Mission: Impossible - Fallout is directed, produced, and written by Christopher McQuarrie and stars Tom Cruise in his 6th appearance as Ethan Hunt. Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan, and Alec Baldwin all return to reprise their respective roles from earlier in the franchise. Newcomers to the cast include Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett, Veronica Kirby, and Wes Bentley. This is the second time that Christopher McQuarrie has directed a Mission: Impossible film (his first being Rogue Nation), making him the first director to do so.
It's not every day that you hear a film be considered one of the best of all time in its respective genre, but that's the word going around about Mission: Impossible - Fallout. By all means, Fallout didn't need to try too hard to be the best summer blockbuster of 2018, boasting an asset that no other summer blockbuster this year can boast about: the charismatic, age-defying Tom Cruise. Call the man an egotistical S.O.B. if you want, but give respect where respect is due: the man is arguably the best in the business today when it comes to delivering convincing, adrenaline-pumping action, due in large part to Cruise not only performing all of his own stunts, but going out of his way time and time again to do stunts that would be the stuff of people's nightmares. Just when you've seen Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation and think "there's no way Cruise can top this!", Cruise goes out of his way to prove you incorrect, and continue to help the Mission: Impossible franchise live up to its "impossible" part.
The sixth entry of the Mission: Impossible series had, on paper, reason to generate skepticism. Christoper McQuarrie returning as director broke the franchise's long-running tradition of having a new director for each new installment. Not that there was a rationale to believe that McQuarrie would suffer from sequelitis, but with the Mission: Impossible franchise getting better with each new installment, why would the series have any reason to break its director tradition? Of course, as the saying goes: if you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done. Deep in his mind somewhere, Tom Cruise probably believed that the Mission: Impossible franchise could be elevated to "all-time great action franchise" and the risk taken to get the franchise to that point was to bring McQuarrie back as director and not go after someone like John McTiernan.
I should not forget to mention that McQuarrie returned as the sole screenwriter as well. The story he puts together for Fallout takes place two years after Rogue Nation. Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) has been captured, but the remains of The Syndicate now pose as a terrorist group called The Apostles. Ethan Hunt is given instructions to retrieve three plutonium cores which are to be given to members of the Apostles, who will then sell the cores to a mysterious man going by the name John Lark. The mission fails, and Ethan and his team now find themselves facing a global nuclear threat, in which the Apostles intend to use nuclear weapons to extinguish one third of the world's population and usher in a new era of peace. Ethan, Benji (Simon Pegg), and Luther (Ving Rhames) set out to find the plutonium and prevent the Apostles from completing their plan, being accompanied on their mission by CIA operative August Walker (Henry Cavill), who plans on recovering the plutonium fr the CIA. The team must outrun the forces of a broker known as The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby), who intends on extracting Solomon Lane in exchange for securing the plutonium. Meanwhile, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who joined Ethan's team in Rogue Nation, has her sights set on finding and killing Lane, doing so in order to redeem herself with MI6.
I have yet to officially say what my verdict is on Fallout: It's pretty awesome, but I don't think I can rank it above Ghost Protocol. The movie once again utilizes the team-based approach that Ghost Protocol introduced to the franchise, and it brings back Solomon Lane as the primary villain, whom I thought was the weakest part of Rogue Nation. Regardless, nothing should take away from where the film succeeds with its action, the final sequence involving a helicopter chase being one of the best action scenes that I've seen from a new release since the catacombs scene from John Wick: Chapter 2.
- Tom Cruise's commitment towards performing death-defying stunts and wanting to make the action look as convincing as possible does wonders for McQuarrie in this film and for the Mission: Impossible franchise as a whole, with Fallout serving up another helping of attention-grabbing set pieces that other summer blockbusters could only dream of. The seamless editing, lavish cinematography, and splendid fight choreography are everything you could hope for from an action film, and help to make the movie not feel anywhere near as long as its 147 minute run time implies.
And like before, the movie knows how to properly inject humor into the action scenes, with Simon Pegg, effortlessly funny as always, continuing to make Benji a comedic sidekick without ever turning him into an annoying, generic comedic sidekick. Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, and Rebecca Ferguson are all great too in their respective roles, each getting at least one memorable moment so as to not just blend into the background and be there because the movie insists that they be there.
- Fallout recycles story details from earlier Mission: Impossible films, so the plot isn't all that fresh. Like in Ghost Protocol, we have someone attempting to launch nuclear weapons, and like the first Mission: Impossible, the story doesn't kick into high gear until a mission goes wrong for Ethan and his team. The fact that Solomon Lane is again a crucial part of the story had me, at times, feelings like this was Rogue Nation Part 2 and not a Mission: Impossible film that was able to stand completely on its own, one that doesn't require viewing all of the previous Mission: Impossible films in order to fully understand what's happening. In other words, Fallout is the first Mission: Impossible film to feel like a direct sequel to a previous one, making it devoid of that independence factor that was charming of each Mission: Impossible film. The shortcomings of the story is what mostly kept me from considering Fallout that action masterpiece that it's made out to be. Maybe another viewing or two will change my mind.
Thinking it all the way through, I would put Fallout as the second best in the franchise just slightly below Ghost Protocol. I know I'm probably in the minority on that, but the plot borrowing bits from earlier Mission: Impossible films kept me from leaving the theater feeling like I just watched the best action film of the 21st century (a title I would probably give to Mad Max: Fury Road) But what I will say is that Fallout will easily win the title for best action film of 2018, as Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie combine forces once again to deliver more insane thrills and ensure that the Mission: Impossible franchise is like a fine wine, getting better and better with age. As long as Tom Cruise can keep doing what he's doing, why should anyone want this franchise to end? A lot of crappy summer blockbusters come out basically every year, but as long as Mission: Impossible keeps up its hot streak, it'll be that summer action jewel we can always look forward to.
