Saturday, February 14, 2015

Godzilla movies from worst to best (Part 3)

Here it is, folks. The last part of my Godzilla movies ranked from worst to best. These are the ones that I consider to be the creme of the crop, that is, the ones that I consider the absolute must watch films of the series. So without further ado ...

10. "Godzilla: Final Wars" - While the whole concept of aliens using the kaiju as their own personal super weapons is certainly not a new idea, this entry takes that plotline and basically takes everything up to eleven. This is the last of the Toho-produced entries, at least until 2016, so they gave it a pretty fancy sendoff with slightly higher production values (READ: PS3-level CGI rather than PS2). Final Wars has been compared to a greatest hits album, which it kind of is. It's essentially a microcosm of everything that makes the Godzilla franchise so enjoyable and ridiculous. Honestly, if I had to recommend a good starting point for new fans to get a feel for what these movies are like, this would be it. An overpowered Godzilla who tears through his foes like me going through boxes of thin mints during girl scout cookie season certainly adds to the awesome.

9. "Godzilla vs. Megaguirus" - Admittedly, this entry is ranked a lot higher for me than it is for a lot of other people's lists. I'm not other people. For starters, I really enjoyed the human story, as it was a pretty good (for Godzilla movie standards) tale of revenge that got its tone set within the first five minutes of the movie. And although the titular Megaguirus might resemble Battra a little too much for viewers wanting something original, I'll give them props for making her a completely earthly creature rather than some run-of-the-mill alien. The insect queen role was also a relative breath of fresh air. Then this Godzilla movie has something a lot of the others don't have: a scene that will make the skin of some viewers crawl. Yes, I'm talking about the scene where all the Meganulon dragonfly things are just on the building. That's a whole lot of nope.

8. "Godzilla against Mechagodzilla" - This is the first millennium series movie to feature the rebooted Mechagodzilla, which sports my favorite design in the series. I would say that for a Godzilla movie, this one's pretty dark since the first few minutes feature a close-up view of soldiers in an overturned jeep getting crushed by Godzilla in (for series standards) pretty graphic fashion. The human story is not dissimilar to that of the previous entry, only it's more of a tale of redemption rather than revenge since the protagonist feels guilty for the deaths of the guys who got crushed. Then there's this scene of the new Mechagodzilla (which is built with the bones of the original Godzilla) going haywire and destroying everything like Eva-01 in that one episode of "Neon Genesis Evangelion." Cautionary tale about technology much? I'm probably over thinking this one.

7. "Destroy all Monsters" - Arguably one of, if not the most, iconic Godzilla movies. While the special effects are obviously really dated and honestly kind of fun to laugh at, back then this was something groundbreaking and epic, kind of like "The Avengers" or what "Batman v Superman" aspires to be like. It was an mash-up the the world hadn't seen. While "King Kong vs. Godzilla is more like "Batman v Superman," "Destroy all Monsters" is more of "The Avengers" of giant monster movies. There's a threat caused by an alien race that wants to take over earth that no one kaiju can handle, so they all get together to handle it. And while dry-humping King Ghidorah doesn't look as epic today, back in the 60s, that was probably the equivalent of Hulk tossing Loki around like a ragdoll. This is one of the best, especially if you look at the time when it was released.

6. "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla" - The two best kinds of Godzilla movies in my opinion are the ones where he's portrayed as a force of nature or the ones where he encounters an enemy that takes him to his absolute breaking point. This is one of the latter. Godzilla in this entry encounters his match in the form of a cyborg replica that kicks his ass all over the place for most of the movie. Other than Ghidorah and Destoroyah, Mechagodzilla proves to be one of Godzilla's deadliest foes, arguably more so because while the former are both pure evil, they're living beings while Mechagodzilla is a cold, unfeeling machine. The thing about him being used by apelike aliens that used human faces to disguise their true appearance was also fairly surprising for a Godzilla movie since all aliens that came before were basically humans with a weird fashion sense.

