With an American Godzilla film underway, Toho decided it would be wise to avoid having two concurrent Godzilla series. They decided to go out with a bang and heavily advertised that Godzilla would die in the next film, Godzilla vs. Destroyah. This guaranteed strong box office sales. Godzilla vs. Destroyah itself is one of the stronger Heisei offerings. Godzilla has absorbed too much nuclear energy, to the point that parts of his body are glowing. Humans learn that he will eventually implode and cause a global nuclear nightmare. Thus they need to cool him down with freezing lasers at the critical moment. To make things worse, the Oxygen Destroyer from the original film has mutated pre-Cambrian creatures into a super-powerful Kaiju named Destroyah. The film wonderfully ties in the original film’s plot, bringing everything full circle. However, it’s far from perfect. Some of the budget-saving work is surprisingly lazy. Godzilla is superimposed into stock shots of cities that show pedestrians and traffic going about their normal business. At least the effects for Destroyah himself are pretty neat.
It was only natural that the Big G’s big death be scored by Akira Ifukube. Ifukube starts off with an epic percussive flourish in “Toho Logo” and ominous strings in “Disappearance of Birth Island.” The real strong start is “Main Title.” Ifukube reworks the secondary Godzilla motif from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and mixes it with the Terror of Godzilla theme. This new version of Godzilla’s motifs serve as his theme for the film, as he is a walking global bomb at this point. After a harp flourish at the 2:03 mark Ifukube launches into Destroyah’s theme. It’s a powerful identity that suggests the world-ending power of Godzilla’s final foe. In an interview Ifukube revealed that he originally wanted to use the Oxygen Destroyer motif from King of the Monsters, but decided it did not effectively convey the monster it created. He does use the eerie strings from it under a light-toned iteration of Destroyah’s theme in “Discovery of the Tiny Creatures.” Destroyah’s theme makes frequent appearances, in ominous foreboding fashion in the earlier cues and in grander fashion in the later battle cues. Ifukube really plays with the theme’s tempo. Sometimes he really slows it down to drag out its menace. Continue reading →
Having exhausted their list of mega-monster stars, and also having established a financially successful series, the brains at Toho decided to go back to original monster creations…sort of. Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla sees Godzilla cells (shot into space in previous films) merge with alien DNA to create a crystal-humped monstrosity. SpaceGodzilla threatens to destroy life on earth by turning it into a power source via crystal structures. Opposing him are the Big G and Moguera, a reimagining of a giant mech from the 50s film Mysterians. Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla is a divisive entry, considered by many to be the worst of the Heisei series. I ascribe to this sentiment. Despite having more original monsters it feels less inspired. The first half or so is so bad its fun (largely thanks to the English dub), but the final battle is torturously long. One aspect that really stands out in a negative way is director Kensho Yamashita’s attempt to inject a prominent love story between psychic Miki Saegusa and the male lead. Romance is a tricky prospect for Godzilla films and it fails miserably here.
Akira Ifukube did not return for this outing. One of the reported reasons is that he was not enthused with the script and did not want to devote his talents to it. Takayuki Hattori was called up. Hattori is the Masaru Satoh of the more recent Godzilla films, making sporadic returns and often changing his theme for the Big G. While some of Ifukube’s material would be used in the film, Hattori would create his own musical stamp. Hattori’s music has been released on three albums. The first was a 23 track single-disc album. The second was a two-disc set of the music as heard in the film. The Perfect Collection had two discs, one bonus material and the other, which this review will be based on, containing 30 tracks. The complete score set is really the 30 tracks edited into points of the film. Unfortunately many of these tracks have technical labels like “M-25” but TohoKingdom does have a “Fan Track Listing” that can be used to rectify this. Continue reading →
Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II is not a sequel to the original Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla, but a continuation of the 90s Heisei series. Continuing their strategy of rebooting older monsters, the producers at Toho brought back the two remaining mega-monster stars: MechaGodzilla and Rodan. They also gave Godzilla a son again, but rather than bring back the divisive Minya they opted for a more realistic take. There are two central plots to the film. The first is G-Force, an organization tasked with battling Godzilla and other monsters, creating a mechanical Godzilla in hopes of finally killing the Big G once and for all. The other is the discovery of an egg in Rodan’s nest. It turns out to be a baby Godzilla, and Godzilla and Rodan battle for custody of the child. Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II is full of good ideas, but I find the film to be somewhat lacking. I think it’s not absurd or good enough to draw me in. The real issue might be the monster battles. The Heisei series is infamous for having the monsters stand apart throwing beams at each other and I find it to get boring at times. It’s nice to actually have them sometimes grapple or fight like actual animals. The music, though, is probably Ifukube’s best from the 90s. Continue reading →
Having learned with Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah that bringing back classic monsters would draw larger audiences, Toho thought it only natural to resurrect their second most popular creation: Mothra. Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth as an alright movie. The general plotline is too much of a mash-up of Mothra and Mothra vs. Godzilla. Once again an unscrupulous corporation wants the Mothra egg and once again they abduct the giant butterfly’s twin fairy priestesses. This again prompts their goddess to go on a justified rampage. Godzilla himself is pretty much a secondary monster character in his own movie, showing up once early on and then reemerging for the last act. The one aspect that gives the film a good injection of creativity is the addition of Battra, Mothra’s darker twin. As with King Ghidorah, Ifukube already had plenty of pre-created themes to use, but he does show more originality with this entry. Continue reading →
After the box office disappointment of Godzilla vs. Biollante, Toho did what many American studios have done in the past couple decades. They played it safe, acting on nostalgia by bringing back familiar foes and concepts. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah reimagines the dragon as the genetic creation of Futurians, time travelers who claim to be saving Japan from an apocalypse. The time travel elements are wacky and make no sense, but are highly entertaining. They do create some powerful moments by revealing more of Godzilla’s origins and examining his relationship to Japan as both protector and destroyer. This film also brought us the android M-11, who is somehow both cool and goofy at the same time. The film thus works on both an ironically hilarious and legitimately interesting level.
