Project G: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

More Memorable Title: The one with MECHA-KING GHIDORAH!!!

Yeah!  It’s Godzilla-time!

So, last time we left of Godzilla with Godzilla vs. Biollante, an ambitious film that ended up falling short of its financial goals.  Longtime series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka wanted to follow it up with something safer, using more material that had proven successful in the Heisei era, leading to the more familiar King Ghidorah returning.  Unfortunately, his failing health limited his involvement, leaving this film and most of Godzilla’s future works in the hands of Shogo Tomiyama, who had co-produced Biollante with him.  Tomiyama continued bringing the film back to its Showa-era roots, establishing a more fantastic atmosphere and simple story with this film, taking it away from the gritty trailblazing of the past two Heisei era works.  Director and writer Kazuki Oumori, thinking that the real reason Godzilla vs. Biollante fell short in the box office was because of being outshone by Back to the Future, added a time travel story to it as well, thinking that’s what people were going for.

So that’s how we ended up with this film.  Now you know.  

As you might guess from the above, it is a bit of a hodge-podge.  Feels like it has a lot of puzzle pieces going in that it has a hard time matching up with each other.  Has a lot of cast members (although not as much as Biollante), a lot of moving parts, and moves at a pretty quick pace.  The Heisei era had really started to find its own identity with the last film, and this movie sees it turn a corner into something more rooted in the Showa era, although it still carries a lot of Heisei establishments along with it.  

It also serves as a retcon of sorts in the Heisei era.  It retells Godzilla’s origin in a way that’s firmly different than that of the original 1954 G and his Showa successor.  From what I understand, there was still some question of continuity by the time this film originally came out, whether the Heisei era lined up with the Showa or not, and this firmly establishes it as something of its own.  Although it also messes a bunch up.  Whatever.  Also, Heisei Godzilla was already canonically bigger than either of the other ones, but apparently Toho wanted him even grander than that.  So they do that here.  Makes him more terrifying for the monster fights to come.

So, how does it all come together?  Well, read on to find out.  

The year is 2204.  We’re underwater.  A submarine is investigating some sort of giant monster corpse.  People are saying mysterious things about it that we won’t realize what they mean until later.  And then the camera moves so we can see just what kind of corpse they’re investigating.  And it turns out, it’s GHIDORAH!

And then all of a sudden the year is 1992 again.  Do you remember that year?  I sure don’t.  Anyways, the world’s all afluffle because a UFO appeared and is flying around.  A bunch of news outlets are covering it.  So there’s this guy who used to write really successful sci-fi novels and now writes for some magazine or other.  And there’s this girl who obviously wants up ons and she goes up to him and goes “Dude!  Aliens! You’ve totally got to write about this!”  And he’s like “Pfffft!  What do you think I am?  A rich and famous sci-fi author?”  And she’s like “Yes.  It turns out that’s exactly what you are.” But he’s still like “No.  I don’t care about the fact that we’ve got proof that so much of what we thought about the universe is wrong and there’s new and exciting forms of life out there.  I’d rather write about what that one crazy loony was raving about in the middle of nowhere, about how he saw dinosaurs in WWII and Godzilla is really one of them and saved his life or something.”  Let’s call the guy Fred.  Because I don’t remember his real name and no descriptor is coming to me, but he totally looks like a Fred.

So Fred goes and talks to Loony.  Turns out Loony, when he’s not screaming in public about dinosaurs and disturbing people otherwise just minding their own business, is also the CEO of a humongous Japanese megacorporation.  Remember that for later.  Anyways, the way he tells it, he was stationed in Lagos in World War II, and his unit was under attack by the Americans, when a dinosaur appeared and saved the Japanese.  And then he insists that the dinosaur became Godzilla later.  Fred goes and does some investigating as well, and finds that H-bomb tests were conducted in the area, thus forming a theory that Loony is correct.

So the UFO keeps flying around for a while, and the military’s really concerned.  Miki, the psychic recurring character of the Heisei era, calls them on behalf of… somebody, I don’t know, to let them know that they tracked the UFO to where Godzilla’s been hanging out in the ocean, still catatonic from the effects of the ANEB of last film.  And then the UFO lands at Mt. Fuji for some reason.  So the military goes there, and then the aliens come out, and turns out their aliens in the legal sense rather than the space sense.  By which I mean they’re westerners.  Except for one, Emmy, who is half Japanese.  Bet you can’t guess who’s going to turn out to be evil and who will be the good one, can you?

