Project G: Godzilla vs Biollante (1989)

More Memorable Title: The one the MPAA rated PG for ‘Traditional Godzilla Violence’.

Usually, I lead into these things by talking a bit about the development of the film.  This time, I’m going to take a bit of a different tack, and talk about getting this movie instead.  Toho licenses the western distribution rights for the Godzilla franchise on a film by film basis.  Which leads to tons of different companies having the rights to different films in the franchise, which, for a long time, made it rather difficult to just pick up and watch through the whole Godzilla series.  It’s gotten better in recent years, with Criterion Collection securing the western rights of all the Showa Era films and making those readily available, and Sony holding longtime rights over all the rest of the Heisei era after this as well as the complete Millennium era and releasing some very handy and affordable compilations, but there’s two of Toho’s film from the pre-Reiwa eras that are still largely left out of easy accessibilty.  There’s the Return of Godzilla, which has been out of print for a while but it seems Kraken Publishing still released enough DVDs to make them affordable today.  And then there’s this one.  Miramax licensed out a few limited runs of DVDs, but Toho eventually pulled the license from them, and now nobody has the Western distribution rights to Godzilla vs. Biollante.  There’s no streaming of this movie, and the DVDs fetch a pretty high price, making this the absolutely hardest Godzilla film to get your eyes on.  I managed to find it for what I thought was a reasonable price, but even then, I ended up paying more for it than you would for any brand new, modern day home video release.  

So just keep in mind, what I’m about to relate to you is a rare Godzilla delicacy.  

The Return of Godzilla was financially successful, but not wildly so.  They wanted to do a sequel to it, but the minimal success there, coupled with the failure of some other high profile monster movies at the time, convinced longtime Godzilla producer Tomoyuki Tanaka to wait for a bit, until the market was better for such films.  That ended up being a pause of a few years, before other goofy sci-fiish films, primarily Little Shop of Horrors, started seeing success.  They chose the script for their upcoming film from a contest, taking submissions from a bunch of randos, looking for something that they could use for some traditional kaiju tai kaiju goodness that also took a different tack from the beastie brawls of the showa era.  They ended up settling on the script submitted by a dentist, which was really recycled from a script he had submitted as a teenager to a similar contest for Ultraman and won there.  Director Kazuki Oumori then spent the next three years changing and editing it, using his background as a biologist to correlate Godzilla’s typical anti-nuclear themes with the heavy genetic engineering themes seen here.  In so doing, he also ended up creating and codifying what would really be going on in Godzilla’s Heisei Era.  In a lot of ways, it’s always the second entry that defines a series, and that’s no different here, with Godzilla vs. Biollante’s heavy use of continuity, psychic characters, and CGI beam effects being establishments that would continue for the rest of the series.

In release, Godzilla vs. Biollante was doomed to repeat it’s predecessor’s mild success, leading the franchise to take another small pause before returning to more familiar territory with its next entry. Toho reportedly regarded this film as ending up having too niche an appeal. It is, however, a well regarded one among fans, with a lot of commentary saying it played with some really interesting ideas, even if the actual execution of them is subject to opinion.  How does it fare in the most important opinion of all; mine?  Let’s read on to find out.

I should say, heading into this though, this is a busy, busy movie.  There’s a lot going on here.  So many characters, so many events, so much stuff.  I’m going to be selectively trimming things in a lot of this, so we’ll move pretty quickly, and there’s also going to be a lot of content I don’t touch.  Because I don’t think anyone wants to read a giant  summary of this, and I don’t have time for that anyways.

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Project G-The Return of Godzilla (1984)

More Memorable Title: The Godzilla of the Cold War

We’re back with this, the one where Godzilla’s back!  And back with a reboot and a whole new continuity at that!  All that stuff we’ve been talking about in the series thus far?  All that story, history, origins, everything there?  We’re done with all that.  With the exception of the first film, the OG 1954 Godzilla, everything else is all out the window.  We’re starting fresh, here.  With this film, we officially enter Godzilla’s Heisei era.  

