Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

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.

As far as I can tell, nearly the entire score is reused themes and material from older films, though with cleaner sound quality and updated orchestration. Obviously Godzilla and Ghidorah have their original themes, but Ifukube also uses material from Rodan to score a battle between the latter monster and jet fighters in “Get King Ghidorah.” One of the action themes, first heard in “Main Titles,” is none other than the instrumental version of King Kong’s theme from his 1962 encounter with Godzilla. Another returning theme is the Destroy All Monsters march in “The Self Defense Force Mobilizes.” Here it’s less dashing and heroic and more foreboding, as the heroes aren’t flying around in a rocket ship this time.

The material that I think is new includes three themes. One is a somber piece in “Farewell to the Dinosaur.” It reflects an emotional but complicated bond between Godzilla and a WWII veteran. “Godzillasaurus Appears” brings us a secondary Godzilla theme for his more destructive moments. “Terazawa and Emmy” introduces a love theme (or perhaps not a love theme considering a revelation at the film’s end). It’s a gorgeous melody and helps break up the suspenseful and tragic material. The Futurians are given a mysterious motif derived from one of the older alien themes. One cool piece of music is a piano action motif in “Android M11.”

Ifukube does do something a little different with Godzilla and Ghidorah’s theme. This is the film where he firmly established the Godzilla March. It starts off with his sinister motif from Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, than goes into repetitive three-note phrases to build into the more heroic theme. The three-note increments make for a nice foreshadowing moment in “A Sign of Godzilla.” Ghidorah’s theme appears in all its majesty. One issue with its use is that (spoiler) he sort of becomes a hero at one point, but is still scored with his villainous material. It makes two interesting appearances before its full reveal. There’s a foreboding statement following rambling piano in “Opening.” The theme is then repurposed with sparkling instrumentation to represent the Dorats, cute genetic creations that will be transformed into the three-headed dragon.

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is a good listen. It was nice for Ifukube to create something with more updated sound quality. However, I have to knock off points for lack of originality. Ifukube would thankfully display more of this quality as the Heisei series progressed.

Rating: 6/10

Tracklisting

  1. Opening
  2. Main Title
  3. UFO Raid
  4. Remembering Lagos Island
  5. The Unidentified Flying Object
  6. Dinosaur Photos
  7. The Self-Defense Force Swings into Action
  8. 3D Images I
  9. 3D Images II
  10. Teleportation
  11. Suggestions from the Future
  12. MOTHER
  13. The Dorats
  14. The Lagos Island Garrison
  15. The Garrison Charges
  16. Godzillasaurus
  17. Godzillasaurus’ Resurrection
  18. Farewell to the Dinosaurs
  19. The Dorats of Lagos Island
  20. King Ghidorah’s Shadow
  21. King Ghidorah Attacks Fukuoka
  22. Terazawa and Emi
  23. At the Bottom of the Bering Sea
  24. Android M11
  25. The Giant Column of Water
  26. The Appearance of Godzilla
  27. Godzilla Comes Ashore in Hokkaido
  28. King Ghidorah Crashes
  29. King Ghidorah Beheaded
  30. Godzilla’s Victory
  31. The Appearance of Mecha-King Ghidorah
  32. Farewell My Homeland
  33. Ending Mix I
  34. Ending Mix II
  35. Main Title
  36. The Appearance of Mecha-King Ghidorah
  37. Get King Ghidorah!
  38. Rolling Titles

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