The new Godzilla movie opens this Friday, and to celebrate, we thought we’d take a look at the Top Ten Godzilla Movies from first to last. I hope nobody was hoping to see Matthew Broderick’s picture on this list. Shōwa series (1954–1975) Gojira aka Godzilla Runtime: 98 minutes Release Date: Nov. 3 1954 Director: Ishirô Honda Screenplay: Ishirô Honda & Takeo Murata Special Effects: Eiji Tsuburaya Kaiju Co-Star: None Godzilla portrayed by: Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka Inspired by the horrors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (as well as the financial success of the 1952 Japanese re-release of King Kong and 1953 release of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms), Gojira was the brainchild of movie producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, director/co-writer Ishirô Honda, and effects director Eiji Tsuburaya. Together, they crafted a creature that was the embodiment of pure destruction and ruin — of nature’s revenge on mankind. But it was a film that almost wasn’t made. Initially another film entirely was on the Toho Company slate, but the project fell apart and Toho needed another film quickly. Producer, Tanaka had read about the Lucky Dragon incident, where a Japanese fishing ship had been overwhelmed by the U.S. testing of a hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll, inflicting many of the fishermen with radiation sickness, at least one of whom died. Lifting the giant monster angle from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Tanaka worked with Tsuburaya to design the dinosaur-inspired monster suit that we all know today. Even that was a compromise, though, from the desired stop-motion process (inspired by King Kong) that proved to be too costly for the project. Finally, a name was decided on, with Gojira being a combination of gorilla (gorira) and whale (kujira) — and despite the rumors that the name was a heavy-set crewmember’s nickname, there’s no evidence to back up the claim. This is a film that fans of the later Shōwa series films might not recognize. There’s nothing funny or anthropomorphic about Gojira. It’s a man in a suit, sure, but Honda’s direction makes it plain from the start that this isn’t light entertainment. Gojira is about death. Atomic death rolling out across Japan in a slow wave that cannot be stopped. Even the love triangle plot falls by the wayside, abandoning traditional melodrama as Emiko Yamane (Momoko Kôchi) and her betrothed, Dr. Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), are more like brother and sister, while her real feelings are for salvage ship captain Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada). They keep their feelings secret, but even when they are revealed, there’s barely a ripple. Because Dr. Serizawa has more important things on his mind than settling down and starting a family. He’s invented a technology more deadly than the atomic bomb, and it may be the only thing that can stop Gojira’s rampage. But revealing it means exposing it to the governments of the world, and he won’t have that. It’s a fantastic moral dilemma for what is ostensibly just a giant monster movie. It raises the stakes, and when paired with the scenes of carnage and destruction — including hospitals overflowing with adult and child victims of radiation poisoning — you can’t help but feel exactly what Honda wants you to feel. Horror and despair. And when Dr. Serizawa sacrifices himself to both kill Gojira and take the secret of the Oxygen Destroyer technology to the grave with him, it’s the noblest act possible. The love affair becomes childlike antics in the background, while the grown-ups make the hard choices they wouldn’t even consider. Gojira is a bleak and horrific film, with a clear message that somehow doesn’t come across as preachy or elitist. It’s a warning. And because it takes itself seriously, the material is elevated into something more philosophical than just the spectacle of watching cities crumble. It drives home the idea that nature doesn’t give a shit about you or your family or your future. Humankind doesn’t control nature. — Paul Brian McCoy Godzilla vs. Mothra aka Godzilla vs The Thing, Mosura tai Gojira (Mothra Against Godzilla) Runtime: 89 minutes Release Date: April 29, 1964 Director: Ishirô Honda Screenplay: Shin’ichi Sekizawa Special Effects: Eiji Tsuburaya Kaiju Co-Star: Mothra Godzilla portrayed by: Haruo Nakajima Mothra portrayed by: Katsumi Tezuka After the huge box-office success of King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962 (which was in turn inspired by the success of Mothra the year before that), the Toho Company wanted to do another quickie King Kong movie, but rights holders RKO refused. Regardless, the franchise urge would not be denied! After a script pitting Godzilla against a giant Frankenstein monster was rejected, Toho decided to instead pit the King of Monsters against their newest daikaiju star, Mothra, kicking off eleven years of Toho monster battles and team-ups. Unlike the rest of the Shōwa series Godzilla films from this point