Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla (2002)

Composed by: Michiru Oshima

Masaaki Tezuka returned to the Godzilla franchise two years after Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, and he brought composer Michiru Oshima back with him. Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla is more than just a reboot of the last MechaGodzilla vehicle. This time the mech is literally built around the bones of the original 1954 Godzilla! This is the closest fans have gotten to a Godzilla vs. Godzilla movie. Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla is the first half of the Kiryu duology, Kiryu being the new name for MechaGodzilla. These are among my favorite Godzilla films, with good storylines, some pretty good characters, great special effects and battle scenes, and also some of the best Kaiju music.

Oshima once again starts the score with Godzilla’s theme. In “Toho Logo – Transport Duty” it leads to a one-off military march. The second track sees the return of the full-fledged Godzilla theme presentation. The iterations of the Godzilla theme aren’t much different than what was presented in Oshima’s last entry, but she distinguishes her score with the wealth of new themes. The first of these appears in “Main Title.” It’s the first of many heroic motifs established for the score. After a tragic event in the opening sequence, Oshima goes into dour-sounding material in “Ominous Memories” and “Memorial Service.” “Appearance Requested” is an urgent track with the fanfare from “Main Title.” Continue reading

Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)

Composed by: Kow Otani

As with the previous Heisei series, the first films of the Shinsei series underperformed box office expectations, and once again Toho once again rescued the franchise by bringing back classic monsters. Shusuke Kaneko, the director the critically acclaimed Gamera trilogy form the 90s, was given a crack at the Big G. This time Godzilla squares off against the trio of Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Baragon. GMK (the popular abbreviation in light of the film’s rather lengthy title), is one of my personal favorite Godzilla films. It takes some risky unique angles (turning the monsters into physical manifestations of spirits, making King Ghidorah a good guy, etc.) and it pays off. This time Godzilla is the destructive embodiment of all the souls killed in the Pacific War. He targets Japan, which was mostly responsible for said war. Godzilla’s assault threatens nature itself, prompting a trio of sacred guardian monsters to come to Japan’s rescue. In addition to a highly original premise, GMK doesn’t sugarcoat the level of death and suffering a monster attack would bring. While previous films rarely showed the actual deaths of human onscreen, here soldiers are visibly blown into the sky or incinerated, while people are crushed and obliterated inside their buildings.

Matching the unique nature of the film is Kow Otani’s score. Otani is a frequent collaborator with Kaneko, including on his Gamera films. Kaneko’s Godzilla score is heavy on synthesizers and electronics, a stark departure from previous scores. It nevertheless works well thanks to the strength of his themes. Kaneko’s score is very thematic, with four major and a couple ancillary themes filling up almost every space. Godzilla’s theme is introduced forebodingly at the very start of the album. It makes its first full fledged appearance at 0:15 in “Main Title.” Matching the Big G’s most villainous portrayal, it’s decidedly more sinister than his other themes. One unusual appearance of this theme is “Escape from Godzilla,” where it starts off powerful and menacing, but then literally fails (this makes sense if you see the scene it accompanies). Continue reading

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)

Composed by: Michiru Oshima

Godzilla Millennium established a new series. Oddly, though, most of the movies in the Shinsei series would follow their own individual continuities. Thus Godzilla vs. Megaguirus was set in a different timeline than its predecessor and none of the following films continued where it left off. This film is often seen as okay to bad. I actually like it myself, but understand the criticism that not much new is done in the story. The plot sees a reimagining of giant bugs from the 1956 Rodan. This time the insects, giant dragonflies with stingers, go through several forms, feeding on energy which they ultimately transfer to their queen, the titanic Megaguirus. At the same time Japan’s Self-Defense Force is trying to use an artificial black hole to remove Godzilla from earth. One of the film’s strongest points is its score by Michiru Oshima, the first female composer for the franchise. Continue reading

Godzilla 2000

Godzilla 2000: Millenium [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] * by Takayuki  Hattori (CD, May-2005, GNP/Crescendo) for sale online | eBay

Composed by: Hattori Takayuki

After the disastrously unfaithful American take on Godzilla in 1998, Toho Studios immediately swung into action and restored the giant city-crusher to his proper glory. Just the following year they completed Godzilla Millennium. This film was given a limited theatrical release in the US the next year, hence the title Godzilla 2000. I rather like Godzilla 2000. It has high entertainment value with the wonderfully cheesy American dub. The plot itself, concerning a giant prehistoric rock which houses an alien life form with a secret plan for world domination, is actually not too bad, although the alien’s monstrous creation at the end of the film is laughably clunky. The human characters are interesting for a Godzilla film as well. Their relative memorability for American audiences might be a result of the (reportedly intentional) goofy dubbing. With Akira Ifukube, the franchise’s chief composer, effectively stepping down from the series for a second time, Toho turned to another man, Hattori Takayuki, who had previously done Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla. Hattori created a fairly varied score, albeit with some very cheap-sounding instrumentation.

The American album release contains all of the Japanese score plus some sound effects. In the American release of the film itself a great deal of this music was taken out and replaced with new cues, none of which is presented on album. Comparing the music between the two versions, I’ll have to say that I generally prefer Hattori’s work, probably because his compositions show a thematic consistency. However, some of the American cues really add to the atmosphere of the military and monster scenes.

Hattori abandons his Godzilla theme from Space Godzilla, not a bad idea since that theme was a weak point in that particular score. It was too heroic and corny and didn’t suggest anything of the terror or majesty of the fire-breathing dinosaur. The composer instead gives Godzilla a melancholic theme, showcased in the first track. This theme doesn’t really make too much of an impact after the opening tracks, with only small statements woven into the score until the final battle cues. That said it is a far superior theme from Hattori. Continue reading

Godzilla (1998)

Composed by: David Arnold

The first American Godzilla film, released by Sony, spent nearly a decade stuck in development hell. Originally Jan de Bont of Speed fame sought to introduce Japan’s monster star through Hollywood. The plot would have had Godzilla battle an evil shape-shifting alien entity named Gryphon. This film was rejected, ostensibly due to budgetary concerns, and the reins were handed over to Roland Emmerich, who in the mid-90s was a rising blockbuster star with Stargate and Independence Day. At first Emmerich seemed a natural fit thanks to the destruction scenes in Independence Day, but it turned out that he absolutely had no liking for the Japanese films and thought them stupid, as did producer Dean Devilin. The end result, which came out in the summer of 1998, was financially successful, but a critical flop and a point of ire for Godzilla fans.

The Godzilla in this film is a mutated iguana that for some reason decides to swim all the way from the South Pacific to New York. Once there he causes havoc, but unlike the original he can be killed by heavier human weapons. Instead of destroying the city like a god, he spends the action scenes running away from helicopters, which cause more destruction than the monster itself with their missiles. The lead character, a scientist played by Matthew Broderick, learns that Godzilla is actually pregnant (making Godzilla a she or a creature able to switch genders). A rip-off of the raptor chase from Jurassic Park ensues. The movie is a bastardization of the source material. Its makers thought Godzilla was stupid and wanted to make him more “realistic.” Since 1998 Godzilla fandom has somewhat mellowed, preferring to see it as a decent fun film starring an unrelated Iguana called Zilla or GINO (Godzilla In Name Only). I still think it’s an abomination and an example of Americans not getting something from another culture. There is one bright spot in the movie and that’s David Arnold’s score. Continue reading