Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

Class: Staff
Author: Miles Imhoff
Score: (4/5)
April 16th, 2005 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is the quintessential epitome of the latter Heisei entries. While the “golden age” of Heisei (The Return of Godzilla [1984], Godzilla vs. Biollante [1989], and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah [1991]) may have passed, this movie truly revitalizes the awe-inspiring spirit of Godzilla's renaissance era. With an elegant style, a powerful plot, brilliant effects, and believable acting, this entry is definitely a notch above favorites from all three timelines, and its impact on the series is challenged by only a handful of competitors. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is without a doubt a paradigm all its own.

The year is 1996. Birth Island, the home of Godzilla and Little Godzilla, is a smoldering graveyard beneath the waves. All of the cogs are finally in place for the most momentous event in Godzilla's history; but it all starts serenely at an airport in Hong Kong. Flights come and go as an eerie calm permeates the air under the amber sky. The inky darkness of night befalls the metropolis as two pilots soar above the deceptively calm sea. The waves break and the head of Godzilla appears before them. Godzilla glows a fiery red as it stampedes through the urban sprawl.

The perplexing mystery of Godzilla's glow prompts the G-Summit to convene. It is learned from one Professor Marvin that Godzilla's heart is a natural nuclear reactor and that something has disturbed it. The professor admits that the findings are not his own, but are instead those of a Japanese college student, Kenichi Yamane… the grandson of Dr. Kyohei Yamane. Professor Fukazawa arrives at Kenichi's dormitory to question him. The student accompanies Professor Fukuzawa on his return to G-Force, where Kenichi reveals an awful theory: Godzilla may be on the verge of a nuclear explosion, the likes of which would equal the total power of the world's atomic arsenal.

Elsewhere, the television reporter Yukari Yamane (Kenichi's sister) questions Dr. Kensaku Ijuin about his new discovery: micro-oxygen. Arrogantly, Kensaku dispenses any and all claims that micro-oxygen could be dangerous. The elderly Emiko Yamane, the daughter of Dr. Kyohei Yamane, warns Yukari that the micro-oxygen process and the oxygen destroyer process may be one in the same. Fears continue to mount as an accident occurs within close proximity to where the first Godzilla was laid to rest over forty years earlier. A mysterious form of life is detected in the marine soil, and that life is discovered to have a very potent quality. The microscopic creatures spread into a nearby aquarium, and the fish become the victims of a morbidly horrific death. They are completely stripped of their flesh! Kenichi, through the assistance of his sister Yukari, pleads with Kensaku to expand his research into forming a new oxygen destroyer to defeat Godzilla, but their conversation is interrupted by the news of the terrible fish kill.

Time passes and Tokyo is forced to deal with the awful threat in an entirely new form. The once microscopic beings now tower above humans, and the deadly arthropods journey into the Premium Building in Tokyo. Special forces are released in order to eliminate the stealthy threat, but weaponry is of little assistance as the creatures spray micro-oxygen in order to brutally liquefy and subdue their attackers. Containment of the monsters fails, and the sinister creatures crawl out of the building, much to the horror of the film crews and military personnel outside. Yukari barely escapes with her life, as the creatures are subdued through the burning blaze of lethal flamethrowers.

As the gruesome scene fades into memory, Godzilla enters the Bungo Channel. The burning desire for nuclear nourishment climbs as Godzilla closes the gap between he and a nuclear power plant. Major Sho Kuroki is ordered to intercept Godzilla with the Super-X 3. The technologically advanced craft overwhelms the monster with freezer missiles, cadmium missiles, and a super cold laser. Godzilla is frozen and neutralized for six hours.

A quaking force suddenly interrupts a calm day at the beach. Godzilla Junior, now grown due to the radiation on Birth Island, rises from the tide. Miki Saegusa arrives on the scene, relieved that the creature is still alive. Junior moves north, and Godzilla follows far behind.

Meanwhile, Kenichi theorizes something devastating. If Godzilla's internal temperature reaches 1,200º Celsius, then he will experience a meltdown, effectively boring a hole toward the core of the Earth. As Destoroyah continues to change and develop into a living oxygen destroyer, Kenichi concocts a mad plan of action: lead Junior to Tokyo in order to lure Godzilla to his death at the hands of Destoroyah. The creation of a new oxygen destroyer isn't necessary if the living oxygen destroyer can kill Godzilla. Fellow psychic Meru Ozawa convinces Miki Saegusa that they must use their extrasensory perception to shift Junior's course toward Tokyo. Miki is hesitant, but ultimately agrees.