So, the last film of Godzilla’s Showa era hit in 1975.  Toho didn’t intend to end the series there, and in fact tried to get some more productions going a couple of times, but for whatever reason, none of them got off the ground.  In 1979, longtime series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka took charge of bringing Godzilla back to screens for the series’ 25th anniversary, and, inspired by the then-recent Three Mile Island incident and the then-modern adult oriented sci-fi/horror films of the time, wanted to return the series to its adult-oriented, anti-nuclear roots.  He still wasn’t able to get anything going for a while, until finally, in the mid-1980s, pieces started to come into place.  He combined elements from a bunch of cancelled Godzilla projects, made it modern to the cold war politics of the time, and started gathering a team around it.  Longtime director Ishiro Honda wasn’t up for participating, tied up with his work with Akira Kurosawa and also feeling the series shouldn’t be continued after the death of Godzilla’s special effects producer Eiji Tsuburaya, so Koji Hashimoto, who served as assistant director on a number of Showa Era projects, got called up to take the seat. Teruyoshi Nakano, who had led the special effects under Tsuburaya’s guidance when the latter’s health prevented him from working fully, took the lead once more on that front.  Series newcomer Reijiro Koroku handled music composition, making a score that’s quite different from Akira Ikufube’s previous work but honestly very solid for the film.  And finally, finally, they managed to get things going and get a film out, kicking off Godzilla’s revival.  

The Return of Godzilla is, as I said, considered the first film of Godzilla’s Heisei era.  But it was actually made in Japan’s Showa era, as the shift to the real Heisei wouldn’t happen for a few more years.  So, that explains perfectly why a lot of the things that would become emblematic of the Godzilla’s Heisei era; the recurring characters, the laser spamming, the 1-vs-1 monster fights, the prominence of psychic abilities, you don’t really get that showing up in this film just yet.  What you do get, that will carry over to later films until they start going the ‘noble demon’ route with Godzilla, is that you have a Big G here that is bigger and meaner than we’ve seen before.  Gone Is the ‘friend to all children’ Godzilla of films past.  This Godzilla is legitimately monstrous.  Much like the 1954 original, Godzilla here is coming to town to ruin lives and chew bubble gum.  And they don’t make bubble gum big enough for him.  

The Return of Godzilla is a film that reviewed rather poorly, but is very well regarded by fans.  Looking at things from my perspective, who has the better take on it?  Well, let’s dig in to find out.

The film opens with a fishing vessel navigating near an uninhabited island in a fierce thunderstorm.  The crew are trying frantically to force their way to shore to weather it.  One of the crewmembers, Sourface, so named because he shows little emotion other than mild irritation with everything occuring in the film, looks out at the island only to see something very large and monstrous silhouetted in the lightning.

The scene cuts there, and opens up the next morning.  The radio is calling out that in the storm last night, a number of ships, including the one we just saw, went missing.  We’re on a boat, a smaller one this time, a personal vessel.  It’s captain, someone whose name I actually remember this time.  Because he has the same name as that four-armed miniboss from Mortal Kombat.  And that guy from Yakuza that’s crazy awesome, emphasis on the crazy.  For that matter, he was there back in one of the worst films of the Showa era.  That’s right.  I promised he’d come back.  This guy transcends continuity.  We’re looking here at Goro Maki.  Yes, named just like the guy from Mortal Kombat and the guy from Yakuza, once again. So, obviously, Son of Godzilla didn’t happen here, and he’s played by a new actor this time, but the basics of this guy are the same.  He’s a reporter that searches down leads so hard he jumps into crazy dangerous situations.  He dresses exclusively in hideously ugly clothes.  And he is absolutely 100% couthless.  I don’t say that lightly.  You don’t insult a man’s couth.  You just don’t.  But it is impossible to describe him here without mentioning that.  