Recommend? Heck yes. Be sure you've seen Rogue Nation beforehand, though.
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is directed and written by Kazuki Omori and stars Kosuke Toyohara, Anna Nakagawa, Megumi Odaka, Katsuhiko Sasaki, Akiji Kobayashi, Yoshio Tsuchiya, and Robert Scott Field.
At long last, Toho delivered the Godzilla film that just had to be made, the one where it's Godzilla and his arch rival King Ghidorah going mano a mano. No Monster Zero gimmicks or tag team wrestling bouts, just Godzilla and Ghidorah squaring off, with no other monster in the vicinity. Following the financial disappointment that was Godzilla vs. Biollante, Toho decided to start bringing back classic monsters from the Showa series, thinking a few familiar faces would help the Heisei series fair better at the box office. What better familiar face to bring back right away than, still to this day, the coolest monster that Godzilla has ever gone up against? I was especially excited to re-watch and do a review of this particular Godzilla film, because, for years, I've considered it to be my personal favorite among all of the Godzilla films. After watching the film again for the first time in several years.....um, well....I may be having second thoughts about that personal favorite Godzilla film thing.....
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is a Godzilla film of pure extremes; when it's good, it's really good, and when it's bad, it's horrendously bad. But despite its horrendously bad parts, I still consider the film to be one of the best in the entire franchise. The good parts are some of the best moments to ever be seen in a Godzilla film, and when we're talking about bad parts, we're talking about plot and writing. I would throw dubbing into the mix as well, but I swore off talking about bad dubbing a while back, so I promise I won't bring it up in any considerable length here. I just can't help myself with mentioning this, however: the dubbing for Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is cringe-worthy to the upteenth degree, some of the most cringe-worthy dubbing that I have ever heard for not just any Godzilla film, but for any film period.
So anyway, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah presents to us a plot that aims to be a more child-friendly, fantasy adventure. The plot also attempts to cash in all of the time travel craze that was going on during the mid to late 80's and the early 90's, due to the success of the Back to the Future trilogy and the first two Terminator films. A UFO lands on Mount Fuji, revealed to be the mother ship for humans from the year 2204 who are known as "Futurians." The Futurians explain that in their time, Godzilla has completely destroyed Japan, and that they plan on going back to the year 1944 to erase Godzilla from history. We learn that in 1944, a group of Japanese soldiers on Lagos Island were being attacked by American soldiers, until they were saved by a mysterious dinosaur known as a "Godzillasaurus." Then in 1954, hydrogen bomb testing on Lagos Island mutated the dinosaur into Godzilla. To prove that their story is true, the Futurians show a copy of a book about Godzilla by science fiction writer Kenichiro Terasawa (Kosuke Toyohara), who has not completed the book yet in the present. The Futurians explain that they can travel back in time to 1944 and remove the dinosaur from Lagos Island, thus preventing the hydrogen bomb from ever creating Godzilla.
What the Futurians don't know, however, is that we've seen seventeen Godzilla films already, and one thing we've learned from those seventeen films is that aliens in a Godzilla film always have a malevolent plot in the works. As it turns out (OH, WHAT A SHOCK!), the Futurians have their own plans in mind. The Futurians go back in time and remove the dinosaur from Lagos Island, but before returning to the present, they leave behind three little creatures called Dorats. The three Dorats are exposed to the hydrogen bomb test in 1954, merging together to become the three-headed golden dragon, King Ghidorah. King Ghidorah shows up in the present and begins to lay waste to Japan, and Japan's only hope of stopping King Ghidorah and the Futurians is to create a new Godzilla.
One frustrating aspect of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is how much it feels like a strict Godzilla film, as opposed to a Godzilla film giving equal attention to all of its present monsters. The humans and the Futurians discuss Godzilla and the Godzillasaurus dinosaur in considerable length, yet Godzilla himself doesn't actually appear until over an hour in. Ghidorah shows up right around the 45 minute mark, but don't expect to get any serious exposition on why the Futurians chose to replace Godzilla with King Ghidorah. King Ghidorah is a more destructive monster, I guess is the explanation? I mean, he does have three heads that can all shoot lightning out of their mouths. Oh yeah, and he can fly too. But whatever the explanation is, poor Ghidorah is once again the mind-controlled weapon of extra-terrestrial beings, as if, after Ghidorah's debut, Toho could never again think up a proper way of incorporating an independent Ghidorah into a Godzilla film.
- Ah well, Ghidorah being mind-controlled again is the least of our worries here. The Ghidorah suit is given a nice upgrade, and the fight scenes with Godzilla is some of the best monster action you'll ever see in a kaiju film. Omori gives Ghidorah a new bag of tricks to use on Godzilla, such as using his wings as a shield against Godzilla's atomic breath and attempting to choke Godzilla with one of his three heads (as you see in the poster). Godzilla primarily relies on his badassery to combat Ghidorah, and the fight truly feels like two heated rivals going at it. The musical score by composer Akira Ifukube (his first Godzilla film since Terror of Mechagodzilla) heightens the intensity with an up tempo soundtrack whose main theme never gets old as the film goes on. If we only watched the scenes in which Godzilla or King Ghidorah are physically in the frame, I might argue that it would be a short movie that is much more enjoyable than the entire 103 minute movie.
- The number of plot holes present in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah would make swiss cheese envious. While time travel is a neat idea, it's also one of the most fragile elements that a plot can use; one or two screw-ups, and your whole story stops making sense. The "erasing Godzilla from history" part of the time travel is fine and all, but the Futurians intent on destroying Japan in the present becomes incredibly muddled when Godzilla's timeline is interfered with by King Ghidorah. Trying to figure out everything with Godzilla in this movie is bound to make your head explode, how Godzilla's disappearance from the past can lead to his re-appearance in the present, and how this change apparently has no effect on the future. It's almost fascinating to watch and see how very little sense that the plot makes by the end. Oddly enough, though, keeping track of the plot is a far more pleasant activity than trying to put up with the lineup of dull human characters, several of which are given absolutely nothing to do but watch as helpless bystanders. In short, the number of plot holes stems from how increasingly convoluted the story becomes and how very little care that Omori gives towwards addressing all of the time travel concerns. My personal favorite plot hole is this:
The three Dorats replace Godzilla on Lagos Island and get mutated by the hydrogen bomb in 1954. In this movie, 1992 is the present. What was King Ghidorah doing between 1954 and 1992?
