The Great Godzilla Movie Marathon: Part 2 – The Heisei Series

The Great Godzilla Movie Marathon: Part 2 – The Heisei Series

Hi crew! ūüĎčūüŹĽ We’re now moving on to the Heisei series of Godzilla!

The Heisei series technically began in the Showa era with 1984’s¬†The Return of Godzilla. If you’re not familiar with Japanese historical periods, the Showa period began in 1926 with the coronation of Emperor Hirohito (known as Emperor Showa) and ended when he died in 1989. This led to the Heisei period when his son Akihito was crowned Emperor Heisei and ended in 2019 when he abdicated the throne. Why¬†Godzilla¬†movies get put into series named after the era that they weren’t released in I don’t really know but I’m not going to argue with that.

The Heisei series is pretty different from the Showa series. For starters, it’s shorter with 7 movies instead of 15 (making these posts shorter from here on out), the stories are connected to one another and the budgets are much¬†bigger. We have new monsters being introduced as well as old monsters returning with altered designs and origins.

As with the previous series of movies, I watched these all in the original Japanese with English subtitles. Unfortunately for me, these movies are not available on DVD or Blu-Ray in the UK and aren’t on any streaming services so I had to jump through some questionable hoops in order to watch these. I don’t have a region free player, import costs are astronomical, and Japanese discs only have Japanese subtitles so it was kind of a necessary evil until Toho realises that people outside of Japan and the USA want to be able to watch and own their movies.

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The Return of Godzilla

THE RETURN OF GODZILLA

Directed by Koji Hashimoto
Released 1984
Run time: 103 minutes (1 hr, 43 mins)
My Rating –

This, my friends, is how you make a comeback. I said in my previous batch of mini-reviews that I am biased towards the darker Godzilla movies, and this one is no exception. After so many light-hearted movies of him being a hero, we have him once again being a huge threat to Japan and the government scrambling to come up with a way to get rid of him.

I’m glad that we still have the trademark anti-nuclear stance, but this time we have an extra moral about putting aside differences, which was very relevant for the height of the Cold War. The scenes that show the extent of Godzilla’s rampage across Tokyo are actually a little frightening at times when we see the human cast get caught in buildings that are in the process of falling down.

Even though I’m new to the Heisei movies, I have always loved the suit designs from this series and the suit from this movie is no exception. Godzilla is taller than he was in the Showa series due to Japanese buildings in the 80s being taller and he looks more ferocious than ever. However, I do have some conflicting opinions on the closeup shots because while the animatronic that was used looks really good and has some impressive mechanics, it doesn’t match the suit and goes crosseyed at times which looks goofy. I do like the snarl effect that it has when roaring and the flaws aren’t enough to make me hate it.

I’d definitely recommend this movie as one of many starting points for someone just getting into the series.

Godzilla vs BiollanteGODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE

Directed by Kazuki Omori
Released 1989
Run time: 104 minutes (1 hr, 44 mins)
My Rating –

This movie follows on five years after the previous one which I appreciate after the Showa series having such a loose sense of continuity. We also have a social message about genetic engineering and meddling with nature which I honestly don’t know a lot about so I can’t really comment on it, but it seems like an important message to have.

The effects in this movie are so much better than¬†The Return of Godzilla, and the Godzilla suit looks incredible even in closeups. He looks so much more powerful than before and that can really be felt when he goes on a rampage and knocks down some buildings. I also like how it fits with Godzilla’s characterisation in this movie. Spending five years in a volcano wouldn’t make anybody very happy and he’s more vengeful than he was in the previous movie where he was more like a confused animal that got lost.

I didn’t think much of Biollante before watching this movie, and now I have more of an appreciation for her because her origin is so interesting. She was created by a scientist who spliced his daughter’s genes with a rose, and then spliced the rose with Godzilla’s genes, making a giant plant monster thing. Biollante’s first form is more rose than monster so I didn’t find it that impressive to look at, but her second form is more monstrous and looks like a Heisei¬†Godzilla¬†monster. I thought that Biollante was just good puppetry work, but it turns out that she’s actually played by two people in a suit as well as puppeteers controlling her tendrils. That just shows how good the effects are in this instalment.

The main reason why I’m giving this movie three and a half stars instead of four is that there is a plot point of secret agents going around with guns trying to kill the scientist who created Biollante. I probably explained that horribly and completely wrong but that’s because I still don’t know who these people are. There are also a couple of extended scenes that have dialogue in English but the actors in those scenes aren’t native speakers and seem to have learned their lines phonetically so it’s very stilted and heavy accented. Plus, non-English movies do this thing where the English subtitle tracks don’t provide subtitles for any English dialogue that’s spoken and I have a lot of sensory processing issues so I found it difficult to understand what was being said in those scenes.

Godzilla vs King Ghidorah

GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH

Directed by Kazuki Omori
Released 1991
Run time: 103 minutes (1 hr, 43 mins)
My Rating –

I have some mixed feelings towards this movie. And that’s a shame because this movie often gets called one of the best¬†Godzilla¬†movies ever made, so of course, my expectations were going to be a little high.