on, Godzilla is the baddie (having been washed up on Kurada Beach and buried in the mud after a hurricane) and Mothra is called upon to save Japan from his wrath. But it’s not that simple. Also washed up on shore by the storm was a gigantic egg which happens to be Mothra’s. However, before anyone can figure out exactly what’s going on, the owner of Happy Enterprises shows up and claims ownership rights, having paid the fishermen who found it. Our heroes, news reporter Ichiro Sakai (Akira Takarada), photographer Junko Nakanishi (Yuriko Hoshi), and Professor Miura (Hiroshi Koizumi) are contacted by the tiny twin Shobijin (Yûmi and Emi Itô) – Mothra’s fairy representatives — who implore them to return Mothra’s egg before it hatches or Mothra’s larvai will destroy Japan in search of food. So it’s already a race against time before Godzilla ever rears his scaly head, but once he reappears, our heroes decide to try to enlist the aid of Mothra to drive Big G away. This despite sending the Shobijin home to Infant Island without their egg. Mothra, however, is old and dying, and besides, the Japanese had nuked Infant Island already, so why should she help, really? Because Mothra don’t roll like that. In the end, Mothra sacrifices herself to battle Godzilla, but then it’s her larvae’s turn to take the fight to the big green bastard. And take it to him they do; cocooning Godzilla in webbing and sending him to the bottom of the sea before heading home for Infant Island. This is the film that really cemented everything that would come after (until 1975), establishing the dynamic of the heroic monster (however accidentally heroic) fighting off the invading monster before swimming away at the end of the film while our heroes wave goodbye. This is Honda’s third Godzilla film and screenwriter Shin’ichi Sekizawa’s second Godzilla script, and together they would implement everything that I grew up loving about Godzilla movies. This was a world where the government was inept, businessmen were corrupt, and the real heroes were courageous journalists and scientists who were ready to sacrifice everything to do what was right. And Mothra was a reflection of that ideal. Even though Godzilla was a bad guy this time around, Toho knew a good thing when they saw it and in the very next film, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Mothra played a huge part in transforming Godzilla into Japan’s favorite monster hero. — Paul Brian McCoy Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster aka San Daikaiju Chikyu Saidai no Kessen (Greatest Giant Monster Battle on Earth) Runtime: 92 minutes Release Date: December 20, 1964 Director: Ishirô Honda Screenplay: Shin’ichi Sekizawa Special Effects: Eiji Tsuburaya Kaiju Co-Star: King Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan Godzilla portrayed by: Haruo Nakajima Mothra portrayed by: Katsumi Tezuka Rodan portrayed by: Masashi Shinohara King Ghidorah portrayed by: Shoichi Hirose When it comes to Godzilla’s greatest foes, King Ghidorah tops the list, and this was never so clear as in his film debut in his self-titled King Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. And this, despite not showing up until nearly the end of the film. The rest of the film is spent reintroducing Rodan to the Godzilla franchise (the giant pteranodon last seen in 1956’s Rodan), establishing Godzilla as a threat yet again, and introducing a strange subplot about an odd foreign country called Selgina and a plot to assassinate their Princess — but she is miraculously saved while being possessed by a Martian spirit come to warn the Earth of the impending arrival of the three-headed space dragon who destroyed all of Martian civilization. Oh yeah. Since no one believes she’s for real, she predicts the arrivals of Rodan and Godzilla, both of whom go on unholy terrors, killing a bunch of people and causing a lot of property damage. Luckily Mothra’s fairy representatives, the Shobijin (Emi and Yumi Ito) are appearing on a Japanese variety show, singing a lovely ditty and making everyone love them — and by extension, Mothra. Because in the world of Godzilla, Mothra and the Shobijin are celebrities. That’s quite the step up from their last couple of experiences with Japan, where they were first captured and exploited and then nearly captured and exploited. At least now, they’re in charge of their careers! The rest of the movie is pretty much just Mothra arriving and trying to convince Rodan and Godzilla to stop fighting each other and team up to fight King Ghidorah, who has just arrived on the scene and looks freaking unstoppable with his three heads flailing around spitting lighting everywhere. Imagine that scene in The Avengers, where Captain America shows up to break up the fight between Thor and Iron Man, and you’ve pretty much got it. Except for the fact that Rodan and Godzilla want nothing to do with helping humans. This scene, where the Shobijin translate the monsters’ debate is one of my favorite scenes in any Godzilla film. Hell, it may be my favorite. Godzilla refuses to help because humans are always bullying him, and