Sunday, August 6, 2017

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

Original title: ゴジラvsキングギドラ

A UFO lands in Japan! After some dithering, it turns out the craft doesn’t come from outer space but from the future. Its crew – consisting of some white guys who aren’t actors some kind and wise person in the production decided to dub into Japanese making this world a much happier place, one Emmy Kano (Anna Nakagawa), and a ridiculous android (Robert Scott Field) you’ll learn to love – explain to the usual group of earnest looking men in suits and uniforms (but don’t worry, Heisei mainstay Megumi Odaka as Miki Saegusa will have her day too) that they have come to Japan to save it from its coming total destruction by Godzilla. They have a simple plan, based on the secret origin of Godzilla.

Apparently, our most beloved city smashing lizard was once just a simple dinosaur hidden away on a Pacific island – though he did find space in his schedule to protect a group of Japanese soldiers from the Allied forces during World War II – until he was irradiated by the US nuclear tests in the area. Obviously, the best way to hinder Godzilla from destroying Japan is to go back in time and move him to another island before he mutates. For some timey-whimey reasons, the time travellers do need some people from the 20th Century to go back in time with Emmy and the android alone. All works out well, Godzilla isn’t rampaging anymore – though everyone still remembers him and his attacks. So clearly, it’s time for the happy end. But wait! Now another giant monster, the deplorable King Ghidorah (boo hiss) appears and attacks Japan! Is it possible that these time travellers have been lying all along and had a sinister plan to destroy Japan’s future glory as the most awesome country in the world? You betcha!

Usually, the less time a kaiju eiga spends on the city smashing and the monster mashing, the less interesting it is to watch. Fortunately, there are exceptions to this rule, and Kazuki Ohmori’s second Heisei era kaiju movie Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is most certainly one of them. It is also a decided improvement on Ohmori’s Godzilla vs. Biollante in pretty much every respect, with a much better bad guy monster suit, superior monster action (once the film gets around to it), as well as superior city smashing. It does take quite some time to get around to all that, though, leaving quite a bit of running time to be filled.

Fortunately, Ohmori (also credited as the writer), decided to go completely crazy with the human part of the plot and replaced the rather lame men’s adventure action of Biollante with all the silly ideas and SF clichés he could lay his hands on. So we get the absurd time travel plot that goes out of its way to have the silliest – and therefore most awesome for everyone’s inner twelve year old – answer to any plot question possible. For example – how do the time travellers produce King Ghidorah? They just leave three easily controlled cute/weird little animals that look like bats made by a godhood on psychedelics on Godzilla’s island to be irradiated and turn into King Ghidorah, because that’s logically the only way this could turn out, right? Later, coming to the rather important question of how to get Godzilla back into the plot, seeing as how he now never existed, Ohmori just lets the Godzillasaurus swim into some nuclear waste and somehow turn into Godzilla (though supposedly an even angrier one). This stuff is only the tip of the iceberg, though, the film also includes the inexplicable weirdness of that darn android, who is basically the Terminator, but goofy, with added abilities like running really fast via hilarious special effects, and acted in a way human language is not meant to describe or explain. The plot logic is rather on the dream-like side, too, which is my way of saying that the plot makes little sense as our human logic understands the term but does so in the most entertaining manner.

Ideologically, the film goes for the curious, somewhat schizophrenic balancing act of post-Honda Godzilla films (see also Shin Godzilla) to include at once elements that are extremely reactionary (like calling the people in power in Japan who were also influential before World War II the “people who rebuilt Japan” without ever mentioning that they were also the people who were responsible for its need to be rebuilt, or the whole bit where the time travellers want to destroy Japan so it can’t dominate the world, the latter not a concept the film seems to have terribly much trouble with) and others that are deeply humanistic and/or progressive without ever really choosing a side. Hell, the heisei films often even manage not to choose which monster the audience is supposed to root for, so this might even be a conscious approach by the producers. All this may of course just be a very Japanese political position and world view I’m culturally unable to parse.

In any case, that’s an observation, not a criticism, because what Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah really is, is a joy to watch – and this time around, also to listen to again, for the film also marks the glorious return of composer Akira Ifukube (and music that actually fits what is happening on screen) to Toho’s kaiju cinema.

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