So anyways, Goro is sailing the high seas ripping opponents apart with his four arms apparently looking for those missing ships to get a scoop when he comes across one, coincidentally the one we just saw a few minutes ago.  He lashes the ships together, hops on board, and starts investigating.  It appears that nobody’s around.  There is some strange goo on the floor, though.  He gets into some cabin or bridge or ship term or something, and find someone sitting on a chair there.  He turns them around, and it looks like this guy got attacked by the girl from The Ring.  He’s all dessicated and mummified.  Then, Goro searches the ship some more, and finds some more dehydrated dead bodies.  He goes through their lockers, because, why not I guess?  Inside one of them, he finds Sourface, still alive, shell-shocked, clutching a hatchet.  Now, a normal person, would, you know try to help them, but we’re dealing with Goro Maki here.  Goro instead snaps a picture, and then goes through the guys pockets, finding a picture of Sourface with some girl and a student ID.  Then he gets attacked by… eeeeeeegh…. Shockirus.

Shockirus is a giant sea louse.  That’s about it.  But they gave it a name and made it part of the Godzilla monster canon, so they legitimatized it.  I don’t know if you know this about me, but I haaaate giant bugs.  Nearly every time.  So Shockirus can go eat a dick.  And he tries to, leaping onto Goro Maki and maneuvering to start sucking him dry.  Goro grabs a weapon, but Shockirus has a hard shell, and Goro’s unable to pierce it.  Goro starts preparing for the lame death you know is coming for him eventually, but then Sourface manages to hack into it and kill it from behind.

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Project G-Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

More Memorable Title: The last one of the original series OR The one that’s not Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II

Here, we come to it, the final, ultimate movie of Godzilla’s Showa era. And for that matter, the one that brought back Godzilla’s original and best regarded director and composer. In fact, this was director Ishiro Honda’s end to an extended break in production, and reportedly the guy was so into being able to work again that he was taking on way more tasks on set than usual for someone in his position, leaving some of the staff with nothing to do. Its script was picked through a contest, and was scriptwriter Yukiko Takayama’s first produced effort. Positioned as a direct sequel to the previous Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, it also takes a markedly more introspective tone, using its sci-fi elements to explore thoughts of what it means to be human outside of just the form one’s body takes. Ishiro Honda seemed to regard this film highly, feeling it was very refreshing and injected new life into the Godzilla model.

It was also an absolute bomb, in its day. One of only two Godzilla films to sell less than a million tickets, and, depending on whose reports you’re using, is the least profitable Godzilla film in history. On the contrary, it’s also one of the favorites in the series for a lot of people now. But it didn’t really come out of a good environment. The Japanese film industry in general was experiencing a downturn in 1975, giant monster movies in particular were dropping fans all over the place, and it’s coming off a time where the Godzilla franchise wasn’t exactly clear on what type of film they were wanting to make. First the series was psychological horror, then it was fun monster movies with heavy, thoughtful themes and undertones, then it just threw ideas at you for a while, then it was simple kid-friendly movies, then it was adult oriented ultra-violent for its day stuff, then it was… this. So it was a little hard to follow the throughline unless you were a big giant sexy nerd like myself Except they didn’t really have those in the 70s. So rough sales time in there.

But hey, lots of people like it. Does Aether as well? Let’s find out.

The film opens up with a montage of the Godzilla against MechaGodzilla fights from last time. No mention of King Caesar, however. Brother has just been memory holed. Cut to a year later, and there’s a submarine searching the sea floor where Godzilla dropped MechaGodzilla to try and find his remains. Because apparently nobody thought that they should go check out the big giant alien monster up until now. So the submarine gets there, and then there’s this lady on the shore who’s watching them with her magic eye. And then some giant fishy monster starts beating his tail, which causes a whirlpool that forces the submarine up to the surface. And then said fish monster pounces on them, and drags them back down. Where they get destroyed.

Looks like that was an Interpol sub, and now Interpol is investigating what just went down. With a whole bunch of people who aren’t particularly creepy. After last movie, I would have guessed they had those. They call in Dr. Loverboy, a marine biologist, to help them figure out what they’re dealing with. When he heads in for the meeting, he’s greeted by Inspector Average. The two of them are old college buddies, thus elegantly avoiding the need to spend time building a relationship between them. Anyways, the Interpol captain then plays the sub’s final transmission, where the captain’s screaming something like “Oh my God! We’re getting attacked by a dinosaur!” Then Dr. Loverboy deduces “You know, perhaps they were attacked by a dinosaur.” This is why he gets paid the big scientist bucks.