Rodan agrees. Mothra says they should forget the past because we all earth is for everybody, and Big G and R are almost convinced, but then they quarrel over who should apologize to the other first! Godzilla even uses some adult language before Mothra has had enough and storms off to fight Ghidorah herself. Impressed by her courage, Godzilla and Rodan decided to join in the fight and it’s one of the best knock-down drag-out fights in the Shōwa era. In fact, this may be the best film of the entire series, if you ask me on a good day. It just captures the fun and excitement of Godzilla as brawling anti-hero, despite the fact that he’s clearly killed hundreds of people during this and the previous films. But once he’s on our side, there’s no going back, and daikaiju who want to rumble our planet had better watch out. — Paul Brian McCoy Godzilla vs. Gigan aka Chikyu Kogeki Meirei: Gojira tai Gaigan (Earth Destruction Directive: Godzilla Against Gigan) Runtime: 89 minutes Release Date: March 12, 1972 Director: Jun Fukuda Screenplay: Shin’ichi Sekizawa Special Effects: Teruyoshi Nakano Kaiju Co-Star: Anguirus, Gigan, King Ghidorah Godzilla portrayed by: Haruo Nakajima Angilas portrayed by: Yukietsu Omiya King Ghidora portrayed by: Kanta Ina Gigan portrayed by: Kenpachiro Satsuma Director Jun Fukuda shares the credit with Ishirô Honda for heading up the vast majority of the Shōwa era Godzilla films. He stepped in for Godzilla vs the Sea Monster (1966) and Son of Godzilla (1967) before Honda returned for Destroy All Monsters (1968) and the deplorable All Monsters Attack (1969). Yoshimitsu Banno had a one-off job directing Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) after that, but the rest of the Seventies belonged to Fukuda (although Honda returned one last time for the series ender, Terror of Mechagodzilla in 1975). Godzilla vs. Gigan came together haphazardly, after a number of different ideas either fell apart or couldn’t get enough funding, but ultimately, what we got instead was a very entertaining, surprisingly violent, outing that reworked the classic Alien Invasion theme of earlier films into something a little smarter than it initially appears to be. Long story short, Alien Cockroaches survived the ecological and nuclear devastation of their own homeworld, moving up the evolutionary ladder when everyone else was wiped out, and made the wreckage a nice, orderly place to be. So naturally, they want to spread their version of Absolute Peace to Earth — a planet very much like theirs and on a similar path to ultimate destruction. With the help of giant space monsters King Ghidorah and Gigan (under their telepathic control), they plan on defeating Earth’s only defender worth worrying about, Godzilla, and then take over. But thanks to the help of some meddling kids (okay, twenty-somethings) the invasion is sabotaged and Earth is saved. The use of colors here is just beautiful, with vivid splashes of color everywhere, in more than just the basic primary color choices that previous films had relied on (and which had leant a more cartoony, childlike quality to those films). The alien Cockroaches from Nebula-M chose orange as their signature color for some reason, but damn if it doesn’t just pop on-screen. There’s also a very smooth transition from live-action footage to model work that stands out from some earlier films, making even the bizarre Godzilla Tower in the Children’s Land amusement park (where the aliens are based) seem a little more real than it should. And the final battle is spectacular, filled with mass destruction and more pyrotechnics than you can shake Anguirus at. Poor Anguirus. He’s totally outclassed by King Ghidorah and Gigan, who come off as nearly unstoppable forces — particularly Gigan, with his (as friend of the Drive-In, Zack Davisson noted here) weaponized look and vicious fighting style. He’s the first daikaiju to ever draw blood against Godzilla and when he does, it’s a classic samurai-style crimson spray. After nearly being defeated, our heroes rally and Godzilla and Anguirus put on a show of violently beating down both King Ghidorah and Gigan in a way that emphasizes the fact that It doesn’t matter if you’ve got fancy weapons or can fly, if Godzilla can get his mitts on you, you better be ready to take a Rowdy Roddy Piper-style beating. This also marked the last time that Haruo Nakajima would play Godzilla — the role he had played since the very first film in 1954. It was truly the end of an era. Nakajima had helped to personify Godzilla as a rough-housing brawler, utilizing Mohammad Ali style footwork followed by boxing punches and judo throws. He was my favorite Godzilla, without a doubt, and is missed. — Paul Brian McCoy Heisei series (1984–1995) Godzilla vs. Biollante aka Gojira vs. Beorante (Godzilla vs. Biollante) Runtime: 104 minutes Release Date: December 16, 1989 Director: Kazuki Ohmori Screenplay: Kazuki Ohmori Special Effects: Koichi Kawakita Kaiju Co-Star: Biollante Godzilla portrayed by: Kenpachiro Satsuma, Shigeru Shibazaki, and Yoshitaka Kimura Biollante portrayed by Masao Takegami