By the dawn of the twenty-first century, Godzilla was a subject very distant in almost anyone's mind. The monster had attacked in 1954, but was defeated shortly after by an unknown chemical compound. Danger still remained, however. Anecdotal evidence of other monsters poured in from across the globe, and an attack by a large, reptilian creature (Zilla), was even confirmed in New York City in 1998. The Japanese Self-Defense Force, Admiral Taizo Tachibana reasoned, would always have to be prepared.
Without warning, a US nuclear submarine disappeared off the coast of Guam, and the anti-nuclear submarine Satsuma was dispatched to investigate. The eerily glowing fins of an unknown, and unfathomably large creature were sighted near the incident. It appeared as though a nightmare from the distant past would soon make a terrifying reemergence. This was because military soldiers who were killed possessed the bones of the Godzilla from 1954, brought his skin back, and controlled the body.
Meanwhile, the admiral's daughter, Yuri Tachibana, was in the process of filming a fictional documentary near Mt. Myoko in Niigata when a tremor struck. Yuri sighted a mysterious old man in the area, dressed in traditional robes, but he promptly vanished. Later on, in the dead of night, a motorcycle gang was suddenly trapped in a collapsing tunnel, and a witness claimed to have observed the frightening face of an awful monster, which he identified as Godzilla. In the midst of this odd occurrence, Yuri came to realize just how excellent a lead this story truly was. She also came to learn that the epicenter of the tremor, which had caused the collapse of the tunnel, had actually moved! In response to the expanding mystery, Teruaki Takeda, Yuri's adviser, located a book written by Hirotoshi Isayama that described prophecies similar to the course of events which were presently unfolding. It told of a group of legendary beasts known as the guardian monsters: Baragon, Mothra, and Ghidorah.
The following night, tragedy struck Lake Ikeda. Eleven rowdy teenagers on a bike trip from Tokyo were killed and entrapped in a strange, silk like substance in the water. With the continuing escalation of these phenomenal events, Yuri and her crew journeyed to the Motosu Police Station to chat with Isayama, a prophet who frequently claimed that Godzilla's return was imminent. Yuri recognized the man, for she could have sworn she had seen this old prophet on the day of the tunnel collapse. Isayama began to explain the truth behind Godzilla's origins and power. He revealed to Yuri that the prehistoric dinosaur may have gained exceptional survival from nuclear weaponry, but it was in fact the amalgam of tormented souls from World War II which gave the monster his invulnerability. The old man also revealed the legend of the three guardian beasts, about how they were defeated long ago and how their bodies were slowly rejuvenating. Yuri was instructed to go to the place where Ghidorah slept. Upon leaving the police station, Yuri located an amulet possessing an unknown power close to a shrine near to where the old man claimed Ghidorah was in deep slumber.
That night, Maganote in the Bonin Islands was leveled as a heavy storm passed through the area. However, it was clear that there was another destructive force that accompanied this natural disaster. A press conference revealed the government's suspicions of Godzilla-related activity to the nation and the world, and a warning was issued to watch the seas around Japan. As a new level of intensity began to grip the nation, Yuri informed her father of the legend, but he believed what he heard with a grain of salt. Even still, he was solemn and was not quick to automatically doubt, for he too experienced the tragedy of Godzilla almost half a century earlier, when he lost his parents to the horrid abomination.
Meanwhile, Motosu burst into chaos as the ground exploded in front of the police station. An enormous, red, reptilian beast broke through the ground, and it is believed that it resembled Godzilla. As differing reports on the identity of the creature became confounded and confused, horror struck Yaizu Harbor in Shizuoka. A dark monolith of flesh rose from the sea, and Godzilla began to annihilate everything in his path towards Tokyo. He rampaged through Shimizu as Baragon barreled through Hakone Spa, and they finally met face-to-face in the Hakone Valley. While the burrowing red monster managed to bite, body slam, and crash physical blows against his foe, he was outmatched in almost every aspect by his sadistic foe, and Godzilla's thermonuclear ray made short work of the beast who fought valiantly but failed miserably. There were dozens of casualties in the Hakone Valley in the midst of the cataclysmic disaster, and Yuri received a minor injury as she attempted to cover the event.
Though Takeda warned against it, Yuri purchased a bike and began to follow Godzilla as he moved closer and closer to Tokyo. She convinced her boss to air her live coverage of Godzilla's advance, as General Katsumasa Migumo ordered an air strike against the monster in the countryside. With the systematic destruction of every one of the jets, Godzilla's atomic ray proved this campaign to be a complete and utter disaster. However, cavalry would soon arrive, if not solely for humankind, then at least for the motherland. Mothra was just completing her metamorphosis, as Isayama watched King Ghidorah begin to emerge from his crystal tomb near Mt. Fuji.
