Did not expect this to become a solely Godzilla blog, but I also didn’t expect my dad to get cancer, so work on everything else that wasn’t already queued up has understandably ground to a halt…

    But you know what is a good balm for turbulent and unpredictable times? That’s right, watching more Godzilla movies. And reviewing them apparently. More Goji content incoming until I can find the headspace to thoughtfully and creatively engage with my complicated feelings on family and mortality.

    So… just expect a lot of Godzilla for a while, okay?

    Godzilla vs Biollante (1984)

    Part of my series of reviews of the Heisei era Godzilla movies. Spoilers within, but we’re talking 80’s Godzilla movies here.

    Spoiler alert: Godzilla fights a giant plant monster. Again.(!!!)

    This and Return of Godzilla could almost be a mini-series unto themselves. Not just because this one picks up moments after the end of the last one, but because they both share a certain “feel” that is hard to describe but lands very well for me.

    This is another dark, somber Godzilla movie. As dark and somber as a movie with a giant plant monster, international assassins, psychics, and rogue American biotech companies can be, anyway. This movie is not as “small” as the last one, but still feels more focused and deliberate than the rest of the Heisei series.

    Biollante herself has a very unique (for a Kaiju) backstory, though I wish they would have done a little more with the “soul of my dead daughter in the monster” thing. Biollante’s origins are interesting, but her actions and role in the narrative don’t do enough with the concept. It would have been very interesting to see a creature torn between her human soul and her monstrous cells. This is hinted at, but I wanted more.

    The human characters here are all great. The scientist father, Genichiro Shiragami, was a different kind of “jaded scholar”, and while not outright villainous, was certainly flawed in interesting ways. The two government agents, Sho Kuroki and Goro Gondo, were particularly enjoyable, and added a kind of “buddy cop” vibe to the movie which largely worked. I really like Gondo and can totally see him and Yuki from vs SpaceGodzilla as brothers, making that addition to vs SpaceGodzilla pay even more dividends in retrospect. (And now I want to write fan fiction about their earlier adventures as bros…)

    We also meet Miki for the first time in this one, and while she doesn’t have the most depth of character, I liked seeing her at the start of her journey as a student, knowing how she’ll grow and change and become a teacher and advocate herself.

    This movie does have some of the worst English acting I’ve ever seen in a Godzilla movie - not the dub, but the non-Japanese actors playing American characters and speaking English just utterly suck.

    The final confrontation between Godzilla and Biollante was particularly enjoyable. Biollante’s final form was great, the battle was intense, and while the anti-nuclear bacteria plot that got us to that point was a little convoluted, I liked how the all the different plot threads came together to be resolved through some hot kaiju-on-kaiju action.

    This one is hard to find, but worth watching any way you can.

    Rating: 4/5
    Watched: 21 March 2024

    Okay, (deep breath) NOW onto the Americans…

    Return of Godzilla (1984)

    Part of my series of reviews of the Heisei era Godzilla movies. Spoilers within, but we’re talking 80’s Godzilla movies here.

    Spoiler alert: Godzilla is back, baby! Again.

    Godzilla is back again for the first time and everyone is freaking out. This is a very good Godzilla movie. Watching it at the end of the Heisei series is interesting, because while it very deliberately takes a more serious approach than the late-Showa movies, it also has the same effect when compared to the rest of the Heisei series. That’s not to say that the Heisei series gets even a fraction as ridiculous as the older movies, but no matter where you slice it or where it falls one’s Godzilla viewing chronology, this is a serious, somber, and in some ways smaller movie than most others, and all of those things work very well in this context.

    It’s weird calling a Godzilla move “small” and weirder still meaning it as a compliment. But this movie, while having very high stakes is still tightly focused and zeroes-in on very specific moments and interactions. On the monster front, one of the most striking scenes was Godzilla destroying the nuclear plant. Not a whole city, or an entire army of troops and vehicles, but one compound. We see the whole razing from beginning to end, and it really conveys the terror and destruction of Godzilla. He doesn’t need a whole country to destroy to feel like an unstoppable, god-like force.

