In the world of kaiju and humans, only one can be named king…
And his name is Godzilla!
The question becomes which one? The Godzilla of old with rubber suits and models or the new hip Godzilla with CGI and the bigger budget. They each have value and as we progress from a technological standpoint, does that inherently make the product better or can the old guard still hold their value?
Destroy All Monsters was the everything and the kitchen sink idea that put all the Toho monsters into the same sandbox for a giant fight. This was done because there was the possibility that this would be the last Godzilla film due to him declining in popularity. The story involves aliens mind-controlling kaiju and humans to help them take over our planet. It is exactly as silly as it sounds and it is wonderful because of it.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is somewhat similar in the fact that there are a lot of monsters coming out of the woodwork to fight. This sees Godzilla and King Ghidorah fighting to be THE alpha of the kaiju. Humans are there too, trying to deal with the world turning into a battleground for the massive creatures. The may be the best-realized version of the kaiju battle royale concept that has been achieved with CGI.
With the release of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, it’s time to take a look back at the OG Godzilla Royal Rumble, Destroy All Monsters, and see how the two compare.
Be aware there are likely HEAVY SPOILERS involved in this discussion. You’ve been warned.
CGI vs Rubber
Let’s get the most drastic difference between the two out of the way first. Rubber suits are the way it was done for more than twenty features. People calling the suits rubber has become the easiest way to describe it, but the first suit was actually made out of “ready-mixed concrete” and later models were latex. These suits have a certain charm to them and it may be due to the fact that there is a person actually moving around inside it and destroying models. It must’ve been so much fun to go to work and be told to stomp a miniature city into oblivion.
Destroy All Monsters used the people-in-suits concept to its full potential in that film. There are times when you may laugh at how silly some of the creatures look (looking at you Rodan) but the details and hard work that went into them really show. The detail of the models is amazing even watching it today. You can see the care and time that must have taken to make this world that their monsters could play in. It may be obvious and a little funny at times, but what they were able to accomplish with the technology of the time really is impressive.
That’s not to say CGI does not have its merits as well. CGI has given the directors more freedom to convey how big Godzilla is and how awesome his powers are. So much work goes into films like this and every dollar can be seen on the screen. Godzilla King of the Monsters was a visual feast. There’s enjoyment to be had watching the rubber suit using the atomic breath effect, but the CGI version has a sense of weight to it that shows the impact when it hits King Ghidorah. It also allows the kaiju to move in ways that a human frankly couldn’t. Sure there is some motion capture done to convey movement more accurately, but some things just can’t be replicated. The visual of Godzilla swimming underwater and pulsing blue light through his back spikes as an intimidation tactic for the humans is especially effective.
This is all true only if it is done right. There’s always the possibility of the 1998 version. Luckily, that’s not the case. Godzilla King of the Monsters used its CGI to the best of its ability. The mayhem brought to screen helped hit home the scale of these gargantuan beasts duking it out for supremacy.
Verdict: This round will go to…Practical Effects aka Rubber
The older techniques can’t be dismissed, as they were innovative and groundbreaking. The care that went into it all is amazing. It has a charm that isn’t found these days. There was equal care put into the CGI creations of the new era, but there’s something to be said for a classic.
You’re only as good as the company you keep, so let’s take a look at the rosters of each film. The quality of a kaiju battle royale can be found which creatures are actually fighting in it and how many there are. There are overlaps between the two, so we can focus on what makes each version stand out.
Ghidorah: In Destroy All Monsters, Ghidorah shows up as the surprise secret weapon of the aliens. His intro is well done and it gets you excited to see Godzilla’s arch-nemesis act as the enemy for all the earth monsters. He spews lightning and is able to fight all the earth monsters at once and hold his own for a while. Ghidorah doesn’t have much in the way of character outside of wanting to fight the other monsters, but Ghidorah is iconic here with the classic look and sound that makes him easily identifiable. The new version in Godzilla: King of the Monsters is something to behold. The creature starts out frozen in ice and there is great care being taken to keep it that way. This monster is as intimidating as hell. Standing on a mountain like it was a molehill and literally bringing a tropical storm with its movement. This creature is scary and the movie never lets you forget it. Its size and power are always on display. The three heads even have somewhat of their own personalities to them. The newer version has the advantage here because I’m afraid what would happen if he didn’t win.
Rodan: The earlier of this version suffers a bit from looking kinda silly. That was just the design for a bit though. It is always entertaining to see him fly over, with his distinctive sound, and watch as the model buildings explode outward from the force of his flying. He brings hurricane winds when he flies so he can bring the destruction. The newer version has the same ability and seeing that power from the ground point of view is terrifying. The new design captures the fire demon concept and makes it known that he’s a threat in his escape and pursuit of our main humans. His pursuit of the Argo ship, while they try to lure him towards Ghidorah, is one of the tensest and exciting moments of the movie. This new version gets the favor for being better looking and showing us a more intimate display of its powers.