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Project G-Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (1974)

Alternative Title: The one that used all the fireworks in Japan.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla!  Where do we start with this one?  For some reason, trivia on the development of this movie seems to be much less available on the internet than for the other films, so… well, we’ll have to resort to conjecture for some of this, probably.

What we do know is that the Godzilla franchise had been making largely kid-oriented fare since Destroy All Monsters saw the original creative team leave the series for various reasons.  It’d also been waning in popularity for a while, never reaching the lofty peaks of commercial success established by King Kong vs. Godzilla.  Meanwhile, other kaiju productions were soundly beating the film in the very genre Big G had established.  Some of them were kid-friendly, sure.  Others proved there were a sizable audience of adults out there for kaiju films.  So, dudes here saw that, and figured, ‘You know, the whole kid thing isn’t exactly working out for us.  Maybe we should go after that market.  Those who can enjoy the big dumb giant monster battles on a whole other level.

And so, this film was made with that in mind.  Adult oriented.  Actioned way the heck up.  No more stock footage, because they’re not just playing to dumb children for whom they can get away with that.  More violent and gory than the series has been before, and possibly has been since.  Explosions and pyrotechnics up the giant monster-sized wazoo.  Life and death stakes, and people getting straight up killed on screen.  And not a single childly shortpant to be seen.  

This… ends up being a really weeeeeeeeiiiiiiird movie to watch.  Inconsistency is rampant throughout.  Do you love explosions?  I hope you do, because they are HERE with a statement.  The pyrotechnic work here is gratuitous and glorious.  The overlays; the beams, atomic breaths, aliens transforming, etc., look cartoonish and absolutely horrible.  Mechagodzilla looks amazing!  King Caesar is kind of ok, and the aliens are absolutely awful.  The action between the monsters is strong and exciting and visceral.  Everything going on with the people makes no sense and has way too many moving parts.  And a lot of the things that happen just don’t make any darn sense.  It’s amazing in parts, and laughably bad in others, and almost never anywhere in between.

Also, I’ll say it again.  Explosions.  If you love things blowing up in your movies, man, the work here is obscene.  There’s one part in particular that had me in awe at just how spectacular it was.  There’s corners cut in this movie, yes.  But they did not spare the pyrotechnics in any way.

Let’s dig into this bombfest, shall we?

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Project G: Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)

Alternative Title: The One with the Big Dumb Godzilla Dropkick

Godzilla vs. Megalon.  Here’s a particularly notable one.  And I imagine a rather love it or hate it affair.

So the backstory of Godzilla vs. Megalon is that once upon a time, some kid won a design-us-a-monster! contest with Toho, drawing a giant robot suit with a lot of similarities to Ultraman and Mazinger Z for use in a future monster movie.  Toho then made this design even more like Ultraman, to the point it didn’t really resemble the original contest design at all anymore.  And then they tried to put a movie together around it.  Hey, you know what’s really cool?  Ultraman.  That’s really cool.  Maybe we should make a movie like Ultraman.  

So you know what the problem is with making something that’s just like something else that’s really cool except your thing isn’t actually that cool?  You end up making something that’s just not as good as the original.  So this movie kind of kicked around for a while, with nobody really believing that the not-Ultraman was a strong enough character to carry the film, until producer Tomoyuki Tanaka came upon it and had the same thought I often think in the middle of bad movies, church services, and particularly average sessions of coitus: “This would be better with Godzilla in it.”

This wound up being the genius stroke that saved the project.  And at least two of my relationships.  But at this point, the producers just looked at each other, and decided that the film with all its troubled history had spent long enough in pre-production that it was time to move it right to shooting.  So what if they don’t even have a script yet!  They’ll figure something out.  And Tanaka had already raided his couch cushions for the spare change used for All Monsters Attacks’ budget, then the back seat of his car for the change for Godzilla vs. Hedorah, and they probably weren’t going to be able to get away with making a film so cheap to make its production actually created stacks of yen from thin air again like they did with Godzilla vs. Gigan.  So this time, they gave it a big massive budget, but it’s all in Imagibucks, the currency of Pretend Land.  And the exchange rate for that with the real world is really low.  

