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Why It May Be the Best of the Franchise

Jan 27, 2023


With 36 official entries in the Godzilla franchise, it can be rather difficult even for a superfan to posit which film represents the peak of the series. That being said, while they’re nearly all a ton of great kaiju fun, certain films boast more intriguing plots and more impressive design and effects than others. Most of the films, both Japanese and American-produced, follow a tried-and-true formula for success, but there are a handful that break the mold and thus stand above the rest as something special. One such example that may just be the crowning achievement of the franchise is 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destoroyah.

The film centers around an aging Godzilla, whose failing heart is threatening to explode, which would result in an Earth-ravaging nuclear meltdown. At the same time, a horde of mutant creatures spawned in the aftermath of the Oxygen Destroyer rise from the ocean and attack Japan. The monstrous double-whammy prompts the Japan Self-Defense Forces to rally the troops and come up with a plan to contend with their scaly adversaries. The film takes a classic “versus” premise and amps it up by making Godzilla’s foe a colony of creatures rather than a singular beast, and with the addition of a “ticking clock” plot device in the form of Godzilla’s impending toxic meltdown. Here’s why this sleek and climactic monster movie may be the best in the Godzilla franchise.
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One of the Best-Looking Entries in the Series

Toho

To put it simply, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah looks incredible. Unlike the goofier-looking Showa-era films before it and the lower-budget, CGI-laden Millennium Era movies that followed (and not even to mention the atrociously ugly 1998 American Godzilla), Godzilla vs. Destoroyah has top-notch visuals befitting of the final film in the Heisei era. It represents the sweet spot found at the intersection of perfecting the old ways of creating special effects and newly introduced digital effects, using an ingenious blend of the two for maximum realism. Godzilla himself, while still using the same costume design from the previous Heisei period films, looks terrific against the highly detailed city models and backdrops. His new volcanic appearance is ridiculously cool and instantly iconic. It’s the best the giant monster had ever looked before, and, depending on your preference between rubber suits and CGI Godzillas, the best he’s looked until 2016’s Shin Godzilla revamped him again.

Related: Here’s Every Godzilla Movie, Ranked

Human Drama That’s Actually Engaging

Toho

Having human characters worth caring about is an element often missing from Godzilla films, and while it’s not always necessary, the films that do are better for it. The creators of Godzilla vs. Destoroyah clearly recognized this, and went to great lengths to make the obligatory non-kaiju subplots both very interesting and organically interwoven with the main monster action. A big part of what makes this work in this particular film is the fact that Destoroyah begins life as a colony of smaller spider-like creatures, which means that the ground forces aren’t just watching two giant monsters duke it from below, but are instead engaged in an enemy their own size as well.

This sets up a series of thrilling encounters between the bugs and the soldiers of the Japan Self-Defense Forces that closely resemble the marines vs. aliens horror-action of James Cameron’s Aliens. In addition to the great human-scale action, the human characters themselves are more interesting than they usually are in these films. The primary human subplot of the film revolves around college student Kenkichi Yamane, who happens to be the grandson of Dr. Kyohei Yamane, who defeated Godzilla in the original 1954 film. The younger Yamane is a great character, who’s subject to a surprising amount of emotional development for a kaiju flick. Additionally, Heisei-era mainstay Miki Saegusa, a psychic who can communicate with Godzilla, returns, and features prominently in the story.

A Fearsome Rival and a Darker Tone

Toho

Though perhaps not as iconic as his famous rival King Kong, Destoroyah is easily the King of the Monster’s fiercest opponent in the franchise. Beginning life as an army of smaller creatures that soon fuse together and absorb Godzilla Jr.’s power, Destoroyah is an unrelenting force of devastation. As the creature’s name implies, Destoroyah is like the very essence of destruction come to life, and the fact that he mortally wounds both Godzilla Jr. and Godzilla puts him in a class above all the other kaijus in the series. To compliment the terrifying villain, the movie takes on an overall darker tone than its predecessors.

The film continues the tradition of Godzilla acting more as a hero than a villain, though it’s less black-and-white than usual; instead of the campy heroics of previous entries, Godzilla is more realistically portrayed as the lesser of two evils. In battling Destoroyah, he protects Tokyo, but he’s still a wild and destructive force-of-nature at heart. His impending self-destruction puts an extra damper on things, and, according to CBR, “adds an emotional gravitas to proceedings that hasn’t been achieved in the series since.” There’s even a moment in which Godzilla mourns the death of Godzilla Jr., which may just be the most heart-wrenching moment in the franchise to date.

Related: How the Godzilla Franchise Has Stood the Test of Time

The End of an Era

Toho

When Godzilla vs. Destoroyah was first announced, it was advertised as the series’ final installment. It was even promoted by Toho with large placards that promised a film in which “Godzilla Dies.” Indeed, the film ended the Heisei era of Godzilla films (and the entire franchise until the 1998 American version) with a bang, killing Godzilla and leaving Tokyo irradiated and in ruins. While there are quite a few entries in the series in which Godzilla dies or is otherwise semi-permanently detained, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah is undoubtedly, as Screen Rant puts it, “his best swan song.” With its spectacular visuals, epic battles, surprisingly tender moments, and many references to the 1954 classic, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah works brilliantly as a send-off for the world’s most famous giant monster. Although he has since been revived many times, no Godzilla film to date has matched the luster of this 1995 kaiju masterpiece.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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