Also, her name really is Emmy.  I remembered it, because it’s an easy one.  You should give me props for that in the comments.  Anyways, they’re still sort of aliens, except they’re from the future, instead of from space.  And they’re all like “Take me to your leader” but then they just teleport to the prime minister.  And they tell him that in the future there’s no more Japan because Godzilla came back and ruined it all.  But they came back in time to save Japan, by going even further back in time and preventing Godzilla from ever forming from that dinosaur that saved Loony.  And they want to take Fred, because the book he’s writing now was absolutely correct about everything in the future but ended up selling horribly, Miki, because she doesn’t really have a whole lot to do in this film but needs to go in somewhere, and some guy that keeps showing up in all these scenes but never does anything.  That last guy is absolutely vital.  Fred questions why they’re not taking Loony, given that, you know, he was there, but apparently the only place and time they know where pre-Godzilla was was when Loony encountered him during WWII, and you can’t have the two of the same people in the same place at the same time.  Don’t bother remembering that rule, though, because it will barely be enforced, later.  

So our three of this time go into the time machine/UFO and meet the Futurians there, and also get introduced to their pilot/handler on this adventure, an android that’s probably supposed to look like an absolute physical specimen but instead just looks like a giant goober.  Also, they have pets there, some psychically empathetic golden little furry bat things known as Dorats.  Three of them, in fact.  So the three, plus Emmy, plus Gooberbot, plus the Dorats all pile into a smaller time machine ship and slip back to World War II Lagos.  Steven Spielberg’s dad is there, for a completely pointless reference.  And then they manage to track down Loony’s unit, holed up in a cave, everyone pretty much preparing to die, because the Americans have them pinned down so super well.  Our crew stays out of sight, but talks about how Loony looks younger even though he really, really doesn’t.  They didn’t even try.  So they wait until dawn, and Loony talks the Japanese unit there into making a big last stand.  So they all go out and get into a gunfight with the American soldiers and start getting their rear ends handed to them to wear as hats.  And then a big derpy dinosaur shows up out of nowhere, because that’s the sort of thing that sneaks up on you, and starts stomping through the American soldiers.  The Americans shoot him a whole bunch,  but to no avail.  Doesn’t quite seem right to me.  I’m not a paleontologist or anything, but I’d be pretty sure that if a dinosaur appeared in the modern day and you shot it a couple hundred times, it’d probably die.  But this one doesn’t.  This one is just killing American soldiers.  The survivors run to the beach, where their ships lay into Derpzilla with artillery, and finally it goes down.  

The Americans make a full retreat, while the Loony and his unit give the dying dinosaur a funeral with honor,  touched by Derpzilla’s great sacrifice towards their holy mission of committing war crimes and inflicting horrors on the innocent.  Then they leave.  And our crew from the present/future teleport Derpzilla into the middle of the Bering Sea, where the catatonic Godzilla rested in our time, before he had the chance to get irradiated by H-bomb testing and transform into the great horror we know and love today.  Then they all pile into the time machine to go home, but Emmy shoos the Dorats out into the wild before they go.  For REASONS!  Miki questions her on where they went, but doesn’t follow up on her noncommittal response

Now, if you’re following along at home, you might notice that there was absolutely nothing the folk from the present had to do at any point on this mission.  You might notice that they were completely superfluous.  But forget about that.  We’re moving on.

So the team gets back to the future.  By which I mean present.  But the present is 1992, so I really mean past.  Contemporary times for the movie.  That place.  So they check in with the Futurians, who confirm that the plan worked, and they prevented the creation of Godzilla.  This is a world in which Godzilla never existed after 1954.  Except time travel works in a really stupid way in this movie, in that apparently when the past is changed, the present just snaps into whatever new state the world is in starting from they left to time travel in the first place.  Except for when it doesn’t.  So in this case, everyone clearly remembers Godzilla, and have been attacked by him in the past, but he’s gone now, and never actually was.  So the plan worked on that front.