The film’s nostalgia factor was bolstered by the return of Akira Ifukube. According to an interview he was convinced to make his comeback by his daughter. She alerted him to the fact that Godzilla’s heroic theme appeared as a rock piece in Godzilla vs. Biollante. Ifukube thought this a grievous mis-use of his work and felt motivated to do what he considered proper. The result is a familiar and attractive score, but one unfortunately very unoriginal in places. Continue reading →
It took a few years for Toho to follow-up Return of Godzilla. Godzilla vs. Biollante sees corporate terrorists release the Big G from his volcano. The titular opponent for the film is a hybrid monstrosity combining Godzilla, rose, and human DNA. The tentacled Biollante is impressive, towering over Godzilla and well-executed through great visual effects. The movie’s plotline is quite convoluted for a Godzilla film, tackling genetic science, corporate terrorism, psychic abilities, and the usual giant monster fare. Overall I’d say it’s one of the best Godzilla films out there. It’s serious, never devolves into cheesiness (barring the expected dubbing in the American release), and displays a great degree of imagination and innovation. Sadly, the film actually underperformed at the box office. This prompted Toho to rein on originality. The film itself was for a long time only available in America on an HBO video release. Despite this, the film has gradually regained attention and much love from the franchise’s fans, the reviewer here included.
Reijiro Koroku was not brought back. His successor Koichi Sugiyama produces a much livelier score. On album Sugiyama’s music was first released in a sixty-five minute presentation, with the music arranged into fairly lengthy suites. The Perfect Collection added a bonus disc with the music presented as it is in the film, in shorter tracks and in chronological order. From the sound of the second disc it appears Sugiyama constructed his suites and spliced parts of them into the movie. The second disc is more abrupt in how music just fades in and out, but it does enable one to get a grasp of which themes are attached to which characters and ideas.
I find it proper to go through the suites, since each one covers one major thematic idea. “Godzilla 1989” is the new theme for the Big G. It’s a repetitive two-note motif with various string pieces overlaying it. At points the motif cuts out while a racing string section with orchestral bursts takes over. It’s an engaging lengthy piece, but is obviously built on John Williams’ shark theme from Jaws. “Republic of Saradia” starts off with typical Middle-Eastern flourishes and then continues as okay suspense music. “Scramble March” is a light-hearted military march. It starts off softly, but by the end Sugiyama reiterates the march in loud fashion with blaring trumpets and racing string music.
The album takes a softer turn with “Asuka,” a lovely piano piece for the female lead. Actually this theme would be more appropriate for Erika. Erika dies early on and her father, shaken by the event, incorporates her DNA into Biollante. “Countdown” starts off with a suspenseful motif similar to the opening of “Godzilla 1989.” The track goes back and forth between a heroic motif and string music over a bouncy rhythm. “Love Theme” is a decent romantic melody, though it sounds a bit too eloquent and dramatic for the romance in the film, which as in most Godzilla films is greatly underbaked and uninteresting.
The next track is one of the most notable musical entries in Godzilla history, and has generated some controversy. Sugiyama’s orchestra is there, but an electronic guitar and rock drumbeats have the power here. The music is from near the beginning, when rival mercenaries have a chase and shootout in the wreckage from Godzilla’s last rampage. Near the 2:30 mark the track takes a slower tone, but with its rock style intact. There is also a bombastic trumpet section at 2:43. While the rock style is unique for a Godzilla film, the most notable part of the track is the inclusion of Ifukube’s Godzilla theme around the 1:00 and 1:30 marks. Apparently Ifukube’s daughter pointed out the inclusion of the music within a rock-heavy track. Ifukube was not appreciative of the blend of styles and was inspired to make his return to the series with the next film.