All of the time travel craziness can be talked to death, but in a movie where we finally see Godzilla and King Ghidorah battle one on one, it's not worth the time or the effort. The plot holes shouldn't get in the way of enjoying the monster action, which are some of the best sequences in all of Toho's kaiju archives. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah delivers the most where it needs to deliver the most, and it's more than enough to make up for all of the horror going on around the monsters. It's tough to properly grade a movie like this, because normally, I'd think the high points and the low points balance out, resulting in a film that's average at best. But in the case of a Godzilla film, you have to apply some kind of scaled scoring, because kaiju films have to make sacrifices in certain areas in order to succeed where it truly counts: the monsters. In the case of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, the monsters are everything we'd want them to be, even if there is a bit too much that hinders the entire experience. For me, I think I'll keep this one as my personal favorite, but I won't be holding onto it too tightly.
Recommend? Yes, because watching Godzilla and King Ghidorah fight is worth sitting through all of the schlock that comes beforehand. This is a must-see for all Godzilla fans.
So you did do it. You amalgamated one of Godzilla's cells together with the plant's cells. Are you proud of this? What kind of science do you call this?
Godzilla vs. Biollante is directed and written by Kazuki Omori and stars Kunihiko Mitamura, Yoshiko Tanaka, Masanobu Takashima, Megumi Odaka, Toru Minegishi, Yasuko Sawaguchi, and Toshiyuki Nagashima.
A natural question to ask Toho about the Heisei Godzilla series following the release of The Return of Godzilla is, "Now what?" They got their infamous kaiju back on the big screen after a near-decade long slumber, and now was the time for Toho to jump their creative noggins into high gear and start thinking up some ideas about where to take the series next. One good sign is that Toho didn't make it a priority to start making annual Godzilla films, with Godzilla vs. Biollante coming out a a full five years after The Return of Godzilla. Never again would the Godzilla series return to the cheap stock-footage tactics of the late 60's and early 70's that largely stemmed from Toho's desire to get a Godzilla film out in theaters every year. The path that Toho tried to take with Godzilla vs. Biollante was one that continued the grim tone brought back by The Return of Godzilla, in which Godzilla maintains his presence as a villain and his rampage through Tokyo is treated like a horrific disaster. Unfortunately, choosing this path led to disappointing box office numbers for Godzilla vs. Biollante, prompting Toho to shift gears and start bringing back familiar monsters from the Showa series.
As the poster shows, Biollante is a giant plant monster, one with razor sharp teeth and who attacks with killer vines. Now, I would like to say that a plant monster seems like a decent idea for a new monster to fight Godzilla, except that Biollante has some close similarities to Audrey II, making Godzilla vs. Biollante seem like Godzilla meets Little Shop of Horrors. There's also not a whole lot of Biollante in the movie, though boy do characters love to talk about genetics and other science terminology that relate to the creation of Biollante.
The story takes place some time after the end of The Return of Godzilla. Godzilla is trapped inside Mt. Mihara, but several of his cells are discovered and taken to the Saradia Institute of Technology and Science. The cells are to be merged with genetically modified plants with the hopes of replacing Saradia's deserts with fruitful land, thus ending the country's dependence on oil. Dr. Genshiro Shiragami (Koji Takahashi) and his daughter Erika (Yasuko Sawaguchi) are sent to aid in the cell project, but a terrorist bombing destroys the laboratory, killing Erika in the process.
Five years later, Dr. Shiragami tries to keep Erika's spirit alive by merging some of her cells with the cells of a rose. Scientist Kazuhito Kirishima (Kunihiko Mitamura) and Colonel Goro Gondo (Toru Minegishi) approach Dr. Shiragami, hoping that he can assist them in developing a weapon called "Anti-Nuclear Energy Bacteria", which will be used in case Godzilla returns. However, Dr. Shiragami refuses to assist. Meanwhile, an explosion occurs right outside Mt. Mihara, sending tremors that damage Dr. Shiragami's home. One night, strangers break in to Shiragami's lab, but they are attacked by a massive plant creature that eventually escapes out to Lake Ashina. Not long afterwards, Godzilla is released from Mt. Mihara. Godzilla sets out to replenish his nuclear energy, but instead comes across the plant creature (given the name "Biollante" by Dr. Shiragami), where a massive battle ensues.
Basically, Biollante is a plant version of Godzilla. Y'know, because he's made from Godzilla's cells and all. That part is no problem. What I do have a problem with is how everything else just isn't all that interesting. There's a lot going on with the plot, and good luck trying to keep up with all of the names, places, and motivations crisscrossing in ways that make it hard to believe that this movie's title promises that a giant lizard will be facing off against a giant plant. Godzilla vs. Biollante complicates itself far more than it needs to, and there is a mighty sigh of relief when the monsters finally step into the frame.
- The monster action is pretty stellar, enhanced by a blood-pumping musical score by composer Koichu Sugiyama. Godzilla's atomic breath makes the fight just a little bit unfair, but how director Omori makes up for this is choreograph the fight in a way that has Godzilla not so much go in to the fight headfirst, but stand back and study Biollante. Godzilla watches how Biollante positions himself, and then launches an attack when he sees an opening. Biollante's main method of attack is using vines with chomping mouths, but Godzilla destroys them with ease. The climactic fight also has one of the most grotesque moments of violence in the entire Godzilla franchise: Biollante sends a vine straight through one of Godzilla's hands, with green ooze splattering everywhere. Better to not watch the fight while eating a snack.
