Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

Class: User
Author: Godzillawolf
Score: (4.5/5)
October 26th, 2010 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is, by all definitions, the ultimate Godzilla film. There are very few faults to be had, and those that do arise are so trivial that I find myself pained that they prevent me from giving this film a perfect score. This movie is so well made that I'm tempted to call it the best Godzilla film to date.

A horrible sight awaits Miki Saegusa on a routine expedition to visit Godzilla and his adopted son, Little Godzilla. The monsters' home, Birth Island, is gone! In its place, a smoking, boiling patch of sea; there is no sight of Godzilla or the little one.

A quiet night in Hong Kong quickly turns into a raging conflagration as Godzilla rises from the ocean to lay waste to all that lies in his path. Even curiouser, his body is covered in crimson streaks. He boils the sea, and his atomic ray is permanently locked in spiral ray mode. As G-Force struggles to comprehend this puzzling set of circumstances, the answer comes from a rather unexpected source.

College student Kenichi Yamane, grandson of the famous Dr. Kyohei Yamane who studied the first Godzilla 40 years earlier, reveals that the Birth Island event was caused by a uranium explosion. This was not only responsible for Godzilla's abnormal mutation, but may have also resulted in the untimely passing of Little Godzilla. This weighs heavily on Miki Saegusa, Little Godzilla's closest human contact. Kenichi also theorizes that Godzilla's surging temperature could result in an explosion far greater than the combined force of the world's nuclear arsenal, jeopardizing life on Earth.

Elsewhere, Kenichi's sister, Yukari Yamane, interviews Dr. Kensaku Ijuin about his newest discovery, micro-oxygen. The benefits of this discovery include the possibility of producing larger-than-normal fish; the potential downside is its proposed use as a devastatingly powerful weapon. Though Ijuin doubts that micro-oxygen will ride the path of malevolence, Emiko Yamane warns her niece Yukari that it may very well be the Oxygen Destroyer rediscovered. The device that eliminated the original Godzilla could hold terrible consequences for humankind, and she compels her niece to warn Dr. Ijuin.

Meanwhile, a construction project in Tokyo Bay, near the site of the original Godzilla's defeat, uncovers something that causes an anomalous increase in temperature. So hot is this phenomenon that it melts an elevator shaft! Ijuin arrives to investigate, taking samples of sediment from the area. He reveals that the samples date to the Precambrian, a time when no oxygen existed in the soil (note to reader: the true oxygen content of the Precambrian atmosphere is a disputed subject). Back at Ijuin's lab, sensors detect something alive within his samples!

Godzilla is finally located, but it is also discovered that assaulting the creature with conventional weapons would be folly, as such an act could trigger the very catastrophe that the world is trying to avoid. Kenichi surmises that there may only be one way to stop Godzilla, revive the Oxygen Destroyer.

Ijuin soon discovers, to his horror, that a hole has been torn through the flask containing the sediment, unleashing something that had been slumbering at the bottom of Tokyo Bay for almost 40 years. A security guard at an aquarium witnesses a grisly sight; something in the water is reducing fish to skeletons before his very eyes! When Kenichi and Yukari try to convince Ijuin to create a new Oxygen Destroyer, they discover that the very weapon they are seeking to revive has already awakened and mutated previously harmless and dormant Precambrian microorganisms, transforming them into the deadly creatures responsible for the aquarium fish kill. The situation in Tokyo worsens, as the Precambrian organisms combine with one another to form human-sized creatures that can move on land. The Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) moves in to contain the creatures, but they are quickly overwhelmed. The troops resort to flamethrowers, but any success is temporary.

On the other front, it is discovered that Godzilla is on a set path that Miki hypothesizes will lead to Little Godzilla, if the young one is still alive. When he approaches a nuclear plant, hungry for atomic fuel, the situation becomes critical and the Super X-3 is deployed to halt the nuclear saurian with ultra-low temperature weaponry. Godzilla is temporarily immobilized, and it appears that the uncontrolled nuclear reactions raging within his body are at least under some control. Things appear to improve further still when Little Godzilla finally resurfaces at a beach in Japan, now mutated to a young adult. Godzilla Junior, as he is now called, confirms Miki's earlier hypothesis about Godzilla's apparent path. The elder appears to be following the younger to the Bering Sea, where the latter was born. Celebration is short lived, as a grave new reality about Godzilla's fate is realized. It is expected that if Godzilla should reach a temperature of 1,200 degrees Celsius, he will suffer meltdown, sinking into the Earth and devastating the planet with the chilling prospect of so-called "China syndrome".

Meanwhile, the JSDF launches an assault on the Precambrian organisms with ultra-low temperature weaponry, which Ijuin speculates will liquefy the micro-oxygen in their bodies and destroy them. All seems to proceed as planned until the creatures regroup and combine into a colossal behemoth. Obliterating its attackers in seconds, Ijuin quickly realizes that micro-oxygen doesn't possess this kind of power alone. This beast is now Destoroyah, the living Oxygen Destroyer.

