Sunday, February 1, 2015

Godzilla movies from worst to best (Part 1)

As you've gathered, I'm a Godzilla superfan. No, actually that might be the understatement of the year. The OG has been a presence in my life almost as constant as asthma and eczema, and unlike the latter two, he's been a welcome presence. I'm glad as hell he's finally getting the respect and recognition he deserves thanks to last year's brilliant re-imagining. Because the next Godzilla movie is a 2016 Toho production with the next American movie due out in 2018 (yes, that's too damn long), "Jurassic World" is set to occupy the cinematic niche that "Godzilla" did last year. And while I may like "Jurassic Park" as a franchise slightly more, no other movie character has held my unwavering fandom throughout the years like the OG himself. So much that last year, I spent the entire summer collecting all the Godzilla movies from 1954 to the present. Watching them all back to back took some time, so now I get the unenviable (to most sane people) task of ranking them. I'll start at the worst then work my way forward.

30. "Godzilla Raids Again" - This turd gets the honor of worst Godzilla movie. Most people start off their worst to best lists with the 1998 remake, but I actually liked this one less. The reason why is because the original film "Gojira" was such a brilliant piece of cinema, and this one was clearly made and even more clearly rushed to capitalize on its superior predecessor. The fact that the English dub calls Anguirus "Gojira" and Godzilla "Gigantis" in a hilariously bad attempt to set itself apart from "Gojira" really doesn't help its case. The effects are also inferior to those of "Gojira." This one is at the bottom because its predecessor was so brilliant, and it did a complete 180 from that in an attempt to capitalize on the first one's success.

29. "Godzilla" (1998) - The only reason this isn't dead last is because I enjoyed it as a kid. I think I was 7 when it came out. From the point of view of a young child, every movie was the best movie ever, especially if it has a dinosaur and lots of things going boom. Well, mutated iguana, technically. To be fair to ol' Zilla, he and his movie work if you view him as a standalone monster completely different from Godzilla. Of course, this movie literally took everything that makes Godzilla what he is and threw it out the window. And the producers still decided to name it "Godzilla" despite its lead monster getting dropped by missiles that the real Godzilla would have viewed the same way we view mosquito bites. And then there's the babies. I could have sworn they were trying to remake "Jurassic Park." Again, I guess that's enjoyable and works to a certain degree, but only if you don't view it as a true Godzilla movie.

28. "Son of Godzilla" - As far as things go, all this movie did was introduce Minya, AKA Godzilla's son. It also cemented the turning process of these movies going from serious to cutesy. "Astro Monster" and "Sea Monster" got the ball rolling, but the introduction of Minya all but confirmed that this was now more for children. I mean, depending on your perspective that's not inherently bad, but I think that Godzilla is at his best when he's at his darkest. Being a father doesn't scream "darkness" at all.

27. "Godzilla's Revenge" - People usually rank this one pretty low, even lower than the previous entry and probably for most, just above '98. That's not the case for me. I actually enjoyed this one. Of course, as with the '98 Godzilla, in order for this entry to be passable, it has to be viewed as a movie that only happens to be related to Godzilla. And unlike '98, this entry has the actual Godzilla in it, which is better than having your only association to the character be the name. No, this is more of a coming-of-age film targeted at young children. As a former victim of bullying, I related. If you view it as what I just said, it's passable. If you view it as a true Godzilla movie, yeah, you're gonna have a bad time. Oh and Gabara is one of the lamest, most annoying kaiju, so there's that, too. Also add in that this was what they came out with right after the brilliant "Destroy All Monsters."

26. "Godzilla vs. Gigan" - Despite introducing one of Godzilla's nastiest enemies, Gigan, this is a mostly unforgettable entry because this is the point where in the series, all the Godzilla vs. plots start to become blurred to the point where they're all mostly the same. Gigan was definitely a highlight, and I liked how he was introduced as King Ghidorah's lackey, but none of the Showa-era mass monster battles compare to the one in "Destroy All Monsters."

25. "Godzilla vs. Megalon" - This entry wasn't very different from its predecessor. The only difference was it introduced the sea-dwelling Megalon and the robot Jet Jaguar. The former commonly gets portrayed as a "bro" of Gigan in other media yet only makes one film appearance in the entire series. Jet Jaguar is cool but again, underutilized. And despite being almost exactly the same as "Godzilla vs. Gigan" but with those new characters, this entry is slightly ahead of its predecessor because it gave us the most ridiculous offensive maneuver Godzilla's ever used: the dropkick. Just youtube it. It's so dumb and out there, it's awesome. And hilarious, every single time.

24. "Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster" - If there was ever a Godzilla movie that you'd show at a pool or beach party in the middle of spring break, this one is it. Heck, it even starts out with a musical number that wouldn't be too out of place in a Beach Boys song. Even in keeping with the south seas beach theme, the big showdown between Godzilla and Ebirah (the titular sea monster) ended up having more in common with a friendly game of beach volleyball than a death match between two titans. And like many other Toho kaiju, Ebirah hasn't been used all that much. Of course, when you're just a giant lobster/shrimp with no other abilities, you can't really stand up to some of the other nasties that Toho has conjured up.

23. "Godzilla vs. Hedorah" - During a time when being a hippie and getting high was the norm, yes, I'm talking about the counterculture movement, this Godzilla film was curiously released. From the opening moments, it's clear that if the Godzilla film series were a family, this would be the pot-smoking hippie that would be played by Jon Heder in a movie. The movie even has a very strong environmental message, something about pollution. The titular smog monster, Hedorah, is a not-so-subtle metaphor for pollution that continues to plague the world even today. And we get to see Godzilla fly. This is one of the peaks of ridiculousness of even the ridiculous Showa era. The only reason this entry is ranked higher than all those other Shows-era films is because it tried (and partially succeeded) in being somewhat darker and being a metaphor for one of human society's many problems.

22. "King Kong vs. Godzilla" - This was actually an OK movie. I liked how this is essentially the Super Bowl of giant monster movies. And you know what? It actually had a decent story. American and Japanese companies even got together for the American release and made it a joint effort, because this was undoubtedly the "Batman v Superman" of 50 years ago. I like that they made Kong a drunk of a goofball, and they definitely needed to give him a few upgrades (size, electrical harnessing ability) in order to fight Godzilla. This is overall a pretty fun movie, and actually one that I'd recommend as a good entry point to the series. Ultimately, though, I find Godzilla best when he's at his darkest, like Batman, and this is more fun.

21. "The Return of Godzilla" - You know, this one's not bad. It's essentially a retelling of the original "Gojira" story but set against the backdrop of the Cold War. As far as Godzilla movies go, this one's pretty good. The effects are definitely a step up from the Showa films, and I liked the humans' better attempt to fight him off. As I said, Godzilla is at his best when he's darkest, and this is a good film, but dropping him in a volcano doesn't quite have the same oomph as the oxygen destroyer did.

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