2nd brain while onboard Mechagodzilla...that's pretty hardcore.
For all the faults the film has, I really like Yuki in Godzilla Vs. Spacegodzilla, giving us a Captain Ahab style character for Godzilla to deal with. Doing such a thing is very natural, and seeing it again in the animated Godzilla films with Haruo just feels right. And tying him into Col. Gondo from Godzilla Vs. Biollante as his motivation was cool too.
And while the main cast of G84 is kind of dull, I always really liked the Prime Minister in that film. His facial expressions and overall demeanor made it feel like he just had the weight of the world on his shoulders in this impossible crisis. And hey, we get Raymond Burr back in the US version and he's far and away the best thing about it.
And I always liked Dr. Shiragami, who I guess is kind of the closest thing to a Dr. Frankenstein in this series (creating monsters while trying to achieve immortality). And the assassin feels like a human equivalent to Godzilla, just a force of nature that deals out death almost immediately after showing up.
Not all the characters are winners (don't make me bring up Emi Kano again) but the ones that are good help make the movies stand out more.
7) Akira Ifukube's music = Nothing too big here, but the original and greatest Godzilla composer came back to do four of the seven Heisei films, so...YES! And some of those scores are personal favorites of mine as well. For example, Godzilla Vs. Destroyah benefitted from an awesome main theme, a fantastic opening title score, and the requiem for Godzilla itself, which was hauntingly beautiful and done to perfection.
So yeah, there was plenty I enjoyed about the Heisei films, lol. It wasn't always peaches and cream, but there was plenty for me to like.