Created right after Godzilla's 40th anniversary, the buildup to this film was extra dramatic, especially the simple but effective tagline, “Godzilla Dies!”. This was supposedly to make way for the American Godzilla movie, but that never came to fruition due to Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich’s vision being significantly different from Toho's. Although the film’s plot is great and the fact is that it is the final film in the Heisei series and a highly anticipated film in some aspects, this does not save Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (aka Godzilla vs. Destroyer) from being a mediocre Godzilla film in my opinion. In comparison to the Golden Age of the 50s-60s, this movie falls flat.
The film begins with a bang! Godzilla is on a burning rampage (literally!) throughout Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Destoroyah, a mysterious creature created by the oxygen destroyer, attacks Japan. It is revealed to the world that Godzilla is on the verge of a melt down; if he detonates, he will bore a hole straight through to the Earth’s core. In the midst of these terrifying events, a plan is concocted to utilize Miki Saegusa’s psychic ability to lure Godzilla into battle with Destoroyah. However, Godzilla Junior appears first, attacking Destoroyah in what would ultimately become a fatal exchange. The two engage in a drawn out battle, with Destoroyah constantly changing form. Junior wins a few rounds, although Destoroyah eventually gains the upper hand and kills the poor little guy. Godzilla arrives, and attempts to revive Junior, to no avail. Enraged, Godzilla attacks Destoroyah, but cannot seem to defeat him. Luckily, the Super-X3 arrives and exploits Destoroyah’s weakness to low temperatures. Destoroyah is defeated, but Godzilla’s temperature quickly approaches critical. The JSDF attempts to freeze him, but fails. Godzilla finally melts down...
It appears as though Tokyo, and perhaps the entire world, will be doomed to exposure by a terrifying dose of radioactivity; when suddenly, all the radiation is absorbed by Junior... who becomes the new Godzilla!
The story is good put on paper but executed poorly, with none of the main characters really going directly “into” the action. All the homages to the original film disappear just as quickly as they appear, with Momoko Kochi for instance, barely being in the film above 5 minutes of screentime. The ending is one of the more histrionic of any G-film perhaps besides the original, almost looking like a completely unhappy ending until the last 4 or 5 seconds of the film. The pacing isn't that great, a problem which sadly plagues most of the Heisei Godzilla films. The subplot about Kenichi Yamane feels forced in, for instance, and could have easily been cut with the film no worse for wear.
The effects were very impressive, with Godzilla’s suit looking quite amazing. The only other suit that matched the quality of this was the one featured in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991). The red eyes made him look super vicious; the steam and radiation emitted from the Big G’s body made it look even more painful for the creature. As far as Junior is concerned, he looks just like a smaller version of Godzilla, and has a roar almost exactly like his father's. Destoroyah looks very scary, with a suit that looks almost like the Alien Queen. Destoroyah is just a great monster all around. One aspect I did not like however, was the scene with the mini Destoroyahs. The props used were Bandai Destoroyah toys. This comes off as jarring on most viewings since the effect is not like anything else in the film I also loved the CGI here. Godzilla freezing scene, rendered through computer animation, was particularly effective.
The acting in the film bores me. Except for Momoko Kochi, who sadly only briefly shows up in the film, none of the performances are very exceptional. Although several Toho veterans, such as Kenji Sahara, are in the film, they are relegated to watching the action on a viewscreen. None of them get to interact with anything and thus their potential is wasted. As for Megumi Odaka as Miki Saegusa, she’s a pretty mediocre actress in here. While not bad, she only shows slight sadness at the film’s climax and it isn’t very convincing. The young Kenichi Yamane’s actor, Yasufumi Hayashi, is sadly very dry and his character contributes nothing to the plot in my opinion.. He comes across as little more than a nerdy college kid with a slight crush on Miki in the end.
Maestro Akira Ifukube brings a great score to finish out his career. The orchestral pieces are very emotional, with the music playing during Godzilla’s meltdown being some of the most effective ever utilized. I cried during that scene on a few viewings. Destoroyah’s theme is menacing, albeit repetitive. The music that plays during Godzilla’s first appearance is also very menacing. Ifukube gets a great score across the board.
Final word: Godzilla vs. Destoroyah has a few great scenes, great effects and an excellent score but, overall, is not that great in retrospect. On first viewing it’s a treat for Godzilla fans, but subsequent viewings it loses it's luster.