By and large, in creative industries, “fanfiction” is pretty well looked down upon, and not without reason. However, without going too far into the politics of the pros and cons of fanfic and fan submissions to company properties, all I can say is, sometimes it works out pretty well. For example, in 1980, then-17-year-old Andrew Smith wrote a submission to the BBC DOCTOR WHO production offices called “The Planet That Slept,” which became a somewhat well-regarded story called “Full Circle” once filmed. Comics fans are pretty well aware of the tale of Randy Schueller, who once had a great idea for a Spider-Man story, but no real writing skill to pull it off. After taking a $220 payment for purchase of Schueller’s idea, Marvel would go on to make millions off what would become of his concept – the Black Costume that would of course become Venom. Indeed, I’ve had a brush with this sort of thing, as a story idea I submitted to Current TV for a show they were creating ended up becoming the genesis of the seventh episode of the one and only season of their fantasy series BAR KARMA. The show is as defunct as the network it aired on, and will probably never get a DVD release, but hey, it was something, even if 99% of what I wrote didn’t make it! (You can read my full story on the subject here.) A dentist named Shinichiro Kobayashi also had some success with this. He once submitted a story idea, one of 5000 entries, to a story contest run by Toho, searching out new ideas for what would become the second in the Heisei series of Godzilla movies. Kobayashi’s submission was the first place winner*, and as is the usual in these sort of events, while much of what Kobayashi wrote was not used in the final product, there was still quite a bit there as seed material for GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE**. Good show too, as there was quite a bit to like about the second Heisei feature. The titular antagonist itself, Biollante, being one of, if not THE, freakiest enemy monsters Godzilla ever faced. Biollante was, truly, inhuman, despite being partially comprised of DNA from Dr. Shiragami’s (Kôji Takahashi) daughter, killed in an industrial terrorist attack in the country of Saradia at the film’s start. Unlike even weird looking monsters like Ghidorah, you can’t really confused Biollante for a guy in a rubber suit (tho, let’s face it, it more than likely was on some level). Starting as a mutant rose, before growing out tentacular vines with Venus flytrap sets of jaws on the end of them, Biollante had more the appearance of a Swamp Thing designed by HP Lovecraft, decades before Lovecraft and his madness-inducing creatures from beyond time would be in vogue once more. Another plot tidbit from Kobayashi’s original submission involved a reporter having psychic visions of human flowers calling her name when near Biollante. This evolved into the character of Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka), a young woman with psychic abilities who has a psychic confrontation with Godzilla at one point. However, this is not before one of the classic scenes in the movie, where Miki enters her classroom of young children at a school for gifted youth, asking “What did you dream last night?” before each joyful screaming child each shows a crayon drawing of Godzilla, from their dreams the night before. Of course, much of the story belongs to scripter Kazuki Ohmori. Ohmori brought some interesting elements of his own to the story, such as private corporate mercenary intrigue, long before such stories were common in mainstream culture. Between the American biochemical firm Bio-Major and the Saradian Oil Company, and their mercenary agents shooting up Japan all for the chance at gaining some of Godzilla’s cells that the beast was considerate enough to leave behind, it added a dimension not really seen in movies up to then, de riguer as it is now in our post-Blackwater world. In many ways a product of its time, in others very ahead of the game in so many others. Although, it must be said even then, this plot element got caught up in cliché – the first Bio-Major mercenary to die is, of course, Michael Low (Derrick Holmes), a Black man. Some awful clichés die hard, even in daikaiju flicks. Still, despite this, and a really out of place soundtrack for the tone of the film, GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE is in many ways truly the first modern Godzilla movie, even if it is the second of the Heisei series. An almost wholly original monster, with new situations for the monsters and humans involved, and some new plot elements never seen before in daikaiju movies. This entry into the series definitely deserves a Top 10 spot, if for no other reason than being in so many ways, so unlike any other in the series. Indeed, it’s hard to believe this movie is 25 years old this year. And it came from a fan submission. Whoda thunk. * – It should be noted the second place entry, submitted by American writer James Bannon, also was produced by Toho, however not as a Godzilla movie. The result was called GUNHED, and is probably more