Thoughts on Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (Spoilers)

I’ve always known the Godzilla films were campy. They don’t have the benefit of a big budget, despite their popularity. Though perhaps they choose to keep it low-budget on purpose in an effort to make it feel more realistic. I don’t know. I’m just theorizing. If so, I can definitely appreciate it. Sure, it makes some of the action cheesey and the models for the monsters aren’t exactly high-grades in the university of monster sculpting. But there’s a certain appeal to knowing that something was made earnestly and without the “spectacle” of cutting edge computer graphics. Somewhat like comparing Ping Pong The Animation to Arpeggio of Blue Steel.

I was actually somewhat surprised by how well the story was set up. It wasn’t the immediate “Oh, here’s Godzilla!” pandering that I expected to see. There’s a good chunk of movie time dedicated to setting up the “plot” (more on that later) and introducing the audience to the characters who will inevitably make an impact on the story. Even so, the monster time vs human time is about a 2:1 ratio. This is about Godzilla, after all. No need to spend so much time on human development.

Godzilla, Jr. and Godzilla.
Godzilla, Jr. and Godzilla.

Speaking of human development, I feel there were a few moments within the movie that hindered my experience as someone who isn’t very experienced with Godzilla movies. There’s this female character, who I assume is a recurring character within the films, who laments at the death and supposed death of Godzilla’s son and Godzilla himself, respectively. She mutters, “My work with Godzilla is finished,” near the end of the film. Again, as someone who’s inexperienced with the franchise, this empathy on her part is lost on me. It makes me feel like this film would be better off as a grand finale to the Godzilla series… which is kind of felt like, actually. It was the last movie to involve Tomoyuki Tanaka, a co-creator of the original franchise, before he died of a stroke two years after. It felt somewhat like an homage to older movies of the franchise, with a few flashbacks and the revival of a weapon humanity used to kill the original Godzilla. Not that this is a bad thing, as it made the movie more emotionally-charged in context, but I tend to like when a film focuses more on being its own individual movie, rather than a continuation from movies that came before it.

The characters served well for their purpose, but again, this is about Godzilla. None of the humans get enough treatment for us to really care about them; not from a lack of effort, but a lack of screentime. There’s a reason I don’t remember any character’s name. The acting, aside from a few flat faces, I thought was tolerable enough to make it believable. Then again, it’s not like they had much to work with. Godzilla and monster are fighting. Look scared and anxious, if not screaming and running in terror. Ahhhhh. It’s a good majority of the film. If civilization was wiped out right now, and an ancient alien race discovered traces of our remains in the form of this movie, they’d probably conclude that we couldn’t smile.

This is the plot of our feature film: Birth Island, which I assume is Godzilla’s home, has mysteriously disappeared in a wasteland of smoke and desolation. Somewhat later, the humans discover that Godzilla has absorbed a great amount of radiation into his body, making him unstable and a threat to cause a world-impacting explosion… maybe. To combat this, they decide to recreate the Oxygen Destroyer, a weapon used to kill the original Godzilla, but things go haywire when it starts to mutate aquatic creatures, birthing into the little husks that would go on to create Destoroyah. Now, humanity has to worry about both a monster they inadvertently created and Godzilla’s nuclear implosion.

A destroyed Birth Island.
A destroyed Birth Island.

The battle itself was so up and down. I could’ve exclaimed “Surprise! I’m not dead!” multiple times throughout the last hour of this movie and it would’ve applied. Destoroyah has multiple forms: a little crab thing, a bigger crab thing, and his final form. He achieves these forms by multiplying (there are six or seven of him in all) and combining with his other selves. Godzilla, on a few occasions, breaks him down into his previous forms, only to have Destoroyah randomly convert back to his final form when everything seems calm. There are many moments in the battle where everything seems calm, when all of a sudden Destoroyah or Godzilla show up and shoot their laser beams at hyper speed and the battle rages on again. It’s almost like the director wasn’t sure when the battle should end, so he kept throwing surprise attacks in for good measure.

There are also a lot of explosions. Michael Bay would be jealous of all the explosions that happen throughout the film. Some things that don’t even warrant explosions explode. Godzilla is being assaulted by multiple second-form Destoroyahs when he falls over… and explodes. And then he gets up and he’s fine and Destoroyah is supposedly dead… until he comes up in his final form and blasts Godzilla with another laser beam. Alright. There are too many moments of shifting tones in the battle. It feels very grating. At one point, Godzilla walks over to the corpse of his son (which is still moving, for some reason) and sad music is playing and the humans are grieving and empathizing and everything’s sad. Then Destoroyah pops into focus and shoots Godzilla in the back. Whoop! Back to action-packed fighting and roaring! Woooooo! It does this twice.

This isn't even my final form.
This isn’t even my final form.

Something else worth noting: how do the humans know so much about Godzilla? There’s a scene where Godzilla is coming into Tokyo, where his son already is, and he starts roaring. Godzilla Jr. starts roaring, too. One of the humans see this and goes, “They’re calling to each other.” How the hell do you know? Maybe Godzilla and his son are just roaring because they want to. Maybe they’re trying to intimidate each other. There’s another scene sometime after Godzilla Jr. dies when Godzilla randomly starts roaring. The same person before remarks, “Godzilla is crying.” Again, how the hell do you know? He just finished (not) fighting a giant monster that shot at him with laser beams, along with the excess radiation of his body causing him to physically melt. Maybe he’s just roaring because he’s in massive pain? Maybe he’s roaring because he roars after he defeats a powerful enemy? Godzilla’s roars hardly sound any different at all throughout the movie. Where are they basing this shit off of? Why are you trying to humanize Godzilla? Do you even know if he’s capable of intellectual thought? Of feelings? Have you researched him? Their only explanation for this is because these two women have “abnormal powers” that allow them to sense Godzilla’s kind and emotions or something. What?

But hey, how much logic should we supplant into a movie about giant fighting monsters, right?

To continue along with tone, there was a scene near the end of the movie where Godzilla was being frozen by weapons the humans used to try and cool him down. When Godzilla’s core temperature reached 1,200° C, he started to melt rapidly into a shell of his former self. This death scene was accompanied by a soft set of angelic music, somewhat soothing and a tad melancholic, as Godzilla’s degradation took place. For what it was worth, and the history Godzilla had with the country and its people, it was pretty impactful. To know that Godzilla was dying and his son was dead before him, this being the last that they’d see him was a little heart-breaking… if not for the millions he had killed in the process of his destruction, but that’s besides the point. And I know that I said earlier that I prefer when movies try to focus on being a standalone than coasting on the ideas of previous entries, but I feel this can be looked past in the case of Godzilla as opposed to some random character who likes Godzilla. I understand the importance of Godzilla even if I haven’t seen the other movies. I don’t give a shit about some girl.

At the end of the movie, it reveals that Godzilla is still alive. “Surprise! I’m not dead!” God damn it.

The "death" of Godzilla.
The “death” of Godzilla.

Overall, the movie harmed itself by constantly trying to rope the viewer back into the battle when the tone didn’t call for it. These battles of atmosphere and mood are as prevalent as the battle between monsters. The humans weren’t all bad, but a few didn’t really seem logical or know how to act. I appreciated the random flashbacks to previous Godzilla installments in an attempt to catch up those who may not be familiar with the franchise, or to pay homage at the same time. And, for the most part, the music enhanced the experience of what was going on. Though, they tend to really overplay the brass. If I had to give this movie a rating, it would probably be three dead Godzilla Jr’s. out of five. It has enough logic to remain tolerable, but it’s also a lot of fun to watch.