The plan also worked on the other, secret front, which was to leave the Dorats there, so they would take the H bomb radiation, and transform into a horrible monster themselves.  That being King Ghidorah.  In case you didn’t see that coming.  New origin story ahoy!  So King Ghidorah has been there terrorizing the world for decades.  By which I mean he’s just starting right now because time travel in this movie is stupid.  And they elected to take this move, because Godzilla wasn’t vulnerable to the Futurian’s mind control, but King Ghidorah totally is!  And you know what that means!  We get to bring our counter back!

Number of times King Ghidorah has been mind controlled: 4

Also the Futurians turn out to be super evil but you saw that coming anyways already, so let’s just move on.  King Ghidorah flies around blowing stuff up.  In Japan and Japan alone.  Emmy’s somewhat less evil than all the rest, and she protests to her bosses about what they’re having the King do, in spite of the fact that she was the one who created King Ghidorah in the first place.  Like, Gooberbot barely did anything, and none of the other Futurians were even on that mission.  So, like, she’s acting like she had no hand in it, when she was really the one to kick it off.   But whatever.  They blow her off.  But they also expect her to turn on them, so they have Gooberbot stalk her for a while.  

Back at his home, Fred is just chilling, talking on the phone with his girlfriend and waiting for King Ghidorah to come by and destroy his life, when Emmy shows up at his house.  So he immediately ditches his girlfriend for her.  From this point forward in the film, Fred will show so much more sexual tension with Emmy than he ever did with that woman who kept throwing herself at him.  Which makes it really, really awkward when Emmy eventually reveals that she’s really his great-grandpa or something.  What the hell, Japan?  Anyways, Emmy tells him that Japan was never actually in danger of Godzilla, in fact, in the future, they learned to handle him quite well.  The Futurians lied to Japan because they’re really left-wing terrorists, and in the future, Japan became so economically powerful that it started buying up whole other countries, so they wanted to come back in time and wipe it off the map when Japan was vulnerable.  And again, she was totally cool with everything so far, but now that things have progressed, she’s switching sides, and wants to fight against the futurians.  

She stays the night at Fred’s house.  And Gooberbot watches.  

The next day, they start driving somewhere.  I don’t remember why.  Some Futurian guy and Gooberbot are following them, and a car chase ensues.  Stuff happens, Fred manages to outdrive them, and then the car flips over and explodes for no real reason.  But then Gooberbot gets out… and… he rips off his burning coat…. and chases them in the most hilariously bad use of special effects and characterization I’ve ever seen.  Just watch the video.  Words cannot describe how hilariously lame that scene is.  

Anyway, using robot speed, Gooberbot catches up to the car and stops it.  Fred start’s to get out all like “I’ll kick his ass” but Emmy stops him, being like “Dude, he just curled a Jeep.  You won’t be able to scratch him.  I’ll just go with them peacefully.”  So she does.  And the Futurians have her back.

Meanwhile, Miki with her psychic abilities or whatever detects that the reason Godzilla’s been hanging out in the Bering Sea before time shenanigans was because there’s radioactive material there, and that was helping him survive the ANEB.  Now that the Futurians teleported the pre-Godzilla Derpasaurus to the same place, instead of, like drowning, instead it was exposed to radiation for a far longer period of time.  So it’s still alive, and presumably somewhat on the way to Godzilla-hood already.  The Japanese government is like, “Man, if only we had some nukes to feed to Godzilla to power him up the rest of the way, then surely he’d come to save our flat butts.  Too bad we are a nation that has sworn off all forms of active warfare whatsoever and find the whole idea of possessing nuclear missiles abhorent.”  For whatever reason, Loony is in the meeting, and he’s like, “What, you want nukes?  Oh, sure.  How many do you need?  40?  50?  I swear, I’ve got so many nukes I don’t even know what to do with them all.”  And the Japanese government is like “Loony why do you have nukes?”  And he says “Oh, I just picked up too many on a trip to Costco one day.  You know how it is, you only need one but you have to buy a whole pack.  Anyways, do you need the submarines, too?  Because I have those.” And the Japanese government is like “LOONY, WHY DO YOU HAVE NUKES?!!”