The first minute and a half of “Biollante” is a string melody that evokes the tragedy behind the monster’s creation. After that the music takes a dark turn with building suspense. At 3:05 the music goes fully into ominous fare. The music does not pick up much in speed or intensity, though there are some brief bursts of energy. Sugiyama likely wanted to create something that represents Biollante’s plant elements and the wonders of creating life. In fact the suite goes full circle with a grander reiteration of the opening melody.
“Requiem” is another slow melodic piece, but the melody itself fails to leave as strong an impression. “Super X T-2” is one of the highlights, centered around the film’s most heroic theme. After an opening flourish, the suite plays out slow and noble. Over two minutes in, however, the theme picks up speed and keeps going to the end of the track. It’s a great album-ender, fr the original ten track album.
Unlike with other expanded Godzilla soundtracks, the bonus tracks from further releases are of considerable interest (the bonus tracks for other films tend to be barely discernible alternate recordings of previously released tracks). There is a piano-only version of “Asuka.” There is an alternate take of “Bio-Wars” without the guitar, which allows listeners to focus on Sugiyama’s other instrumentation (though the rock beats are still there). There is another version of “Super X T-2,” but I can’t see any real difference. “G-Cells” is an eerie peace that goes on way too long. Also added on are three Akira Ifukube cues from his 1986 Ostinato album. Pieces of these were used in Godzilla vs. Biollante. “Ending” is an abridged version of Super X T-2” that fits nicely onto compilation albums (and in fact was included on GNP Crescendo’s Best of Godzilla: 1984-1995).
Godzilla vs. Biollante is a fine score. There are accusations of plagiarism towards John Williams’ work, but I think this is only fair in the case of “Godzilla 1989.” Sugiyama presents some very fine themes and the suites work well as sustained pieces, as opposed to the multitude of short cues that generally make up these albums. I used to not much care for this score, but I’ve gained more of an appreciation for it. While it has some uninteresting moments and the music editing in the chorological version isn’t the best, I feel comfortable giving it a good rating.
1. Suite 1 Godzilla 1989 -05:59 2. Suite 2 Republic of Saradia -03:35 3. Suite 3 Scramble March -04:28 4. Suite 4 Asuka -04:29 5. Suite 5 Countdown -05:06 6. Suite 6 Love Theme -03:28 7. Suite 7 Bio Wars T-2 -04:36 8. Suite 8 Biollante -06:30 9. Suite 9 Requiem -03:17 10. Suite 10 Super X-2 T-2 -05:59 11. Suite 4 Asuka (Piano Solo)-02:10 12. Suite 4 Asuka (Piano Solo Short)-00:28 13. Suite 7- Bio Wars T-3 -04:35 14. Suite 10- Super X-2 T-3 -05:57 15. G-Cells -03:12 16. Godzilla Titles (From OSTINATO)-01:37* 17. Godzilla vs. The Army (From OSTINATO)-02:59* 18. Great Monster March (From OSTINATO)-03:06* 19. Ending -04:57
1. Toho Logo -00:45 2. Main Titles -01:13* 3. Bio Wars -01:12 4. Republic of Saradia I -00:19 5. Republic of Saradia II -00:20 6. Research Lab Bomb -00:24 7. Death of Erica -00:26 8. Asuka and Kirishima I -01:45 9. Psychic Hospital -00:16 10. Chilling Premonition -00:17* 11. First Alert -00:35 12. Asuka and Kirishima II -00:42 13. Gene Splicing -00:53 14. First Half of the Gene Culture -00:26 15. Second Alert -00:23 16. Break in at Shiragami Labs -00:55 17. Presentment -00:14 18. Biollante in the Lake I -01:50 19. Meeting with “Alien” Organization -00:07 20. Countdown -01:31 21. Return of Godzilla (From OSTINATO) -00:40* 22. Uraga Strait Battle -01:17 23. Super X-2 Mobilization -02:37 24. Escape of SSS9 -00:29 25. Biollante in the Lake II -00:52 26. Super X-2 vs. Godzilla -01:26 27. Ashinoko Defense Line -01:02 28. Godzilla vs. Biollante in Ashinoko -04:06 29. Biollante in the Blaze -01:07 30. Patrol 00:18 31. Ise Bay Defense Line 00:36 32. Godzilla’s Surprise Appearance: Third Alert -00:09 33. Psychic Standoff -01:40 34. Fourth Alert -00:30 35. Evacuation of Osaka -00:31 36. Plot of Saradia -00:25 37. Godzilla Destroys Osaka (From OSTINATO) -01:12* 38. Fight in the Business Park I -02:18 39. Fight in the Business Park II -02:43 40. Thunder Control System I (From OSTINATO) -01:23* 41. Thunder Control System II -01:36 42. Thunder Control System Standby -00:28 43. Attack (From OSTINATO) -01:37* 44. Godzilla vs. the Attack Helicopters -01:14 45. Advent of Biollante -01:00 46. Godzilla vs. Biollante in Wakasa -03:46 47. Ascension of Biollante -01:05 48. Chase SSS9 -01:26 49. Relief -00:33 50. Ending -04:59 51. Previews -01:56