To quote Fight Club: “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero” and this proves to be true even to the one known as Godzilla. That’s right, in his 22nd movie (and the final of the Heisei series) Toho’s big gimmick to keep the King Of The Monsters relevant (and to pave the way for a Sony/Tri Star American reboot) was to kill the moody bastard off and kill him off publicly.
Godzilla’s internal nuclear core is on the fritz, his body temperature is rising dangerously and no amount of Tums is gonna calm down THIS meltdown if it goes critical. Dotted liberally with glowing super heated red patches and steaming like 90 foot tea kettle, Godzilla rampages through Hong Kong in a pain infused rage, obliterating anything in his path with that far away crazed look in his eye you’d normally see in that one guy in a pub everyone tells you to stay away from.
As his young ward, now grown enough to be known as Godzilla Junior, travels across the globe doing Godzilla-y things, the adult follows causing yet more destruction as he biology grows ever closer to a literal time bomb.
To make matters worse, hundreds of 10 foot tall crab-like monsters have appeared in Tokyo that can assemble to form a towering demonic crustacean creature called Destoroyah and among it’s many weapons (aside from being vaguely unpronuncable) is that it’s creation is tied in with the only weapon that can kill Godzilla – The Oxygen Destroyer.
Putting Godzilla himself on a ticking clock (his meltdown would essentially be the China Syndrome on a global scale) is GVD’s master stroke. Yes, some of the monster work is a little puppety and yes, the human pretty much have NOTHING to do except spew up endless hypothesis or pilot a ship that shoot freeze missiles in a plot that’s maybe too slight, but this is emphatically the Godzilla show and he’s going out with style. The countdown aspect of the plot (Godzilla’s temp hits 1,200 ⁰C, Godzilla go boom) adds a sense of urgency not usually felt in Kaiju movies and there’s a real feeling of fate moving things tragically against our gargantuan anti-hero as everytime an effort is made to cool his rapidly heating biology, something comes up to counter it: like fighting a hulking crab monster.
Ah yes, Destoroyah. While not a patch on the original line up of monsters, he’s mean and tricky enough to prove a legitimate threat even if Godzilla WASN’T dying. First seen split into his smaller parts launching an Aliens style attack on a hapless SWAT team and later engaging in epic life-or-death battles with both Godzilla and his boy, he’s a far more legitimate presence than the previous film’s Spacegodzilla despite having the exact same agenda and plan. And he’s HUGE! How the hell the suit performer wasn’t crushed alive by the sheer weight of the suit I’ll never know…
And when the end comes (don’t panic, it’s not technically a spoiler as Toho’s entire ad campaign for the movie was outright BOASTING about it) it’s surprisingly poignant and moving considering it’s a dude in a lizard suit. This is thanks in large to the incredible musical contributions of Akira Ifukibe who produced all of Godzilla’s best scores since the characters inception in 1954 and would be his last scoring of a Godzilla movie before his death 11 years later. A multiple farewell, then.
And so the Heisei series comes to an end and distinguishes itself as, if not the best, then certainly the most consistent section of Godzilla’s impressive career of aggressive city relocation. The immediate future? A disappointing American remake and Toho’s notoriously spotty Millennium series, but for now, the King is dead. Long live the God.