WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, in theaters now.
Fans were given clues earlier this year from a toy leak, and HBO-exclusive teaser footage, that the title character in Godzilla: King of the Monsters would adopt his "Burning" form from Toho's 1995 Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. Many speculated it would be an evolution of the iconic kaiju's abilities -- something hinted at in the prequel comic Godzilla: Aftershock -- but with the Legendary Pictures sequel in theaters, we know this time the transformation isn't the result of an accident. This time, the power boost is triggered by the sacrifice of an in the heat of the climactic battle against Ghidorah.
With that in mind, let's compare Toho's "Burning Godzilla" with Legendary's "Fire Godzilla."
TOHO'S BURNING GODZILLA
"Burning Godzilla" was a brief-yet-popular transformation endured by the king of the monsters in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. Struck by a volcanic eruption, Godzilla inadvertently absorbed the energy from a hidden uranium deposit. That boosted his power on a massive scale, causing his atomic blasts and red-hot heat ray become even deadlier. However, it adversely affected the kaiju's health, effectively imposing a death sentence on him.
Godzilla began to glow orange/red instead of his signature blue atomic energy, giving the impression lava roared within. The world was placed on notice, which led to humanity trying to kill the hero with the Oxygen Destroyer because Godzilla was effectively a nuclear reactor on the verge of meltdown. The planet was endangered by Godzilla's very existence, as he now emitted unbelievable amounts of radiation wherever he roamed.
Godzilla and Destoroyah eventually locked horns, and badly wounded each other in the film's final act.. While the latter was ultimately killed by the military, a mortally wounded Godzilla was left to make the ultimate sacrifice for his deceased son, Godzilla Jr. As Godzilla went into meltdown mode and died, he transferred what remained of this energy into his son, essentially breathing new life into his successor.
That boost led the "kid" grow in size, and transformed Godzilla Jr. into the new Godzilla. In other words, while "Burning Godzilla" was deadlier, this was really about passing the torch to another kaiju.
LEGENDARY'S FIRE GODZILLA
Director Michael Dougherty's "Fire Godzilla" differs from "Burning Godzilla" in some key ways. When Godzilla battles Ghidorah for supremacy in the finale of King of the Monsters, the compassionate Mothra and "fire demon" Rodan fight as well. Mothra takes out Rodan, and just as Ghidorah is about to kill Godzilla, she sacrifices herself in its lightning blast, disintegrating into nothingness. Or so it seems.
Mothra's ethereal essence, like shimmery stardust, falls onto Godzilla, and he absorbs her power, which causes the blue energy inside him to turn fiery red. Godzilla begins to emit waves of radiation, melting Boston with each step he takes, and literally stunning Ghidorah. In this state, the lizard is now stronger and faster, and his body-blast actually becomes so powerful, it incinerates two of Ghidorah's heads. Godzilla is then able to devour the three-headed dragon's final neck, and use his much more potent blue atomic breath to reduce the final one to ash.
However, this red-hot form does seem to have a limit, because once Godzilla expends this energy, he returns to normal. That now may be his go-to move when he's pushed to his limit, desperate on the battlefield. That is, if he still has this ability in future installments, as it's not clear whether this is a one-time enhancement.
Mothra was dubbed the "Queen of the Monsters" in this film, and by transferring her essence to Godzilla, she ensured he had what he needed to prove he was destined to be the king of the monsters. Ultimately, this explosive version comes off far more powerful than the one from Toho's 1995 film.
Directed by Michael Dougherty, Godzilla: King of the Monsters stars Vera Farmiga, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch, Charles Dance, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Aisha Hinds and Zhang Ziyi.