Godzilla Vs. King Ghidora

Director: Kazuki Omori       
Kosuke Toyohara, Anna Nakagawa, Megumi Odaka

Though Godzilla is known by everyone, I've decided to include this particular movie because it has been hard to find in North America until this official video release. Also because of the fact  that most people don't know that the Godzilla series was revived in the '80s and continued on for several years.

After seeing the boring and shoddy Godzilla 1985 and Godzilla VS Biolante (1989), I was ready to call it quits with the new series. Because I was trying to fill a "5 movies/5 days/five dollars" special, I picked this one when I couldn't find anything better at the video store. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this is one of the best Godzilla movies made, and ranks just below the first Godzilla (1954). It has everything you want from a Godzilla movie: a bad Godzilla (not the "savoir" kind seen in previous films), plenty of kickass fights between the first opponents, a ton of explosions and destruction, the right amount of unintentional humor, and improved special effects. And it has something that most movies of the series don't have: a plot!

The movie starts off with an intriguing prologue set in the 23rd century. We then cut to Japan in 1992, with the country being terrorized by sightings of a U.F.O. Eventually, the Japanese government is contacted by the three people in the spacecraft, two westerner men and a Japanese woman. They warn the government that in the future, Godzilla will destroy Japan. They request several people to help them travel back to WWII to get Godzilla, when he was still a dinosaur, and transport him back to 1992.

It's agreed, so the people join the space travelers in their time ship, and fly back in time to 1944 to an island close to the Bikini island future A-bomb test range, when the island (containing a Japanese garrison that was friendly with Godzilla) was being shelled by the U.S. navy. Two Americans on a battleship see the ship fly to the island. "Maybe you can tell your son about it, Spielberg" says one to the other.

What happens next generated some controversy in the United States when the movie was released in Japan. The time travelers observe the American landing team slaughter the defending Japanese troops, and then Godzilla (still a dinosaur) lumbers in, and slaughters the American troops. Some people accused this as being racist, but the movie clearly shows the monster attacking the troops because it was shot at first. However, the navy, seeing the slaughter, bombards the dinosaur with shells, and Godzilla is badly injured. (The withdrawing Japanese troops that night salute the "bedridden" dinosaur before leaving, thanking it for saving them from those horrendous Americans.)

The time travelers lock their teleport beam on Godzilla, to take him through time with them - but not before the original crew of the ship "accidentally" leaves behind three genetically created pets, which look like troll dolls with wings. The Japanese helpers are taken home, but shortly after, Japan is attacked by a gigantic three-headed dragon, with lightning for breath. It proceeds to blow up a great deal of Japan. We discover that Japan would never be destroyed by Godzilla - Japan in the upcoming centuries got more and more powerful, and proceeded to buy South America and Africa. The two western travelers demand that the Japanese government install the new computer (its power and purpose never explained) they'll give them - and you thought door-to-door salesmen were tough.

It was never explained why the woman of Japanese ancestry went along with this (it seems to be suggested that she thought Japan was destroyed by "nuclear pollution"), but she defects from those darn Caucasians, and goes to her friends to help Japan fight off Ghidora. It's decided that the dinosaur will have to be transformed into Godzilla, in a desperate attempt to save the country. I won't describe the plot any further; although you might be able to guess the next little part that happens, the plot eventually twists from the expected and turns into another act! And then the plot twists again, leading to more unexpected developments. Yes, the climax is another fight between Ghidora and Godzilla - but it got there differently, it proceeds to give us our money's worth by giving us everything we can think of, and concludes with a satisfying ending.

Hey, I'm not saying this movie is perfect - lord knows, there are a lot of flaws and unintentional laughs. There are several moments where it feels like scenes (and plot points) are missing; there is some really bad dubbing, like when one character says something like, "How dare Godzilla destroy my garden city! I'll get my revenge!", or when the male protagonist utters "Make my day!" before detonating some explosives; a number of special effects are obvious stock footage, cheesy computer effects, fireworks, or models. (Actually, the models are generally the best I've seen. Plus, the majority of the effects are acceptable or even excellent). And the climax goes so over the top, that the cliché "must be seen to be believed" is apt.

But, come on - with this kind of movie, you know full well what to expect. The cheesy parts of the production could have sunk the production (like other Godzilla movies), but here, they have been given a slick edge so they actually add to the charm. The addition of plot is a great asset. In other movies, you had to wait through a lot of talk for the big punch-up at the end. Godzilla VS King Ghidora is the first Godzilla movie that I remember that has no boring sequences. GVKG delivers what you want from a Godzilla movie, and gives us much, much more. And if it's a guilty pleasure to enjoy explosions, fights, and cities being destroyed, then I guess this rates death-penalty sentencing.

(NOTE: The folks at Columbia/Tri-Star video decided to release this on EP speed, making the picture quality looking somewhat shabby.  I was hoping this traditional penny-pinching practice would have gone out with Godzilla moving to a major American video company, but I guess not.)

UPDATE: Robert Nowaczewski filled me in on the confusion surrounding the Japanese woman character:

"Great site and lots of fun to read. I just wanted to comment that in the subtitled version, it sounds like it's a little more clear why the Japanese woman was there. It turns out that Japan has become such a powerhouse that they are destroying the natural world (thus staying with Toho's themes against nuclear power and pollution). Although only these three and the man in the sub in the future are seen, it's hinted that this resistance movement is multi-cultural and possibly even worldwide.

"After comparing dubbed versions of Godzilla movies vs. the subtitled Japanese versions, I would urge everyone to skip the dubbed whenever possible. The subtitled versions make more sense, they don't use the goofiest voices they can find, and they don't mangle the translations so

Also reviewed by: Cold Fusion Video

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)
Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)
Check for availability of soundtrack (CD)
Check Amazon for "critical history" book of Godzilla

See also: A*P*E, The Crater Lake Monster, King Kong Escapes