known for being the basis of the video for Front Line Assembly’s song “Mindphaser.” Great song, too. ** – Special shout-out to wonderful artist, super monster fan, and all around awesome human being Steve Bissette, for donating a copy of this movie to me. Thanks Steve! — Geoffrey D. Wessel Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah aka Gojira vs. Kingu Ghidora Runtime: 103 minutes Release Date: December 4, 1991 Director: Kazuki Ohmori Screenplay: Kazuki Ohmori Special Effects: Kôichi Kawakita Kaiju Co-Star: Dorat, Godzillasaurus, King Ghidorah, Mecha-King Ghidorah Godzilla portrayed by: Kenpachiro Satsuma Godzillasaurus portrayed by: Wataru Fukuda King Ghidora portrayed by Ryu Hurricane The box-office failure of Godzilla vs. Biollante proved two things. First, audiences cannot be trusted to understand or get behind anything too new or out of the ordinary, right off the bat. And that Toho, while willing to experiment, was not willing to lose money experimenting. Thus, two years later saw the arrival of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah — and everything old is new again (it would have been Godzilla vs. King Kong, but Turner Entertainment wanted too much money for the Kong rights!). It was so successful that Toho released a new film every year after until they voluntarily ended the series to make way for the 1998 American Godzilla. Boy did that not pay off. But back to Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah! Kazuki Ohmori’s screenplay provides a definitive origin for the Hesei series Godzilla, explaining that a dinosaur that survived on Lagos Island (and saved a group of Japanese Soldiers stationed there in 1944 from American attack) was mutated into the atomic fire-breathing beast after some pesky American hydrogen bomb tests in the area ten years later. There’s some wonky dialogue here and there, at least one horrible performance by an American actor I assume contributed money to the production in exchange for a walk-on role, and the occasional groan-worthy joke (Major Spielberg? Really?), but you know what? None of that matters in the end, because this is a movie that embraces its nerdy sci-fi and runs with it like a sped up shot of a humanoid robot running past your car with a huge grin on its face. Yeah, that happens. The story goes like this. A delegation from the future arrives in Japan to warn that Godzilla will eventually destroy the country, but they have a plan for keeping that from happening. They will go back in time to 1944, grab the Godzillasaurus from Lagos Island and teleport it somewhere safe from hydrogen bomb tests. Thus, no Godzilla, no destruction of Japan. Having just lived through Godzilla vs. Biollante, the Japanese government is immediately on-board. But don’t you know you should never trust people from the future? Especially when they bring along adorable little winged creatures they’ve genetically engineered. Three little winged creatures with golden scales, to be exact. These Futurians turn out to not be what they seem (of course). In the future, Japan isn’t destroyed; it’s the only real superpower, so they’ve stolen a time machine and come back in time to kick Japan’s legs out from under them by removing Godzilla from the equation and creating their own daikaiju: King Ghidorah — the result of the three adorable little Dorats getting all irradiated and combining into the three-headed golden dragon we all know and love. And as per usual with Ghidorah, he’s under their control. This film is a wonderful little piece of world-building, despite some wonky time-travel theory, and serves as a great reintroduction of King Ghidorah to this new Godzilla chronology. Plus it also lays the seeds for the eventual return of Mechagodzilla, thanks to a quick jaunt to the future and return with King Mechaghidorah to help humanity get rid of Godzilla after he gets rid of Ghidorah. The film is just plain fun, man. Loads of fun. But how did Godzilla survive the time travel shift to a radiation-free zone? In one of the most depressing, but casually handled bits of info-dump, there’s just no escaping radiation in the modern world. No matter where they stuck the Godzillasaurus, odds were he was going to be exposed to radiation and turn into the King of Monsters. Sigh. — Paul Brian McCoy Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla aka Gojira vs. Mechagojira aka Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II Runtime: 107 minutes Release Date: December 11, 1993 Director: Takao Okawara Screenplay: Wataru Mimura Special Effects: Kôichi Kawakita Kaiju Co-Star: Baby Godzilla, Rodan, Mechagodzilla Godzilla portrayed by: Kenpachiro Satsuma Baby Godzilla portrayed by: Ryu Hurricane Mechagodzilla portrayed by: Wataru Fukuda After Kazuki Ohmori brought King Ghidorah into the Nineties, director Takao Okawara was next tasked with updating Mothra in 1992’s Godzilla vs. Mothra, and then Rodan and Mechagodzilla in the modern classic Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (II). Either film really could have made this list, but Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is