And now we follow up the beginning of the Millennium series with the end of the Heisei series.
“Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is the seventh and final entry in the second Godzilla series, and is the film that continually boasts about how it features the death of Godzilla. Outside of “Godzilla: Final Wars” and “Godzilla 2000,” this is the Godzilla film that got the most attention worldwide. I remember watching a news report when I was five about how, after 40 years of making Godzilla movies, Toho was finally killing off the king of the monsters. This was a huge worldwide event, or at least as big as a Godzilla event could get.
Did it pay off? Financially, “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” did alright at the box office, mostly because everyone already knew Godzilla was going to die before the film started. Critically, the film did okay, but most of the audience reactions seemed to be positive, as they liked how Godzilla’s death was handled. But personally, “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” falls into the same trappings that many of the other Heisei films did. This leaves me with a boring, uninteresting Godzilla movie that is only saved by the last 15 minutes.
If I have to sit through about an hour-and-a-half of crap before we get to 15 minutes of the good stuff that is still a bad experience.
The film begins shortly after “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla” ended – Godzilla has returned to his home on Birth Island to be with his son. But as our dear old friend Miki Seagusa flies to Birth Island to pay a visit, she learns that the island has suddenly disappeared off the face of the planet. Shortly after this, Godzilla appears in Hong Kong glowing bright red and is putting out a tremendous amount of heat, now only able to use his incredibly destructive hyper spiral beam instead of his standard atomic breath.
The scientists of the world gather at G-Force Headquarters to deposit their theories about what happened to Godzilla. They come to the conclusion that a large volcanic event must have occurred on Birth Island that not only destroyed the island, but caused Godzilla to take on massive amounts of energy at once. Since Godzilla’s heart is basically a nuclear reactor, the energy he took on became too much for him, and now his heart is beginning to meltdown.
To make matters worse, the scientists figure that Godzilla’s heart will eventually give out, not only killing Godzilla, but igniting the Earth’s atmosphere and wiping out all life on the planet. Naturally, the military wants to prevent this from happening, but the scientists deposit that any weapons used on Godzilla might only speed up the meltdown process.
So yeah, by the nature of the plot, “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is a disaster movie, with the fate of the planet hanging in the balance. Or at least that’s what the film wants to you believe.
The G-Force eventually becomes desperate to find anything to stop the meltdown and retrace Godzilla’s past to see if they can find anything. Keep in mind, while all the Heisei films are contained in their own universe, the events of the first Godzilla movie from 1954 still happened. This leads them to a young student named Kenichi Yamane (Yasufumi Hayashi), the grandson of the famous Dr. Yamane from the first film. Kenichi has spent most of his life studying and analyzing Godzilla, so the G-Force asks for his help. He says there is only one solution to stopping Godzilla’s meltdown – Recreate the Oxygen Destroyer, the weapon that killed the first Godzilla.
In the first Godzilla, Dr. Serizawa created the Oxygen Destroyer, a device that splits oxygen atoms into a fluid and then disintegrates those molecules, causing everything to die of asphyxiation. He had intended to keep the device hidden away from the rest of the world until he felt it was ready to be revealed, but the arrival of Godzilla forced him to put his destroyer to use. To make sure something this powerful never fell into the wrong hands, Dr. Serizawa destroyed all his research and notes on the Oxygen Destroyer and sacrificed himself while using his creation on Godzilla. Which means in present day, no one knows how to make an Oxygen Destroyer.
At the same time, one of Japanese leading scientists has begun working on micro oxygen, so G-Force tasks him with creating a new Oxygen Destroyer. But while he’s busying with this, one of his soil samples breaks free from its container. He studies the soil to find out that it was taken directly from Tokyo Bay in same area where the original Oxygen Destroyer was used on Godzilla.
It turns out that soil sample contained a colony of microscopic organisms that had been mutated by the Oxygen Destroyer and have been growing ever since. The colony begins feeding on micro oxygen, while also acting as a miniature Oxygen Destroyer, killing anything it touches. They continue to grow until these crustaceans are bigger than humans and start running amok in the city.
As far as I am concerned, most of that is just techno-babble for “this is how we get a dying Godzilla to fight a physical manifestation of the Oxygen Destroyer.”
By now you’ve probably guessed this other monster is the titular Destoroyah (not Destroyer). Eventually, all the human-sized creatures are able to combine into one monster that is even bigger than Godzilla. Destoroyah’s design is unique, with everything on its body being a dark shade of red or orange, covered in spikes and a face that make it look like a devil. This is a monster that some artistic goth kid would design while he was bored in science class.
The problem with Destoroyah, like with most other Heisei villains, is its motives or need to destroy everything. We never learn why Destoroyah feels the need to be wreck havoc on the world and we’re just supposed to assume it is because Destoroyah is pure evil. Near the end of the film, when Godzilla messes Destoroyah up, it is clear the colony monster is acting out of revenge and anger, but as a kaiju, Destoroyah as always left me a bit cold.
It also doesn’t help that Destoroyah is born from a device that was used because of the first Godzilla. The last two Heisei films, “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II” and “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla,” both featured Godzilla fighting clones of himself, and now we have another monster closely intertwined with Godzilla. It comes across like the filmmakers of the Heisei series just gave up near the end and could only think about how they could get Godzilla to fight himself.
