Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is directed and written by Kazuki Omori and stars Kosuke Toyohara, Anna Nakagawa, Megumi Odaka, Katsuhiko Sasaki, Akiji Kobayashi, Yoshio Tsuchiya, and Robert Scott Field.
At long last, Toho delivered the Godzilla film that just had to be made, the one where it's Godzilla and his arch rival King Ghidorah going mano a mano. No Monster Zero gimmicks or tag team wrestling bouts, just Godzilla and Ghidorah squaring off, with no other monster in the vicinity. Following the financial disappointment that was Godzilla vs. Biollante, Toho decided to start bringing back classic monsters from the Showa series, thinking a few familiar faces would help the Heisei series fair better at the box office. What better familiar face to bring back right away than, still to this day, the coolest monster that Godzilla has ever gone up against? I was especially excited to re-watch and do a review of this particular Godzilla film, because, for years, I've considered it to be my personal favorite among all of the Godzilla films. After watching the film again for the first time in several years.....um, well....I may be having second thoughts about that personal favorite Godzilla film thing.....
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is a Godzilla film of pure extremes; when it's good, it's really good, and when it's bad, it's horrendously bad. But despite its horrendously bad parts, I still consider the film to be one of the best in the entire franchise. The good parts are some of the best moments to ever be seen in a Godzilla film, and when we're talking about bad parts, we're talking about plot and writing. I would throw dubbing into the mix as well, but I swore off talking about bad dubbing a while back, so I promise I won't bring it up in any considerable length here. I just can't help myself with mentioning this, however: the dubbing for Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is cringe-worthy to the upteenth degree, some of the most cringe-worthy dubbing that I have ever heard for not just any Godzilla film, but for any film period.
So anyway, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah presents to us a plot that aims to be a more child-friendly, fantasy adventure. The plot also attempts to cash in all of the time travel craze that was going on during the mid to late 80's and the early 90's, due to the success of the Back to the Future trilogy and the first two Terminator films. A UFO lands on Mount Fuji, revealed to be the mother ship for humans from the year 2204 who are known as "Futurians." The Futurians explain that in their time, Godzilla has completely destroyed Japan, and that they plan on going back to the year 1944 to erase Godzilla from history. We learn that in 1944, a group of Japanese soldiers on Lagos Island were being attacked by American soldiers, until they were saved by a mysterious dinosaur known as a "Godzillasaurus." Then in 1954, hydrogen bomb testing on Lagos Island mutated the dinosaur into Godzilla. To prove that their story is true, the Futurians show a copy of a book about Godzilla by science fiction writer Kenichiro Terasawa (Kosuke Toyohara), who has not completed the book yet in the present. The Futurians explain that they can travel back in time to 1944 and remove the dinosaur from Lagos Island, thus preventing the hydrogen bomb from ever creating Godzilla.
What the Futurians don't know, however, is that we've seen seventeen Godzilla films already, and one thing we've learned from those seventeen films is that aliens in a Godzilla film always have a malevolent plot in the works. As it turns out (OH, WHAT A SHOCK!), the Futurians have their own plans in mind. The Futurians go back in time and remove the dinosaur from Lagos Island, but before returning to the present, they leave behind three little creatures called Dorats. The three Dorats are exposed to the hydrogen bomb test in 1954, merging together to become the three-headed golden dragon, King Ghidorah. King Ghidorah shows up in the present and begins to lay waste to Japan, and Japan's only hope of stopping King Ghidorah and the Futurians is to create a new Godzilla.
One frustrating aspect of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is how much it feels like a strict Godzilla film, as opposed to a Godzilla film giving equal attention to all of its present monsters. The humans and the Futurians discuss Godzilla and the Godzillasaurus dinosaur in considerable length, yet Godzilla himself doesn't actually appear until over an hour in. Ghidorah shows up right around the 45 minute mark, but don't expect to get any serious exposition on why the Futurians chose to replace Godzilla with King Ghidorah. King Ghidorah is a more destructive monster, I guess is the explanation? I mean, he does have three heads that can all shoot lightning out of their mouths. Oh yeah, and he can fly too. But whatever the explanation is, poor Ghidorah is once again the mind-controlled weapon of extra-terrestrial beings, as if, after Ghidorah's debut, Toho could never again think up a proper way of incorporating an independent Ghidorah into a Godzilla film.
- Ah well, Ghidorah being mind-controlled again is the least of our worries here. The Ghidorah suit is given a nice upgrade, and the fight scenes with Godzilla is some of the best monster action you'll ever see in a kaiju film. Omori gives Ghidorah a new bag of tricks to use on Godzilla, such as using his wings as a shield against Godzilla's atomic breath and attempting to choke Godzilla with one of his three heads (as you see in the poster). Godzilla primarily relies on his badassery to combat Ghidorah, and the fight truly feels like two heated rivals going at it. The musical score by composer Akira Ifukube (his first Godzilla film since Terror of Mechagodzilla) heightens the intensity with an up tempo soundtrack whose main theme never gets old as the film goes on. If we only watched the scenes in which Godzilla or King Ghidorah are physically in the frame, I might argue that it would be a short movie that is much more enjoyable than the entire 103 minute movie.
- The number of plot holes present in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah would make swiss cheese envious. While time travel is a neat idea, it's also one of the most fragile elements that a plot can use; one or two screw-ups, and your whole story stops making sense. The "erasing Godzilla from history" part of the time travel is fine and all, but the Futurians intent on destroying Japan in the present becomes incredibly muddled when Godzilla's timeline is interfered with by King Ghidorah. Trying to figure out everything with Godzilla in this movie is bound to make your head explode, how Godzilla's disappearance from the past can lead to his re-appearance in the present, and how this change apparently has no effect on the future. It's almost fascinating to watch and see how very little sense that the plot makes by the end. Oddly enough, though, keeping track of the plot is a far more pleasant activity than trying to put up with the lineup of dull human characters, several of which are given absolutely nothing to do but watch as helpless bystanders. In short, the number of plot holes stems from how increasingly convoluted the story becomes and how very little care that Omori gives towwards addressing all of the time travel concerns. My personal favorite plot hole is this:
The three Dorats replace Godzilla on Lagos Island and get mutated by the hydrogen bomb in 1954. In this movie, 1992 is the present. What was King Ghidorah doing between 1954 and 1992?
All of the time travel craziness can be talked to death, but in a movie where we finally see Godzilla and King Ghidorah battle one on one, it's not worth the time or the effort. The plot holes shouldn't get in the way of enjoying the monster action, which are some of the best sequences in all of Toho's kaiju archives. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah delivers the most where it needs to deliver the most, and it's more than enough to make up for all of the horror going on around the monsters. It's tough to properly grade a movie like this, because normally, I'd think the high points and the low points balance out, resulting in a film that's average at best. But in the case of a Godzilla film, you have to apply some kind of scaled scoring, because kaiju films have to make sacrifices in certain areas in order to succeed where it truly counts: the monsters. In the case of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, the monsters are everything we'd want them to be, even if there is a bit too much that hinders the entire experience. For me, I think I'll keep this one as my personal favorite, but I won't be holding onto it too tightly.
Recommend? Yes, because watching Godzilla and King Ghidorah fight is worth sitting through all of the schlock that comes beforehand. This is a must-see for all Godzilla fans.
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