impressive not only for the fact that it tells a strong story, has likeable characters and impressive effects, but because it gives us a Baby Godzilla that is fairly silly-looking but still manages to tug at the heart-strings without ruining the film (unlike other baby versions of Godzilla I can think of). This is the second film to use the title Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (thus the occasional II after the title), but it is neither a sequel nor a remake of the original Jun Fukuda entry in the Shōwa series. Instead, Wataru Mimura’s script picks up on an element from the conclusion of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah while continuing to build upon the strangely uncommented upon use of psychics and psychic powers in the Heisei series. Megumi Odaka resumes her role as Miki Saegusa, now a psychic member of G-Force (the military unit tasked with defending Japan from Godzilla) who is also an instructor at a school for psychic children. Saegusa has the record for the most frequently recurring character in any kaiju series (if Wikipedia is to be believed), having first appeared in Godzilla vs. Biollante and then popping up in every other film of the Heisei series, eventually moving up to leading role status in Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla in 1994. The Mechagodzilla robot is repurposed future tech left behind after King Mechaghidorah sank to the bottom of the ocean and looks quite badass. G-Force went with the Mechagodzilla design after their first attempt at a Godzilla Killer fell short. The ship, Garuda, is the brainchild of Kaxuma Aoki (Masahiro Takashima), who goes from interesting scientist to pteranodon geek to comic relief then back to interesting scientist/hero. That’s a helluva character arc for one film. The film basically breaks down to this: scientists find two giant eggs, one hatched, the other not. The hatched one is Rodan (and everyone already knows who and what Rodan is even though he doesn’t exist in this continuity yet) and the other turns out to be Baby Godzilla (a Godzillasaurus who is adorable and nightmare inducing at the same time). Rodan and Godzilla fight. Godzilla and Mechagodzilla fight. Rodan and Godzilla fight again — this time with Mechagodzilla and Garuda in the mix. Then Rodan is nearly killed and Godzilla is paralyzed when Mechagodzilla targets his second hind-brain (really). Then in a magnanimous show of friendship, Rodan leaps on Godzilla and dies, transferring all of his energy to Godzilla, healing his hind-brain. This spells doom for Mechagodzilla, but everyone makes it out alive. Then, thanks to some psychic urging from Miki, Godzilla leaves with Baby Godzilla in tow — but not until after a tear-inducing goodbye between Baby and his surrogate mom, Azusa Gojo (Ryoko Sano). This one’s got it all, folks. Humor, drama, danger, excitement, romance, and daikaiju slugfests. There’s a reason this is one of the most beloved films of the Heisei series. Okawara and Mimura put together a directing/scripting combo that hits nearly every note right on the money. — Paul Brian McCoy Millennium series (1999–2004) Godzilla 2000 aka Gojira ni-sen mireniamu Runtime: 99 minutes Release Date: December 11, 1999 Director: Takao Okawara Screenplay: Hiroshi Kashiwabara & Wataru Mimura Special Effects: Kenji Suzuki Kaiju Co-Star: Orga Millennian Godzilla portrayed by: Tsutomu Kitagawa Orga portrayed by Makoto Ito It would take a potent kaiju-brew to cleanse the palate of the abomination that was 1998’s US-produced Godzilla, but Godzilla 2000 proved just such a cocktail. The film is singular in many respects: It is the first film of the Millennium series, where nearly every film ignores all previous continuity, picking up where the original 1954 Gojira left off and extrapolating a world decades under siege by the menace of Godzila. It features the only appearance of Orga, the film’s primary giant monster antagonist. Finally, it is one of the only examples of a Toho Godzilla flick whose US edit is preferred by fans over the original cut. This is not to say that it’s perfect by any means, it has flaws aplenty, but for those of us looking to hit the reset button and get back to Godzilla basics it was essentially an answered prayer. We open with members of the Godzilla Protection Network (GPN) zipping across the countryside in a 4×4 decked out with tracking gear. I don’t think the similarities to storm/tornado chasers are unintended, as the film (and GPN in particular) treat Godzilla very much like a natural disaster and destructive force of nature. Parallel to the GPN’s activities, a governmental organization known as Crisis Control Intelligence (CCI) has uncovered a UFO that has been buried deep in the Japan Trench for millions of years. It’s not long after being brought to the surface that the UFO activates and seeks out Godzilla. A skirmish ensues, and both are damaged, causing them to retreat. The bodiless aliens inside the craft begin an intensive study of Godzilla and soon announce their plans to rule the Earth. The head of GPN determines that they