So, anyways, Loony sends a nuclear submarine to go nuke the irradiated Derpasaurus, thus turning him into Godzilla.  But joke’s on the submarine, thought, because they get there, and it turns out he’s already Godzilla.  It’s not a very funny joke, though.  It’s the kind of joke where everyone ends up dead.  Eh, I guess you had to have been there.  

Meanwhile, Emmy reprograms Gooberbot.  Because, I guess, like, she’s a traitor and all, but why not let her just wander around your time machine spaceship and access all the death machines at will? Sharing is caring after all.  And then they break out.  And she goes back to Fred’s place  And dresses in some more revealing clothes.  Not helping the whole familial sexual tension deal.  

Anyways, Godzilla got pissed off about being nuked, so he starts wandering into Japan to wreck some stuff.  So the Futurians send King Ghidorah to go fight him.  Because the whole plan doesn’t work if Godzilla destroys Japan.  Only if the Futurians destroy it.  Or something.  So King Ghidorah flies over and starts blasting him.  And Godzilla blasts back.  We get a good example of the beam spam the whole Heisei era is known for, really.  And you remember how King Ghidorah used to be more than a match for Godzilla, how he always needed help or some humans to disrupt the mind control and leave him confused to come out on top?  Well, he’s a little more even here.  See, this new, rebooted Godzilla was exposed to radiation for a much longer span of time.  He was in the slow cooker of radiation.  And that made him bigger than he was before the time shenanigans.  And stronger.  And possibly meaner, but Heisei Godzilla was plenty mean already.  He’s not strong enough, though.  Ghidorah’s got the edge on him.  But it’s just an edge.  Ghidorah gets close, they tussle, and Ghidorah wraps his three necks around Big G and starts choking him out.  

Meanwhile, Emmy, Gooberbot, and Fred assault the UFO.  I don’t know why they brought Fred along.  Like, seems like some of the military folks they undoubtedly have access to would be a good choice to bring on a strike mission, but no.  Let’s bring some dorky writer.  Fred just kind of runs around and does nothing.  Gooberbot does most of the work.  Emmy does alright for herself as well.  Because as is well established fact, humans are solar powered.  The more skin you expose to the light, the better in a fight you are.  See?  Her wardrobe change was tactical.  The group shuts down the mind control device.  

So, as ever, Ghidorah gets a bit confused in the transition.  Godzilla takes the opportunity to use his nuclear pulse, blasting Ghidorah away with energy.  And then he charges up his atomic breath, and just blasts off one of Ghidorah’s heads.  Just chunks it right off.  This has been kind of a lackluster fight, but that was a hallmark moment, right there.  What’s left of Ghidorah flies away, but can’t keep himself aloft, and so crashes into the ocean.

The Futurians are trying to take their big time machine and escape to the future.  As they count down, Gooberbot, Emmy, and Fred hop into the smaller time machine, and use it to teleport the big one to right in front of Godzilla.  And then Godzilla blows it up.  

With all the enemies dead, Godzilla waves goodbye to all the children, and disappears back into the sea… which would be the ending of the film if this was the Showa era.  We’re in the Heisei now, baby.  And this is a Godzilla full of wrath.  So they brought him back to beat up King Ghidorah.  And now King Ghidorah’s gone, and they have a bigger Godzilla than ever before in Japan, and nothing to stop him.  So of course he goes on a rampage and starts wrecking stuff up.  The JSDF dispatches a bunch of Maser Tanks, but of course they’re not able to stop him as he approaches Tokyo.  They need to find something to stop him, and find it fast.  Fred proposes Emmy goes into the future and comes back with cool future weapons.  She agrees, but promises to come back, because she digs Fred so much.  She will later reveal that he’s her ancestor.  Just a reminder.  So anyways, she goes into the future.  And it turns out she was behind the submarine examining King Ghidorah we saw in the intro.  

But, even though she has a time machine and could theoretically just return as soon as she left, our heroes are still left high and dry for a while as nothing stops Godzilla from wrecking Tokyo.  He comes upon a building that Loony is hanging out in, and there’s a stupid scene where they have a moment together.  Like, Godzilla’s supposed to be emotionally close to this weirdo he saw once 50 years before.  Loony talks to him and Godzilla looks at him wistfully for a while.  And then Godzilla atomic breaths him.  Let’s all agree to forget about that out of character bit.

