This Late Era is characterized by re-boots and re-shuffles of the existing mythos and previous films. Some are closely connected to one another, but all seemingly include disparate elements from other sci-fi films. In my opinion, this era is the toughest to watch as a whole.
|#16 Godzilla 1985 (1984) **1/2|
Ignoring all previous films in the series with the exception of the original Godzilla (1954), this first in the Late Godzilla Era is basically a re-boot. Where Godzilla had been transformed into protector of the world, and of Japan in particular, during the Middle Godzilla Era, this film returns him to his antagonistic roots. The King of all Monsters is again a force of nature, of destruction, and a symbol of nuclear power.
When a ship's crew is killed except for a single person, rumors of a new Godzilla circulate around Japan. Then, already tenuous relations between America and Russia escalate when a Russian submarine is destroyed (echoing the Cold War tensions of the day), but Japan steps in to save the day by admitting that Godzilla destroyed the sub and stopping both Superpowers from using nuclear weapons on the Giant Monster. This Godzilla seeks out nuclear power (which is why it destroyed the submarine), and ends up at a nuclear power plant. Thankfully, Japanese scientists have developed a special craft, the Super X, that will help defend against his attacks.
|Super X - pretty much just a flying tank.|
With a darker, meaner Godzilla (both in character and in creature design) and a return to his nuclear connections, this film is a stark contrast to many years' worth of films in the series.
There's a little bit of silliness as Godzilla is apparently led around by the sounds of flocks of birds, but the film attempts to take itself and the idea of a Giant Monster very straight-faced.
|Well, mostly straight-faced.|
More interesting than the film's slow-moving plot is the fact that there are two versions, just like there were of the original 1954 film. The American versions of both films have edited in Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin. This film has Burr called upon by the US government as an expert on the creature, despite the fact that the Americans are not involved at all in dealing with Godzilla.
While I've stated (at length) that the 1954 film's inclusion of an American main character was designed to change the movie's rhetoric, this time it's different. Ultimately, this appears to be more of a move made to create a film that is more palatable to American audiences by including "one of their own." It also appears to be a way to draw a direct line for the viewer from Godzilla: King of the Monsters (the American version of the 1954 film) to this one. Regardless, it amounts to a smattering of scenes where Burr stands in a room with a bunch of military types watching Godzilla rampage on a television screen.
At the time of this writing, this is the only Godzilla film (of a total of 27) that has not been released on DVD or Blu-Ray. By some accounts, the rights to the American version are in question, possibly with Toho (the owners of the Godzilla copyright) waiting for a licensing agreement to expire.
|Pictured: Lawyer running from Toho.|
For the casual Godzilla fan, this is no great loss. Godzilla 1985 (or Godzilla Reborn, as it is sometimes called) is not a great film, and cannot be described even as a decent Godzilla film. The human story is not nearly as compelling as the 1954 original that it hopes to emulate (with a scientist hoping to find a way to rid Japan of Godzilla and a bit of political drama between the US and Russia with Japan in the middle). And the Giant Monster action, coming after so many films where Godzilla has some other Giant Monster to battle, is relegated to the King of Monsters stomping on a few parked cars, destroying buildings, and picking up a commuter train as the Super X does its best to drive him away. This film simply doesn't have the emotional resonance or the historical weight of 1954's Godzilla to carry it.
|#17 Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) ***|
Picking up immediately after the events of Gozilla 1985, a few of Godzilla's cells have been recovered following his battle with Space X. Unfortunately, the daughter of the scientist studying those cells is killed, and five years later he wants to know if a girl with ESP can communicate with his roses. Yes, you read that right. Turns out, the scientist has been splicing his daughter's DNA (and eventually G-cells) into his roses, giving them sentience and the ability to grow into a Giant Monster.
Yet again, we have a Godzilla that is a feared force of nature, a destructive monster who feeds on nuclear energy. And scientists are once again pursuing science because they can, without asking if they should. That question of scientific morality connects this film to Godzilla 1954. But this time, as in Godzilla 1985, the world is not caught off-guard when Godzilla appears. Even children know the fearsome King of all Monsters.