intend to use Godzilla’s DNA to isolate his regenerative properties and bring themselves to corporeal life. This attempt goes awry, causing the aliens to mutate into the giant monstrosity Orga, placing them in direct conflict with an enraged Godzilla. If it all seems a bit convoluted, it is. And the rudimentary CGI used to depict the UFO and the less-than-amazing green-screen effects used to show both it and Godzilla’s movements across the countryside don’t necessarily help to make the first chunk of the film terribly compelling. But once a suitable opponent rears its head in the form of Orga, it’s clear that we are back in familiar territory and that this is the throwdown we’ve been waiting for. The tussle is suitably epic, with Godzilla stepping up as the champion of humanity to save the day. Despite having taken out the UFO, Orga has Godzilla on the ropes, victory seems imminent for the alien oppressors, but the GPN steps in to give Godzilla an energy boost courtesy of one of the military’s special weapons. This puts Big G back in action and the film culminates in one of the strangest and most inexplicable final fight scenes in the history of the series. Godzilla 2000 also ends on a rather dark note. While the idea of Godzilla as the lesser of two evils challenging a larger threat is nothing new to the series, typically Godzilla retires post-fight to the ocean depths and we are left with the impression of the beast as a hero. Here, he not only continues his rampage across Tokyo but he specifically seeks out and personally murders a CCI agent standing on a nearby rooftop. Grim indeed, and a welcome ascension from the ashes for the King of Kaiju. — Adam Barraclough Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack aka Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidorâ: Daikaijû sôkôgeki Runtime: 105 minutes Release Date: December 15, 2001 Director: Shûsuke Kaneko Screenplay: Kei’ichi Hasegawa, Shûsuke Kaneko, & Masahiro Yokotani Special Effects: Makoto Kamiya Special Effects Consultant: Shûsuke Kaneko Kaiju Co-Star: Baragon, King Ghidorah, Mothra Godzilla portrayed by Mizuho Yoshida King Ghidorah portrayed by: Akira Ohashi Baragon portrayed by Rie Ota Carrying on the Millennium Series theme of rebooting Godzilla with nearly every installment, Giant Monsters All-Out Attack follows on, fifty years after the original appearance of Gojira back in 1954. Here, as then, Godzilla is a raging force of nature without any heroic qualities. He’s death incarnate. Literally. Fresh from reinventing and revitalizing Gamera in the Nineties, director/co-writer Shûsuke Kaneko had a vision of Godzilla taking on a mythical role, inhabited by the collective will of thousands of restless souls who died in the Pacific during World War II. And they’re coming to make Japan pay for choosing to forget or deny them. Rising up to defend Japan (the island, not the people, however) are the Three Guardian Monsters of legend: Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah (the first and only time the villainous dragon has played the hero to Godzilla’s badguy). But it’s not just the impending attack of Godzilla that motivates these creatures; they also respond to the not-so-subtle implication that the modern generation is reckless, heartless, and violent, destroying a motorcycle gang and a group of partying young vandals, both of whom had damaged shrine statues in the courses of their mischief. This was a politically risky move on Kaneko’s part, but it pays off with a Godzilla that is nearly unstoppable and very scary. A number of scenes also pay homage to the original film, from Godzilla’s head appearing over a hilltop to scenes of brutalized survivors overflowing the hospitals to a finale that takes place underwater, leaving another set of Godzilla bones on the floor of Tokyo Bay. This film also returns to some themes from the earlier films where the heroes were almost always stocked with journalists and scientists. This time out, though, the journalist hero is a young woman, Yuri Tachibana (Chiharu Niiyama) who works for a questionable TV docudrama show BS Digital Q, but longs to make real documentaries. And covering the Guardian Monsters as they defend Japan from Godzilla is her shot at glory. Her journey is paralleled with her father’s, as Admiral Taizo Tachibana (Ryûdô Uzaki) works out some childhood trauma and avenges the deaths of his parents from Gojira’s original attack. All in all, this is one of the most effective of the Millennium series films, if only for the sheer determination to make Godzilla the villain again while eschewing the traditional science fiction elements for the mythic. When the spirits of Baragon and Mothra reappear to “level up” a defeated Ghidorah to the gloriously golden King Ghidorah it’s one of the best moments the King has ever had on film (even if he was supposed to have eight heads — he was awakened too soon and only three heads had grown!). — Paul Brian McCoy Godzilla: Final Wars aka Gojira: Fainaru uôzu Runtime: 125 minutes Release Date: December 4, 2004 Director: Ryûhei Kitamura Screenplay: Isao Kiriyama & Ryûkei Kitamura Special Effects: Eiichi Asada Kaiju Co-Star: Anguirus, Ebirah, Gigan, Hedorah, Monster X, Keizer Ghidorah, Kamacuras, King Caesar, Kumonga, Manda, Minilla, Mothra, Rodan, Zilla Godzilla portrayed by: Tsutomu Kitagawa Rodan and Minilla portrayed by: Naoko Kamio Anguirus, Ebirah, Hedorah portrayed by: Toshihiro Ogura King Caesar and Monster X portrayed by: Motokuni Nakagawa There has never been and likely will never be a greater love letter to kaiju film than Godzilla: Final Wars. It is a wild and outrageous pantheon built to Godzilla, his rogue’s gallery and his allies. 