There’s a marvelous little sequence in Doug TenNapel’s graphic novel Cardboard that comes to mind: the hero, Mike, tries to find out the origin of the mysterious cardboard box he bought for his boy’s birthday, which makes everything made from it come to life. The old man who sold it to him explains:
“A renegade bunch of UFO hunters saw a flying saucer fall from the sky! […]The hunters found the crash site before anyone else even knew about it! They salvaged parts of the alien craft…Then packed them into cardboard boxes to be mailed to a testing facility in New Mexico! But when the packages arrived at their destination…the boxes were empty!”
“Maybe they were stolen” Mike suggests.
“That’s what everyone thought at first! But the ship parts weren’t stolen. Rather, they merged into the walls of the cardboard shipping boxes!”
“Aha, so it’s not magic! It’s alien technology!”
“Not exactly. The pilot of the wrecked UFO was a wizard!”
“A wizard. So you’re saying that magic is real?”
“Kind of. The alien was also a particle physicist experimenting on sub atomic space travel. So he was an alien who studied magic but also had an inhuman grasp of quantum particle science!”
And as Mike stares blankly, he adds, “He was also religious. Do you want to know about which faith he…”
At which point Mike yells “oh never mind” and stomps away.
Doug, of course is having a lot of fun giving us an incredibly convoluted explanation which was never intended to actually explain anything at all (and he would direct you to this famous essay by G.K. Chesterton if asked why).
Somehow something very similar happened with Space Godzilla. The elegant girl scientist explains to us how some of Godzilla’s “G-cells” escaped into space – either during his battle with Biolante, or during his fight with Mothra – that these cells then somehow made their way into a black hole, popped out of a white hole, where they encountered and fused with some sort of crystalline life form, and finally became incredibly powerful as they absorbed energy on the way back to Earth.
The best part is that it is all explained with the superficial smiling charm of a spokesmodel describing the technical merits of the latest Toyota.
Now, we know that in a sense the explanation really doesn’t matter: the whole point of the exercise is that the big green guy (who is actually green for once) gets an opponent who is…Godzilla.
Only more so!
The film started life as Godzilla Versus Ghost Godzilla, where he would have fought the superpowered ghost of the Godzilla dissolved by the Oxygen Destroyer in the first film. While I have considered Space Godzilla to be one of the low points of the Heisei era (only slightly better than fighting a mutant rose), I have to admit that fighting a 300 foot city destroying ghost doesn’t really seem to fit too well into the world of Godzilla. Mothra has become far more mystical over the years, but that still makes a Kaiju ghost seem a stretch. One would almost expect to see Venkman, Stantz and Spengler standing on top of the Tokyo Tower and deciding to cross their streams.
Okay. That’s just way too cool a crossover. Someone has to do that.
The Heisei era largely went unseen in the U.S. I’m not sure why they never got a decent release here, perhaps because Godzilla 1985 never won the audience over here that it was supposed to. I can even remember seeing a toy version of Mecha King Ghidora long before that film could be seen in the U.S. They were some of the best looking Godzilla movies ever made, with things rarely seen in the series before, like dramatic lighting and night scenes.
While Space Godzilla himself can’t escape the absurdity of his backstory, the fight scenes in the film are some of the best filmed during the Nineties. It’s also interesting to see the Heisei version of the alien robot – Mogera (“Mole”)- from The Mysterians, although here it has switched sides and was created using whatever was left of MechaGodzilla.
When Toho launched its Heisei era, they wanted to get rid of the growing absurdity of the late Showa series, when Godzilla became the savior of the universe, battling other monsters to save the world. It is curious to see just how far they’d traveled along the same road in a decade. Here, Godzilla still seems a serious threat, but we learn from the psychic Miki Saegusa that we need the big guy to protect us from all those out there who are just waiting for him to croak so they can take over our planet.
It just makes you feel all warm inside, doesn’t it?
Oh well. Let’s not pretend here. This is a wonderfully entertaining film. Most of the Godzilla films are. Yes, parts of it are slow, parts of it are absurd – it’s hard to imagine a Godzilla movie being anything else – and the human characters are all upstaged by the guys in suits, but it still delivers more than its share of thrills, enough to please all but the most jaded Godzilla fans.