5. "Godzilla" (2014) - This one is ranked a lot higher than many others might have ranked it, and here's why. Yes, the movie did have its fair share of problems from the acting to a tendency to cut scenes at their juiciest moments. I'll argue that the latter problem was actually a strength of the movie in the sense that showing off Godzilla too early and too much would have taken away from the gravity of each appearance. And speaking of that, every time Godzilla appears in this film, it's a moment that (in my opinion) might make your jaw drop and heart stop while you just admire the sheer awe inspired by the king of the monsters. From a film making perspective, there are actually some great lessons in creating suspense and atmosphere (the train scene with the female MUTO creature and the HALO jump). The MUTOs are pretty cool for new kaiju, as well. Most of all, the real reason why last year's "Godzilla" is ranked so high is because compared to the last attempt, an American studio finally managed to get it right. And in every moment Godzilla appears, it's evident that Gareth Edwards has a respect and reverence for the character that Roland Emmerich never had.

4. "Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster" - If Godzilla's Batman, then King Ghidorah's the Joker. If he's Texas A&M, Ghidorah's that one university down the road ... I think they call themselves Longhorns? You get the point. He's Godzilla's foil and archnemesis, the one that he often requires outside help to defeat. This is is first appearance, and it's probably the best movie outside the original 1954 classic of the Showa era. It has everything: a James Bond-esque human story involving an assassination attempt, the introduction of Godzilla's most iconic and powerful foe, and it also has the first monster team-up (although this isn't quite as big as the one in "Destroy All Monsters"). It even has this scene where Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra all "talk" to each other when deciding that Ghidorah is the greater threat. Put all these elements together, and you have one damn good movie.

3. "Godzilla vs. Destoroyah" - Designed to be the swan song of the Godzilla franchise before Roland Emmerich ruined it so badly that Toho had to make more movies to distance themselves from that remake, this was at the time the penultimate Godzilla movie for a number of reasons. He's not as iconic and possibly not as powerful as Showa-era Ghidorah, but Destoroyah certainly looks meaner. If Mechagodzilla's the Terminator, Ghidorah's the Joker, then Destoroyah's Bane. He's the villain designed to test Godzilla and take him farther than any kaiju has done before. He does that by seemingly killing Godzilla's own son in front of him and being so powerful that nothing short of Godzilla going into nuclear meltdown mode can put him down. If the franchise ended here, it would have been like "The Dark Knight Rises" in that Godzilla gets put to his greatest test yet. Add in some genuinely heart-wrenching moments along with a scene that, as a bonus, pays tribute to "Aliens," and you see why this is the swan song of an era.

2. "Gojira" - It would be too easy to rank this as the best one, so I won't. This is the one that started it all. Unlike pretty much the entire series, this first entry is actually a very dark, very depressing movie that only wanted to be a metaphor for the atomic bomb before the metaphor got made into a Saturday morning-type hero. For the time it was made, it was pretty graphic and probably would have brought back some really bad memories for a lot of viewers. Even this first Godzilla looks meaner than most of the other incarnations over the years. Surprisingly, some of the best scenes here aren't even the ones featuring Godzilla (like the scene where the mother comforts her children right before they get killed along with that entire scene in the hospital in the aftermath of the initial attack). The human story is definitely a good one, and it culminates in the use of one of the most horrific fictional weapons devised. Despite its high place on the list, this isn't a good starting point for newer fans in my opinion, due to the heavy nature of the film.

1. "GMK: All-Out Monsters Attack" - Are you surprised this is #1? Well here's why. As I said, Godzilla is at his best when he's portrayed as an unstoppable force or when he's put to his breaking point. In this entry, Godzilla is seen at possibly the height of his power in the entire series save for possibly "Final Wars." Nothing can stop him. Not even the combined might of Baragon, Mothra and King Ghidorah. He just tears through them like dogs through living room furniture. And this Godzilla incarnation is the most evil one since the original. How evil? In one scene he nearly gives a bed-ridden hospital patient a heart attack and relieves her by walking by the building ... only to come back and purposefully target her room with a smack from his tail. Oh, and turns out his evil comes from the souls of soldiers who died during World War II. So there we go. This Godzilla is the most evil and powerful one put to screen, the tone of the movie is closest to the original, and there's a message about not forgetting your country's veterans. We have a winner.

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