This film uses Extra Sensory Perception peripherally, which seems a little wonky, especially when it's utilized in the film to show that a classroom full of children can predict the coming of Godzilla (shown above) and to have a girl attempt to talk to flowers. More important to the overall plot of the film is a new, unmanned Space X, the Space X-2.
Basically, if you've ever wanted to see Godzilla fight a giant plant monster, this is your movie.
For the rest of us, it's not the worst in this Late Godzilla Era (that's coming up soon). Gozilla looks mean and does plenty of damage to buildings and giant plant-life alike. The special effects here have solidly moved away from campyness and into a more realistic realm.
While it takes a long while to get going, this is a solid entry in this Era of films. Yes, Biollante is a flower come to life, but it puts up a good fight and has a few different forms, a la Hedorah. The Giant Monsters fight each other and humanity. That three-way battle, with a little scientific morality tossed into the mix, make for a fairly entertaining movie.
|#18 Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) ****1/2|
In this movie (the Late Era's best imitation of a Middle Era film), a Japanese soldier is saved by a dinosaur during WWII. Then, people from the future have come back in time (with an android!) to change the past so that Godzilla is never created from that WWII dinosaur by nuclear experimentation. Instead, King Ghidorah replaces Godzilla in the present...or, well, doesn't replace at all, actually. Turns out, Godzilla is inevitable, so he appears to battle King Ghidorah.
With some kooky aliens (who turn out be people from the future), time travel (obviously), an android (not exactly like a Terminator, but kinda), and general plot insanity, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is about as campy as a Godzilla film can get. In comparison to the previous two films, this is a tonal shift so hard that you could get whiplash if you're not ready for it.
|This is absolutely not stolen from anywhere.|
|Dorats...because we need something that will become King Ghidorah|
|Androids pass on the left (in a country that drives on the right).|
This movie must have the highest number of plot holes of any movie that's ever even thought to include the time travel trope. The biggest one, which practically smacks you in the face, is that an author of a Godzilla book goes back in time to change the fact that Godzilla exists. Not only does he come back to a present time where everyone still knows what a Godzilla is, but he's also still about to publish said book.
|"I'll publish this book, even if time itself rejects it!"|
If you're looking for a fun movie to not take seriously at all, sit around with your friends and watch this one. It's goofy, campy, and really cannot be watched with a straight face. It doesn't have deep ruminations on the morals of scientific exploration. It doesn't inhabit deeply symbolic meaning. And, even though it does make direct reference to Godzilla vs. Biollante, it's not terribly connected to the films that came immediately before it. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah's connections to the Middle Era Godzilla films are more concrete, as it seems to want to emulate the feel of those movies. With "aliens" and, eventually, a Mecha-King Ghidorah, this film throws almost everything imaginable at the wall to see what sticks. In my mind, there's nothing wrong with that...and this film mostly succeeds in its campy imitation of a bygone Godzilla era.
Side note: so far, this era of films really loves the Mazer.
|#19 Godzilla vs. Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1992) ***|
|Above: Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992) |
Below: Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
The plot revolves around two different insects fighting one another, the evil one of which is the mirror-mirror version of Mothra (called Battra). But then, they both team-up on Godzilla. Just because..I guess.
Watching Godzilla fight one moth isn't very compelling. Watching him fight two (even when one is "evil") doesn't improve things terribly much.
With the miniature twins (here called "the Cosmos"), this movie makes further connections to the Middle Era Godzilla films. It's almost like this era of Godzilla films is in the midst of an identity crisis, possibly too enamored with its history and too afraid to shake things up.
|Above: Mothra being tugged along (1992)|
Below: Kong being tugged along (1962)
Despite its clear call-backs to the Middle Era films, this one isn't nearly as campy and fun as Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. The Godzilla here is, yet again, a destructive force that needs to be defeated, but the Moths-on-Godzilla battles just aren't very compelling. Add a human story that isn't interesting or engaging, and you've got a lackluster Godzilla film.
|#20 Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II (1993) ***1/2|
Tying this film to Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, scientists retrieve the mechanical head from the defeated Mecha-King Ghidorah in order to build two separate weapons: the Garuda (a ship in the style of Super-X/Super-X2...despite neither of those getting a mention here) and Mecha-Godzilla.
