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Godzilla vs Destroyer
Directed By: Takao Okawara
Written By: Kazuki Omori
American Distribution By: Columbia TriStar Home Video

Admittedly, I had planned to place Legendary’s Godzilla as my favorite Godzilla film when I realized how incredibly unfair a comparison it would be both to the American film and its Japanese predecessors. True, the film is, in essence, a remake all to its own with absolutely no connections to the prior ones from Japan but without them, there wouldn’t even be an American remake at all so… Yep, here at number one, by chance and luck of the draw is Godzilla vs. Desotroyah.

The film begins two years after the end of Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla and shows the chief advocator for leaving Godzilla alone for pity’s sake, Miki Saegusa discovers that the island home of the Monster King and his young heir has been destroyed, the uranium deposits located underneath the landmass undergoing a massive nuclear fission that obliterated the island and likely killed off Junior. Godzilla himself is nowhere to be seen though he is still presumed to be alive.

A month passes and Godzilla appears not on the shores of Japan but in Hong Kong and has undergone a frightening change in appearance and power. His dorsal scutes are aglow with burning orange light and large patches of Godzilla’s hide also burns the same hue. Rather than the controlled blue beam of nuclear radiation that is Godzilla’s atypical heat ray, Godzilla’s breath truly resembles fire as nuclear energy bursts from his mouth in gargantuan streams of hellish red.

Though not named so outright in the film, in written materials and amongst the fan community, this Godzilla is appropriately dubbed as Burning Godzilla. It is eventually surmised that Godzilla’s nuclear heart is going out of control as the destruction of Birth Island resulted in him absorbing too much radiation in too short a time. Once Godzilla’s body temperature reaches 1,200 degrees Celsius, he will explode with a force a thousand times greater than all nuclear armaments combine, which will, at the least, ignite the atmosphere of Earth and burn everything to ashes.

The best part about all this is that this is discovered not by a cabinet of scientists in the government’s employ, but by a college kid who had sent the thesis of Godzilla’s anatomy first to G-Force, who outright ignored it, and then to the U.S. who praised it for its innovative thinking. It’s even more interesting to note that the college kid in question is the grandson to paleontologist Kyohei Yamane, the man who discovered the first Godzilla back in 1954 and whose daughter, Emiko, was engaged to Daisuke Serizawa the creator of the Oxygen Destroyer, the one and only device that has proven capable of killing Godzilla.

Unfortunately, Godzilla is not the only threat to be found. Scientist Kensaku Ijuin has made a discovery in the form of what he calls “micro-oxygen” that has many good purposes but is heavily outweighed by its potential as a weapon. In point of fact, it is Emiko herself who recognizes it as the precursor to the Oxygen Destroyer upon seeing her niece’s interview with the man on television. Unfortunately, though she pleads with her niece and nephew to convince the man to stop his research before it goes to far they instead try to convince the man to go exactly the way their aunt’s dead fiancé had gone and create a new Oxygen Destroyer.

However, the result of the first Oxygen Destroyer’s deployment reveals itself at last as strange happenings occur in an aquarium located close to the bay where it had been used. The fish in the aquarium are seemingly dissolved down to the bone as though the water itself is eating them. It is soon discovered that a colony of Precambrian crustaceans have been mutated by the effects of the Oxygen Destroyer and soon grow in number and capabilities. The larger the colony grows the more of them that can combine together to form a larger and far deadlier form.

The “juvenile” form of these crustaceans, henceforth named Destoroyah or “Destroyer” if you prefer, appear in a warehouse and in a scene reminiscent to the Alien franchise, attack the police force that was sent to dispatch them. The Destroyer juveniles appear to be destroyed by fire but are in truth separated once more into a smaller colony and escape.

Meanwhile a plan to try and curb Godzilla’s explosion is put into action and surprisingly succeeds. The plan involves the heavily modified and expertly made Super-X III to freeze Godzilla and utilize its payload of cadmium missiles to further increase their chance of success. Unfortunately, while the plan succeeds in freezing Godzilla for several hours and completely nullifying the risk of Godzilla exploding, he is still dying and will go into meltdown. The resulting heat made from Godzilla’s burning corpse will bore its way through the crust of the Earth and down into the Earth’s core which will in turn result in all life on Earth being killed.

Humanity just can’t catch a break it seems.