So why is “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” this low on my countdown? Well keep in mind this is, at its core, a disaster movie. The world if coming to an end at the hands of Godzilla and even the most advanced minds of the planet feel like there is nothing we can do to stop it. Remember in other disaster movies, like “Titanic” or “The Poseidon Adventures,” how the characters had to fight for their lives while trying to remain rational and logical in a time when all they want to do is panic? We don’t get any of that in this movie.
The acting in “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is stale, wooden, and lacks the desperate emotional punch that could have saved this movie. Most of these characters go about their day like nothing is wrong. Just another day at the office with the possible Armageddon hanging over our shoulders. Nobody seems upset that the world could be ending at any minute. Granted, they’re all actively trying to prevent that from happening, but they do so with all the excitement of a pencil pusher.
The song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” has never been more applicable.
As for what’s going on with our buddy Miki Saegusa, she’s still working for the G-Force and is now in charge of studying Godzilla’s son, who survived the explosion on Birth Island as well and has grown up quite a bit as a result, becoming Godzilla Jr. Her annoyance in this film is downgraded, though still present when they give her a sidekick, another psychic person, Meru Ozawa (Sayaka Osawa).
Because if any character in this series needed a sidekick, it was Miki Saegusa!
In my recent viewing of “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah,” there was a point where I had to stop and contemplate something – Meru Ozawa mentions she was at the top of her class with her psychic powers and is upset that Miki hasn’t been practicing with her powers in a while. I stopped and wondered how we’ve gone nearly six movies with Miki and yet this is the first time we’re hearing about a high school or college-like place for psychic users only. We saw a preschool for psychic users back in “Godzilla vs. Biollante,” but I always thought that was a throwaway gag so it could have a hilarious scene of two dozen kids holding up their drawings of Godzilla destroying Japan while cheering like they don’t have a care in the world.
So this entire world is filled with potential psychic users? Miki isn’t a one-in-one-hundred-million chance to get powers like that? How are psychic wielders treated throughout the world? Is it like the X-Men where they’re looked down on by society and treated like outcasts? Are there special schools stationed all across the globe to help them develop their powers? How come we haven’t seen more of them throughout the series? Wouldn’t more of them be helpful in their constant fight against Godzilla? If they’re as common as Meru implies they are, what kind of impact have they had on the world? What kind of job does a psychic wielder normally get in the real world? And why is this the first we’re hearing about all this?
They had a golden opportunity to do some fantastic world building and they messed it all up. Maybe they could have shown that these psychic powers were caused in part by Godzilla’s unique radiation to tie it back to the monsters. Instead, all we get are two increasingly annoying psychic users who do little to the story outside of teasing us about a huge missed opportunity.
Miki’s dumb contribution to the story is that G-Force wants to use Godzilla Jr. to lure Godzilla closer to the main land so that he would fight Destoroyah, hoping the two would kill each other and prevent the meltdown. Naturally, Miki is against this plan, saying that she doesn’t want to risk killing Godzilla Jr. for all this, because he is his own strong independent man and don’t need no psychic woman telling him what to do! Except that Miki seems to have forgotten that the fate of the world rests on this plan, so maybe she should set her personal attachments and feelings aside and think about the greater good for a change.
Miki Saegusa is like one of those obnoxious, groan-inducing hippie characters who just wants peace and love for all living creatures, except even more poorly-written than that.
Like I said near the beginning of all this, the only good thing about “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is the final 15 minutes, when Godzilla is on the verge of melting down and his power is uncontainable. Suddenly, the film takes a tragic turn when you look at it from Godzilla’s perspective – He just witnessed his son die before his eyes, is unsuccessful at bringing him back to life, his body temperature starts going critical, his body starts to melt, and to top it all off Destoroyah wants a rematch. But even then, it’s the military that gets the killing blow on Destoroyah, so Godzilla doesn’t even get to wipe out his final enemy.
While the effects before this final scene were sub-par at best, especially when dealing with the smaller forms of Destoroyah, they pulled out all the stops for this one. Godzilla’s beam has grown massive and causes explosions that are bigger than both monsters, you can visibly see Godzilla slowly melting away. It does add to the grand scale that this insanely powerful creature is dying.
The actual death of Godzilla is handled quite well. As Godzilla melts down, the military tries everything they can to stop him from taking the Earth with him, and for once it feels like the military does damage to Godzilla. I can almost feel Godzilla’s pain as his body gives up and is reduced to a pile of bones, and his final roar still gives me chills.
The other highlight of “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is the music. It was composed by Akira Ifukube, who composed over a dozen Godzilla movies, including the first Godzilla film, and this was the final time he would create the soundtrack for Godzilla. That theme I loved so much in “Godzilla 2000”? That was originally written for this movie and was used equally well here when Godzilla makes his stand against Destoroyah. His music sounds more boisterous and grandiose than usual, which adds to this being Godzilla’s final act. If there’s one thing that has always given Godzilla far more impact, it has been Ifukube’s music and he certainly goes out on a high note.
Still, that doesn’t change the fact that I had to sit through lots of techno-babble, stale acting and more Miki Saegusa being insufferable for 90 minutes before we got to the good part. The final scenes are some of the best in the Heisei series, but overall “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is not a pleasant film to get through. Watch Godzilla’s initial attack on Hong Kong and then skip to the last 20 minutes and save yourself the trouble.