Don't be confused by the title, this movie has no connections to the Middle Era Mecha-Godzilla. Instead of an alien creation, this one is created by the Japanese specifically to defend against Godzilla. Meanwhile, a radiation-emitting pteranodon egg is discovered and Rodan returns to protect it from the scientists attempting to study it. Turns out, that egg is sending a signal to Godzilla because it's a...wait for it....Baby Godzilla!!
As we have now moved as far away from Godzilla 1985's self-serious tone as possible, the filmmakers have decided to toss every bit of ridiculousness into the movie. Let this be a lesson to anyone making a future Godzilla movie...you NEVER go full-on Baby Godzilla.
|Just look at it.|
It's really a shame too. Subtracting the Baby Godzilla business, this film has some great Giant Monster action. The battles between Godzilla and Rodan are enjoyable (despite Rodan, and Godzilla's battles with winged-creatures generally, being lame usually). And watching Godzilla fight against a Mechanized version of himself never ceases to be fun.
This Mecha-Godzilla has a great design and puts of a good fight against Godzilla, but also proves that Godzilla is far too formidable without some extra help (in the form of joining with Garuda in Super Sentai style).
Building from previous films in this era, this movie incorporates ESP. Specifically, the psychic who has appeared (and will continue to appear) in every Godzilla film in this era (except Godzilla 1985), communicates with Godzilla and Baby Godzilla both. Eventually, she convinces them to be a family and go away.
|Please just step on it...|
|#21 Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994) **1/2|
A secret project is underway to allow for psychic control of Godzilla. Meanwhile, an unidentified object is approaching Earth. Project Mogera (a giant robot you might recognize from somewhere) is sent to intercept the approaching object...which turns out to be SpaceGodzilla.
The explanation of SpaceGodzilla is suitably hilarious. Apparently, when Godzilla fought Biollante (or when he fought Mothra, who knows), his cells were attached to the other monster as it dispersed into space. Those cells "must" have been swallowed by a black hole then spit out by a white hole and evolved into SpaceGodzilla. All this because Godzilla films understand less about science than a five year-old yet they inexplicably insist on explaining things.
|Sometimes even with "high-tech" computer graphics.|
Mogera doesn't quite defeat SpaceGodzilla, and it lands on the island where Godzilla is hanging out with Baby Godzilla.
|SpaceGodzilla is immediately angry that there's a Baby Godzilla in his movie.|
Yes, yet again, a perfectly decent Godzilla movie is turned sour by the appearance of a Baby Godzilla (presumably the same one from Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II, but called Little Godzilla here). Thankfully, Little Godzilla isn't in the film much, but it's hardly the biggest problem this Late Godzilla Era movie has.
Despite the sheer awesomeness of SpaceGodzilla, this film suffers when the Giant Monsters aren't fighting. The human story of competing plans to control/destroy Godzilla lacks any interesting characters or weight even though the mob is brought in to mix things up. If you can suffer through the boring human parts, this movie does have some pretty great Giant Monster battles. Godzilla and Mogera fighting SpaceGodzilla for most of the final forty minutes is almost worth the hour of movie the viewer has to get through in order to get there. Almost.
|#22 Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995) **1/2|
In order to keep this from happening, and basically destroying all life on Earth, the Super X-3 is dispatched to bring Godzilla's core temperature down and avert disaster.
Meanwhile, a number of creatures mutated by the Oxygen Destroyer (the device used in Godzilla 1954 to destroy Godzilla) start causing some havoc.
Much of the film builds up Destroyah as a scary creature and foe of Godzilla. The efforts made to create suspense and "terror" around Godzilla's rival Giant Monster are pretty obvious (and obviously stolen from other films).
|No clue which film they might be copying...|
Then Little Godzilla shows up as a much larger Godzilla Junior. The three monsters come together for the final battle. In the end, Godzilla does die (as Toho said), but Godzilla Junior emerges as the new Godzilla to take its place.
This era of Godzilla films comes to a *whomp whomp* close with a mediocre film. It's almost as if this movie, and this entire run of movies, never could come up with a soul of its own. Instead it relied heavily on the Middle Era while keeping Godzilla's destructive power and "meanness" from the Early Era. There were a few fun moments along the way, but mostly the Late Godzilla Era ends with a flop and whimper instead of a roar.