In the midst of all this, Junior reemerges in a larger and more adolescent form and it is quickly surmised that Godzilla is following after his wayward son. With Doctor Ijuin refusing to cooperate in the creation of a new Oxygen Destroyer the government opts to use the closest thing they have to it. Once more playing against the wish-washy-ness that is Miki Saegusa’s resolve, they convince her and another psychic to lure Junior to Destroyer in the hope that the mutated crustacean will kill Godzilla before he goes into meltdown.

Unfortunately, the military has used up their allotment of good karma and so the plan appears to fail with Junior actually managing to beat Destroyer even in its newly evolved flying form. However, Destroyer might be down but it is certainly not out as it returns in its full demonic glory and proceeds to fly off towards the reunion of father and son. Knocking Godzilla aside, Destroyer grabs Junior by the neck and flies up into the air before dropping the heir to the monster throne down to his death.

Needless to say, this makes for a dramatic rise in Godzilla’s body temperature as he and Destroyer fight each other. In the entirety of the Heisei era of Godzilla films, this film is the one that is easily the most brutal of them all to Godzilla and it shows in so many ways that I will refrain from mentioning until I review Destroyer properly in the following entry.

I will say that during a lull in the fight, where it seems like Destroyer has chosen retreat over victory, Godzilla approaches his dying son and tries to revitalize him with a breath of radiation. It fails and Junior’s eyes close for the last time and Godzilla’s body shines with barely restrained fury and grief as he silently wails to the heavens at the loss of his son. Destroyer ruins the moment by attacking the Monster King from behind but Godzilla’s body temperature continues to rise and as his heart nears meltdown, his power increases by several magnitudes.

After a long and bloodied battle, Destroyer realizes that it cannot win against Godzilla and that the Monster’s King quickly approaching death will result in its destruction as well, tries to flee. Making up for their stroke of poor luck in their previous plan, the military utilize all of their freezing weaponry alongside the Super-X III to shoot Destroyer down and disintegrate it.

Godzilla’s heart finally reaches meltdown and the military unleashes a full barrage of freezing weaponry upon him. Though it is enough to prevent Godzilla’s body from reaching a temperature hot enough to melt straight down to the core of the Earth, the Monster King’s slowly begins to melt away with one final roar. The resulting radiation from Godzilla’s death is enough to turn Tokyo into a ghost city where nothing can survive. However, the radiation suddenly disappears and as the fog of radiation begins to clear, a new king arises from where a dead prince once lay.

The King is dead, long live the King…

This movie… boy, where do I even begin? The human elements of the film are all extremely well done, easily one of the best of the Heisei era. There are several nods and acknowledgements to the original film and others, especially with the involvement of the actress who played Emiko in the first film. Miki’s involvement was to be expected but contrary to the last film she doesn’t play center stage and frankly, that’s just where we want her to be.

Make no mistake, she is the only person who seems to have a heart for Godzilla and Junior but her inability to stand her ground against anything that doesn’t result in Godzilla’s death or extreme levels of pain is a frustrating aspect to her character and one that I may analyze in further detail sometime in the future.

As to the monster side, Toho went all out in every possible aspect they could with Destroyer and the final showdown between it and Godzilla. It was a befitting idea to have Godzilla combat against the living embodiment of the very weapon that killed him once before. Destroyer could have killed Godzilla and there are several factors as to why it couldn’t that I’ll go into later but I think that Godzilla dying on his own right rather than by what killed him once before was a good way for him to go.

Aside from proving that Godzilla does indeed have a means of dying, it was a very fitting way for him to fall not to the result of the Oxygen Destroyer made a living thing but by overcoming it just long enough that he could die as he lived, in a blaze of glory.

Toho spared no expense in making it clear that this was to be Godzilla’s final movie in every sense of the word. The “big pool” which was used for many of the water battle scenes since the 1960’s was paved over and turned into a parking lot, special effects wizard Koichi Kawakita who had worked on every Godzilla film since 1989 announced his retirement from Toho, and the company even held a funeral, an honest to Godzilla, funeral for the Monster King.

Though not strictly the final film, as plans were made to renew the franchise once more in 2005, the worldwide disappointment that was the 1998 American film spurred them to bring the Big G out of retirement several years ahead of schedule.

In point of fact, something similar has occurred again in Japan but rather than being fueled by the desire to show the world what Godzilla ought to be, it seems that the proverbial gauntlet has been cast. With the worldwide success by Legendary Pictures that a sequel is now in the works with a whole trilogy being planned out, Toho is doing everything they can to take that gauntlet and slap it right back in their faces with a film of their own.

Two Godzilla films for the price of one… I’d say that’s a good a price as any.