After TriStar had tried their hand at making a Godzilla movie, TOHO took up the reigns once again. Takao Okawara returned to the franchise to direct Godzilla 2000 (having directed three of the seven Heisei films), released in 1999. Godzilla 2000 would once again reboot the series, telling an original tale with no ties to previous films.
TriStar would obtain the rights to the film and release a slightly edited version to theaters in America. This was the first TOHO produced Godzilla film to be released in theaters since Godzilla 1985. 2000 would prove to be a moderate success for TOHO so more films would be produced.
Godzilla 2000 would be the final film Takao Okawara would direct for TOHO. A new director was found in Masaaki Tesuka, who would deliver the next film Godzilla vs Megaguirus in 2000. This wasn’t a direct sequel to 2000, using ’54 as it’s only backstory. Megaguirus was actually a returning kaiju from TOHO’s glory days of the 1950’s and 1960’s. She had originally appeared in larval form as Meganulon in the 1956 classic Rodan. Megaguirus was truly a throwback to the 70’s Showa films; featuring a child lead, black holes, physics defying fights, and low box-office returns.
TOHO would get well know director Shusuke Kaneko to direct the next film in the franchise. Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack would come out in 2001 and offer a drastic change as far as kaiju characters were concerned. Once again ignoring all the previous sequels, GMK would see Godzilla return as the embodiment of all the distressed souls of those who died in World War II. Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Baragon would see themselves as the heroes in defending Japan from the Big G. This would mark Mothra’s first Millennium appearance, Ghidorah’s first hero role, and Baragon’s first film since 1965’s Frankenstein Conquers the World. With a classic line-up and darker tone, GMK was a success. It would be the highest grossing movie of the Millennium Era.
TOHO’s next film would be Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. GxMg would ignore previous Millennium films, but would selectively keep Gojira (’54), Mothra (’61), and War of the Gargantuas (’66) as part of it’s continuity. In this film, the bones of the Godzilla who died in 1954 would be the framework for Mechagodzilla. Director Masaaki Tezuka would score a success and a direct sequel would be green lit.
Mothra would return again as Mechagodzilla’s ally in 2003′ Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. Also returning would be Hiroshi Koizumi as Dr. Shinichi Chujo, a character from the ’61 Mothra.
Tezuka ended up turning down four different scripts that TOHO had selected; instead, writing his own script that the studio would later approve. S.O.S. would open at third it’s opening weekend. TOHO wasn’t making the money they wanted to so it was decided that once again, the franchise would be retired following the fiftieth anniversary film.
TOHO would go all out for Godzilla: Final Wars. Ryuhei Kitamura, director of Versus (2000) and Azumi (2003) would sign on direct Godzilla’s final outing. Kitamura stated that the 70’s Godzilla movies were his favorites and that Final Wars would be his homage to that era. Kitamura didn’t disappoint either. All the madness kaiju fans could imagine made it into the film. Aliens, mutants, sword fights, motorcycle-fu, and flying battleships made up the final product. A whopping total of 14 kaiju would appear on screen, including the TriStar Godzilla. Making up the rest of the roster would be Mothra, Rodan, Anguirius, Ebirah, Hedorah, Minilla, Gigan, King Caesar, Kumonga, Kamacarus, Manda, and King Ghidorah.
If Kitamura was trying to make a 70’s era Showa film, then one could say he succeeded. Though the most expensive film to date, Final Wars would be the least attended film in the entire series since Terror of Mechagodzilla.
TOHO meant what they said about Final Wars being the final Godzilla movie. After production, they deconstructed the water tank that they had used all throughout the franchise. It was official, after fifty years, the King was retired.
The franchise would lie dormant until Legendary Pictures released Godzilla in 2014. During this time most of the franchise had finally become available in North America on DVD, Blu-Ray, and streaming services. Now is one of the best times to be a kaiju fan. Not only are the majority of Godzilla films available, so are many other lesser known kaiju films. Now with the release of Shin Godzilla and news of an American Godzilla vs King Kong, one can only ponder where the franchise may go from here.
It doesn’t matter if you are new to the series or a lifelong fan, there are plenty of movies to go around. Not many movie characters have such an abundance of films that offer such a variety of different styles. It doesn’t matter if Godzilla faces off against evil space dragons or unimpressed studio executives; the big guy just won’t stay down. The King of the Monsters has held his title for sixty years; here’s hoping for sixty more!