    One the human side, we spend a lot of time on the geopolitical drama of Godzilla’s impending return. I loved all the scenes with the prime minister trying to navigate an impossible situation made more complicated by the Americans and Soviets waving their nuclear dicks around. These scenes work because they are “small”. The prime minister conveys so much just by listening to everything going on around him, taking it all in while holding up to the massive stakes around him. It takes the Godzilla movie trope of the bureaucratic response to Godzilla and grounds it and nails it.

    The rest of the human characters aren’t bad either. I wish we could have got a little more of a romantic relationship developed between Naoko Okumura and the reporter, Goro Maki. As is my custom, I loved the older, slightly jaded scientist character, Dr. Hayashida most of all.

    Godzilla feels appropriately menacing in this one, but the suit itself is a little stiff and eyes don’t quite work. But the overall silhouette is great; this suit sets the new template. By the next film, they’ve addressed the minor issues I mentioned and we have one of the best and most consistent designs for Godzilla that is then used for the rest of the Heisei movies.

    Also, there is just something about the look of this one (and vs Biollante) that none of the other Heisei movies quite ever capture. I can’t describe it very well, but it’s a graininess or filter or something that I just really, really like in those two movies and that none of the other movies seem to have.

    A great re-introduction to Godzilla, and a good time no matter where it falls in your viewing chronology.

    Rating: 3+/5
    Watched: 12 March 2024

    GODZILLA (1998)

    And now, chronologically, let’s check in with the Americans…

    Oh god, here we go…



    Actually no, I’m not ready for this yet… Let’s find some bootlegs…

    To be continued??

    Godzilla vs Destoroyah (1995)

    Part of my series of reviews of the Heisei era Godzilla movies. Spoilers within, but we’re talking 90’s Godzilla movies here.

    Spoiler alert: Godzilla dies. Again.

    Following more or less the format of vs Mechagodzilla, this one gets right into the action and the story. The opening scene is the best of the series: welcome to the movie, Godzilla is here and he’s on fire and pissed. The whole meltdown Godzilla look is great and the big guy seems to be both enraged and suffering here and it works.

    Every aspect of this movie works and works well together. The humans aren’t the most engaging of the series, but they get the job done and I like the connection to the original movie and characters. Godzilla Jr. is un-chibi-fied and his role in this story feels much more like a direct continuation of the character’s “arc” from vs Mechagodzilla. In fact, in a lot of ways this movie feels like the direct sequel to vs Mechagodzilla that “could have been.” vs SpaceGodzilla (the movie) could be erased from the series and the two around it would flow very well into one another. (But I would be sad.)

    Destoroyah is not my favorite enemy kaiju but it is up there. My only problem is not so much with the look but with how stiff he/they are in some scenes. The human-sized, earlier forms are a great design and, when the director takes advantage of horror movie-style framing and cinematography, the lack of movement is hidden well. But sometimes in wide shots they are just suits on wheels and it takes you out of the moment. Similarly, the “perfect form” looks amazing but its massive size doesn’t always come off as imposing and godlike but instead bulky and stiff. Still, I always love seeing a baddie tower above Godzilla.

    The ending fight is great and the effect of Godzilla’s death is haunting, and has an amazing score accompanying it. I love how Junior is resurrected and takes on the mantle. Tokyo is destroyed and saved all at once by Godzilla and his legacy, and I think that was an incredibly appropriate way to end this movie and this series.

    One of the best Godzilla movies, in the series and the franchise.

    Rating: 4/5
    Watched: 5 March 2024

    Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla (1994)

    Part of my series of reviews of the Heisei era Godzilla movies. Spoilers within, but we’re talking 90’s Godzilla movies here.

    Spoiler alert: Godzilla fights an evil monster from space. Again.