Junior is led into Tokyo. He comes face to face with Destoroyah, and they become locked in battle. Junior shoots his thermonuclear breath at Destoroyah and rips off one of his limbs. Destoroyah proceeds to inject Junior with micro-oxygen in a brutal and utterly repulsive scene. Junior finally regains his strength and fires his breath at Destoroyah, causing the creature to fall into a nearby building.

Day turns to night as Junior and Godzilla meet in Tokyo, exchanging respectful roars. Their meeting is cut drastically short as Destoroyah transforms into its final stage. Rising from the burning building, Destoroyah subdues Godzilla and airlifts Junior into the sky. The cruel and heartless monster releases Junior, who crashes to the ground. Miki and Meru's helicopter lands, and they run to check on Junior's condition. Junior and the helicopter are blasted with Destoroyah's micro-oxygen mist. Miki and Meru, barely escaping the destruction, make their way to the dying monster. Junior's strength fails and it closes its eyes. Miki falls to the ground, crying over the loss of Junior as Godzilla also cries in sadness.

Godzilla, with nothing left to live for, charges at Destoroyah. The demonic Destoroyah drags Godzilla with its tail and slices Godzilla with its horn beam as the Super-X 3 arrives. Godzilla's spiral breath ruptures Destoroyah and causes the malicious monster to regurgitate yellow fluids. It reproduces into several juvenile Destoroyahs, but the creatures are quickly tossed aside by the infuriated Godzilla.

Godzilla somberly trudges his way over toward his broken son. Yukari and Kensaku airlift Miki and Meru away from the scene of Junior's fall. Godzilla arrives and attempts to revive his son, to no avail. Junior's eyes close, and he dies. Destoroyah, once again in his final form, interrupts the farewell and clashes with Godzilla. The two monsters fight savagely, but Destoroyah is ultimately killed by an array of freezing weapons.

Robbed of his revenge, having lost his son, and burning close to 1,200 degrees, Godzilla quickly begins melt. The Super-X 3 and several nearby freezing weapons try to minimize the damage from the meltdown. Slowly, Godzilla's flesh melts away and a skeleton becomes visible. Godzilla's body collapses in on itself, and it dies. The mood is very somber as the world anticipates a terrible apocalyptic disaster… but suddenly, the radiation levels decrease. Among the smoke of the urban rubble, a fully-grown Junior is visible. Godzilla's son lives on…

The acting is quite refreshing in this movie, as is the character development. There are no lapses in performance from any of the main characters. That's a lot to say, especially considering the era in which this film was created. Megumi Odaka by far delivers the best performance. Her character's hesitation at the dilemma of whether or not to use Junior as bait to lure Godzilla to his death is well-executed, and reminds one much of her character's similar moral dilemma in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993). Her grief at the death of Junior is also a very genuine performance, and coupled with Akira Ifukube's music, the scene is truly accentuated to a level of pure sadness. Yasufumi Hayashi handles his character nicely, as well. While his character has few moral dilemmas or difficult decisions, it should be noted that he is easily the least annoying young male lead in a Godzilla film. He portrays his character as bold and exuberant, while still maintaining a down-to-Earth persona. Sayaka Osawa plays a psychic in this movie. Her character's bold nature is similar to Yasufumi Hayashi's character, yet her general demeanor is more similar to Megumi Odaka's character. Yoko Ishino and Takuro Tatsumi are among the top billed characters in the movie, but their characters are given extremely little development. With what they're given they do fine, but the audience only learns a little about each. Ultimately, the two characters become plot devices, only meant to explain a new occurrence or help the other characters. Momoko Kochi reprises her role as Emiko Yamane after over forty years. She is given merely cameo appearances, but her dramatic style greatly lends to the intensity of this film. Masahiro Takashima reprises his brother's role as Major Sho Kuroki in this film. He does rather well with the character that his brother portrayed in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), but he is given relatively minimal screen time in comparison. Akira Nakao reprises his role as the gruff and somewhat aggressive Commander Takaki Aso. Like the former two Godzilla movies, his role is used infrequently. It is obvious that his inclusion is simply meant as a method by which to symbolize the militaristic aspect of the counteroffensive in just one man. Saburo Shinoda's character: Professor Fukazawa, is given little development, but Shinoda handles what little he is given with success. Ronald Hoerr's brief appearance as Professor Marvin seems to be just a reminder of the international elements of the film. Luckily, his dialogue is a little more natural than what fans have come to expect from American actors in Godzilla movies. The final actor worth mentioning is Koichi Ueda, who plays the night watchman at the aquarium. His role is a rather pleasant addition to a movie of this intensity, as his reaction to the fish kill is an enjoyable, yet twisted comic relief.

