Thursday, July 10, 2014

Godzilla Comes Back to the Future: Godzilla vs King Ghidorah

There was a blog post, but I managed to delete it. So now here I am at July 10, rewriting the blog entry I made last week.

Godzilla vs Biollante taught Toho a couple of things. It only sold a quarter of the tickets that Return of Godzilla had. It did moderately well, but Godzilla had a long history to draw from. So new monsters were put on the bacjk burner for the rest of the Heisei series. Everything Godzilla fights until 1995 will have its roots in a Showa-era film.

Further, the Japanese film industry was being crushed by Hollywood imports. Several films of the Heisei series will display scenes, characters, and situations that have been borrowed directly from familiar American films. David Kalat sees heavy paralells between this and Back to the Future, partially because Godzilla vs Biollante opened against it and was crushed. . In my own opinion, Terminator 2 is a much greater influence. Terminator is also a time-travel franchise, and includes a nearly-indestructable robot which switches sides.

totally not the Terminator!

The plot revolves around the Future Visitors, who have time-travelled from the future, ostensibly to save Japan from the ravages of Godzilla. Of course, they aren't being entirely truthful about this. As in Kazuki Ohmori's previous film there's a sense of nationalism and hostility towards other nations. This is not quite the cold-war fear shown in The Return of Godzilla, but it's telling that the future visitors are named Wilson and Grenchiko, obviously reflecting the recently-fallen Soviet Union and the United States.

Meet the jerks from the future

The third future visitor is Emmy Kano, who is Japanese, and naturally the pivotal character. Apparently, she was not briefed on the future visitors' Evil plan. Their real purpose is to get rid of Godzilla and replace it with controllable King Ghidorah. You see, in the future, Japan has become powerful enough to buy other countries, and the future visitors are there to level Japan and then rebuild it. This is an echo of the rebuilding America performed on the war-ravaged Japan.

Meet the future good guys

Among the cast of Japanese characters is Mr. Shindo, a captain of industry. During World War II, he was a captain in the Imperial Forces, and had an encounter with the pre-mutated dinosaur that becomes Godzilla. Shindo is enormously wealthy, alsmost exactly what the future visitors are afraid of. His cpmpany has so much monty that they have a private nuclear submarine, in case Japan is attacked. This sub becomes the MacGuffin that makes Godzilla even larger and more unpleasant than before. Although series is calling back to the Showa era, it clearly has no intention to make Godzilla the friendly superhero from Godzilla vs Megalon. This is also a very abrupt turn for the industrialist character. After being exoricated to heavily in films like Mothra vs Godzilla, this is an interesting change. But the greedy industrialist will return in Godzilla vs Mothra: The Battle For Earth.

Meet the future good guys

Which brings us to the proto-Godzilla dinosaur. It lived on Lagos Island, where Mr. Shindo's battallion was being crushed by the American bombardment. The film leaves it open whether it's friendly to the Japanese, or just attacks the Americans because they fire on it first. It's immune to small weapons and bazooka fire.

Godzilla, the way he used to be

It's more vulnerable to battleship's fire, however. The Japanese, seeing it wounded, salute it, but cannot stay to care for it. Is this the reason Godzilla constantly comes to Japan, because it was abandones in its hour of need?

Godzillasaurus takes a beating

The future visitors bring their time ship to Lagos Island, and teleport the protoGodzilla to the Bering Sea. There, it absorbs radiation and becomes the same Godzilla it always was. Godzilla, apparently, is a historical inevitability. Unfortunately, Mr Shindo doesn't know Godzilla had already mutated, and sends his nuclear submarine to find it. Godzilla absorbes the radiation from that and becomes larger and angrier than ever. This is in line with the previous films of the Heisei series; Godzilla consumes radiation.


This leads to one of the many problems of the film's time travel. If Godzilla has been erased from history, why does everyone remember both it and it's name? The film also doesn't give recurring character Miki Sagusa anything to do. Which is dissappointing.

Unknown to the present people, the future visitors also planted their own proto-monster on Lagos Island. Three Dorats, flying psychic pets, are left to absorb the radiation from the Bikini atol tests. These mutate into the single three-headed King Ghidorah, which the future visitors will use to level Japan. Ghidorah is looking good, here. This suit recalls the older suits from Invasion of Astro-Monster.