    Okay, so this one is clearly filler, and okay, it doesn’t hold up as well, coming after vs Mechagodzilla - but I love this movie, warts and all. And it has warts. Godzilla cells getting sucked through a black hole and undergoing “rapid evolution”? The random, utterly pointless Yakuza side plot? Chibi Baby Godzilla? I don’t care, I love it all even when it doesn’t work. And SpaceGodzilla himself, while nonsensical even for a kaiju, still looks rad as hell and the crystal motif is interesting and unique. I particularly like the way it transforms the landscape and creates a larger arena for the final battle.

    Another reason I like this one so much are the human characters, particularly Yuki. He’s so strangely captivating with his droopy-eyed, apathetic badassery. “I love you, Yuki.” “Fill my lighter for me.” Ugh, it’s trash and I love it. Also Miki continues to evolve and have a role in the plot, and seems to have changed as a person since the events of the last movie…and then: ROMANCE??

    This movie doesn’t need to be anything more than giant monster fun and a little human drama and it delivers on both, but doesn’t really do anything that is new or better than previous entries. That’s okay. I have an unusual fondness for this movie and that’s enough for me.

    Rating: 3+/5
    Watched: 1 March 2024

    Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II (1993)

    Part of my series of reviews of the Heisei era Godzilla movies. Spoilers within, but we’re talking 90’s Godzilla movies here.

    Spoiler alert: Godzilla fights a giant robot shaped like him. Again.

    Now THIS is what I’m talking about. Just a simple sci-fi action flick that also ends up having a lot of heart. I love pretty much everything about this one. Even Rodan! That bastard actually ends up being a bro in this one!

    What’s not to like? Mechagodzilla is legit cool looking and intimidating. Baby Godzilla is cute and expressive. The humans are pretty interesting, if not the most well-developed the series has seen. And so much Godzilla screen time! Apparently, this is the most he’s been on screen in the whole series, and it shows.

    The monsters really steal the show here, and actually have pretty developed and interesting motivations. Is Rodan stealing eggs or protecting his “step brother”? I was actually invested in figuring this out, and I usually hate that guy. Godzilla has a pretty clear motivation and once his through-line has concluded, he just walks away in the end. The humans don’t win, but things actually resolve.

    The movie is paced well and doesn’t waste any time getting into cool looking sci-fi monster mayhem. Baby Godzilla, which shouldn’t work at all, totally steals the show and never gets too cutesie or annoying. And Miki the psychic actually has things to do!

    This is a good one and it will be hard to beat as my favorite of the Heisei era. Can CrystalShoulderPadsZilla do it? We’ll see!

    Rating: 4+/5
    Watched: 28 February 2024

    Godzilla and Mothra: Battle for Earth (1992)

    Part of my series of reviews of the Heisei era Godzilla movies. Spoilers within, but we’re talking 90’s Godzilla movies here.

    Spoiler alert: Mothra upstages Godzilla. Again.

    Whereas Godzilla vs King Ghidorah tried to do a lot, this one tries to do one thing and does it over and over and over: remind us humans that we are ruining the earth. Godzilla movies are not known for their subtlety but this one was so heavy handed with the environmental message - which itself is never more nuanced than, “We’re doing bad things and we should stop” - that it becomes annoying and boring. It doesn’t help we have some pretty forgettable human characters, and frankly, even Godzilla himself doesn’t have much to do in this one. Apparently this was originally a Mothra movie script that they adapted into a Godzilla movie, and it really shows. Godzilla has so little bearing on the plot that it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a version of this without him all together. That’s a problem for a, ya know, Godzilla movie.

    So many of the human characters are just here to say the same ham-fisted environmental message over and over. The two leads, Takuya and his ex-wife Masako, could have been interesting with their reconciliation plot, but instead their plot is just kind of boring. Not to mention the fact that Takuya makes such an out-of-nowhere decision that seems totally counter to what little character development he had: namely stealing and trying to sell the Cosmos. It makes no sense! And it’s completely unnecessary! The Cosmos have already been stolen by someone else, motivating Mothra’s attack! There is literally no reason for him to do this; they could have reconciled him with his family in any number of other, more sensical ways.