Once again, Jun Fukuda’s at the helm, who’s had kind of a spotty track record with Godzilla.  We’ve got a film where all they had to go on were storyboards and Fukuda literally had to create the script while they were filming and two of the four monsters in it were stapled onto the plot after the fact.  They’ve probably got more of a budget than they did for Godzilla vs. Gigan, but not by much.  And they’re needing to get through production incredibly quickly.  So, what do they do?  

You know how when big actors get roped into projects they know are going to be bad, they start hamming it up all over the place?  They figure if they have to make something that will be ill-remembered, they’re at least going to have a lot of goofy fun with it?  That’s what we get here.  A lot of Godzilla’s movie output has at least a bit of the dumb factor to it.  That’s one of the things I love about it.  And Godzilla vs. Megalon is the film that embraces that factor most whole-heartedly.  You shall see.  Oh, you shall see.  

The film opens with some nation performing some underground nuclear tests, which creates earthquakes that can be felt on Monster Island.  Supposedly far away from its epicenter.  Some time later, we get a nice little family playing at a lake in Japan.  Baby Rider, played by the same actor who was Ok Kid in Godzilla vs. Hedorah but is explicitly not the same character for that little bit of confusion, is playing on a little pedal boat thing in the lake while his older brother and older brother’s, uh, ‘friend’ enjoy a nice picnic.  So, these guys.  I don’t think it’s done deliberately, because this movie came out in the 1970s, which was not a time period where people were very open to these types of relationships, and is from Japan, which was not a place where people were very open to these types of relationships.  So, even though these are two men that seem incredibly close to each other, seem to be out for a rather intimate personal experience at the start of the film, and both seem to take a father-like relationship to the young boy in their charge, I’m not going to call the relationship what it obviously seems to be, because it was probably not intended on the part of the creators.  Let’s just say they’re very Happy.

So, they’re all doing their thing when an earthquake hits.  The Happy Pair call Baby Rider back to shore, so earthquake lake stuff doesn’t end up doing whatever to him.  But then a whirlpool appears in the lake!  And it starts draining!  And Baby Rider starts getting sucked in!  But luckily, the Happy Pair brought their grappling hook to the picnic.  You know, as is traditional.  So they grapple hook Baby Rider in, and watch as the lake drains completely into a new crack underneath.  Then they’re like ‘huh, that was weird.’ and then they go home, to the Happy Scientist’s lab.  

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Project G: Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Alternative Title: The One With the Alien Cockroaches


Godzilla vs. Gigan is… well, divisive is a good way to put it.  So, as a refresher, this is part of a string of Godzilla films that came after they intended to end the series, then decided “Nah, let’s make some cheap dumb things for children”.  Of the ones of those we’ve seen so far, All Monsters Attack was abysmal, whereas Godzilla vs. Hedorah was of the ‘so bad it’s good’ variety.  So, now we have Godzilla vs. Gigan lined up.  They’re bringing back Jun Fukuda, the guy who was behind the rather meh and definitely not Big G-feeling Ebirah, Horror of the Deep and my least favorite Godzilla film in Son of Godzilla.  Haruo Nakajima was having a hard time stepping into his long-time role as Godzilla after the death of series special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya, and this would prove to be his final time in the Godzilla suit.  And, to make matters worse, the Japanese film industry as a whole was really going through some rough times at this period, and the results show greatly here.  This film seems to have been made with a negative budget.  The actors are, even beyond the language barrier, obviously not of the highest paygrade, the sets are really sparse, stock footage is used in abundance, nearly all the soundtrack is pulled from other Toho films, and for the original footage, the returning monsters suits are all so beat up that they’re barely functional.  You can see scales peeling off of Godzilla in parts.

And yet, even with all that, you can tell they applied quite a bit of wisdom when working with their limits.  The stock footage is used far more wisely than it was in All Monsters Attack, and it doesn’t really stand out that much when shown in sequence with the original content.  And once the monster action starts, you can tell that all the skimping on sets and the extended amount of time you spent without your monster action was dedicated to make the monster action that was as big as it could be.  And hell, even the long time you spend on the human drama kind of things is pretty decent, if incredibly low-rent and cheesy.  This is a film that really rolled with the punches.