The thing that I liked the most in this movie is, obviously, the special effects. Some modifications were made to the BioGoji suit from the previous movie to make Godzilla look bigger and more menacing, and I think it works because Godzilla looks the best he’s looked so far (I will probably say that a lot in these posts). I also love the King Ghidorah suits for both his original state and his Mecha state, probably even more than the Showa Ghidorah. He never looks like a rubber suit with puppets on it, he really looks like how you’d expect a gigantic golden three-headed dragon to look. Also, the Dorats (which are three genetically engineered things from the future that turn into Ghidorah and only appear in this movie) look absolutely adorable. They’re kind of like the gremlins before they become gremlins.

Now, as for what I don’t like about this movie, there are a few things. Firstly, I am not a huge fan of time travel, especially when it’s added to a series that had a loose sense of continuity, to begin with. The time travel plot is a huge part of this movie since it explains the new origins of Godzilla and King Ghidorah in this series continuity, and I don’t think that their origins needed to be changed. Yes, the anti-nuclear stance is still there because they’re created by nuclear bombs, but Ghidorah wasn’t a nuclear monster in the original series and was an alien instead. Plus, a lot of the time travel creates some plot holes that bog the story down and I just wasn’t a fan of it.

Secondly, the scenes that feature English dialogue in this movie feature some of the most¬†atrocious¬†acting I have ever seen. Apparently, these “actors” were scouted from US military bases across Japan and some were acting in commercials at the time, and it really shows. I’ve seen school plays with better acting than these chuckleheads, good grief. Western actors in Godzilla¬†movies tend to be hit or miss because if they’re in a scene with other Western actors, the performances can be pretty stilted, but when they’re in scenes with the Japanese cast they tend to be dubbed over and it turns out okay. The white villains in this movie appear to be speaking fluent Japanese but I could just be really bad at lip-reading.

Something I think is interesting about this movie is that it was considered controversial in the United States as CNN reported on it being “anti-American” for showing US soldiers in the Second World War being killed by Godzilla. The director, on the other hand, said that it was not his intention to make a comment about America and some people (who know a lot more about Japanese politics than I do) have said that the movie is a critique of growing Japanese nationalism at the time. This kind of thing is completely out of my depth because it relates to something that only Japanese people could know about, so I guess it’s time to move on.

Godzilla vs MothraGODZILLA VS. MOTHRA

Directed by Takao Okawara
Released 1992
Run time: 102 minutes (1 hr, 42 mins)
My Rating –

Well, we have a ‘meh’ on our hands. It was bound to happen at one point in this series. Also, I watched this movie in two halves because I kept falling asleep – which is my fault, not the movie’s – so my thoughts on this may be a little disjointed.

The biggest issue I have with this movie is that it’s not really a¬†Godzilla¬†movie. Yes, his name is in the title, and yes, he does appear, but he’s treated as a side character in his own movie over Mothra and Battra. This just doesn’t feel like a mainline¬†Godzilla¬†movie and more of a Mothra¬†movie, but because Godzilla does appear, it goes in his series. I don’t mind Godzilla being villainous or being defeated at the end of a movie, but I do expect him to be the main monster of a movie with his name in the title.

The other issue I have is that the environmentalist message that this movie has is way too heavy-handed. Other Godzilla¬†movies have hit me over the head with their messages, but the characters in this one talk about saving the Earth at the most bizarre of times that it ends up feeling like an after school special. It kind of wastes the human characters, especially Takuya (the male lead), who is set up as this cool Indiana Jones-esque archaeologist-turned-thief but that’s just left up in the air once the plot actually gets going.

I will praise this movie for its effects because they’re still up to the Godzilla¬†standard. We have another new Godzilla suit and we’re at this point where I can’t really tell the difference in suits that much anymore because they tend to have extremely minor differences, and I didn’t watch these movies in HD. The miniature sets are the best of the series so far and I also really like the Battra puppet. The design is really cool and it’s a shame that this is the only movie that Battra appears in because he deserves to appear in more than just video games.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II

GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA II

Directed by Takao Okawara
Released 1993
Run time: 108 minutes (1 hr, 48 mins)
My Rating –

The title of this movie is a little confusing because it’s not a sequel to 1974’s¬†Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and the Mechagodzilla that we see in this movie is the first one to appear in this series’ continuity as Mechagodzilla 2 actually appears in¬†Terror of Mechagodzilla, and on top of that, this movie is just called¬†Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla¬†in Japan. With that out of the way, I’m glad to report that we’re back on form for now!

This movie has a special record for the most amount of Godzilla screentime with the Big G getting 27 minutes of screentime. I did not calculate that myself because I don’t want to, but that’s still an impressive feat. Before starting this journey, it didn’t matter to me how much Godzilla was on the screen because I was of the impression that the human characters were more important. Now, I am one of those people who want to see the monsters more than the people, especially if the main draw of the movie is seeing Godzilla fight another monster.

I wish I could comment on the quality of the Godzilla suit in this movie, but I have been watching this series on Internet Archive who have VHS scans and not HD copies so I can’t really see that well. What I can say is that I really like the Mechagodzilla design in this movie. The previous Mechagodzilla didn’t look awful, but it was definitely a 1970s design and looked like Godzilla was wearing a suit of armour, while this Mechagodzilla has a more sleek design and looks like a giant mechanical Godzilla.