Character development does not stop at the actors in this movie; it expands into the realm of the kaiju in a way that it hasn't since the Showa Era. The antagonist in this film is perhaps the most heartless and cruel of any kaiju to ever exist, Destoroyah. Physically, the props and suit look amazing, and are really an excellent choice for Godzilla's final Heisei foe. The reddish hues, the jagged features, and the demonic appearance of the many forms of Destoroyah are handled nicely. In fact, its wild and deadly features, coupled with its personality and several stages, can easily be seen as a loose remake of Hedorah. Destoroyah's many forms are portrayed as vicious, but it is the final form that is shown to be truly cold. The portrayal of its ruthless murder of Junior is a form of cruelty truly unseen since the vicious tooth-and-claw battles of the latter Showa entries, and it is this one act that best sums up the character Destoroyah as a whole. The protagonist, Godzilla, is handled powerfully as well. Its anger is intense, and its ferocity is great. Physically, the suit is fantastic. The glowing nuclear rash, the fiery spines, and the red eyes all contrasting the dark gray flesh truly creates a most nightmarish incarnation of Godzilla. Underneath this exterior, the character of Godzilla is given a far greater range of emotions than previously seen in any Heisei movie to date. Godzilla's respectful and close relationship with Junior shows purpose and kindness. Godzilla's depression following Junior's death shows his extreme grief at the loss of his only friend, and after Destoroyah's death, it shows an added sense of hopelessness at an inability to exact his revenge. This is one of the first movies, since the Showa timeline, to really portray Godzilla as something much more than just an animal. Junior is the final kaiju in this movie. The creature, like Godzilla, shows kindness and respect toward his kin. Unlike Godzilla, there is somewhat of a precedent behind his personality. Physically, Junior looks positively fantastic. If Junior's suit were ever used as a Godzilla suit, it would be among the best. The neck movements are organic, the hunch is reptilian, the color is superb, and the spines are a perfect size for the overall look. Behind the wonderful suit is Junior's character, whose nobility is surpassed by few kaiju. He fights Destoroyah valiantly and is murdered ruthlessly and unfairly. Though his fear is ever-present, he fights with intensity. Despite it all, he holds on long enough to bid a silent farewell to his father. Then, in the end, he remains alone, revived by his father's dying radiation and succeeding his father as the King of the Monsters. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is truly one of the most intriguing, interesting, and beautiful monster dramas to ever unfold on the big screen.

The special effects in this movie are fantastic. There is no doubt that there are few movies prior to Godzilla vs. Destoroyah that match the effects of this film. Still, there are a few lapses to get out of the way first. Destoroyah's earlier forms are plagued by the “hovering crawl”, a Showa-old effects flaw where a monster prop appears to hover as its legs move. Another embarrassing special effect is the exhaust from the Super-X 3, which at times looks very dated, much like the misty rocket exhaust from the Showa era. The poor special effects are few and far between, though they should be mentioned. For the most part, this movie has brilliant effects. First and foremost, the matting, backdrops, and overall use of composite shots are executed brilliantly. Miki standing in front of a dying Junior can be considered a special effects risk. Normally, ballooning a shot of a suit behind an actor can create a terrible blurring effect. The blur is quite minimal, and the scene is effectively executed in this film. Godzilla's attack on Hong Kong is even more convincing, as is Junior's appearance at the beach. Luckily, the need for this form of special effect is minimal when one notes the magnificent miniatures. They are quite realistic and provide an excellent urban arena for the battling monsters. Speaking of tangible special effects, the scene where the special forces attack the many Destoroyahs with flamethrowers is pretty superb. Using larger props, real flamethrowers, and a more eyelevel-fighting environment, the makers of this film really know how to add diversity to the action scenes. While the scene may last a little long, it is still a wise addition to the movie. Speaking of the flamethrowers, the pyrotechnics are handled nicely in this film. From the explosions, to the burning Destoroyah props, the effects in this category work cooperatively with several other types of effects to create a very powerful and diverse environment. The pyrotechnics may excel, but the rotoscoping effects are handled even more beautifully. Godzilla's spiral breath and Junior's traditional blue breath provide a great contrast and appear full and realistic. Destoroyah's micro-oxygen beam is an animated white mist that looks eerily familiar to the rotoscoping effects used in Godzilla (1954). Destoroyah's horn beam gives a fantastic three-dimensional effect when it is used to present the illusion of slicing through Godzilla's shoulder. Finally, the Super-X 3's super cold laser also presents a superb rotoscoping effect. The CG in this film is used very effectively, if relatively minimally. The simulation of Godzilla's explosion and resulting mushroom cloud is not only a brilliant addition to the movie plot wise, but it excels in the graphics department too. The most amazing special effects display is, of course, Godzilla's meltdown. From the use of the simpler elements such as glitter and smoke to the actual melting effects and energy rotoscoping, Godzilla's meltdown is the ultimate special effects triumph in this particular film. Giving the illusion of a giant monster, whose flesh melts away to bone as it collapses, is an enormous challenge, but the outcome is truly an enormous accomplishment.