    Also, while I love Mothra, I always get bored when she spends half a movie as a caterpillar. Mothra as a moth always looks so rad. Who actually is interested in seeing a pink slug for half the movie? Give us the Queen of the Monsters at her most regal!

    One high point though was the score, especially the Mothra themes. Also Battra is generally a pretty cool design, even in Metapod caterpillar form. The undersea battle between him and Godzilla was exciting and felt different. Also, I really like the actor playing Ando, mainly because he’s one of my favorite human character in the franchise, playing the dad, Yuji Shinoda, in Godzilla 2000.

    Overall, a pretty mediocre, borderline forgettable Godzilla movie.

    Rating: 2+/5
    Watched: 27 February 2024

    Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991)

    Part of my series of reviews of the Heisei era Godzilla movies. Spoilers within, but we’re talking 90’s Godzilla movies here.

    Spoiler alert: White people ruin everything. Again.

    This movie tried to do a lot, and while I’m not sure how much it succeeded in most of it, I can’t deny it was enjoyable and engaging.

    The plot is overly-complicated, and the time travel doesn’t even hold up to most pop-culture time travel logical standards. The movie really wants to say something about Japan’s complicated relationship with 1) Godzilla, 2) the West, 3) Nuclear power; and while it does indeed Say Things about all of that… I’m not sure exactly what points it’s actually trying to make. But it sure is fun to go along for the ride.

    There are a few different ways to structure these kinds of movies, and this one goes for First Half: Characters and Story, Second Half: Monster Mayhem. I personally prefer the structure where the monsters are introduced from the beginning and their presence builds gradually throughout the movie until they dominate the narrative by the end, but in this case, the first-half sci-fi plot is entertaining, if convoluted. And I get why they wanted the first time you see Godzilla in the movie to be his pre-kaiju, dinosaur form. But this one goes in the file of “Godzilla Movies That Could Have Used More Godzilla” (see also, the first Monsterverse Godzilla, and Minus One).

    There are a lot of engaging characters in this movie, but none of them are very deep or realized. For some reason the creepy white people entertained me to no end, and the idea of the villains from the future (and from the past) all being weird looking white dudes I believe was intentional and related to the above-mentioned attempts at Saying Things. But man, they were creepy and campy and fun to watch.

    Also, that Steven Spielberg joke tried WAY too hard.

    A fun movie I would watch again, though it won’t make any more sense next time, I’m sure.

    Rating: 3+/5
    Watched: 26 February 2024

    Just scheduled a bunch of Godzilla movie reviews to post here over the next few weeks. Now, the real challenge is trying to remember to make other posts in between those, lest this just turn into a Godzilla review blog… (Though there are worse fates than that…!)

    Godzilla Heisei Era Master Post!

    A digital painting of Heisei era Godzilla, by Cheung Chung Tat
    Heisei Godzilla by Cheung Chung Tat

    Earlier this year, I watched all the Heisei era Godzilla movies as part of a bigger, less-organized desire to make my way through the entire series and a bunch of other kaiju-centric media.

    I’m going to post my “reviews”1 for each movie individually over the next few days, but here is my ranking for the series, with links to each review added as I post them:

    Heisei Godzilla Movies, Ranked!

    1. Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla 2
    2. Godzilla vs Destoroyah
    3. Godzilla vs Biollante
    4. Return of Godzilla
    5. Godzilla vs King Ghidorah
    6. Godzilla vs Spacegodzilla
    7. Godzilla and Mothra: Battle for Earth

    1. These aren’t really reviews, more like the kind of excited, rambling nonsense I’d likely spew from the backseat on the way home if you were unfortunate enough to take me out to the movie theater.