And it also introduced us to one of the Godzilla video games’ favorite monsters in the cyborg space-beast Gigan.  Take note of him.  This guy shall recur.  Even in the films’ continuity.  

So, does all that serve to elevate the film above its severely weak productive foundation in the eyes of the Aether?  Let’s dig in to find out.

So, the film opens up with out lead character, Jimmy Slacks, lazy artist extraordinaire, putting in a pitch for a manga he’s been working on, except he didn’t bother to finish his sample or even draw in the big monster that’s supposed to be its central figure and… yeah, that gets him nowhere.  So he goes to have lunch with Lady Pain.  Lady Pain is awesome.  Jimmy Slacks basically does whatever she says because she’s a black belt and her ability to kick ass is without peer.  She’s off for most of the story here, but she shows up whenever anyone needs their face inverted.  The film’s not clear on their relationship, but he treats her and she acts more like his mother and he’s nowhere near cool enough to be the boyfriend of someone as stellar as she is, so that’s what I go with.  Anyways, there’s this children’s theme park that’s looking for a monster designer, and she hooks him up with an interview there.  Jimmy Slacks shows up at their office which is inside a giant Godzilla statue, discusses the lamest possible monster designs, and even he’s honestly surprised when he gets hired.  He hears a bit of the organization’s mission statement, which is to bring peace to the world by destroying monster island and everything on it.  Which is not something I would expect a children’s theme park to be going for.  A little bit of mission drift there, it seems.

Anyways, Jimmy Slacks designs some really bad monsters, then goes to show up at the office and bumps into some girl.  She drops a tape and runs off.  He picks up the tape, then the guy that just hired him and some guards show up.  They ask him where she went, and for completely no reason, he covers for her and points them in the wrong direction, then heads into the office.  Nobody else is there, so he starts nosing around until he accidentally opens a secret door and finds the boss of the place inside.  Jimmy Slacks is apparently stunned by the boss being a teenager, but he looks older than Jimmy Slacks, so that really didn’t come across very well.  Teen boss is working on some incredibly advanced mathematics, and when asked, says that he’s charting the position of M Space Hunter Nebula.  You might have picked up by now that these guys are incredibly suspicious.  Like, they’re not even trying to hide it.  Also, nothing about them hiring Jimmy Slacks makes sense.  Like, they never need monster designs for anything, and when we do learn their plans, none of them involve anything about a homework monster or overbearing mother monster or anything else they hired him to do, so I have no idea.  Whatever, lets move on.

On Jimmy Slacks’ way home, the girl from earlier stops him and tells him to hand over the tape.  Jimmy Slacks did one thing right at least, and saw this coming, having hid the tape somewhere before hand.  He refuses, they can’t find it on him, and some beatnik comes up and sticks an ear of corn in Jimmy Slacks’ back.  Jimmy Slacks faints.  So they take him to his house and give him some TLC for a while, then he wakes up and they chat.  Turns out the girl’s brother, Dr. Computer, has probably been kidnapped by the theme park, and she thought the tape might give some clue as to his whereabouts.  Jimmy Slacks could just write them off as crazies who held him up with corn, but on the other hand, that theme park is super shady, so he decides to check it out.

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Project G-Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

Alternative Title: The one that was made on drugs, probably

Ask Godzilla fans what they think about Godzilla vs. Hedorah and you’ll get reactions ranging from “eh, it’s OK” to “OMG this is the worst!”  One thing they’ll all agree on though, is that this film is balls to the wall, pants on head, writers with cocaine and a dartboard WEIRD.  This movie runs like a fever dream.  Full of things that you never expected, never thought you’d see, and after you saw them, you’ll wonder why the hell they showed it to you in the first place.  

So this one follows up on Son of Godzilla, being a low budget, quick turnaround, child-oriented take on Godzilla, which is frankly where the series is going for the next while, so buckle in.  Had a new director, Yoshimitsu Banno for this one.  He got fired from the series after this.  Longtime series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka absolutely hated this film.  But Banno did come back to help out with the 2014 American Godzilla.  So… that I guess.  Anyways, this wasn’t a film that was set up to succeed, and then had some really weird and questionable decisions upon release, was reviewed horribly upon release, and had significant ramifications for that.