- What makes Godzilla vs. Biollante quite a chore to watch is how incredibly unfocused the film is, contributing big time to how uninteresting the plot becomes. Characters come and go with no rhyme or reason; you'll see a character one moment, and then there's no mention of them until 15-20 minutes later. Not helping matters is how many characters we have to keep up with: the good guys, the villains who are after the Godzilla cells, and, oh yeah, two giant monsters. Omori's clumsy handling of the characters and plot make it that much harder for us to get engaged with the story and not start saying, "When are the monsters gonna show up and start fighting?" Might I also mention how ridiculous and illogical the bit about Dr. Sagiyama trying to keep his daughter's soul alive is? For starters, we learn he's trying to do this FIVE YEARS after she's killed, which throws into question how in the world does he have functional cells from his daughter. I've never worked in a morgue or a funeral home, but I sincerely doubt that after FIVE FREAKING YEARS that your body still has living cells intact. I don't know, maybe he got the cells shortly after she died and found a way to preserve them. But even after you look past that bit, the whole, "keeping her soul alive in a rose" part is schmaltzy as all get out. Good thing the movie is too unfocused to dive too deep into that plot point.
I wouldn't feel right in saying that Godzilla vs. Biollante is bad. It's mostly that its good parts are overwhelmed by its inability to stay focused and maintain a progressive approach to the story. Characters are all over the place, with the monster action feeling like a reward we receive after completing some long, laborious task, as opposed to being an exciting spectacle that we've been building up to. Like Terror of Mechagodzilla, this is a Godzilla film that I know I watched at a younger age, but can't for the life of me remember how I felt afterwards. And also like Terror of Mechagodzilla, I came away far more disappointed than I thought I would. Despite retaining some of what worked well in The Return of Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Biollante is a sequel that manages to do somewhat worse. Don't let your hopes wilt, though. I promise the series has much better to come.
Recommend? No. For any Godzilla fans, don't make this a priority to watch.
Godzilla's Return To Form
The Return of Godzilla is directed by Koji Hashimoto and is the first film of the Heisei Godzilla series, serving as a sequel to the original 1954 Gojira and also serving as a reboot of the entire Godzilla franchise. The film stars Ken Tanaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Yosuke Natsuki, and Keiju Kobayashi.
After a near decade long hiatus following the end of the Showa series, Toho brought their infamous kaiju back to the big screen, kicking of a string of seven new Godzilla films that would take the franchise up through the mid 1990's. Godzilla was brought back with a clean slate, Toho wiping away every one of Godzilla's bizarre character traits, specifically Godzilla being a superhero and an environmentalist like he in the late 60's and early 70's. The big G would start anew as the villainous, rampaging monster of destruction that the world fell in love with back in 1954, a role he would reprise several more times later in the series. If and when Toho ever needed Godzilla to not play a pure villain, he would resemble a monster antihero, but we'll get to that when the time comes.
As stated at the top, The Return of Godzilla is a sequel to the original 1954 Gojira. It ignores all other installments of the Showa series, and let me warn you now, that's something we need to get used to, because a Godzilla film ignoring all previous installments except for the original is something that is going to happen a lot more down the road. But anyway, I'm thinking too far ahead. The other thing I should clear up is the meaning behind the names Showa and Heisei. The original Godzilla series is referred to as the Showa series because Showa was the name of the Emperor of Japan while the original series was being made. When Emperor Showa died in 1989, his son Akihito took over (and he still reigns as Emperor of Japan today), thus beginning the Heisei series. Now hold on a minute. If Emperor Showa died in 1989, shouldn't that mean that The Return of Godzilla should be considered a part of the Showa series? Well, yes, but for some reason, it's not. I don't know of any specific cultural concerns that were behind deciding which series The Return of Godzilla would be placed under, but the only valid explanation I can offer is that because The Return of Godzilla is a reboot to the franchise, it would make more sense to categorize it under a new series name.
Okay, now let's get to discussing the movie itself. The story is set thirty years after the original film. A Japanese fishing boat is caught in a strong current and drifts towards a volcano on Daikoku Island. A giant monster emerges from the volcano and seemingly destroys the boat. A few days later, reporter Goro Maki (Ken Tanaka) sails out to sea and finds the boat intact. He explores the boat, finding all of the crew dead except for one man named Hiroshi Okumura (Shin Takuma). Goro is then suddenly attacked by a giant sea louse, but is saved by Okumura. Back in Tokyo, Okumura looks at pictures from the 1954 Godzilla attack, and realizes that the monster he saw emerge out of the volcano was Godzilla. The press stops Goro from publishing a story about the boat incident and the resurrection of Godzilla, fearing a nationwide panic.
Shortly afterwards, a Soviet nuclear sub is destroyed. The Soviets claim the Americans are responsible for the attack, creating tension that threatens to escalate into nuclear war. Japan steps in and reveal that Godzilla was responsible for the destruction of the sub, while also revealing a new weapon called the Super X, believing it can protect Japan from a Godzilla attack. Godzilla does attack, starting off by destroying a nuclear power plant, an incident that puts the rest of Japan on high alert. You can take a good guess at where the plot goes from there.
So not only do we have a Godzilla attack to worry about, but we also have some Cold War politics going on as well. I'm not sure if this should be considered a strength or a flaw of the film; I'm leaning towards the latter because Cold War feuds were not something that any previous Godzilla film addressed in any meaningful capacity, plus the Cold War was to end about seven years after The Return of Godzilla was initially released. But with Godzilla initially being conceived as a metaphor for nuclear weapons, Toho must have believed that it would make sense to create a Godzilla film with a Cold War backdrop, given that nuclear weapons were a matter of the utmost concern during the Cold War. Still, I don't think Japanese audiences went to The Return of Godzilla with the intention of seeing America and the Soviet Union feud over a destroyed nuclear sub.
