Topic: Godzilla vs King Ghidorah 1991 (minor spoilers)

It takes a bad movie to revive a franchise.

The second career of Godzilla was off to a bad start. Godzilla 1984 had done OK, but not great, not helped by a butchered New World Cinema US version which cut huge chunks out and added Raymond Burr scenes (according to some, the cuts actually helped in many cases). Five years later, Godzilla vs Biollante was released to poor ticket sales. A distribution fight resulted in it getting no US release for a few years, at which time it was dumped off to HBO. An attempt to get the rights to King Kong for another matchup between the two monsters fizzled out.

The reboot was in crisis. What to do?

Back to basics, that's what.

Our story starts with a UFO landing, quite openly, in Japan. Not caring about this, a writer who wants to move on from stupid fake stuff, like UFO's, to real things like living dinosaurs talks to a WW II army vet. The man claims a dinosaur saved him and his men from the Americans on an island in 1944. Another officer who was there has photos proving it. By coincidence, it turns out the UFO is actually a time ship, manned by a bunch of caucasians and one Japanese woman. Japan of the future, they say, is destroyed, the cause Godzilla who turned it into a radioactive wasteland. They want to go back to that island in 1944 and remove the dinosaur, as they think it was the US hydrogen bomb tests which turned it into Godzilla. They need the 1991 Japanese to locate him.

Needless to say, they're not exactly honest with them. Truth is, Japan by 2000 became an unstoppable world power, dominating the world, so they intend to forestall that by getting rid of Godzilla, replacing him with King Ghidorah whom they'll control.

Complicated plot ensues.

This movie is... interesting. First, the good: the King Ghidorah suit is incredible. I think this is the best the monster has ever looked. wings and heads moving nicely. I'll also put the anti-American slant here in the "good" category. Filmed when the US and Japan were engaged in a trade war which, on the US side, was verging on strong anti-Japanese sentiments, we see the other side. Americans are portrayed as jealous of Japan's success, willing to do anything to stop this natural progression. It's amusing now, yes, but at the time US fans were a bit annoyed given how Hollywood movies were doing their best not to do that type of thing anymore.

The dialog is... well, I'm not sure if it's BAD, or Japanese. That is, I'm almost willing to give it a pass because I've seen this kind of thing elsewhere in monster movies. It seems like a stylistic choice rather than just needing another few passes to clean it up, perhaps to make it more understandable to kids. An example:

"We are from the future. This is our time ship."
"Oh! You are from the future! Then this is a time ship!"
"Yes, this is our time ship. We used it to travel from the future."

What IS bad is the movie's attempt to copy The Terminator. On the ship is a human looking robot, who does superhuman feats in a way even Roger Corman would think too cheesy. Really, when you compare it to the incredible puppet and model work it's just incredible that anyone approved those shots. Even more so when you realize this film won a Japanese academy award for special effects. So laughable, it becomes Birdemic in quality.

There is some humor, apart from the unintentional. On a US Warship we see a seaman Spielberg, who gets all excited about seeing the dinosaurs. Gee, maybe his son will make a movie about them! I did also like a line by the time travelers, after a plan is thwarted: "Damn it, is there ANY place on this planet without nuclear waste?"

Should you see it? I say yes, if you like Godzilla. If nothing else, it's interesting to consider that THIS is the movie which saved the franchise, which lit up the public's imagination and brought in double its budget. The next two films are better, but without this they wouldn't exist.

I write stories! With words!

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