Godzilla vs. Kong is not just some movie. It’s an event! It has history! One of the first movies that I ever watched on the big screen was the 1998 Godzilla and things were never the same for me as it began my ongoing obsession with Kaijus (The term kaiju can refer to the giant monsters themselves, which are usually depicted attacking major cities and engaging the military, or other kaiju, in battle). I have watched every single one of the films in Legendary’s Monsterverse on the big screen and I am more than excited to do the same for the latest entry in that list. But before doing so, I think it’s customary to watch what has come before it so that we can appreciate the present and look forward to a glorious future full of giant monsters.
We have already covered the Shōwa Era (You’ll find the link to it at the end of this article). Next up in this journey to Godzilla vs. Kong is the Heisei Era (1984-1995), which consists of seven films. I’ll be going through them one by one and give my thoughts on them. So, without any further ado, let’s commence (I am sharing all the posters of the movies too because look at them, they are masterpieces).
1. The Return of Godzilla (1984, dir. Koji Hashimoto) – The first 15-20 minutes of this movie plays out like a pretty dope horror movie. And all it needs is an irradiated lice-like creature and whole lot of disbelief. A lot of the aspects that I love are back. Godzilla is back to being a villain. Journalists are back to cover his return. The themes about climate change are back. Things kind of begin to suck during the diplomatic talks about how Japan should deal with Godzilla, although there are some sick uses of split diopter shots. But things pick up significantly when Godzilla begins his rampage. There’s a classic 80’s John Woo-esque vibe to the overall look of the movie. It’s fantastic on a technical. Godzilla looks great. There’s a spine-chilling cut to complete silence after Godzilla’s nuclear breath. The character work is well done and that allows you to stay invested in the movie till the last minute.
2. Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989, dir. Kazuki Ōmori) – Yeah, we’re back to being weird and shit. This entry tries hard to make the whole telepathic connection aspect of the franchise seem profound. But I don’t know, it always seems like a ham-fisted way of making the humans look special or as important to the plot as the kaiju. The main plot is really interesting and reflects human behaviour so well. Because we all know that if humans got their hands-on Godzilla’s cells, they would definitely do some freaky stuff with and that freaky stuff will lead to something like Biollante. The sequence where Godzilla starts his wrecking and then goes up against Biollante (Whose final form is amazing!) is very long. However, for a change, it doesn’t get boring because Kazuki keeps experimenting and switching things up. The iconic score is used very well here. The whole spy sub-plot to get more Godzilla cells gets stupid after a point. Still, it’s a good movie.
3. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991, dir. Kazuki Ōmori) – Time travel. Time travel! It’s a movie about giant monsters. Why did you have to bring in time travel? I guess it is better than aliens? Slightly better? A lot better? I don’t know. But yes, better. Because they have some kind of a motive which loosely ties back to the running theme of Japan vs United States of America and manages to maintain another running theme, which is Godzilla seeming like a saviour but then going haywire by the end, thereby making him the threat as well. However, since there’s time travel (And a fu*king robot) involved, the plot obviously gets needlessly complicated. At one point there’s a King Ghidorah, whose head and wings have been replaced by mechanical stuff and it’s controlled by one of the time travelers. Yeah, you see what I am talking about? It’s ambitious. Maybe a little too ambitious. And it’s watchable. So, okay, no problem.
4. Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992, dir. Takao Okawara) – It’s kind of at par with Godzilla vs King Ghidorah in terms of the overall quality. It’s more science-fantasy than science-fiction as it brings in mystical elements like Mothra and Battra and then adds a good dash of coolness with Godzilla. That said it is grounded in reality due to the emphasis on climate change. The movie makes it a point that people watching it get it that at the end of the day, Godzilla movies are about the climate crisis. There are some ethereal scenes here, largely around Mothra. Also, I liked the fact that Mothra and the Cosmos i.e. the twins, are used to test the human characters’ morals. Because saying that something is pious and pure and the opposite is not, but showing it so explicitly definitely hits different. Battra’s character design is fantastic. I am a sucker for red and black designs, yaar. The initial Indian Jones-esque adventure and espionage elements suck big time. However, it redeems itself significantly by the end.
5. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993, dir. Takao Okawara) – I hate Minilla, Godzilla’s son with a vengeance. I blame Son of Godzilla and All Monsters Attack for that. So, I was about to start hating on this movie for bringing back that abomination back. But as soon as it becomes Jurassic Park: The Last World on steroids with Godzilla trying to get back Minilla from the humans, I started to have fun. I am not going to lie. On top of that, it has Rodan (Whose wind harnessing powers are dialed up to eleven here, which helps him do some serious damage), who thinks that the humans have stolen her baby and Mechagodzilla is amazing in here. It looks great. It has some serious tricks up its sleeve and you actually think that Godzilla is probably not going to win this time. What? Are you going to blame me for rooting for Godzilla when he’s trying to get his baby back? F*ck off! Team Godzilla all the way and this movie rules!
6. Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994, dir. Kensho Yamashita) – Your love or hatred for this movie hinges on your reaction to the fictional science behind the creation of SpaceGodzilla. Are you ready for this? Double check just to be sure. Alright, here it is. In Godzilla vs. Biollante and Godzilla vs. Mothra, Godzilla’s cells were shot into outer space. And in one of those instances, the cells became one with a space rock, causing it to grow rapidly, and become SpaceGodzilla. Why’s he coming to Earth? Because he sees Godzilla as the only obstacle in his way to rule Earth. It’s pretty weird, I admit. But it stops seeming weird when you can take everything that has happened in the franchise into consideration. And you know what, if you walk out of this movie due to the absurdity, you are going to miss out on the SpaceGodzilla’s jaw-dropping character design and powers. I think that SpaceGodzilla should’ve been a multi-movie villain. He shouldn’t have been dusted in the first movie. He’s that good!
7. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995, dir. Takao Okawara) – The best. The best! This is the best movie out of the lot. The Shōwa Era wanted to hammer in the climate change theme into the audience’s head and that peaked with Godzilla vs Hedorah and that’s my favourite. The Heisei Era clearly wants to do the same but also do it on a grand scale with a healthy dash of horror and action. That peaks here, which has a cool connection with the first Godzilla movie via its villain, Destoroyah (Whose design, which definitely has some Alien influences in there, and powers are brilliant, amazing, mind-blowing, all the great adjectives put together). In its shortest form, it breaks down, multiplies, and regroups to become massive. In its massive form, it multiplies, and then wreaks havoc. Wow! Minilla has become Godzilla and he does a lot of the heavy lifting. And it has Nuclear Godzilla. Nuclear Godzilla. The suit work and the smoke around him is so dope. So hellishly dope! This is fantastic on every level. It has my whole heart.
And that’s the list. One of the most technical differences between the Shōwa and the Heisei Eras is the run time. Those in the Shōwa Era were limited to around 1 hour and 30 minutes, while those in the Heisei Era hovered around the 1 hour and 45-minute mark. I don’t know if there was some kind of mandate or the filmmakers during these eras just decided to do this. It worked most of the time but there were moments when things started to feel like it was dragging. But it was more than made up for by the punk-metal vibe of this chunk of the franchise, with SpaceGodzilla and Destoroyah clearly being its crowning jewels. I mean, holy f*cking shit, what were the character designers thinking while making them? I genuinely cannot wait for the Legendary Monsterverse to reach a point where they can take a swipe at them.
Cover artwork by Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India