I must admit, I love a good Godzilla movie, if for nothing more than to see how cheesy the battles are between Godzilla and whatever second flavour of monster has been resurrected that year. The original, for its time, was rather impressive, but after many sequels, the level of flowing fromage has grown ever higher, peaking in the early 1970s with the use of flappy rubber suits and Godzilla's face appearing as though he received a makeover from the Jim Henson Beauty Salon. But if we fast forward to 1991, we get Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, a film that seems to be trying to exchange gouda for just being good(ah). It's also one of the most mind-bending Godzilla movies I've had the strange pleasure of watching.
The movie starts, oddly enough, in the year 2204 A.D., where underwater scientists/explorers/noseybodies discover the deceased corpse of the three-headed creature, King Ghidorah. Or at least it used to have three heads; one seems to have been removed. That's never a good sign. One wonders where that last head went. At the time, King Ghidorah wasn't a new face to cinema. He had actually appeared in four movies throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, perhaps most notably in 1964's "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster", where he was brought down by Godzilla and his fellow cronies.
Meanwhile (and I use that term loosely), in 1992, an author, Kenichiro Terasawa, stumbles upon the origins of Godzilla, thanks in part to the ramblings of a token crazy old man who shouts out prophecies no one believes that will inevitably become true. Apparently, in 1944 during World War II, when Japanese and American soldiers were fighting on Lagos Island, a giant dinosaur, subsequently dubbed "Godzillasaurus", came and saved the ailing Japanese battalion. (This seemed a bit anti-American to critics.) Okay, so there was one dinosaur that survived extinction and did not require a special theme park to resurrect it. I... suppose I can live with that premise. Anyhow, it remained on that island for ten more years, having survived from the wounds inflicted by American soldiers. In 1954, the Japanese performed testing on a new hydrogen bomb in that area, and it was the "anti-nuclear bacteria" that not only kept the Godzillasaurus alive, but it also transformed him into the unique lizard creature we all know and cherish. (Soon afterward, Godzilla attacked Tokyo, coinciding with the events of the first movie in the series. Now we have some background about why he did so.) Cue the environmentalist pandering for ceasing nuclear testing. It's one of THOSE moments.
As well, the government has been following a U.F.O. in the sky. It lands, and out pops the Futurians — well, not exactly them, just a holographic version of themselves because they're chicken. And not the delicious kind. They bring ill tidings that Japan is going to plunder under the might of Godzilla, and so they have a plan to teleport the Godzillasaurus to the future so that he remains unaffected by the nuclear testing and, thus, will likely die of natural causes, leaving Japan untouched. So, using their pod and a few individuals from the present, including Kenichiro Terasawa, they go back in time to 1944 and successfully bring the Godzillasaurus to the future, untouched by those nasty "anti-nuclear bacteria". The world is safe, yes?
No. In Kindergarten, you are taught, among many other things, not to trust strangers. Only travel with people you know and trust. Little did the present population realize, but the Futurians were messing with them. The truth was, Godzilla would never have destroyed Japan. That was... a LIE! In fact, Japan would become the world's most economically advantageous country, surpassing all other large nations. Their goal was actually to destroy Japan, thus prevents its overtaking of wealth in the future... er, present for them... er... By removing Godzilla from the timeline, and by releasing some other weird creatures called Dorats into the wilderness on Lagos Island to become infected by the eventual radiation to become King Ghidorah, the job would be done without hindrance. So how will Japan survive this dastardly attack?
With a secret submarine. Using the power of this nuclear submarine, it is believed that a new Godzilla can be created. Now here's where things get a little jarring: that submarine actually ends up being destroyed... by Godzilla! How is this possible, you ask? Isn't Godzilla non-existent at this point? Oh, but he is, for apparently, a separate Russian submarine sank in 1984 where the Godzillasaurus had been transported; another Godzilla had been created eight years earlier! Wow! Then Godzilla and King Ghidorah fight, and Godzilla wins. Then, for reasons unknown, he starts attacking Tokyo. So Emmy, the female Futurian, helps the present people to go into the future and bring back Mecha-King Ghidorah, as she has suffered a severe moral dilemma over her actions. At some point in the future, King Ghidorah's corpse was mechanized and he became a cyborg. Another brawl ensues, and both monsters end up in the ocean, although both King Ghidorahs should definitely be dead at this point, and I don't want to see either pop up again!
The female Futurian also reveals that she is Kenichiro's descendant. Well, there goes any chance of that romantic subplot I was anticipating.
Occasionally, the plot is very difficult to follow, as is generally the case with time travel in general. It's mind-blowing when you watch this movie. It may even fill you with a sense of inner joy, as it did for me. It's been a while since a Godzilla movie's plot sparked such amazement, but, weirdness aside, the fact that someone put some serious thought into this is nothing short of impressive. It beats the heck out of the concept of a smog monster.
Any Godzilla movie's presentation is a thing of analysis. Previous iterations were comical, particularly those from the 1970s, but Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is a good demonstration of how far the production values have come for the series. Granted, there is still a hint of cheese in the air. Godzillasaurus isn't quite the technological marvel that dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were. And the Dorats — flying bat creatures with seductively hideous faces — are just rubbery items that flutter about. King Ghidorah is more impressive; he is not computer-generated but is still a sight to behold during battle. Special effects, mainly explosions and lasers and such, are rather well done, well enough to earn the film a Japanese Academy Award for Special Effects. The music is also menacing, although Godzilla's appearance is strangely marred by the strumming of an angelic harp. That... doesn't... seem... fitting...
One thing that definitely amused me, as is the case with most films from overseas, was the dubbing. The voiceovers range from tolerable to extremely cheesy, the latter occurring immediately in the film. The strangest part occurs when there are non-Japanese individuals speaking. You can see their mouths clearly moving to English words, yet they still need to be dubbed by a separate voice actor in English! Oh, and the best line of the movie? "Take that, you dinosaur!" The acting itself isn't terrible, though. Far too much 90s hair, though. I sometimes felt like I was watching a live version of Tiger Beat.
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah was a surprisingly remarkable movie, far exceeding my expectations. Sci-fi and monster movie buffs will definitely get a kick out of this one, and, sadly, there's far less to make fun of in this one, so it's not a great party movie. It's just a nice Godzilla movie.
Oh, wait, there is one thing you can laugh at...
The hilarity that is M11, the cyborg from the future that is practically indestructible and runs at an impressive speed down a highway. He also looks so complacent. It's great. See the movie just for this guy.