Want Godzilla’s atomic breath? Just try some chili cheese nachos.
From 1989 to 2004, the venerable Toho Studio cranked out new Godzilla movies at around one per year, creating the Big G’s so-called modern era. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, from 1994, and Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, from 2000, are notable in that instead of just playing on nostalgia, they come up with brand new monsters for the giant lizard to fight.
* Godzilla vs. Destoroyah
Godzilla is burning up! His reactor-like heart is close to meltdown, and the resulting explosion could be catastrophic. Scientists hope to bring back the anti-oxygen device used against Godzilla the first time he appeared, but a life form gets caught in the device, transforming into the destructive Destoroyah.
* Godzilla vs. Megaguirus
Fearing that Godzilla will return, scientists and soldiers develop a new black hole gun, which they believe can end Godzilla once and for all. A little kid’s butterfly collection (!) gets caught up in one of the black holes, transforming into a monster inhabiting Tokyo’s sewers. The monster grows to giant size just as Godzilla attacks. They fight, with the fate of Tokyo in the balance.
To celebrate Godzilla’s 40th anniversary in 1994, the filmmakers pulled out all the stops, going full-on creature feature with Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. There’s some pretense that this is Godzilla’s last battle, and that this is the death of Godzilla, but anyone who’s ever read a comic book and/or watched a soap opera knows that’s not true. We’re even told that this is not the first Godzilla, and the baby Godzilla from previous movies is all grown up now, taking over as the new Godzilla by the time this one’s over. Nonetheless, seeing the big guy finally go down is surprisingly moving.
Before we get to that point, there’s more fun to be had. Destoroyah (not Destroyer) is a great creation. Before it grows into giant size, we get a stretch of movie that’s more or less a remake of Aliens, with a bunch of soldiers running around in some sort of power plant battling the monster. The callbacks to James Cameron’s film are glaringly obvious, but that’s part of the fun. I’ve written before about how these are just guys in rubber suits, but the monsters nonetheless have distinct personalities. Destoroyah is a pure killing machine, an agent of destruction laying waste to anything and everything in its past. Once it enlarges to Godzilla’s size, there’s a definite feeling that Godzilla’s finally met his match. As with most Godzilla movies, the human characters are disposable, and that’s especially the case in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. There’s something about a kid who’s studied Godzilla and a lady who wants to protect the baby Godzilla, but they barely register. The filmmakers know we’re here to see giant monsters, so they mostly stick to the giant monsters.
Skipping over the 1998 Roland Emmerich remake and 1999’s Godzilla 2000, we come to the second movie on this set, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus. This one is a reboot of sorts, setting itself up as a direct sequel to the original 1954 Godzilla (or Gojira if you insist). There’s really no plot-based reason for them to do this, as it looks like it was done to draw in new viewers who only have a passing familiarity of Godzilla. That includes young viewers, as this is one of the more family-friendly Godzilla sequels. The whole thing is bright and colorful, and the final battle is punctuated with slapstick beats—Godzilla thinks he’s biting Megaguirus but instead gets a mouthful of rubble, Godzilla shakes his head comically after being dazed, and Godzilla even does an enormous leap through the air to body-slam his opponent.
We spend a lot of time with the human characters in this one, with a slow buildup to the Godzilla action. It’s nice to have a female hero (Misato Tanaka, The Black House) who flies the high-tech jet, mentors the little kid, and romances a street-smart inventor. Still, most of the human scenes are plodding, overly long and tiresome with technobabble about building the black hole gun. We get it—it’s a gun that shoots black holes. You don’t need to explain it over and over. There are some interesting moments, such as our hero climbing on Godzilla’s back to plant a tracker on him, and Godzilla fighting a swarm of bugs rather than a single beast, but these cool bits are fleeting.
Sony’s 1.85:1/1080p widescreen HD video is good but not great, sometimes soft with flat colors, but at other times has some nice detail and rich colors. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is good as well, especially when Godzilla makes with his famous roar. Trailers and digital copies are the only extras.
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is a blast, and an absolute must-see for any monster movie fan. Godzilla vs. Megaguirus is really for hardcore G-fans only.