- The Return of Godzilla aims to revitalize the general terror and sense of dread that were on full display in the original Japanese Godzilla, resulting in a Godzilla film that is much darker in tone and also resulting in the most ambitious Godzilla films since Destroy All Monsters. Godzilla is stripped completely of the goofy histrionics and kid-friendly superhero identity that saddled him in the mid-to-late entries of the Showa series, with his atomic breath and rampage of destruction given a major upgrade. The Godzilla suit itself is a bit of a mixed bag; at times Godzilla looks terrifying, but other times he looks lazy and like he's about to fall asleep (maybe he wanted to stay in cinematic hibernation for a little while longer?). The animatronic head used for close-up shots of Godzilla does a weird thing that bothered me a little: when Godzilla roars, the upper lip goes up very high. But anyway, issues with the suit don't take away from the film's ambition and its hopes of recapturing what made the 1954 Godzilla such a treasure of a giant monster movie. The series got so far away from treating Godzilla's attack like a real disaster, that it's a wonderful sight to see Toho cut the bull crap and get back to what worked originally.
- It takes a little while for Godzilla to show up and seize control of the plot, but even when you include all of the Godzilla action on top of the not overly interesting human plot, the movie as a whole is incredibly tedious, tedious for a 103 minute monster movie, anyway. To start with, the movie takes a long time to get started, Godzilla's attack on the nuclear power planet being the first time we see him, which doesn't happen until around the 35 minute mark. The humans do discuss Godzilla quite a bit beforehand, the only thing to build suspense for the big G's first appearance. But as for the movie being tedious, I blame this on how the movie insists on going back to its human characters, even when Godzilla shows up in Tokyo Bay and starts trampling buildings. The humans slow everything down, acting as a buzzsaw towards any and all momentum that the movie may have been building during its more lengthy Godzilla scenes, especially when the Cold War stuff is going on. The slowness is not done to such a horrendous degree that I would consider the film boring. Oh, but the movie still does flirt with being boring here and there, and that's not okay for the first installment of a reboot.
But no matter the flaws on hand in this movie, I've heard the 1985 Americanized version of The Return of Godzilla (which is called Godzilla 1985) is much much much worse, being heavily re-edited and bringing back Raymond Burr to reprise his role of Steve Martin (not to be confused with the actor Steve Martin who was quite popular at the time this movie came out) from Godzilla: King of the Monsters! As it turns out, this was one of two Godzilla movies that I had not ever seen before, and because I reviewed the original 1954 Japanese version of Godzilla and not the Raymond Burr American version, it felt right to do the same thing for this Godzilla movie.
Looking at all of the past Godzilla films and those later to come, The Return of Godzilla is a middle of the road film for the franchise. It has the best of intentions at heart: revert back to the grim tone of the original and morph Godzilla back into the terrifying monster of destruction that he was to begin with. But those ambitions are marred by a lingering sense of tediousness, the film feeling about 15-20 minutes longer than it actually is, something we can blame on all of the human characters. The Cold War business is polarizing: some will think of it as a nice addition to a Godzilla film, while others will find it unwelcome. Regardless, this is a major upgrade from what the Godzilla series had devolved to late in the Showa series (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla being the lone exception). Better Godzilla films were on the way, but for this film, given what it wants to be, it leaves a lot more to be desired.
Recommend? Only to the most die-hard of Godzilla fans.
Dinosaurs and Robots
Terror of Mechagodzilla is directed by Ishiro Honda and is the last film of the original Godzilla Showa series. The film is a direct sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and stars Katsuhiko Sasaki, Tomoko Ai, Akihiko Hirata, and Gorō Mutsumi. It was also the least successful Godzilla film at the box office.
Twenty one years and fifteen films later, the original Godzilla series reached its conclusion. By 1975, Toho could no longer deny the rapidly declining popularity of kaiju films and the diminishing returns of the box office, leaving them with no choice but to give their most popular monster a well-deserved rest. So instead of creating another Destroy All Monsters, Toho decided that the Showa series finale would be a direct sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla: the one film that saved the Showa series from ending in complete mediocrity. Toho had no intention of this being the final Godzilla film ever; they just needed to give audiences an extended break from seeing a Godzilla film year in and year out.
I do not at all remember the first time I saw Terror of Mechagodzilla, nor what my reaction was afterwards. What I do know is how I felt after watching the film again recently for the sake of this review: the Showa series may have been better off ending with Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. By no means is Terror of Mechagodzilla anything like the hilariously bad Godzilla vs. Megalon nor the pity riddled Godzilla's Revenge. What Terror of Mechagodzilla is is disappointing, disappointing in the sense that it does not at all contain the kind of intensity implied by the poster: Godzilla combats Mechagodzilla while cities are being destroyed; UFO's are flying overhead; tornadoes are raging in the background. This is a movie called Terror of Mechagodzilla, yet there is basically nothing resembling terror, and there is very little Mechagodzilla. But why stop there? The titling issues of the Godzilla series continues: some dumbass at independent distributor Bob Conn Enterprises gave the film a 1978 North American release under the name The Terror of Godzilla, a title that makes about as much sense as Gigantis the Fire Monster for Godzilla Raids Again.
The story of Terror of Mechagodzilla starts some time after the events of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Interpol agents search for leftover pieces of Mechagodzilla at the bottom of the Okinawan Sea. However, their submarine is attacked and destroyed by an aquatic dinosaur called Titanosaurus. Interpol's investigation of Titanosaurus leads them to a mad scientist named Shinzo Mafune (Akihiko Hirata), who had been disgraced for his work and now wants to eliminate all of mankind. Mafune has a daughter named Katsura (Tomoko Ai) and is in allegiance with the surviving Black Hole aliens from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. The aliens plot to use Titanosaurus and a second Mechagodzilla in order to destroy the Earth and rebuild it for themselves. Never fear, for Godzilla arrives to combat Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla and save the day.