In a twist of fate, Kenichi reveals that Destoroyah might be the very thing needed to stop Godzilla in his tracks. This could be the Oxygen Destroyer they have been seeking. He comes up with a daring, high-risk plan: use Junior to lure Godzilla into a fight with Destoroyah in hopes that the Precambrian horror will annihilate Godzilla. But which is worse, the living hydrogen bomb or the living Oxygen Destroyer?

The story is virtually flawless; everything just falls into place. All the major characters are excellently developed, and almost nothing comes across as contrive or mediocre. The only thing that comes to mind (and this may be a heavy dose of nitpicking) is the wild coincidence of Destoroyah's coming into existence at roughly the same time that Godzilla's meltdown threatens Earth. A bit too convenient, no? An alternate possibility that might have worked could have had Destoroyah coming into existence as the result of humankind purposely trying to rediscover the secret of the lost weapon. But I digress, it is a minor issue. After all, Destoroyah's back story is refreshingly more fleshed-out than that of most kaiju. The only other fault I would dare cite is the fact that the catalyst to the Birth Island catastrophe is never fully revealed. It is easy to imagine that SpaceGodzilla's crystals (from the previous movie) may have been the culprit. It's no big deal, just a bit of frustrating ambiguity. Exceptions to excellence merely pave its foundation.

Megumi Odaka, in her final role as Miki Saegusa, manages a marvelous farewell performance. This is truly her best showing in any Godzilla film; she shows true emotional attachment and concern for Junior. At times when Junior's survival is unknown or placed in jeopardy, she digs deep and conjures a heartbreaking emotional display (even through subtle expression). When Junior is ultimately silenced by Destoroyah, her reaction is one that transcends the superficial facade of acting. I hope someday she'll return to resume her role, just as she has expressed interest in doing so. But if this is indeed her final Godzilla film, this is certainly a fantastic farewell performance.

Yasufumi Hayashi delivers Kenichi Yamane to an exemplary degree. While straightforward and down-to-Earth, he doesn't seem as emotionally distant as one would expect his role to demand. He overcomes the stereotype and proves to be a likeable character. Yoko Ishino's performance as Yukari Yamane is also solid. Though she doesn't receive as deep a dimension of character development, there are glimpses of insight into her character, such as her impression of Dr. Serizawa's justifiable actions forty years prior. Takuro Tatsumi's role of Kensaku Ijuin, while not the most important human in the film, breaks out of the mold of his character-type. He starts off with brash naïveté in regard to his discovery of micro-oxygen, but as he witnesses the metamorphosis of Destoroyah into the worst possible end of his work's potential, his horror and change of perspective clearly sway him into a different mind set. He is, in effect, a modern shadow of Dr. Serizawa. The other characters all perform admirably, but Sayaka Osawa's role as Meru Ozawa truly stands out from the crowd. While bold and (to a point) an audacious semi-foil of Miki, she is also understanding of the latter, enough to make her likable. Momoko Kochi's return as Emiko Yamane, although brief, is a bona fide treat. She adds a connection to the events of forty years ago with a dose of emotional depth. Masahiro Takashima also appears, taking on his brother's role from Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), Sho Kuroki. He does a brilliant job with his sibling's character, the only problem being his limited screen time. Nevertheless, I must commend Toho for a remarkable casting feat in Takashima; it's quite difficult to tell that Kuroki is played by two different actors.

As for the monsters and effects, what can I say? They're top notch! Godzilla's new suit is adorned with glowing red patches resembling the raw, natural power of magma. The suit actor really brings a sense of agony to this infamous archosaur, and even the design of the suit's head brings home the fact that we're looking at a creature suffering from an uncontrollable, internal chain reaction. We see even more of an emotionally-driven Godzilla than in recent movies, especially when Destoroyah kills Junior. Godzilla clearly cries his heart out for the sake of his adoptive son. The direction adds a sense of humanity, and there is more than an ounce of sadness when he tries, with futility, to revive Junior. The subsequent fit of rage that the nuclear nightmare unleashes upon Destoroyah continues this trend of humanity, and ultimately, this makes the eventual meltdown (a stunningly realistic effect) even more emotional.

Back to the visual effects side of things, Godzilla's spiral ray is a glowing triumph with a lot of oomph. When he unleashes his final assault on Destoroyah, the ray has a wider, more powerful presence than ever before, and the effect of energy cascading off Godzilla's back is amazing. Turning back to suits for a moment, Junior must be mentioned. Far more visually striking than his Little Godzilla incarnation, Junior is a phenomenal force with which to be reckoned, yet it's clear that he's not yet fully grown. His new atomic ray is also realized with wisdom; it clearly hasn't fully matured, and the stability endemic to G's beam hasn't fully kicked in. The movie's concluding scene, where Junior is revived as an adult, is a dramatic and unexpected plus for the audience. Great way to end a great film!

