oho Pictures decided that the 22nd Godzilla
film would be the great monster's swan song, although his retirement eventually
proved to be a short one. Clever enough to tie the film to events from the
original "Godzilla", "Godzilla vs. Destroyer" features some
good ideas and enough action to engage audiences. But while the movie would be
an excellent bookend to the Godzilla films, it ultimately proves to be an
unworthy swan song for a cultural icon.
Godzilla's appearance in the film is immediate and
dramatic, glowing bright red and shrieking in pain as he decimates Hong Kong. It
seems the big guy is a living nuclear reactor, and one that is set for a
meltdown that could be a calamity for the planet. Making matters worse is the
discovery of a species of prehistoric crabs that eventually grow and merge into
one gigantic creature. The creature is dubbed The Destroyer, since its
transformation was the after-effects of the Oxygen Destroyer, the device that
killed the original Godzilla in 1954. While Godzilla's condition worsens,
authorities lure him into a battle with The Destroyer in hopes of destroying the
other creature before Godzilla melts.
The excuse Toho gave for benching Godzilla was that they
had no new ideas left. That statement isn't really true, because "Godzilla
vs. Destroyer" is full of great ideas and should have been a knockout film
that would have kaiju fans begging for more. But the concepts are either not
very well executed or are just abandoned for no reason. The idea of re-creating
the dreaded Oxygen Destroyer is brought up, then ignored. Central characters
fade into the background midway through the film for no apparent reason and
weaker characters take center stage. Some interesting philosophical questions
are introduced, but never elaborated on and take a back seat to the monster
melee. Several scenes in the film seem to have been lifted from "Jurassic
Park", "Aliens" and "Predator", which further cheapen the film.
Another major problem is The Destroyer himself. First
introduced as a school of tiny crabs that literally eat the flesh off fish, they
promises to be a formidable enemy. But they soon merge to form several fake
looking insect-like creatures and eventually one giant rubbery monstrosity. In
its final incarnation, The Destroyer moves stiffly and looks incredibly fake
when flying. Not a very threatening creature, and certainly not a worthy final
foe for Godzilla.
On the flip side, Godzilla has never looked more dangerous.
Steaming and glowing red, he's fueled by agony and confusion at his condition.
But while he's at his most lethal, the filmmakers seem to restrain him, as if
feeling audiences aren't ready for a feral Godzilla. This is another detraction
from the film; Godzilla is misery and agony walking, but he's never allowed to
truly express it. Let him rage and destroy! It's certainly consistent with his
Direction by Takao Okawara is adequate, but never manages
to elevate the film to the event status it deserves to be. It's like someone
forgot to tell Okawara that this was meant to be the last Godzilla film. As a
result, Okawara just puts the cast through their paces, never encouraging any
standout performances, and probably hoping the monsters will carry the rest of
the movie. Veteran writer Kazuki Omori has some fantastic ideas, but they never
evolve enough to make "Godzilla vs. Destroyer" into the great film it
should be. Omori even cheats Godzilla of his final victory by letting the
Japanese Defense Forces deal the killing blow, a cardinal sin in this film. The
denouement that shows that Godzilla's legacy will continue is nice, but it lacks
any real emotional impact and doesn't inspire the hope it was obviously intended
"Godzilla vs. Destroyer" is a good Godzilla film.
It does have entertaining moments and is a nice bookend to the series. But it
should have been so much better, and it seems as if the producers concentrated
more on the "death of Godzilla" marketing gimmick instead of making a
good film. At least this year they'll get a second chance, with the production
of "Godzilla: Final Wars" -- again billed as the final Godzilla film
-- already underway. Hopefully they'll learn from past mistakes and give
Godzilla the glorious exit he deserves.