Instead of being a straight on Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla showdown in which no other monsters are involved, Toho decided that a new monster should be thrown into the mix to give the film a little more flavor, as well as to attempt to up the suspense by having Godzilla on his lonesome against two other monsters. Understandably, the movie spends some time giving us exposition on Titanosaurus, but at the expense of extra screen time for Mechagodzilla.
- It takes a while for all the monsters to get on screen, but once they finally do, it's some pretty damn satisfying monster action. The monsters go at each other like they are actually fighting, and not as if they're trying out to become the next contestant for WWE. There are two memorable moments: one where Titanosaurus bites Godzilla square in the face and lifts him into the air and the other when the Godzilla suit catches on fire for a few seconds. Before Godzilla shows up to fight, we get to watch Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla blow up a bunch of buildings, and oh what a sight for sore eyes it is! Absolutely no stock footage to be had! Building smashing is the one place where Terror of Mechagodzilla improves over Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (where there was almost no building smashing).
- What makes Terror of Mechagodzilla so disappointing is how much the human plot overwhelms the monsters, spending way more time than necessary on Shinzo Mafune and his daughter and not at all presenting anything fun to tide us over until Godzilla appears. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla had a fun human spy story to keep us invested, but there's nothing like that here. It's just one boring conversation after another, with a brief shot of Titanosaurus here and there to remind us that we are still watching a movie called Terror of Mechagodzilla.
All in all, Terror of Mechagodzilla is too heavy on human plot and too light on monster scenes, resulting in an uneven kaiju film that doesn't send the Showa series out on a high note. I was expecting more, given that Toho was able to bring Ishiro Honda back one more time and given how much promise that Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla offered. A sequel for one of the best Godzilla villains ever? Hell yeah! But make it a sequel in which your titular monster is barely in the movie at all? Hell no! Even if Terror of Mechagodzilla is far better quality-wise than some of the worst of the Godzilla films, it still should be labeled as a bit of a letdown, because it doesn't at all capitalize on its potential, sending the original Godzilla series out with a whimper, as opposed to a triumphant roar.
Recommend? Only to the most die-hard Godzilla fans.
We Mecha great team
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is directed by Jun Fukuda and stars Masaaki Daimon, Kazuya Aoyama, Gorō Mutsumi, and Akihiko Hirata. The film was later released in the United States under the titles Godzilla vs. The Bionic Monster and Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster.
Who would've guessed that Jun Fukuda, the man responsible for the bottoming out of the Godzilla franchise with Godzilla vs. Megalon and the man forever notorious as the director behind some of the lowest quality Godzilla films, was the one that would raise the series from complete mediocrity? Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla isn't the end of the original Showa Godzilla series, and boy would that have been Toho's worst nightmare had Godzilla gone into cinematic hibernation had his last film been Godzilla vs. Megalon. Instead, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla started the process of the Showa series going out on a positive note, ensuring that Godzilla would not forever be hamstrung by stock footage and stories that are targeted at small children. The Godzilla series would never again experience the unholy depths known only by the likes of Godzilla's Revenge and Godzilla vs. Megalon, but by the mid 1970's, it was only a matter of time before Toho needed to fully accept the fact that their infamous kaiju was losing popularity by the minute, and that it was soon going to be time to give the King of the Monsters a well-deserved rest.
But before Toho sent Godzilla into his 10-year hiatus, they decided to pit him against one of the coolest monsters in the entire kaiju library, the best monster that Toho had conceived since King Ghidorah. Now, Ghidorah is still, and always will be, Godzilla's archrival, but aside from Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla has shaped up to be the one other monster that Godzilla has faced off against time and time again (Godzilla has faced Mothra a few times, but those clashes are offset by the few times that the two monsters have teamed up). A robotic version of Godzilla sounded like a great idea for a new Godzilla villain, which I guess is proof that Jun Fukuda had at least a few creative bones in his body.
So in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, we have ourselves another alien invasion plot.
Wait! Don't go! I promise there's more to it!
Okay, first, let's back up a bit. In the prefecture of Okinawa, an Azumi priestess has a vision of a giant monster destroying a city. Meanwhile, a spelunker named Masahiko Shimizu (Kazuya Aoyama) discovers a strange metal inside a cave, taking it to Professor Miyajima (Akihiko Hirata), who examines the metal and refers to it as space titanium. Shortly afterwards, Masahiko's brother Keisuke (Masaaki Daimon) uncovers a hidden chamber containing ancient artifacts and a mural that states a prophecy: A black mountain will appear above the clouds, and out from it will come a monster of death and destruction; but when the red moon sets and the sun rises in the west, two more monsters will appear to save the world.
A black cloud that looks like a mountain eventually appears in the sky. Godzilla arises from Mount Fuji and begins to destroy everything in sight. Say what, now? Hasn't Godzilla been good to humans in recent years? We immediately see, however, that something is off about this Godzilla: his roar is a shrill, metallic sound, and Anguirus, Godzilla's best friend, shows up to attack. Anguirus knocks off a piece of the Godzilla's skin, revealing some kind of metal hidden underneath. After Anguirus is forced to retreat and Godzilla makes his way to a refinery, a second Godzilla appears, using his atomic breath to fully expose the Godzilla from Mount Fuji as a fake. The fake Godzilla reveals itself to be the cyborg Mechagodzilla, being used as a weapon by apelike aliens of The Third Planet from the Black Hole. The aliens plot to use Mechagodzilla to conquer the world. Godzilla and Mechagodzilla face off; Godzilla is wounded and disappears into the sea, while Mechagodzilla is damaged and is forced to return to the alien base for repairs. As Mechagodzilla undergoes repairs, Keisuke and a woman archaeologist he meets named Saeko (Reiko Tajima) try to uncover the mystery behind a statue they found in the chamber. Saeko believes the statue bears a resemblance to the ancient monster King Caesar.
