Having shared my thoughts on the Showa Godzilla movies, I decided to write a follow-up article for reviewing each of the Heisei offerings in detail. Personally, I consider the Heisei Godzilla films to be the most captivating out of all three series by Toho Studios. Whereas the Showa (1954-1975) and Millennium (1999-2004) franchises will likely appeal to child audiences, the majority of Heisei installments maintain the dark, ominous tone that made the original Godzilla so compelling. Nevertheless, there are certain films in Toho’s lineup of Heisei films (produced from 1984-1995) that deserve higher marks than others.
Listed below are my rankings for the Heisei-era Godzilla entries:
7) Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla
Transported to outer space, the cells of Godzilla enter a black hole and form a new monster known as SpaceGodzilla. After arriving on Earth, SpaceGodzilla confronts the original Godzilla, Little Godzilla, and a G-Force mecha named M.O.G.U.E.R.A. (not to be confused with Moguera from The Mysterians).
Borrowing many tropes from the Star Trek and Star Wars movies, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla may evoke criticism for its second-rate science fiction aspects. Also problematic is the new design for Little Godzilla, who now resembles Minilla of the Showa series. This offering nevertheless benefits from a menacing kaiju antagonist, who towers over Godzilla during the climactic showdown in Fukuoka.
6) Godzilla vs. Mothra / Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth
Punishing mankind for abusing the environment, the Earth unleashes an evil moth daikaiju named Battra on civilization. Compelled by the Cosmos of Infant Island, Mothra must defend Japan from both Battra and Godzilla.
Marred by drawn-out monster battles, unlikable human characters, and preachy environmentalist undertones, Godzilla vs. Mothra is a subpar remake of Mothra vs. Godzilla from 1964. Fans of the original Showa classic may, however, enjoy this film for its enchanting musical arrangement (scored by Toho veteran Akira Ifukube), while casual viewers might appreciate Godzilla vs. Mothra for its adventure-themed elements—often reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie.
5) Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah
Traveling to Lagos Island during World War II, explorers from the future prevent Godzillasaurus from transforming into Godzilla. By erasing Godzilla from existence, however, the Futurians render the people of Tokyo defenseless against King Ghidorah. When a new Godzilla defeats Ghidorah and begins attacking Japan, only a reanimated dragon cyborg known as Mecha-King Ghidorah can protect humanity from the king of monsters.
Forgoing the gritty, realistic tone of prior Heisei installments, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is a cartoonish effort from Toho Studios. This offering should also be criticized for its convoluted story, which offers a kaiju-themed twist on the premise of Back to the Future Part II. Japanese monster buffs may, of course, enjoy Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah for its epic daikaiju battles, while science fiction fans may appreciate this movie for its tongue-in-cheek references to the films of Steven Spielberg.
4) Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II
Salvaging the remains of Mecha-King Ghidorah, a G-Force team designs an anti-Godzilla weapon known as Mechagodzilla. Searching for a recently hatched Godzillasaur, Godzilla and Fire Rodan arrive in Tokyo and face off against Mechagodzilla.
Providing a fresh update on Godzilla’s robotic doppelganger, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II deserves praise for its explosive monster action. This feature should also be commended for its depiction of Baby Godzilla, who, in spite of his diminutive size, bears a strong resemblance to the king of monsters—much in contrast to Minilla, Godzilla’s Barney-like son from the Showa era. For those who enjoy Japanese monster films with a sensitive twist, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II should be required viewing.
3) Godzilla vs. Biollante
Combining the cells of Godzilla, a rose, and a human female, a scientist creates a new monstrosity named Biollante. After escaping from his volcanic prison, Godzilla confronts Biollante near the coastline of Japan.
Despite suffering from an uneven script, Godzilla vs. Biollante retains the dark and serious tone established in The Return of Godzilla. This offering also contains a commentary on the dangers of bioengineering (a new technology in 1989), which may appeal to science fiction fans with a taste for Frankensteinian horror. The final showdown between Godzilla and Biollante does, however, leave something to be desired in terms of climactic value.
2) Godzilla vs. Destoroyah
Created by the oxygen destroyer of Dr. Serizawa, a crustaceous kaiju named Destoroyah (pronounced “Destroyer” in the American version) wreaks havoc on Tokyo. Meanwhile, Godzilla prepares for a final showdown before transforming into a nuclear reactor.
Showcasing gory monster battles and high-quality special effects, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah bids a fond farewell to the Heisei Godzilla. Showa fans will enjoy this entry for its connection to the original Godzilla, while even casual viewers should appreciate Godzilla vs. Destroyah for its poignant finale involving Godzilla Junior—the adolescent version of Baby/Little Godzilla.
1) The Return of Godzilla / Godzilla 1985
Reemerging after a thirty-year absence, Godzilla returns to Tokyo for a second reign of terror. Only Super X, a laser-equipped JSDF aircraft, can prevent Godzilla from destroying Japan once again.
A direct sequel to Gojira, The Return of Godzilla forgoes the campy, cartoonish tone of many Showa installments in favor of the haunting atmosphere embodied in the 1954 classic. As a result, viewers can easily accept Godzilla as a metaphor for nuclear devastation—the original intent of director Ishiro Honda. Diehard G-fans may also wish to view the Americanized Godzilla 1985, which, though marred by cringe-inducing humor, includes a number of intense and memorable scenes featuring Perry Mason actor Raymond Burr—reprising his role of Steven Martin from Godzilla, King of the Monsters! For fans of Japanese creature features with a serious edge, The Return of Godzilla will make for a powerful viewing experience.
What do you think are the best movies in the Heisei Godzilla series? Share your own rankings in the comment section below. Also, be sure to check out my list of the Showa Godzilla Movies Ranked from Worst to Best.
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