Godzilla films are often categorized by the period in which they were created, with the classic Shōwa Series spanning from the original 1954 film to 1975. Then the franchise was revived again in 1984 with the films known as the Heisei Series, starting over the mythology of Godzilla and his many foes. This collection of Godzilla films ended with the apparent death of the beast in 1995, until he was revived again in 2000 with the series known as the Millennium Series. This concluded with 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars, at which point the Toho sets were destroyed, and rights to another Godzilla film were withheld for a decade.
This dry spell will end with
’s second attempt
at a large-budget adaptation being released in theaters May 16th of this year.
In anticipation of this release, a handful of the Heisei and Millennium Series
Godzilla films have been released on double-feature Blu-ray sets. This is a
wonderful idea in theory, and may have followed in execution if only the
selection of films to be joined together had been more logical. Though films
joined together are often consecutive in the timeline, there are exceptions
which skip films in the franchise history. This allows for gaps in the story,
not to mention the jump from one period of films to the next. These sets
include great films for the fans, though they will ultimately leave collections
Nearly every Godzilla film seems to end the same way, with a man in a dinosaur suit slowly moving through a set of a Japanese metropolis in an almost unintentional path of destruction. To make up for the inability to move quickly, the battles nearly always rely on the same poorly executed radio-active fire-breathing attack move that all giant Godzilla creatures seem to have in their arsenal. Even if Godzilla is hardly present in a majority of the film, it is certain that he will arrive at the end for one of these generic battle sequences, all of which look as though they have not changed much in 60 years of Godzilla movies.
As much as the ending of the films remain the same, there is a great deal to distinguish one film from another. The basic premise that inevitably leads to that finale mid-city with the famed dinosaur shifts from film to film so radically that these movies can only be categorized as science fiction. They exert such a high level of creativity in their plot set-up that it is one of the few franchises that I am constantly surprised by. The collection of Blu-ray films here have a group of Godzilla releases from the last twenty years, each with its own creative addition to the storyline that often has far more creatures than Godzilla in the narrative.
Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991)/ Godzilla and Mothra: The
for Earth (1992) Battle
Each of the three periods of Godzilla films have their own style and storylines, and this first double-feature unwisely drops unfamiliar audience members into a franchise already mid-swing. This could have been easily forgivable due to the familiarity of most Godzilla films, but Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah is one of the most convoluted Godzilla narratives of the Heisei era. The narrative involves aliens, time travel, and confusion over who is the real villain amongst the giant creatures. Visitors from the 23rd Century arrive to warn humanity about the dangers of Godzilla, though some worry about their motives when they bring a revived and revamped King Ghidorah with them. Godzilla flips back and forth between being a destroyer and something of a savior for
over the years, but he never switched back and forth as many times in one film
as he does in Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah.
Godzilla may often switch between monster and protector, but Mothra has always been somewhat of a peaceful creature. Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth continues this redeeming storyline for the giant moth, beginning with an egg on
which is protected
by twin fairy-like creatures. Humans make their typical mistakes that lead to
an all-out monster war, this time setting it all off by the theft of Mothra’s
egg. Also included in the battle is Battra, who seems to be the antithesis of
Mothra in many ways. Once again it becomes somewhat confusing attempting to
figure out which monsters hate each other, but the end result is essentially
the same. Infant
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)/ Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994)
Although at first glance this double feature seems ill-fitted, beginning with a sequel to another, but this is merely confusion in the titling. Each of the eras of have a Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla film, though only the original carried this title for Western audiences. Despite being titled Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, this is not a sequel to the original from the Shōwa Series. Rather, it is a starting off point for the narrative which would carry Godzilla through the rest of the Heisei Series. This narrative includes the beginning of the next generation of Godzilla with the birth of Baby Godzilla from an egg in Rodan’s nest. This leads to a confusion in maternal instincts that sets Rodan and Godzilla in a fight with each other before the man-made Mechagodzilla gets in on the fight.