Then Emmy comes back!  Riding some company!  Turns out the parts of King Ghidorah that Godzilla didn’t blast off stayed alive, and they fixed the rest with some cyborg parts.  So yes!  We have Mecha! King!  Ghidorah!  And frankly, it’s as awesome as it sounds.  So many things get made better when you make them mecha.  Emmy’s in the pilot’s seat of the new mechanical head and Gooberbot’s consciousness has been uploaded into it to keep the others… in line… through mind control.  Huh.  

Number of times King Ghidorah has been mind controlled: 5

Emmy directs Mecha King Ghidorah as it engages Godzilla in some more beam spam, that also blasts the hell out of the surrounding buildings.  Godzilla gets some hits in, but eventually gets driven back.  As he’s getting up again, Emmy takes to the sky, but Godzilla catches the cyborg monster and sends them toppling down.    Godzilla advances, but Mecha King Ghidorah launches a number of cables out, wrapping Big G up.  They take flight, and make it away from Tokyo and over open water, but Godzilla blasts through one of Mecha King Ghidorah’s, sending them both plunging beneath the waves.  Everyone’s all worried for Emmy, but shortly after, the small time machine spaceship rises from the ocean.  Emmy finally reveals her ancestry, and then leaves.  It seems Japan is safe once more.

Still tangled up underwater, Godzilla wakes up.  Because you knew there was going to be a sequel.

Et finis.  

You know what?  I want to start my review portion of this on a high note.  This film’s use of miniatures?  Absolutely excellent.  The scenes with the monsters in the cities were incredible, the best we’ve seen so far.  The buildings and ground level looked so incredibly detailed, those shots were very believable.  They broke and crumbled in a very realistic  and visceral way as well.  I think.  I haven’t exactly been in a situation to see giant kaiju crushing a city.  Some day, Denver.  Some day.  But yeah, the mini fights were great.

So was Mecha King Ghidorah just popping in.  I remember the first time I saw this film, getting really excited around this part.  There’s the cub in me that thinks adding robots to things is always awesome, and that cub had a great time with his return.  The monster suits and animations are really solid as well.  Not, like, blow away solid or anything, and it didn’t make huge leaps forward compared to the previous movies, but they do well enough that it’s easy to suspend your disbelief here and forget that these are really guys in 200 pound suits and a bunch of puppeteers.  Which is a big complement anytime Ghidorah hits the scene.  His three heads and two tails has to take a lot of coordination to work right.  

On the negative side though, there’s the plot.  So many things happen that just don’t make sense.  The plot of the Futurians is just absolutely stupid, and they didn’t need to involve nearly as many parts as they did for the same effect.  And the treatment of time travel here is headache-inducingly inconsistent.  The characters are all over the place, and things just happen because the plot demands it happens without really any rhyme or reason.  Like, there’s a corporate guy who just happens to have nuclear missiles right when they need it?  Or of all the places, the Futurians just happened to teleport the Derpasaurus to where they probably should have know was nuclear material?  And for being the main character, Fred was almost entirely useless to the plot.  I don’t know what’s up with that.  

Moreover, the monster fighting, while it did definitely have its moments, was overall a little too dull.  One of the bad habits of the Heisei era Godzilla films is having the combat devolve into not much more than the beasts standing back and blasting CGI beams at each other, and that’s what we got here for a big chunk of it.  That should be like seasoning.  A little is good.  Here, they peppered on too much, and it overwhelmed the taste.  In writing this review, I had to go back and rewatch the fight scenes, because I really didn’t remember much of them.  There are some high points, but a lot of it was just bland for my tastes.

Overall, this film gets a middling grade from me.  But really it’s all over the map.  There’s some really good parts in there.  There’s some really dull ones.  And then there’s some absolutely ridiculous moments.  Watching this film is like riding a rollercoaster.  Except it’s really just cobbled together from parts of a bunch of different rollercoasters.  But you don’t die at the end.  You just forget about big chunks of it, because it didn’t really stand out to you.  I’m losing this analogy here.  Whatever.

At the very least, it did give us this moment of ridiculousness.  Let’s all just watch and enjoy this again.

One response to “Project G: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

  1. Pingback: October 2021 in Summary: A Shot in the Arm | Extra Life

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