King GHidorah

The heads are a little less frenetic, and it seems more controlled. The destruction is excellent, Ghidorah smashes things and looks menacing.

Three golden heads.

If Godzilla could have been seen as a metaphor for American bombing in the 1954 Godzilla it's possible to see King Ghidorah in that role here. The future visitors are going to level Japan and then rebuild it in their own image. King Ghodorah files, unlike Godzilla, raining destruction, like bombs, from above. Ohmori specifically shoots King Ghidorah flying past the Hiroshima Memorial Dome, the first time the building has been referenced in a Godzilla film. This could certyainly be seen as more anti-Westernism, and that could be a fair statement. It's a minor aspect of the film, nothing that's going to get me into any sort of slather.

The Hiroshima Memorial Dome

But the embiggened Godzilla is not going to let King Ghidorah tromp on his favorite country without a challenge. And a fight it is. Neither is able to gain the upper hand.

Incoming King Ghidorah

The two are evenly matched, partially because King Ghidorah is being controlled by the time travellers' computer. But when that's knocked out by the loyalist (to the Japanese, any way) actions of Emmy, King Ghirodah is just as tough as he was.

Strangling Godzilla.

In fact the fight goes against Godzilla until he unleashes the nuclear pulse, a power invented in Godzilla vs Biollante, and found only in the Heisei series.

and BOOM goes Godzilla!

With a bit of distance, Godzilla is able to use its atomic heat ray to good effect, blowing holes in Ghidorah's wings, and taking off the middle head. Nevertheless, Ghidorah gets up and flies away, only to fell into the ocean.

and BOOM goes Godzilla!

After King Ghidorah is defeated, Emmy, with the help of M-11, transports the future visitors to Godzilla's location. Godzilla, knowing a jerk when he sees one, unleashes the atomic heat ray on the time ship, giving us the very first time we see humans caught directly in the blast. And that's goodbye to Wilson and Grenchiko.

and BOOM goes Godzilla!

Without King Ghidorah to fight, Godzilla goes on a rampage in Sapporo. Gamera has visited Sapporo, and will again. Godzilla is well-established as unfriendly now. Without something to fight, he'll just trash cities.

Time to trash Sapporo.

We also have a last confrontation between Mr. Shindo and Godzilla. Will Godzilla remember the man who was kind to him all those years ago on Lagos island? Perhaps. Shindo catches Godzilla's eye, and some sort of understanding seems to pass between them. Each bows to the other, a look of rememberance on both faces.

Do we understand each other?

But Godzilla is, ultimately, Godzilla. And Mr, Shindo is annihilated with a blast of atomic fire.

It's in Godzilla's nature

To prevent Godzilla from annihilating Japan and making the future visitors' wishes come true, Emmy, in the future, locates King Ghidorah's quiescent body. She fuses future technology with the body and installs a time-travel device. Thus, Mecha King Ghidorah is created. And it's a solid-looking costume, extremely well shot.

Mecha King Ghirodah

In a rare piece of forethought, Mecha King Ghidorah is actually equipped to take down Godzilla. Emmy has equipped it with a gigantic taser in order to incapacitate Godzilla. After some glorious bashing, this is deployed, and Godzilla is again on the ropes.

and BOOM goes Godzilla!

But Mecha King Ghidorah can only carry Godzilla so far, and under repeated blasts of Godzilla's atomic heat ray, both fall into the ocean. After that, the conclusion is pretty standard time-travel resolution. Emmy waves goodbye, returning to the future. Oh, and she's the protagonist's decendant.

Much has been made of the Anti-Western attitude of this film, and it's really overblown. Although nationalism was a dirty word in Japan for a long time post World War II, a sense of pride in being Japanese was on the rise. I don't find this any more Anti-American than a Dr. Who show. Is the future American a jerk? Yes. But he is not said to be representative of all Americans, or all future people. After all, Emmy was able to get somebody to create Mecha King Ghidorah for her to save Japan.

Next week, Godzilla's second favorite buddy is back. With an evil twin. And some Indiana Jones thrown in.

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