Continuing the storyline from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, many characters return in Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla. Although the storyline is somewhat of a throwaway, it continues the saga of Baby Godzilla, who is now Little Godzilla. Godzilla Earth’s savior against an otherworldly attacker once again, this time sharing genetic resemblance to Godzilla and threatening far more destructive purposes. Humans utilize another giant robot to join in on the fight, eventually joining forces with Godzilla to take down the space invader.
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)/Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)
In terms of style, consistency and continuation of storyline, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla/Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla is the best double-feature in the group of new Blu-ray set releases, but this is the package with the best monster effects. The first is Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, which is the final film in the Heisei Series, and my favorite for many reasons. First of all, it features the wickedest looking giant monster, Destoroyah, who looks like he came straight out of the music video for a hardcore 80s metal band. This creature is created from the same substance that was used to destroy Godzilla in the original 1954 film, bringing things full-circle for a tidy conclusion to the series. This film also offers up the final chapter for the next generation of Godzilla as well, replacing Little Godzilla with a nearly grown creature now called Godzilla Jr.
Though the creatures in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus align with the style from Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, this is basically where similarities between the two films end. They are both great monster movies, but it was a strange decision to put these two together. This film was not the first in the Millennium Series, but they did not all interact with each other the way that many of the previous era had. Instead, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus plays like a sequel to the original 1954 film with the style of the new era. Although there is still the familiar man-in-a-costume effects to create Godzilla, some CGI effects begin showing up in this film about a man-made black hole which unleashes a new monster in an attempt to destroy Godzilla. Dragonfly creatures called Meganula swarm the flooded city of
, eventually leading
to an all-out battle between Godzilla and the queen. The Millennium Series is
notable for an emphasis on military, and the scale of Godzilla is newly
appreciated with this shift in style and point-of-view. Osaka
(2003)/Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) Tokyo
These two films marked the end of the Millennium Series of Godzilla films, and they are perfect examples of the influence of a shift in Japanese cinema. CGI goes from non-existent to commonplace over the course of these two Godzilla films, with Final Wars featuring just as many computerized creatures as it does men in monster suits. Tokyo S.O.S. blends the old-school with the new in a way which is far more fluid, though the resemblance of Godzilla films from the past is occasionally so great that this film becomes undistinguishable. The narrative is similar those of the previous era of Godzilla, but Tokyo S.O.S. is able to able to capture the scope of Godzilla's size better than any other kaiju eiga. The opening sequences in which the military fights Godzilla from the ground allows for his size to be fully appreciated in a way that is less possible in the familiar Toho sets. Otherwise, the story has elements which can be found in many other Godzilla films. The twin fairies tied to Mothra show up to heed a warning to humanity, which they ignore. Godzilla shows up and eventually does battle with Mechagodzilla, Mothra, and her twin spawn.
Godzilla: Final War takes the style of the series into a whole new realm. For one thing, it was the first Toho Godzilla film to receive a PG-13 rating, adding an element of hand-to-hand combat between mutant humans that resembles The X-Men more than a creature-feature. Godzilla still shows up, this time as the defender of Earth one last time. Aliens show up with the ability to control most of the large monsters on Earth, as well as the mutated humans given the responsibility of fighting these monsters. Only Godzilla is somehow exempt from this mind control, and humans rely on him to go on a world-wide battle against the aliens, giant monsters, and any one else that happens along his path. The melting pot of stylistic ideas in this film makes for uneven entertainment, and a bit too lengthy at over two-hours, but it is was a fitting close for the Millennium Series Godzilla films.
This Blu-ray double-feature is the only one with any real special features aside from theatrical trailers. Tokyo S.O.S. has two making-of featurettes, one more specific to this film while the other looks at the franchise in wider terms. Final Wars also has a featurette, and both also have theatrical trailers.
Entertainment Value: 7.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 8.5/10
Special Features: 3/10