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The 25th entry in the Godzilla franchise and the third in the Millenium series. After the lukewarm responses of the previous two films, Shusuke Kaneko of the well-lauded Gamera trilogy was brought in. He wanted to emphasis Godzilla's immense power, so his original choice for opponents were ordinary monsters like Anguirus, Varan, and Baragon. However, Toho considered the former two not able to bring in enough money, so Mothra and King Ghidorah were brought in instead. Baragon, who was popular in Japan, stayed on. In order to keep that immense power plot point, Kaneko depowered King Ghidorah and Mothra. The themes were more mystical in tone, with Godzilla being possessed by the souls of WWII soldiers and the origins of the Guardians monsters. The film was well recieved at the box office. It became a favorite to the fanbase for reasons that include its Darker and Edgier tone.
In 2002, Commander Taizo Tachibana comments on the Godzilla attack 50 years ago and the monsters that have come since. A nuclear submarine is downed, and an investigation reveals some very familiar spinal plates. Meanwhile, the Commander's reporter daughter, Yuri investigates the appearance of monsters near Mt. Myoko and Lake Ikeda. She interviews a mysterious old man called Isayama, who tells the legendary guardians of Japan must be awakened before Godzilla returns. Japan has forgotten the sacrifices of the soldiers of WWII and Godzilla will take vengeance for them. An attack on the Bonin Islands and other attacks precede Godzilla's destructive return. He engages with the guardian monster Baragon in Hakone. Despite Baragon's bravery, he is brutally slaughtered and Yuri is injured in the process. As Godzilla moves unrelentingly forward, Mothra and King Ghidorah awaken. A battle shall soon take place in Yokohama, where the guardian monsters and the military must work together to take down the ruthless King of the Monsters...
The film provides examples of
- Adaptational Villainy: Inverted. King Ghidorah is usually a villainous monster, but here he's one of the good guys.
- Chekhov's Gun: The drill missiles shown to help clear out one of Baragon's tunnels.
- Clipped-Wing Angel: King Ghidorah would have grown into an eight headed dragon however they could not wait. In a meta sense this was done to King Ghidorah's character.
- Curb Stomp Battle: Godzilla against all of the Guardian Monsters. The only thing that keeps Ghidorah in the running is he keeps getting power ups.
- Darker and Edgier
- Dead Line News: The people in the newschopper after Godzilla throws Baragon at them.
- Executive Meddling: Originally it was going to be Baragon, Varan and Anguirus but the latter two were swapped out for more popular, if nerfed, versions.
- Gainax Ending: Godzilla's been defeated! Hooray!! Wait, he's still alive from just his heart!?
- Hey, It's That Guy!: There are dozens of small cameo appearances from various actors and even SFX directors, found in the movie. The most recognizable would be Eisei Amamoto, aka Doctor Hu from King Kong Escapes, as the old prophet.
- We also have Ai Maeda (Ayana from G3) as one of the twin girls seen when Mothra is flying overhead, and Inspector Osako as the man who falls into the cave where King Ghidorah is sleeping.
- And of course, SFX director Koichi Kawakita and film director Masaaki Tezuka as JSDF officers in the background of certain shots.
- And in addition to them, all three of the actors and actresses who protray the monsters, barring Mothra, can be seen in the background of other shots as well. For instance, Baragon's suit actress is the lady in the harbor office in the scene just before Godzilla shows up.
- Intrepid Reporter: Yuri Tachibana.
- Karmic Death: Early in the movie, if one is an asshole in any manner, you will get killed or severely traumatised by a monster.
- Kick the Dog: A couple of violent youths near Lake Ikeda decide to drown a barking dog because it would give them away. A quarter way into the lake, they and those on shore are killed by Mothra. The dog remains unharmed.
- Shared universe: Early on it's mentioned that New York had once been attacked by a monster the Americans mistook for Godzilla implying this movie takes place in the same continuity as the 1998 Godzilla.
- What Could Have Been: The above executive meddlings and Godzilla was originally going to walk with his tail more parallel to the ground but it was a strain on the actor's back so his posture went back to normal.