“You say that you feel Godzilla?”
Let’s cut right to the chase. The biggest complaint I have with this double feature is a lack of the titular character. In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, Godzilla doesn’t even show up until the one hour mark. This is a problem in a movie which runs 101 minutes. Godzilla vs. Mothra is better, with Godzilla making an appearance at the half-hour mark, but still not great for a movie with a 102 minute run-time. I watch Godzilla movies to see people in rubber suits beating the crap out of each other. And there isn’t enough in this Blu-ray double feature. Both films share the same problems. The main one is an attempt to combine disparate storylines into one cohesive plot, which only works on a hit or miss level at best.
For example, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah tries to combine three incongruent storylines with only intermittent success. The first involves a World War II veteran saved by a dinosaur on Lagos Island. When nuclear tests were performed in 1954 that same dinosaur was transformed into Godzilla. This is played as a very emotion-laded subplot and it works only when separated from the rest of the movie. There’s a lot of unmined material which is unfortunately cast aside for less effective story beats. In Godzilla vs. Mothra the emotional storyline sees the earth sending a monster to kill the humans for what havoc they’ve wreaked.
Both movies play out the tired trope of relationship drama amidst the crisis. In Godzilla vs. Mothra, it’s between our protagonists. Having divorced years earlier the two are thrown together when a trip is planned to mysterious Infant Island, home of Mothra. This subplot is mirrored across many Godzilla movies and has never really worked for me. When the world’s in danger I feel like we can go ahead and put our petty stuff to the side until the threat of death is well and clearly off the table. In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, this subplot also always feels like an interruption.
The main story we follow in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is the arrival of a UFO from the future, piloted by humans who have come to save Japan from an impending Godzilla attack. This is the least effective of all the storylines for me simply because once you introduce a time machine into the mix then why not use it to properly fix what happens? And in this instance the baffling and disappointing thing is there is in fact a trip in the time machine to fix what has been done, yet the ridiculousness of the choice made overpowers the very message the film is trying to deliver. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah could play as a warning against over-dependence on technology and the carelessness of humanity when testing on nature, and indeed it seems to be the driving force for most of the movie. Yet just when the gut-wrenching climax of the movie approaches and Godzilla is going to destroy the very people whose carelessness created him, the time travel factor kicks in. Instead of going to the past to erase the mistakes, the choice is to go to the future and create another King Ghidorah who will come back and kick Godzilla’s butt. I’m all for monster fights, indeed they’re my number one requirement for a good Godzilla movie, but the timing, as well as the complete overpowering of the film’s message, really disappoints me. The inexplicable plot for Godzilla vs. Mothra is the idea surrounding the corrupt company man wanting to confiscate the giant Mothra egg.
There is one element of Godzilla vs. Mothra which stands out above the rest of the issues. It’s the tiny twins who are seen in past Mothra movies. This time around they feel shoehorned in as an attempt to pander to fans of the franchise. They don’t have much to do besides provides exposition, which ends up not really coming into play. They’ve always been a little creepy to me and this outing doesn’t help alleviate that at all.
However, there are some things which work for me in regards to these films. One is the 1960s/70s aesthetic across both films. Visually speaking these movies look like they take place during the same era as the best of the Godzilla movies. Another thing which works is the special effects. The whole Japanese movie monster genre, and Godzilla films in particular, have always benefited from their practical approach to the effects. They’re not fooling anyone into thinking Godzilla is really in the ocean or those power lines are really exploding, however the practicality of the effects adds to the overall atmosphere of the movies and always to their benefit.
The technical side of things is what saves both movies. The 1.85:1/1080p HD widescreen transfers provide the best video for not only Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah but also for the special effects. I especially love the laser beams from King Ghidorah as well as the fire from Godzilla. They look as crisp as they ever have with the colors providing a much needed hit of intensity to the otherwise drab palette. Even though this is indeed HD, you’re not going to be completely amazed by the visuals but you should feel satisfied they have been well-upgraded. As far as the audio goes the decision to include two DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio tracks is a welcome one. I listen to these movies in Japanese because the English dub is a bit too corny for me. The original Japanese does a much better job at conveying emotion. Godzilla’s roar, although too infrequently heard, sounds as good as any Godzilla movie from this era.
Special features are identical for both films: a collection of trailers from when the films were theatrically released, digital copy, and UltraViolet downloads.
I love Godzilla and I watch Godzilla movies to see Godzilla. Therefore when I have to wade through backstory not even concerning Godzilla I get annoyed. For a lack of Godzilla I sentence Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah / Godzilla vs. Mothra (Blu-ray) to the bargain bin.