Mothra: I was confused by the Mothra that was seen in Destroy All Monsters. Mothra stayed in the larval stage the whole time. There was no flying to be had. At all. I may have missed something in the timeline leading up to this, but I’ve always known Mothra to change into the adult version with wings to fight big battles before. That being said, Mothra does contribute using its webbing to tie Ghidorah up in the final melee. 2019 Mothra looks beautiful. This version is more like the Mothra I remember. Mothra is played up as a benevolent creature and the entrance when she finally hatches is something to see. Like the older version, this one uses webbing to attack but it also armed with claws and a stinger. Mothra can hold her own and seeing her shield Godzilla and buy him time to get back up was heartbreaking. The newer version wins on everything and the ability to fly really helped secure that win.
Now for everybody else:
Destroy All Monsters we’ve got Anguirus, Manda, Gorosaurus, Minilla, Varan, Kamacuras, Kumonga, and Baragon. I will not belittle any of these monsters by saying they aren’t worth knowing but the only one who I recognized was Godzilla’s son Minilla. Credit to Destroy All Monsters that the characters do say all of their names at least once during the movie.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters has Scylla, Behemoth, Methuselah, and another MUTO previously seen in the 2014 Godzilla. There are other monsters that only appear briefly as cameos including Typhoon, Baphomet, Sargon, Tiamet, Leviathan, Abaddon, Bunyip, and Mokele-Mbembe. Most of these monsters make brief appearances and their names are only seen on screens, if at all.
Verdict: The CGI kaiju take it. Quality and quantity win for this segment. The newer movie gave more individual screen time and distinct personalities to these creatures. They may not be the ones with their name on the poster but they are vital to the movie all the same.
There’s a reason Godzilla has stuck around as long as he has. He’s gone from an allegory for nuclear destruction and the impact of World War II to an act of nature used to balance out the planet from forces wishing to tip the scales. The giant lizard has more than 30 movies to his name and the staying power is evident.
Destroy All Monsters
This Godzilla has a look close to the classic design. The detail work on the suit itself is remarkable. This version was the character that had graduated from all-out villain to straight up good guy. He lives on Monsterland (Monster Island in later iterations) with his son, Minilla. He kept the peaceful existence until aliens start messing with him and humanity that is. He goes from mind controlled and wreaking havoc to fighting the enemies of the earth. This Godzilla is a friend to all and is our monster hero.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
The new, beefed up Godzilla is a literal force of nature and is seen as part of the ecosystem of the planet and a de facto defense mechanism. The CGI work put into the new model is breathtaking. Godzilla is on the benevolent side but isn’t exactly worried about each of us as individuals. He’s going to stop King Ghidorah at any cost. He’s not going to check if the evacuations are finished before getting into a brawl. He is a powered up brawler of a monster. He is the King of the Monsters.
Verdict: I feel like I have to give it to the Godzilla who is looking out for us on the ground. Destroy All Monsters takes another one.
Let Them Fight
The hallmark of a good kaiju movie is how entertaining its battles are. The buildup and payoff are what it is all about. Godzilla needs to use his atomic breath, King Ghidorah has to be a jerk, and Mothra has to fly in and deus ex machina that sucker. Which movie brings the fights like the fans want them?
Destroy All Monsters
Patience is a virtue since you have to wait for this fight. The movie barely has monsters for the first 30 minutes. The fight that everyone is waiting for is contained in the last 15-20 minutes of the movie. It involves a roll call of all the creatures advancing on the alien base inside Mt. Fuji. Godzilla is pumping himself up to take on the aliens when they spring their secret weapon, King Ghidorah! All the monsters set upon their enemy and beat the hell out of him. He is webbed up by Kumonga and Mothra. The battle is won.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
The newer of the two films takes a different approach. You see monsters battling early and often. Godzilla fights Ghidorah in Antarctica after he is released, which ends in a slight win for Monster Zero. Rodan and Ghidorah have their aerial fight that shows Ghidorah wipe the floor with him. Godzilla and Ghidorah have their Round 2 where Godzilla is trying to widdle down the number of dragon heads he has to deal with when the fight is rudely interrupted by the humans. These are but skirmishes that all lead to the big brawl that happens towards the end with Godzilla and Mothra teaming up to fight King Ghidorah and Rodan. There’s atomic breath, lightning, and fire oh my. It is plain beautiful to behold. Rodan is incapacitated, Mothra sacrifices herself to save Godzilla, and the King of the Monster is crowned when Godzilla goes nuclear and then atomic breaths the last Ghidorah head away.
Verdict: The new school wins it for how much monster battles we get and the tense fun that is had with it.
Overall Verdict: This has been a fierce competition but the winner has to be… Godzilla 1998
Wait, that’s not right.
Seriously though it’s hard to choose between the two but the victor is…Godzilla: King of the Monsters. I love the old school Godzilla look and charm, but there’s something about the fun factor that can be had with these new iterations. Plot be damned it’s a good kaiju fight movie.