By JAMES MELVILLE
Well, James, I guess this is it. What do you mean, disembodied voice? It’s the last issue of the semester, and you’re graduating. You won’t be writing for the paper anymore. I might never see you again. Technically, it’s the second to last issue. I’m just treating it like the finale, since so many people will be gone at the end of Finals Week. Also, you’re a voice in my head. I couldn’t leave you if I tried. And believe me, I have been trying. Thanks, man. That means a lot.
Godzilla vs. Destroyah (1995):
The Plot: Godzilla’s (Kenpachiro Satsuma) heart, basically a nuclear reactor, has entered meltdown phase, threatening to create an explosion large enough to destroy the atmosphere and all life on the planet. In an effort to neutralize Godzilla without exploding him, Japan’s top scientists try to recreate the Oxygen Destroyer, the chemical weapon that killed Godzilla in the original movie. Mankind learns let another lesson about science when that weapon mutates into a terrifying giant monster (oh, Japan) called Destroyah (Ryo Hariya).
I should start by saying that I’m a huge Godzilla fan, and that I have been since I saw Godzilla vs. Megalon at age three. The big guy was one of my childhood heroes. When I was eight, my parents gave me The Official Godzilla Compendium, a collection of synopses, facts, and anecdotes about every Godzilla movie made between 1954 and 1995. Those twenty-two movies are the ones I grew up thinking of as the “real” Godzilla films. It was a fantastic present. I’ve read that book more times than I can count. The first time, though, stands out. That was when I realized that my hero had been dead for three years, and I didn’t even know about it. I cried.
Okay, so he technically dies in the very first movie, too, but it’s amazing what child logic can get around. There were other movies after, so clearly he didn’t really die. End of story. But Godzilla vs. Destroyah was different. I was too old to convince myself of that again, but still young enough to be absolutely devastated by the news. You’ll have to promise not to laugh at me, but today was the first time I ever watched that movie. And you totally cried, didn’t you? No. Well, not much.
Godzilla vs. Destroyah is equal parts homage and swan song. The first half brings in a lot of good ole fashioned B movie sci-fi, complete with a dashing male scientist and a feisty lady reporter. There’s also a lot of references to the original 1954 Godzilla, including actual clips from the film. And, of course, there’s the fact that Destroyah’s origins date back to the death of the first Godzilla.
The swan song part starts kicking in pretty early as well. When Godzilla first appears—to lay waste to Hong Kong—he’s a changed man. There’s large, glowing orange patches on his skin, and the water around him seems to be boiling. It’s because the nuclear reaction in his heart is burning him alive. The special effects crew does a good job of telegraphing the Big G’s constant pain. His irises, even the fire he breathes is a different color. No longer the trademark blue, but that same, nuclear orange. As one of the characters says just before the final showdown: “I think this is going to be Godzilla’s last fight.”
There’s plenty of poignant moments during that last fight. Godzilla Jr., now a gawky, adolescent version of his Dad, is no match for Destroyah. It’s genuinely sad when a dying Godzilla comes across the corpse of his son. Eventually, though, Godzilla does kill Destroyah, saving what’s left of a ruined Tokyo. And then meltdown happens, and now I’m crying too. But the film ends on a hopeful note; Godzilla Jr. absorbs his father’s radiation, coming back to life as an adult.
I’m sure that has symbolic meaning that I can apply to this column, but, ya know. I don’t wanna push things too far.
Well, that about does it.
Four years, eight semesters—one in London—three breakups, 88 columns, and over 100 films reviewed. I didn’t always write as well as I wanted to, or have all of the insights the movies deserved, but I like to think that Rooster Illusion got better as I got older. Like a fine wine, or Barton Fink. It’s okay if you don’t agree. However you want to see it, I tried. I’m proud of that.
But James, what will we do without you? Cry, probably. But waiting to dry your tears with his curmudgeonly wit and love for film will be Chris Melville, the new Hill News movie columnist, and my little brother. You might say it’s favoritism, but I’ll deny you at every turn.
I guess that all sounds pretty grand finale-ish. In some ways, it kind of is. As disembodied voice said, I won’t be writing for the Hill News any more. I’m heading off to be a grown up or whatever. But when I go, I’ll be taking Rooster Illusion with me. Not in a crash and burn kind of way, either. I’m starting a blog after I graduate. It should be pretty easy to hunt down if you’re so inclined.
For now, let’s call this the end of the road. I don’t know about you guys, but I had a great time.