A Few Brief Notes about Movie Reviews

  1. All the ratings are relative to the other Godzilla movies. A low rating simply means that I didn't think it was as good as other Godzilla movies. I like ALL the movies, however -- even the ones I give "bad" reviews to -- and I'd take ANY of these movies over, say, the latest Merchant-Ivory production....
  2. Movies are ranked on a scale of 1 to 4 godzillas. More or less. Some really bad movies get 1/2 godzilla or even a bomb (the worst of the worst), whereas a few exceptional examples get 4 1/2 or even 5 godzillas. It's kind of like saying somebody gave 110% effort, you know?
  3. A few of the movies have two reviews, one for the "Americanized" version and one for the original Japanese version. This is reserved for cases where (a) I've actually seen both versions of the movie and (b) where the differences between the two versions were significant enough to warrant separate reviews and rankings.
  4. Many of the reviews contain a "CREDITS" section where I include the original Japanese name for each movie. Many of the titles can be literally translated in various ways, however. For example, the word "kaiju" can be translated as "strange creature" and "mysterious beast", among other things. However, I have chosen to use the the word "monster." It may not be linguistically precise, but I think it best conveys the sense. I mean, these are "monster movies" after all.... Another word that shows up in a lot of the titles is "dai", which can be translated as "big" or "great". It's often used in conjunction with other words, however, and I've decided to not try to translate it literally at all times. For example, "daikaiju" could be translated as "giant strange creature", but this is rather awkward and I think that "monster" is sufficient. Similary, "daisenso" could be translated as "giant battle", but I prefer to simply translate it as "war". All of this is a matter of taste, and I do not pretend to be an expert on the subject.
  5. Although many of the movies seem to follow a continuous storyline of sorts, the continuity has been broken up various times. This is especially true between the "old" series and the "new series". See below for some more detailed notes on the subject of Godzilla continuity.

Godzilla Continuity

Original Series (1954-1974)

There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding how the different Godzilla movies relate to each other, and events in certain movies have been used to help "prove" various theories about Godzilla. For example, the treatment of the title monster in "Gigantis, The Fire Monster" as a separate monster than the one in "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" has led some people to argue that the Godzilla portrayed in all the movies after the first one was, in fact Godzilla's mate, and is therefore female.

So, what's the truth? Beats me! What's my opinion on the subject? Read on ...

Essentially, the early Godzilla movies weren't attempting to achieve any sort of coherent continuity among the various films. The first movie was meant as a one-shot "movie with a moral", and Toho was as surprised as anyone when the movie did well enough to warrant a sequel. Although the second movie, "Gigantis, The Fire Monster", did make reference to the first movie, it claimed that both monsters were members of a species of "fire monsters" which had been around since prehistoric times, whereas the first movie indicated that Godzilla was created through man's testing of atomic weapons.

In the next movie, "King Kong vs. Godzilla", Godzilla was treated as if no one had ever seen him before. Instead, he was believed to be a "prehistoric species of dinosaur" who had been lying dormant, frozen in an iceberg, for almost 100 million years.

I've always liked to think of there being only one Godzilla for all the original movies, with the thought that somehow he regenerated from his "death" in the first movie. Basically, if there were more than one of him around, why would only one show up at a time? Why would they take turns attacking Tokyo? Having said that, though, he did disintegrate pretty thoroughly at the end of the first movie, so maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part.

"Hesiei" Series (1984-1995)

With the release of "Godzilla 1984" (a.k.a. "Godzilla 1985"), Toho made a conscious decision to rewrite Godzilla history. All the movies after the original were deemed to have never happened at all. Thus, any discussion of the later Godzilla being the original Godzilla's mate appear to be mooted.

For a while, the new series attempted to follow a strict continuity, with each movie picking up where the previous one left off, and with frequent references being made to previous films. Thus, at the end of "Godzilla 1984", Godzilla falls into a volcano, and in "Godzilla vs. Biollante", Godzilla arises from the same volcano. Similarly, in "Godzilla vs. Biollante" Biollante heads off into space, and in "Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla" there is speculation that Space Godzilla could have been created from some of Biollante's cells carried into space. In "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla", it is revealed that Mechagodzilla was built using technology gleaned from the cybernetic version of King Ghidorah from "Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah". Finally, "Godzilla vs, Destroyer" comes full circle and has a monster created from the device which originally defeated Godzilla in the first Godzilla movie.

All of this carefully maintained continuity, however, falls apart with the events depicted in "Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah". In that film, time-travelers remove Godzilla from the island where he was exposed to the nuclear bomb test which turned him into everyone's favorite radioactive reptile in the first place. Unfortunately for the time-travelers, Godzilla lies dormant in the ocean near Tokyo until he is exposed, many years later, to the radiation given off by a sunken nuclear submarine. This means that, not only did the original "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" never take place, but neither did the events portrayed in "Godzilla 1985" or "Godzilla vs. Biollante"! And if these movies never occurred, then where did Space Godzilla and Destroyer come from?

Anyway, the point is that the movies that make up the so-called "Heisei" series [from "Godzilla 1984" through "Godzilla vs. Destroyer"] did follow a loose continuity that was unfortunately mucked up royally by the time-travel events in "Godzilla vs. King Ghiodrah."

"Alternate Reality" Series (1999 -2001)

When Toho restarted the series for a third time with
Godzilla 2000, they threw the Heisei continuity out the window and started again from scratch the same way they did with "Godzilla 1984." The main difference, however, is that they decided to not have any continuity whatsoever among "Godzilla 2000" and two movies that followed it. Which is to say that Godzilla 2000, Godzilla vs. Megaguiras, and GMK: All Monsters Attack are each meant be stand-alone films, each retelling the legend of Godzilla from a new perspective. For this reason, these three films are commonly referred to as the "Alternate Universe" series, since each film created its own unique Godzilla universe.

New Generation Series (2002 - 2003)

And then, in 2002, Toho came out with Godzilla x Mechagodzilla (III), which once again started the whole thing over again from scratch, recognizing only the original movie as part of its continuity. The following movie, Godzilla vs. Mothra vs. Mechagodzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is a direct sequel to Godzilla x Mechagodzilla (III). Since these movies have shared continuity, they cannot properly be called part of the "Alternate Universe" series. Therefore, for lack of a better term, I am currently referring to them as the "New Generation" movies.

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Finally (for now, at least), we have Godzilla: Final Wars. Once again, continuity is thrown to the wind and the series is started over again for the purpose of finishing it. Well, sort of. The movie is certainly not a direct sequel to the previous two films, and there's no mention of the events that took place in those films. However, the movie is designed to be the culmination of 50 years worth of Godzilla films, and there are various references to many of the movies, both old and new, throughout. Basically, it's as if Toho took every Godzilla movie made over the last 50 years, stuck them together in a blender, hit "puree" and then threw the entire mess on the screen. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you....

[And then, of course, you have the so-called "American Godzilla" movie, which has nothing whatsoever to do with any of the other Godzilla movies and isn't really a Godzilla movie in the first place, so I'm not sure why I even bother mentioning it....]

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