That's a lot of plot for an 84 minute Godzilla flick that goes by at almost breakneck speed. The human side of the plot plays off like a James Bond-style spy flick, in which our heroes must prevent an evil overlord from acquiring some object he wants, and then later invade the villain's secret base and destroy it, like in Dr. No or The Man with the Golden Gun. Even when there are no monsters on screen, the human scenes are successful in keeping us at least somewhat amused, though they tend to be prolonged enough that you may have to remind yourselves you are indeed watching a movie called Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and not Planet of the Japanese Apes.
- I almost want to forgive Jun Fukuda for all of his previous Godzilla films, knowing he would be a part of Toho's presentation of Mechagodzilla. Mechagodzilla has a wide arsenal of weapons that makes him a ton of fun to watch: rainbow-colored eye lasers, missiles from his fingers and toes, and the ability to shoot a lightning ray gun from his chest. The monster fights are well-choreographed, with Mechagodzilla punching, kicking, and landing hits in ways that look like they really hurt, such as him breaking Anguirus' jaw and blasting Godzilla in the neck with his eye lasers. It's far more convincing than the playful-looking monster wrestling from Godzilla vs. Gigan and Godzilla vs Megalon, being mostly devoid of the pure goofiness seen in those two films. Also, the high-pitched, screechy sound that is Mechagodzilla's roar definitely sounds like something that could come out of his mouth, something that was abandoned in later versions of Mechagodzilla. The only drawback is that the suit clears shows itself to be made of rubber, bending and twisting in ways that metal clearly can not bend and twist.
- Though Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla does not bear the burden of stock footage, it does have a difficult time trying to hide its low budget. The wires used during several of the monster scenes are clearly visible, and there are also scenes where the aliens get shot, turning them back into their true ape form. The transformation effect for the aliens is one of the worst effects in the entire Godzilla series, looking like an ugly green splotch on the screen instead of something hat could have been a source of inspiration for the effects of the first two Terminator films. One scene gets it real bad: an alien henchman gets strangled, then while the ape transformation is happening, the entire frame freezes, with the strangler in plain sight. This is then followed by a cross fade effect in which the frozen strangler has slightly changed position before the frame unfreezes. Now, this freezing, cross fade tactic is used for all of the other ape transformation scenes, but none of the others have another human character visible in the frame during the cross fade. I don't care that this was 1974; how in the world did Jun Fukuda not see this?! Maybe he did see it, but he had to roll with it because they didn't have enough money to do a re-shoot or to redo the effects.
The low budget doesn't matter that much anyway. This is great stuff, considering what was on display in the past several Godzilla films. The monster action is some of the best of the original series, with Mechagodzilla shaping up to be one of the most kick-ass monster villains to ever be put in a Godzilla film. The human plot doesn't get caught up with petty dialogue that would only serve as a delay until the monsters take over, being dressed up like a miniature spy flick that just so happens to involve aliens. This is all around a solid Godzilla film, one that transcends a lot of the standards set by older kaiju films and one that should please any Godzilla fan. It's easily one of the best films of the original Showa series, as well as one of the best of the entire Godzilla franchise.
Recommend? Yes. This is a must-see for any and all Godzilla fans.
You da ant
Ant-Man and the Wasp is directed by Peyton Reed and is the 20th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Abby Ryder Fortson, and Michael Douglas all return to reprise their roles from Ant-Man. Newcomers to the cast include Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Laurence Fishburne.
The second solo Ant-Man movie is the MCU's perfect follow-up to the titanic stakes of Avengers: Infinity War, spearheading the cleansing process necessary for audiences to feel refreshed and recharged heading into the MCU's Captain Marvel and Avengers 4 in early 2019. And while Ant-Man and the Wasp's post-credit scenes will ensure that Infinity War isn't too far from mind, the film as a whole is our chance to take a step back from the world-building of previous Marvel films and unwind a little. Like in Ant-Man, there's no need to worry about the Earth blowing up or the universe being sucked into a black hole of doom. Our expectations should be getting another fun and breezy superhero outing, expectations that Ant-Man and the Wasp 100 percent deliver on.
I am honestly unsure about deciding which Ant-Man movie is the better one. They both function in identical ways, so much so that it seems impossible to truly distinguish the two, except for their storytelling. Both movies rely on cheeky humor and colorful action as their meat and potatoes, and certainly that's going to get the job done for the most undemanding of Marvel fans. For myself, I was pleased by the control that Peyton Reed once again puts on the humor, never allowing for an overly-jokey tone that usually diminishes the experience as a whole, like in several of the MCU's previous films such as Thor: Ragnarok and Doctor Strange. There are other problems present in Ant-Man and the Wasp that keep it from being anything spectacular, but, as strange as it sounds, they are problems I welcome with open arms.
Here's what's going on with the story: After the events of Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang has been placed under house arrest, while Pym and Hope are forced to go on the run and cease any further communication with Lang. Two years later, Lang receives a strange message in his head from Pym's wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), whom Pym believes is still alive in the quantum realm. Lang decides to call Pym and tell him about the message. Hope then kidnaps Lang and brings him to Pym's shrinkable laboratory. Pym and Hope tell Lang that his message is proof that Janet is still alive, and the three begin to work on making a stable quantum tunnel so that someone can enter the quantum realm and rescue Janet.
Hope arranges to acquire a part for the tunnel from black market dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), but Burch double-crosses Hope, intent on stealing Pym and Hope's research for himself. However, just as Hope is about to get away with the part, she is attacked by a quantumly unstable masked woman named Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who steals the part for herself. Ghost desires to use the part to gain access to the quantum realm and heal herself of her unstable condition. Knowing that Ghost's plan puts Janet at risk, Lang, Hope, and Pym all work to find Ghost and finish their work on the quantum tunnel.
