After a 10 year break Toho brings Godzilla back to his darker, scarier roots. The franchise had been laid to rest after Terror of Mechagodzilla, and after a long vacation Godzilla resurrects the series in the first film in what is commonly referred to as the “Heisei Series”.
This Godzilla is not a reboot or remake, but is a direct sequel of the 1954 original. It takes place in modern times (1984), but in a universe where Japan had been attacked and nearly brought to its knees by the original Godzilla in 1954. Japan spends the next 30 years rebuilding and praying that Godzilla will never return.
But dark omens begin to appear when sailors begin to get attacked by giant mutated sea life. An intrepid news reporter goes to investigate the missing ship, and finds only one survivor, who claims that the ship was attacked by none other than Godzilla himself.
Initially, the government keeps the discovery under wraps to prevent the spread of panic, but drawn to nuclear power (which is its food) Godzilla attacks and utterly destroys a Russian (USSR) nuclear sub. This kicks off tension between Communist Russia and America and full thermonuclear war seems imminent.
Can all sides put away their differences to battle an even more threatening foe: Godzilla?
This entry is one of my favorites. Many Godzilla fans do not like this one as much, being that it is much darker, more political, and very serious in tone. Those are the reasons I love it. It harks back to the original, and what Godzilla is really about; our relationship with nuclear weapons and nuclear power.
This movie brings back the terrifying Godzilla, the improvements in technology really let the movie makers create a scarier Godzilla, and you get a much better idea of scale and terror in this one. The miniatures that they use in this one are meticulously detailed, and hold up pretty well even today, considering that they are just models. When Godzilla attacks Tokyo, he is surrounded by buildings that are actually taller than him, and it really is stunning. It makes the destruction feel so real.
This movie had been in development for nearly the whole 10 years the series was on hiatus. Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka commissioned many spec scripts to be written, and many of those ideas would be used in this film, including the Super-X a flying tank that does battle with Godzilla, and the general idea of resetting continuity.
One reason that Toho decided to finally fund this movie was because of Godzilla Mania in 1983. This was a film festival where Toho showed all of its classic monster movies, and it was incredibly well attended, and created a new generation of potential fans. Seeing the potential for resurrecting the incredibly lucrative series, Toho finally gave the go-ahead to Tanaka and a significantly increased budget.
Tanaka tried to recruit many of the original crew of the original Godzilla, including director Ishiro Honda, but most declined due to the death of Eiji Tsurubaya, who had handled the special effects for most of the films. The original composer Akira Ikufube also turned away from the project upon learning of many of the changes made to the character, including increasing Godzilla’s size from 50 meters to 80 meters. He said, “I don’t compose music for 80-meter sized monsters.”
Despite the many setbacks, Tanaka recruited a fresh crew. But the troubles weren’t over for the production. They had originally planned for someone else to don the new Godzilla suit, but at the last minute it was changed to Kenpachiro Satsuma. Being as the suit was tailored to fit someone else, the suit was far too big and heavy for him. Throughout the filming, a wire in the leg of the suit cut into his leg. And in one point, the special effects team did not seal his suit correctly, even after he told them that he didn’t think it was sealed. In the scene, there were several pyrotechnics, and some of the shrapnel from the explosions made it through his unsealed suit and into his back. He was not seriously hurt, but he was not happy with the SFX team. Overall he lost a lot of weight throughout the filming, ironically mirroring the experiences of Haruo Nakajima (the original Godzilla) who lost over 20 lbs.
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