If you haven’t had a chance to read our brief rundown of the original Showa era of Godzilla films then please read part one HERE .
TOHO may have put a halt on the Godzilla films in 1975, but they never truly gave up on the Big G. From 1975 until 1983 there were a few projected ideas, but none seemed to get past the planning stages. One release did slip through the radars in 1977 though; an Italian re-colorization of Godzilla! King of the Monsters, usually referred to as Cozzilla. KOTM was purchased, colorized, and released by Italian film Director Luigi Cozzi. Some may remember him as the director of such classic films like Contamination, Star Crash, and Hercules (under the name Lewis Coates). Cozzilla isn’t an easy watch even for diehard fans, Luigi not only added nausea inducing color but a slew of stock footage to boot. The final result may be one of the most bizarre moments in kaiju film history.
Japan knew that 1984 would be Godzilla’s thirtieth birthday and a film must happen. What kind of movie would TOHO need to produce after such a long hiatus? The final result was The Return of Godzilla (Godzilla 1984, U.S. Title).
TOHO had decided to go with a hard reboot with the franchise; Return being a direct sequel to the ’54 original. Godzilla would no longer be a hero fighting on the side of humans. Gone were the space invaders. Gone were the annoying children. Gone were most of the “godfathers” of Godzilla. Ishiro Honda would be working with Akira Kurosawa throughout the rest of his career. Eji Tsuburaya had passed away in 1970. Composer Akira Ifukube had left the series after Terror of Mechagodzilla and retired in 1979 (though he would compose themes for later Godzilla movies in ’91,’92,’93, and ’95 respectively). It would be producer Tomoyuki Tanaka who would bring Godzilla back to come stomping onto screens.
The Return of Godzilla would draw decent ticket sales so TOHO decided to market the movie internationally like the previous titles of the Showa era. New World Pictures would release Godzilla 1984 in the United States. Like the original it would feature additional footage of Raymond Burr filmed and inserted into the film.
Though sales were good, they weren’t enough to immediately jump start a new series. The follow up film Godzilla vs Biollante would be released in 1989. Featuring one of the series’ most original and terrifying foes, this film still wouldn’t garner the sales that TOHO wanted for one of their flagship titles. It was decided that a lighter, family friendly tone should be taken again. This didn’t mean that Godzilla would start featuring annoying children again, but it did mean the themes would be lighter and more familiar faces would appear.
In 1991 King Ghidorah would return to face Godzilla in the appropriately titled Godzilla vs King Ghidorah. Since the Heisei films were a new continuity, King Ghidorah was given a new terrestrial origin.
GvKK was a science fiction epic through and through. Time travel, UFOs, androids, laser pistols; this movie had everything going for it. To this day the movie is highly debated by fans, though this is one of the more memorable Heisei films along with Biollante.
Unfortunately, King Ghidorah wasn’t a smash. A new installment was approved and would be released in 1992. Godzilla vs Mothra would see the return of the goddess moth as well as a darker incarnation named Battra. Godzilla vs Mothra would be the highest grossing film of the Heisei era. Prior to this film there had been talks of a Mothra solo film. Mothra would get three films with the Rebirth of Mothra trilogy released in ’96,’97,’98 respectively.
Staying true to the new formula of giving classic characters updated terrestrial origins, Mechagodzilla was brought back in 1993 in Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II U.S.). Not only would Godzilla’s cybernetic foe return being piloted by humans trained to take down the big G, Rodan would return to join in the fray. Due to the positive feedback with Mothra from female audience members in Japan, Godzilla’s son Minilla was also introduced as Baby Godzilla.
Mechagodzilla II ended up making back almost double it’s budget so a sequel was once again green lit. Godzilla vs SpaceGodzilla would be released in 1994 and would once again double it’s budget in sales. Today this film usually considered the lowest point for the series. The film has been accused of suffering from a convoluted plot and bad special effects.
During this time there had already been an American Godzilla film in the works. TOHO decided that it was time to retire the King once and for all. 1995’s Godzilla vs Destoroyah would showcase Godzilla fighting a beast that spawned from the science used to kill the Godzilla in the ’54 film. TOHO made no qualms about this being the final Godzilla film to come out of Japan, even running ads sporting the kanji text ゴジラは死にます (“Godzilla dies”). News of his demise even made it on to American news stations before the film was distributed outside of Japan.
Godzilla vs Destoroyah was the highest grossing Japanese film of 1996 and ended the Heisei series on a high note. Though they aren’t as fondly remembered as the Showa films, the Heisei movies are more than stellar. Spanning only seven films in the era, each still offers a unique story. Seeing the strings in a 90’s film may not have the same charm as seeing the strings in a 60’s film, but the practical suit effects are pretty steady throughout the Heisei era.
1998 would see the release of the first ever American Godzilla film. GODZILLA (Dir. Roland Emmerich) would be panned by most critics. Featuring lack luster CGI, a sub par script, and the least “God-like” interpretation of Godzilla to date; most people probably remember the Taco Bell ads and soundtrack better than they remember the actual film.
American fans weren’t happy, and neither was TOHO. Production soon started on a new film in the franchise. This film would be the start of the Millennium Era of films……