15 giant monsters (well, 14 and Minilla) are represented, some appearing on screen for the first time in 30 years. Godzilla: Final Wars also embraces the entire continuity of G-film spanning the Shōwa, Heisei and Millennium eras, establishing a timeline in which the world has ceaselessly battled the giant monster menace via the Earth Defense Force (EDF) into the 21st century. And who do we have to thank for this all-you-can-eat buffet of Godzilla awesomeness? A fellow fan. Ryûhei Kitamura was already known to fans of Japanese film for his sci-fi and fantasy-tinged films (particularly the zombie/samurai mash-up Versus). Toho tapping him to direct Godzilla’s 50th Anniversary jaunt felt like the right move from the start, and it proved to be that and so much more. While a Destroy All Monsters-esque royal rumble was likely inevitable, Kitamura brought incredible style and tokusatsu panache to the proceedings in addition to insuring that several obscure and unexpected monsters made their way to the screen. In fairness, I will pause in my gushing to address the fact that many Godzilla fans don’t love Final Wars as much as I do. In the fan community, the film is quite controversial, as in addition to the kaiju action the human protagonists share a considerable amount of screen time. And they aren’t the expected crop of scientists and military leaders, but rather a pack of elite highly-trained specialists and mutants. It’s a sci-fi twist that cribs from equal parts X-Men and The Matrix, and the fan reaction to the EDF and the invading alien force, the Xilians, is decidedly sour. There’s also some grumbling about the length of the actual monster battles, which tend to be resolved in rapid-fire succession. I find the addition of martial arts and acrobatics amongst the EDF and Xilians greatly enhances the pacing of the film, and I like many of the characters and their storylines. In particular, EDF Captain Gordon (Don Frye), a tough-talking cigar-chomping mustachioed boxer-turned-captain who pilots the flying battleship Gotengo. His gruff voice and take-no-shit attitude are a breath of fresh air in the decidedly staid legacy of human protagonists in Godzilla films. We’re even treated to a scene in which an EDF squad armed only with laser rifles and bazookas take on everybody’s favorite giant crab kaiju, Ebirah, in close combat. Seeing tiny human warriors doling out damage on such a massive scale is pretty phenomenal. As for the monster vs. monster battles, I find it hard to complain. The lumbering slow-mo duke-outs are replaced by fast-paced action. Godzilla expresses tremendous explosive strength and power, handily whooping ass left and right. Godzilla and his opponents are agile and nimble, wreaking havoc with jujitsu-inspired fighting styles and imaginative powers and movesets. There’s even a scene in which Godzilla tosses Ebirah claw-forward like a spear to skewer the stunned Hedorah through the eye in a finishing blow. In one of the film’s more inspired moments, Godzilla fights the star of 1998’s US-produced Godzilla, called Zilla here. As Toho retained the rights to the character, they were welcome to do with him as they pleased and we are served up some righteous justice as Godzilla takes him down with a thunderous toss into the Sydney Opera House followed up by a finishing atomic breath blast. It’s worth noting that this is the briefest kaiju clash in the film, and in the entire Godzilla franchise as a whole. Frantic, fun, imaginative and paying homage to the entire history of Godzilla, it’s a fitting capstone for the franchise. — Adam Barraclough Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 3 Responses davehearn May 14, 2014 Excellent list! Other than the few movies I caught on Saturday afternoons when I was a kid, I haven’t seen many Godzilla films. Thanks for doing all the research! Log in to Reply Resuming Broadcasts – UPDATES | June 3, 2014 […] another thing for Psycho Drive-In, this time a short piece about Godzilla vs. Biollante as part of larger piece of the Top Ten Godzilla Movies according to the writers. Of which I was one. And […] Log in to Reply Eco-Horror: What Pollution, Toxic Waste, and Energy Use Can Do to Humanity - Psycho Drive-In December 4, 2015 […] which show the dangers of atomic testing from two different points of view. Godzilla shows its Japanese influence, with clear references to the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and portraying its giant […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.