The sadistic Destoroyah is a menacing and evil beast, though I must admit, I find myself having difficulty referring to it with a precise gender. While theories exist in favor of both, its existence as a merged colony of microorganisms makes it more of an it. This existence as a merged entity also harkens back to Hedorah, who was also an amalgam of smaller organisms that constantly changed. This ultimately leads to the unsettling thought that had Godzilla and the JSDF not killed it, Destoroyah, like Hedorah, could have continued to approach a critical state capable of wiping out all life on Earth. Destoroyah does differ from Hedorah in one crucial respect; Destoroyah appears to have little rhyme or reason for its destructive tendencies, whereas Hedorah's reign of destruction seemed to merely be a byproduct of its unusual biological functions. It almost seems as though Destoroyah exists to cause death and destruction just for the sake of it. Even in its otherwise innocuous-looking micro-form, the creature provides evidence that it's simply an immensely dangerous abomination. Its juvenile and aggregate forms are even more menacing and sinister in their design, while its flying form gives off the impression of an even more demonic life form. On the visual side of things, the monster's micro-oxygen ray is a rotoscoping success, particularly when used on humans (where the effect of the ray erupting out of their backs is positively terrifying). Its final form could have easily harbored a supernatural origin, and the audience wouldn't have found itself even the slightest bit fazed. This monster is evil incarnate to the core. The "horn katana" attack is a particularly effective visual, and its ability to easily cleave through Godzilla's tough-as-diamonds hide hints at the untamable power with which we're dealing. And here's the kicker, Destoroyah held his own against Godzilla, nearly winning! If that isn't a sign that this creature has a nearly endless well of nasty tricks, I'm not sure what does. The only monster in Godzilla history that can even compare to this creature's evil is the Showa King Ghidorah, and even then, Destoroyah proves to be more of the sadist. His cold-blooded murder of Junior is the defining moment. It's ironic that the humans are left with no other viable option than to place their survival in the claws of Destoroyah; but an even more frightening prospect is the thought of just what might have happened if Destoroyah had killed Godzilla and continued its dark errand unopposed.

The film's mech, the Super X-3, comes to life as a technological triumph. Not only does it actually defeat Godzilla in a battle (becoming the only JSDF weapon to do so and not end up on the "business end" of his fury in return), but it ultimately kills Destoroyah in the finale while the beast attempts a hasty retreat (another first in the Heisei era; a JSDF weapon that successfully and directly kills a monster). The only special effects scene that falters would have to be the sequence where the Self-Defense Force assaults the juvenile Destoroyahs. While the soldier fight scenes are commendable, the tank assault is a bit less sharp. The Destoroyah props, sadly, look very much like props. Again, we can give a pass to such a minor infraction.

A rarely seen device in a Godzilla film is blood, and lots of it. It's no secret that G-flicks rarely show the monsters bleed, and when they do, it's not in an overly massive amount. Fitting in with its overall darker storyline, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah has monsters bleed from severe attacks, and when it does happen, it's generally in a larger, more realistic volume. The first example would be when Destoroyah plunges its mandibles into Junior during their first battle; a splatter of blood erupts and Destoroyah bares its victim's blood on its maw. The wound remains present for the rest of the fight; this not only looks more realistic, it also deepens the audience's concern for Junior, and Destoroyah seems ever the stronger force for its unusual capacity to open such a severe gash. The "horn katana" slashing through Godzilla is another gruesome visual, as each slice draws a spray of blood and leaves a seemingly cauterized wound in its wake. And then there's Destoroyah, losing a spurt of blood when Junior blasts its upper set of arms in the first battle. It lends to the brutality. When Godzilla assaults Destoroyah's exposed "floral pattern", causing Destoroyah to spit up massive amounts of greenish blood, it almost makes us feel sorry for this cruel villain.

The musical score is excellent; Godzilla's theme gets a deeper, more menacing update. Destoroyah's accompaniment, on the other hand, is sinister and dark in nature. As with most human weapons, the Super X-3's theme is upbeat and heroic. The solemn, sorrowful music that plays during Junior's death and the haunting melody of Godzilla's meltdown tug at the emotional strings. When we turn the prism, we see that among the most effective musical decisions in the movie is perhaps the lack of instrumental backing when a juvenile Destoroyah hunts Yukari. The sudden silence makes the scene all the more menacing.

One last thing worth mentioning is that several deleted scenes from the end of the film exist. Originally, it was intended for Destoroyah to use a chest beam weapon with devastating power during the climax. In story boards, this weapon was strong enough to blast Godzilla's tail in half. Regardless, this would have proven inadequate, and Godzilla would have continued to fight and regain the upper hand. The other is an alternate ending that had Destoroyah survive the JSDF, walking away with a crippled wing and therefore unable to escape Godzilla's wrath. The combination of Godzilla's intense heat and the JSDF's freezing weapons would spell Destoroyah's end, who falls to the ground and evaporates as it dies. While both endings are great, ultimately, it appears Toho decided to give the monster king his spotlight as he melted down alone, which does seem to be respectful to the character. Still, I kind of wish I could've seen Destoroyah's ultimate attack fully rendered onscreen.

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is a fitting grand finale to the superb Heisei Series. It's a film where everything seems to work almost flawlessly. IF you are a Godzilla fan, you simply must see this film; and if you aren't, you're cheating yourself out of a wonderful experience if you miss it. I even regret having to give it less than a perfect score; that should tell you something.