Rodan also appears in this movie but this time is portrayed using puppets rather than suitmation, and I think I prefer the puppets to the suit that was used in the Showa movies. By the time that series was coming to an end, the Rodan suit was a little tatty and worse for wear, while the Rodan puppets used here look really good. Toho puppetry can be a little hit-or-miss but this time was definitely a hit.

My favourite aspect of this movie is definitely Baby Godzilla. In my Showa reviews, I said that I don’t enjoy Minilla’s design and Baby Godzilla is more appealing to me. They tried to make Minilla look cute but to me, he looks like a chestnut, while Baby Godzilla is actually adorable. He may be a little too cute since his eyes take up half of his head, but he’s a freshly hatched baby so of course he’s cute.

Godzilla vs SpaceGodzillaGODZILLA VS. SPACEGODZILLA

Directed by Kensho Yamashita
Released 1994
Run time: 108 minutes (1 hr, 48 mins)
My Rating –

I think this may be another polarising entry with G-fans, but that doesn’t bother me because I quite liked this movie. It may be a little too soon to have a¬†Godzilla vs X-zilla movie, but SpaceGodzilla is a pretty cool monster. Yes, he’s an alien clone of Godzilla, but the thing that I like the most about him is that he isn’t just a cut and paste clone or just an older suit with things stuck onto it, he has his own design that is similar enough to show that he’s a clone, but different enough to make him stand out from Godzilla. Plus, he just has a really cool design.

I also appreciate that instead of bringing Mechagodzilla back, they used a different mecha known as MOGUERA (Mobile Operation Godzilla Universal Expert Robot Aero-Type) who is actually a newer incarnation of an older Toho mecha from the TV shows¬†The Mysterians¬†and¬†Godzilla Island. Three different Godzillas in one movie (and Baby Godzilla) would have been too many Godzillas to deal with, so I’m glad that MOGUERA was used instead.

My only complaint with this movie is that there are some scenes that serve as padding to make the movie similar in length to others in the series, and a big plot point of one character talking with the Cosmos, who are characters from¬†Godzilla vs. Mothra. They don’t really add anything to the plot, and it’s kind of bizarre to me because Mothra only appears in flashbacks. Really, the movie could have done without them.

Godzilla vs Destoroyah

GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH

Directed by Takao Okawara
Released 1995
Run time: 103 minutes (1 hr, 43 mins)
My Rating –

We started with a bang and we’re ending with another one! I really liked this movie and I think it’s the perfect ending to the Heisei series.

My favourite thing about this movie is so much it directly references the original¬†Godzilla from1954. Not only are characters from that movie mentioned by name, but we also see footage from the movie, and one of the main stars returns as one of the characters. In the Showa series, the original characters just disappeared after Dr Yamane’s cameo in¬†Godzilla¬†Raids Again, so this movie calling back to the original so often makes me really happy. However, that can cause a big case of continuity lockout for newcomers who haven’t seen the original movie, which you should watch because it’s incredible.

The effects in this movie are the best in this series, especially the Godzilla suit that’s used. The movie opens with Godzilla pretty much¬†on fire and ends with him¬†melting. The ‘burning’ effect was caused by hundreds of tiny light bulbs that were attached to the suit, steam comes out of it, the eyes glow, and while I was under the impression that the meltdown scene was done practically, it was actually CGI. This movie was made in the early 1990s when CGI wasn’t as advanced as it is now, so I have to commend the effects team for convincing me that it was a practical effect.

Destoroyah has probably my favourite design of all the villain monsters and I love his origin too. He’s a colony of prehistoric crustaceans that were mutated by the Oxygen Destroyer (the weapon that was used to kill the original Godzilla in 1954) and looks like a demon of some sort. He’s a welcome difference from the dinosaurs and bug-like things of the Showa series and the Godzilla clones of the Heisei series, and it’s kind of a shame that he only appears in this movie and video games because the design is so cool.

And that’s it for the Heisei series! Next week we’ll be moving on to the Millennium series!
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Have you seen any of the Heisei Godzilla movies?

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4 Comments

  1. November 13, 2021 / 11:24 pm

    It’s sad that these are so hard to watch! And while there’s a part of me that likes the silly Godzilla-as-hero aspect, I have to say the darker takes and him as a force of nature/ threat appeal to me as well.

    Godzilla vs King Ghidorah sounds like a natural for me since I love Ghidorah, so I’ll probably watch that but will keep in mind the flaws you mention so I don’t get too disappointed lol.

    • Louise
      Author
      November 30, 2021 / 3:03 pm

      It really is a shame! Japanese media companies can be very stubborn when doing international distribution so hopefully I’ll be able to own these movies physically some day ūüôā

      I hope you enjoy Godzilla vs King Ghidorah!

  2. November 22, 2021 / 2:15 am

    Yes, Godzilla vs. Biollante looks so good. ūüôā

    Great reviews!

    • Louise
      Author
      November 30, 2021 / 3:04 pm

      It really is! I hope you enjoy it if you watch it ūüôā

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