But, at the same time, there are some interesting things it does.  It’s limited budget was used with purpose, Hedorah is legitimately threatening, and it has some neat parallels to some of the better Godzilla films, so it has some layers to it.

Also, Banno started this film with an ENVIRONMENTAL message in mind, inspired by seeing heavy pollution in the rivers and smog in cities.  So there is an absolutely heavy ENVIRONMENTAL moral to this story.  That being that the ENVIRONMENT IS GOOD and POLLUTION IS BAD.  It will hit you over and over again with all the grace of a jackhammer.  So, keep that in mind as you’re reading this.  To be fair, this was made at a point where ENVIRONMENTAL conditions in Japan were absolutely horrible, and it got better in the years following this film, so maybe it was super called for and Godzilla vs. Hedorah is exactly what Japan needed to make a comeback.  But in any case, there are few morals that will be slammed into your brain harder than this.  It will crash and splatter everywhere.  Kind of messy, in all.  If there’s ever a point while you’re reading this that you’re thinking something other than how absolutely terrible it is that there’s POLLUTION in the ENVIRONMENT, you need to adjust your expectations and start over again.  It doesn’t matter that nothing else in the film makes sense.  ENVIRONMENT!!!

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Project G-All Monsters Attack (1969)

Alternative Title: The bad one.  The really bad one.

So if you talk to anyone who knows Godzilla films, they’ll generally have their opinions.  They’ll have their unadulterated favorites.  They’ll have their guilty pleasures.  They’ll have their personal bombs.  Those lists won’t always line up.  There’s a lot of room for opinion variation on Godzilla.  And that’s really a beautiful thing.  Everyone gets their own journeys through these films, unique to them.  Except for All Monsters Attack.  Everyone, absolutely every single Godzilla fan, hates this film.  And not in a love to hate kind of way.  Not in a ‘it’s a pain, but watch it once to get it out of the way’ kind of way.  Everyone straight up just recommends you skip this one.  I told people I was writing up all the Godzilla films.  Everyone who knows Godzilla assumed I was just going to skip this one.  

So that’s how you know you’re in for a good time, right?

So lets rewind a bit.  Destroy All Monsters was the Godzilla team blowing everything they had on it.  All the monsters, all together.  The biggest, baddest conflicts they could come up with, serving as a massive denouement to their kaiju saga.  The story was resolved, and they gave Godzilla the sweetest send-off they could, before Toho kicked in its plan for shelving the movies for a while and launching the Godzilla Multinational Cartoon Universe.  Interest in Godzilla movies were waning, and it was drawing less and less money over time, so that decision makes sense.  Give the series new life in a different format.  But, said cartoon didn’t come out.  The companies Toho was going to be co-producing it with didn’t end up going through.  Meanwhile, longtime Godzilla producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was looking at the competition, particularly the Gamera series of films, who were making bank by producing incredibly cheap kaiju films and marketing them directly to children.  And he was like, you know what, we can do that too.

So he called up a screenwriter, and asked him to slap something together on the back of a napkin.  Then he called up Ishiro Honda, longtime Godzilla director, and told him to start digging through people’s couches, because whatever change he found there was going to be this movie’s budget.

And that’s how this magic was born.  A film where its questionable whether or not all the previous Godzilla movies actually happened and Godzilla et al are real in this universe, or they’re just movies in this world too.  A film where children dealing with typical kid stuff is the primary conflict.  A film where, although Eiji Tsuburaya is credited with the special effects out of respect, his health was too poor for him to work so all special effects had to be handled by his protege and by Honda on a shoestring budget, with rather poor results.  A film that makes extensive reuse of the footage from the previous handful of films rather than shooting anything new.  A film that centers on Minilla.

It’s not for nothing that this film is so hated.

Ehhhhhhhh, let’s do this.

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Project G-Destroy All Monsters (1968)

Alternative Title: The grand finale that wasn’t really the grand finale. OR The one that did the Avengers thing before it was cool.