The Yokohama Defense Line, Patrol Fleet Headquarters, and the Yokohama Garrison Post were all set up in the continuing scramble to form an effective counteroffensive in Godzilla's predetermined path. Admiral Tachibana was beginning to believe the legends as the strange prophecies began to come to light, and as he landed on the Battle Cruiser Aizu, Godzilla closed in on the defense line. The winged insect Mothra suddenly appeared on the scene and landed atop the Yokohama Landmark Tower. The two immense beings exchanged roars, and with that, the fight commenced! As Yuri watched from below, explosive stingers fired from Mothra's abdomen as Godzilla continually attempted to gain the advantage with his thermonuclear ray, and in the heat of their battle, the uppermost levels of the Landmark Tower were completely annihilated. Suddenly, the ground began to tremble, heralding the arrival of a new contender.
Ghidorah arrived to assist Mothra, and the two guardian monsters joined forces against their common enemy. Ghidorah attempted to inject Godzilla with burning bolts of electricity, but alas, he was too weak and was knocked cold by his opponent. As Godzilla attempted to finish him off, Mothra took the full force of the blast and was incapacitated as well. With no monsters left to carry on the fight, the military was forced to attack Godzilla by itself, utilizing a special drilling missile called the D-03. In retaliation, the hateful creature destroyed more than 90% of the humans' defenses. Desperate, Mothra rose from the streets, burning brightly, but Godzilla sensed her approach and destroyed the mammoth moth once and for all. Her essence rejuvenated Ghidorah, and the 1000 Year Dragon: King Ghidorah, was reborn. Looking down from a swirling sphere of surging energy, Ghidorah took the full brunt of a nuclear beam, amplified it, and sent it smashing back toward its source. Godzilla was tossed into the bay, with an open wound visible near his left shoulder.
As King Ghidorah engaged in a fierce struggle in the bay, Admiral Taizo, noticing the window of opportunity that presented itself with Godzilla's injury, requested that he take the Satsuma and shoot the D-03 into the open wound. Yuri, meanwhile, was apprehended by soldiers near the scene of the battle for entering a restricted zone. She overheard what her father planned to do over the radio, and she plead with her father not to risk his life. He explained that it was his job, and asked if it would be right for others to risk their lives instead? Yuri explained that it was her job to cover the story, and in mutual understanding, her father gave an order to the nearby soldiers which allowed her to collect information freely. As the Satsuma was readied, Yuri and Takeda arrived at the Yokohama Bay Bridge and began to transmit a live broadcast of the battle waging in the bay. Suddenly, a beam of ghastly blue plasma pierced through the water and destroyed the foundation of the bridge. The structure began to collapse! As Yuri dangled above the bay below, barely grasping onto Takeda hand for dear life, the amulet she had collected earlier fell into the water and reenergized Ghidorah (who had received a terrible wound among the chaos of the underwater fray). The monster exhaled a cushion of air toward the surface as Takeda and Yuri fell, and though they were saved from certain death, Yuri lost consciousness. Ghidorah rose into the sky and began to unleash his gravity beams, but they only managed to further energize Godzilla. The powerful synergy of Godzilla's thermonuclear ray, coupled with the energy he absorbed from Ghidorah's gravity beams, were concentrated into one powerful assault that completely wiped out the golden dragon.
The spirits of all the guardian beasts shone brightly in the sky, and their combined spiritual energy entered Godzilla. The monster began to lose buoyancy and descended deeper into the murky waters. Taizo piloted the Satsuma toward Godzilla, but the creature swallowed the submersible. As Yuri's spirit told her father not to give up, he soon regained his wits and managed to retake control of the vessel from within the belly of the beast. At the surface, Yuri spit up a little water and regained consciousness. As morning arrived, Godzilla rose from the bay, and Yuri and Takeda watched from the base of the wrecked bridge below. Suddenly, the D-03 sliced through the monster's wound from the inside out and exploded! As Godzilla attempted to fire a ray to finish off Yuri and Takeda once and for all, the beam instead forced its way through the now gaping wound. Godzilla again attempted another breath, and the same thing happened for a second time. Screaming in horror, Godzilla plummeted into the bay. As the Satsuma barely managed to escape, the furious beast, determined to muster enough power to at least destroy this one last enemy, attempted to charge another beam.
Godzilla suddenly disappeared from radar! It appeared certain that victory was in the hands of the humans, and everyone celebrated his defeat. Yuri and Takeda met up with Taizo as he emerged from the Satsuma. Though Yuri saluted him for his valiant victory, Taizo explained that not only he, but also his friends and the guardian monsters should be saluted, for Godzilla was defeated by the combined force of all of those who fought the battle. Little did anyone realize however, that while Godzilla's death appeared certain, this observation was far from the truth. Godzilla's disembodied heart suddenly began to beat in Yokohama Bay, and it appeared as though the monster might again rise to wreck havoc on the world another day.
