1984 marked the 30th anniversary of Godzilla appearing on the silver screen. It had been nine years since he last stormed into theaters in Terror of Mechagodzilla. The time seemed right again for the big guy to be brought to the silver screen, and just as it was with his beginning, it came first in a Japanese version, called The Return of Godzilla, in 1984. A year later he came to American audiences with inserted footage in a retitled movie, Godzilla 1985. Both were considered direct sequels to their respective pictures- The Return of Godzilla followed Gojira, and Godzilla 1985 followed up Godzilla, King of the Monsters. For the American version, once again Raymond Burr appeared as journalist Steve Martin, this time called in to advise the military on what to do when Godzilla reappears. It had some decent special effects, and a sometimes silly sense of humor (one of the military refers to Godzilla as “one hell of an urban renewal program.”), and kicked off a new era of Godzilla movies.
This was actually both the final film of the Showa era (called so because it was produced during the reign of Emperor Hirohito, who ruled Japan until 1989) and kicked off the Versus Series of films, later referred to as the Heisei Era (for the reign of Emperor Akihito, who took over the throne in 1989). It was also the first time Godzilla didn’t battle another monster on the big screen since the first film in 1954.
The Versus, or as some call it, the Heisei series, spanned over six movies from 1989- 1995. They included Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994), and finishing up with Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995). Stuntman Kenpachiro Satsuma wore the suit for the entire series, beginning with Godzilla 1985, in which he suffered several injuries.
The first film in the series, Godzilla vs. Biollante, didn’t do well at the box office. Toho believed that was because Biollante, a plant mutant hybrid born from Godzilla’s cells which later morphed into something more crocodillian, was an unfamiliar kaiju to the fans. Because of this, the next film in the series featured Godzilla squaring off against an old opponent, King Ghidorah. This time, time travelers are the cause of Earth’s troubles, coming back from the 23rd century to warn about Godzilla causing a catastrophic nuclear disaster in the 21st century. Ghidorah shows up and the time travelers true plan is revealed. The following year, 1992, saw Godzilla teamed up once again with Mothra to combat a menace named Battra. The mechanical Godzilla re-emerged in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), though, despite its title, was not a sequel to the 1974 movie. The film also featured Ghidorah as well as bringing back Rodan. Robots and aliens combined as foes for the big guy in 1994 in Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, and 1995 brought the final film in the Versus series, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, complete with music from composer Akira Ifukube. The movie also saw the return of the character of Emiko Yamane, played by original actress Momoko Kochi, in what was to be her final role before dying of cancer three years later.
The final film was initially going to be the last Godzilla movie until his 50th anniversary. However, a director named Roland Emmerich changed all that. That film will be the topic for another installment of our month long salute to Godzilla.
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