The music in this film is without a doubt among the most powerful and interesting in the entire Godzilla series. Godzilla's opening theme is a revamped version of one of his long-unused 1954 themes, and it greatly helps to draw a firm connection to the first movie. This particular theme is very heavy and very powerful, and it is an amazing and apropos theme for this movie's Godzilla. Several of Akira Ifukube's usual Godzilla themes make an appearance in this movie, as well. Junior's theme (which is relatively young in the scope of Godzilla movies) makes a triumphant return, and its tragic and melancholy sound gives it an ironic amount of gravity and flexibility. Oddly, it is used just as successfully to show that Junior survived the Birth Island destruction, as it is to show Junior's death. The Super-X 3 has a very interesting theme, as well. It is yet another urgent military theme, complimenting the technologically advanced craft nicely. It is a somewhat common formula to have a higher pitched and faster paced theme to accompany the military, and it has been a working standard since the Showa timeline. Luckily, that working standard still works. Destoroyah's theme may be repetitive, but its villainous tone aids in increasing the monster's most heinous and maniacal nature. There is another brilliant theme in this movie too, and it is perhaps the most enigmatic. This theme makes its way into the credits montage. It is a revamped version of King Kong's 1962 island theme, and its inclusion is very perplexing. One can theorize that its usage may have something to do with the failed attempts at a Heisei remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla. Perhaps that is reading a little too far into it, but one must admit that its addition to the soundtrack is thought provoking. The final theme worth mentioning is perhaps one of Akira Ifukube's most brilliant themes of all time, and this might very well be an understatement! The theme starts out as a chorus, and eases its way into a very chilling and very haunting theme that accurately and most beautifully provides closure to the tragic monster known as Godzilla. This theme accompanies Godzilla's meltdown, and no theme could so perfectly reflect the mood as this one does. Truly, there is no mistaking that Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is virtually unmatched in musical sophistication.

One last aspect worth mentioning about this film is the stock footage. Stock footage, when used properly, can accentuate a Godzilla movie by building bridges to the past. The use of footage from Godzilla (1954) during the earlier parts of the movie aids to build further interest in the plot and the Heisei timeline as a whole. This is not the only location where stock footage can be found. A montage, added to the end of the movie, shows scenes from [I]all[/I] of the Heisei entries, solidifying the tight continuity that fans adore about this timeline. It not only provides a visible eulogy for Godzilla, but it also expertly lightens the mood and sums up Godzilla's modern career. Though this movie could survive fine without it, the use of stock footage really kicks it up a notch!

There is no doubt that Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is among the best and most beloved Godzilla films. The music, the special effects, the acting, and the plot are well above average, and the film's cinematic impact is challenged by only a few kaiju movies. It captures the darkness of the first movie, while adhering to the Heisei style. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah also has the perfect way to end the closely-knit Heisei timeline: with closure. Unlike Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), which ended the Showa timeline without a real “goodbye”, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah finally brings Godzilla's story to a close (at least the Heisei portion of his story). Had no Godzilla movie been created after Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, this movie could have stood as the final Godzilla movie, with more than a few Godzilla fans satisfied that the long saga finally had a beginning and an end. Of course, where would the fun be in just stopping? Above all, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is a milestone, both cinematically and chronologically in the scope of the importance of Godzilla films. With so much said, and so many splendid compliments tossed, there is only one viable way to sum it all up: Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is really, really cool.