- Director Shusuke Kaneko's original script originally had Godzilla fighting a strange un-named monster that was actually a mutated astronaut. Toho Kingdom cites this monster as Uchujin. The film was originally Godzilla vs. Uchujin. This script was replaced with Godzilla X Varan, Baragon and Anguirus: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. Anguirus, Varan and Baragon were to defend Japan against Godzilla, but Toho told him to replace the former two with the more "popular" King Ghidorah and Mothra, as Anguirus and Varan were not bankable enough to guarantee a box-office hit. Skeptical at first, he managed to work the two monsters into the film, although their portrayals are highly debated by fans.
- This movie is especially notable for the changes made to the monsters. For example, King Ghidorah typically played the villain in previous Godzilla movies; this movie has him as a hero. In fact, King Ghidorah is actually portrayed a few meters shorter than Godzilla; previous incarnations of the character were much, much larger, and towered over Godzilla.
- Mothra was also revamped. Like King Ghidorah, Mothra is portrayed as being far smaller than normal. Her poison scale and hurricane wind attacks were removed, and were replaced with a shotgun-like burst of projectile stingers fired from her abdomen. This new attack of Mothra's proved to be deadly enough to topple the much larger Godzilla. She also could transfer her spiritual energy to another monster if she was destroyed. In addition, Mothra's fairy servants, the Shobijin, do not make an appearance in the film. However as a reference or tribute to the Shobijin, a couple of twins is seen while Mothra flies over Tokyo, the same twins who appeared in Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys, also directed by Shusuke Kaneko.
- Baragon was also altered. His heat ray, which is comparable to Godzilla's atomic breath (except red), was seen in the Showa series. For this film, however, it was removed. However, Baragon obviously still retains his burrowing ability.
- Apparently, the reason behind the changes to King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Baragon were made in order to make Godzilla seem stronger - Kaneko wanted his version of Godzilla to be the most powerful monster in the film. He originally wanted to use Varan and Anguirus, two monsters who are notably smaller and less powerful than Godzilla, as his opponents. When advised by Toho to replace them, he compensated by making King Ghidorah and Mothra weaker than they normally were.
- Fuyuki Shinada, who designed the monster suits for this film, was disappointed that Varan, his all-time favorite monster, wasn't going to be in the film, so he compromised by putting Varan's facial features on King Ghidorah's three heads.
- In addition, the "radioactive" element has been replaced with a more mythic/spiritual dimension element. Now Godzilla has origins rooted in Japan's World War II past. Although Godzilla is still created from the Atomic Bomb, he is also described as an incarnation of those killed or who were left to die at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Pacific War. The extent to which his nuclear and spiritual origins balance is never specified. Director Shusuke Kaneko, a lifelong pacifist, did this to boost the "anti-war" angle of the original 1954 Godzilla. It was also because he knew that audiences wanted a "realistic" Godzilla, but there was no "realistic" way to explain a 60-meter monster ("You could get away with it if he were 15 meters tall", he said), so he thought it worked better with a fantasy element. GMK Godzilla has no pupils - Kaneko intended his version of Godzilla to be evil, and felt that Godzilla's eyes shape the audience's perception of the monster. While popular and well received, a few fans felt deeply that Mr. Kaneko's approach to Godzilla diverged too far from Ishiro Honda's approach to Godzilla, as an allegory to the atomic bomb. Some fans were also outraged of Kaneko's unsympathetic outlook on the creature. Honda's original Godzilla was made out to seem as much of a victim of the consequences of the a-bomb as his own victims he killed within his rampage. Kaneko's Godzilla by contrast is a nigh-invincible impersonable evil and does not draw any sympathy from the audience. Criticisms from a few aside, many also consider this to be the best Godzilla film since the Showa series.
- Some fans seem to dislike the changes that were made to the monsters such as the "role reversal" of King Ghidorah fighting to save Japan from Godzilla, the opposite of King Ghidorah's usual appearances, the film is controversial among fans as having some of the best monster fights and special effects in the series.
- Actress Kaho Minami who stars in the film as Capt. Kumi Emori, is married to actor Ken Watanabe. Mr. Watanabe is currently set to star in the upcoming Godzilla by Legendary Pictures.
In its opening weekend, this film made $1.9 million in Japan. It went on to earn roughly $20 million by the end of its theatrical run, making it the fifth most-attended Godzilla film and the most successful of the 'Millennium' series.
DVD ReleasesSony Pictures
- Released: January 27, 2004
- Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (2.35:1) anamorphic
- Sound: English (5.1), Japanese (5.1)
- Supplements: Trailers for the American Godzilla, The Medallion, Alien Hunter, Returner, and So Close.