So, it’s 1967 or whenever this film was being made.  The Godzilla movies were once a big deal, but ticket sales had been sunsetting, and it wasn’t the solid moneymaker it once was.  Toho decided that maybe it was time for a change.  Let’s give the Godzilla film series one big finale, then let’s move it from movies to a cartoon show.  The kids love the cartoons, right?  Except it’ll be anime.  Because we’re Japanese.  That’s what we’ll do!  So they got all the people most responsible for making the Godzilla franchise what it was together, told them to give it a big send off.

Then all these guys, director Ishiro Honda, special effects producer Eiji Tsuburaya (supervising, his protege actually handled the work here, but still), composer Akira Ifukube, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, they were all sitting together, thinking, “You know?  This will be the last Godzilla film.  And even if, by some crazy, insane miracle that nobody can even dream of, something so infinitisemally possible it’s not even worth talking about, it’s not, it’ll still be the last time we’re all working together.  We need to send if off in some great way.  But how do we take this big, dumb series, and give it a finale that will make a proper impact?”

They found an answer.  And that answer is to make it biggest and the dumbest.  And not just of Godzilla.  This is the Avengers of Godzilla films.  The culmination of the kaijuverse.  Godzilla already absorbed monsters from other films, but this one is the king of it.  We don’t just get Godzilla and his rogue’s gallery here. This film is importing Kaiju from a whole bunch of movies in Toho’s shared universe. This is the crisis crossover, the end of this entire universe of stories.

And obviously, it worked.  It wasn’t the highest reviewed at the time, but it resonated really well with the general audience, and brought in enough dough that Tojo shelved their plans to shelve the series, and had them doing a whole bunch of follow up films.  Moreover, time has been far kinder to the film, and it ranks in the list of top Godzilla movies today.  

It’s also a pretty significant turning point for the film.  As previously stated, this is the last time a lot of the key creative minds in the Godzilla franchise all worked on one of its movies together.  This is also, thanks to the big time jump, the final chronological story of the Showa era.  So the handful of movies coming after this all took place beforehand.  Meaning this is the one that gets to have the final say on what this segment of the Godzilla canon is to be.  

So, what’s the Aether take on it?  How does it hold up?  Aether loves big dumb things, but is this the right kind of big and the right kind of dumb?

Let’s explore.

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Project G-Son of Godzilla (1967)

Alternate Title: Ok, I guess Godzilla’s a dad now?

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I don’t care about this movie.  You can’t make me care about this movie.  I can barely bring myself to write this post.

That’s how you know this post is going to be a good one, right?

So this movie is another Jun Fukuda joint, the same director behind the previous film that wasn’t quite up to what we’ve come to expect from Godzilla and didn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense but was still kind of ok.  As I believe I previously mentioned Fukuda wasn’t a big fan of his own Godzilla output in retrospect, although I would say he’s probably being a bit too harsh on himself, overall.  He did make a few that are really good for those like me who love the extra dumb ridiculous stuff.

That probably doesn’t sound like it’s a compliment, but I’m intending it as such.

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Where was I?  Oh yeah, I was crapping all over this movie.  So whereas Ishiro Honda would direct Godzilla films to be about big dumb monster action but also had this hidden theme of social commentary layered underneath it, and underneath that would have a sense of vague sense of “you know, this is all good fun but this would also be crazy horrible to live through”.  Three layers there.  It’s like a cake where the top layer is crazy fun but the middle layer has encyclopedia pages in it that make you think of how horrible society as a whole is, and the bottom layer has a picture of your abs crying in it so you regret the whole thing.  That analogy got away from me a bit, I think.  But yeah, Honda’s movies were more dumb fun that made you think a bit about it.  Jun Fukuda cut out the thinking part.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it didn’t.  It didn’t here.

Son of Godzilla is notable for introducing Minilla, the hideously ugly Godzilla baby whose existence proves there is no such thing as a kind and loving god in the Godzilla universe.  Even as far as child-relating young versions of Godzilla, Minilla somehow manages to be even less cool than Godzooky, and at the modern day, we’ve gotten exposed to Godzilla Jr. who is both way cuter than Minilla could ever be and could mop the floor with him without even getting short of breath.

Minilla

Look at him.  Doesn’t that make your soul shrivel up a little?

Anyways, lets get on with the recap.

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