- Ant-Man gave us only a glimpse of what Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly could do together. This time, the two really get to show their individual charisma and their undeniable chemistry. Rudd as the dorky Lang and Lilly as the prudent Hope play off each other very well, without the romance angle ever being stretched too much. Lang and Hope also display a sort of underlying rivalry; Hope believes she is better because she has more experience with the shrinking technology and her suit has wings, while Lang believes he can make up for his lack of experience, because Hank Pym chose him for the suit.While the plot does make Lang seem like more of a supporting character since it heavily involves finding Hope's mother, both Lang and Hope get their shining moments during fights and chase sequences.
- The script by screenwriters Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, and Gabriel Ferrari is a little rough around the edges, particularly in how the movie is a bit all over the place with several subplots. The most detrimental effect of the number of subplots is the movie having two sub-antagonists as opposed to one primary antagonist. Sonny Burch and Ghost are after basically the same thing, just with different end goals in mind. It is flat out impossible to take Burch seriously as a villain, boasting absolutely nothing, no kind of weapon or secret information, that could make Ant-Man, the Wasp, or Ghost seriously deem him a threat. Meanwhile, Lang has to ensure that he isn't caught out of the house, as his home is periodically checked by FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park). And then on top of all that, Lang's buddies Luis, Dave, and Kurt start a new business called X-Con, eventually getting to help out in a car chase that happens late in the film. So in summary, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a little more busy than it probably should be, struggling to fully flesh out its new characters and to keep all of the plot lines steady.
So, is there anything else needed to be discussed? I don't think so. Just like its predecessor, Ant-Man and the Wasp shoots for being nothing more than a fun and cheerful superhero film, this time combining Paul Rudd's charm with the charm of Evangeline Lilly, creating a kick-ass duo that we will likely see more of some time down the road. The script has some issues, but it doesn't take away from the film's humor and its value as a work of entertainment. Some might think Marvel is crazy for not ending their 2018 movie slate with the bang that was Infinity War, but Ant-Man and the Wasp is able to accomplish two things that justify it being Marvel's final 2018 film: it keeps the MCU a little more fresh in people's minds throughout the summer movie season, and it represents something of a breather for audiences, so that there will be no fatigue or anything else of the sort heading into 2019. No way does Marvel intend to disappoint. They haven't spent the better part of the past 10 years to build up to nothing.
Recommend? Yes. Be sure to have Ant-Man fresh in your mind before you see it.
I have been scouting for bugs with your exact talents!
Ant-Man is directed by Peyton Reed and stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, and Michael Douglas. It is the 12th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The stakes feel extraordinarily high in some of Marvel's bulkier outings, so it's nice that a film like Ant-Man can come along every now and then to remind us that not every superhero adventure needs to put the universe at risk. The only comparison that would make Ant-Man seem rather small is comparing it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, where the majority of the heroes are characters with at least one gaudy feature: Tony Stark is a tech genius and the possessor the ultimate suit of armor; Steve Rogers is a super soldier with more muscles than that lunkhead you'll see at the gym; Thor is the God of Thunder, wielding an almighty hammer. I suppose I'm claiming that Ant-Man is a more down-to-Earth kind of superhero, which he is. Ant-Man never takes part in some destruction-heavy fight nor does he need to worry about the Earth spinning off its axis. The climactic battle of this movie takes place in a child's bedroom, so let that be an indication of the kind of "take it easy" attitude that Ant-Man sports.
Ant-Man's practical approach to the superhero genre is largely due to its protagonist, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd): a thief who serves time in prison and, upon release, is determined to be a better man. Lang cares deeply for his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), but he is rebuked by his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new fiance, police detective Paxton (Bobby Cannavale). Lang is unable to provide child support for Cassie, and he also finds himself unable to hold on to a job due to his criminal record. Out of options, Lang agrees to join his former cell mate Luis' (Michael Pena) crew and break into a house that contains a safe, one that is supposedly filled with lots of valuables. Lang successfully breaks into the house and cracks the safe, but instead of money or jewels, Lang only finds a strange suit and a helmet.
The house that Lang breaks into turns out to be the house of scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and the suit that Lang finds is Pym's Ant-Man suit, which is equipped with shrinking technology. Lang later discovers that stealing the suit was actually a test administered by Pym, who had hidden the suit away because he believed the technology to be too dangerous to use. Impressed by Lang's thieving skills and Lang's determination to be a hero to his daughter, Pym offers Lang the chance to don the suit, learn its technology, and become the new Ant-Man. Pym also wants Lang to become the new Ant-Man in hopes that Lang can steal a similar piece of technology, the Yellowjacket, from Pym's former protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Cross had forced Pym out of his own company, Pym Technologies, and seeks to sell the Yellowjacket to Hydra.
- Ant-Man contains a "feel-good" vibe, something that almost none of the other MCU films can brag about. Scott Lang's transition into becoming Ant-Man allows him to restart his life, the second chance he needs to not only better himself, but to grow closer with his daughter. Lang is no super human, but a man going through a rough patch, strapped with a criminal history that hinders everything in his life. Maybe I'm a bit of a sucker for these "protagonist gets a second chance" kind of movies, but Paul Rudd delivers an evidently charming and heartfelt performance, so I find it hard to not feel sympathy and be won over by his character. Lang never goes through any kind of radical physical or emotional changes (this is not meant to be a shot at Captain America, by the way), but instead finds new confidence, a sense of purpose, and, above all else, the belief that he can be there for Cassie. In other words, Lang experiences human-like changes throughout the film, allowing us to better realize the actual man inside the suit. Lang's character development is pretty similar to that of Clark Kent's development in Superman II, in which the more human side of Ant-Man/Superman are given proper development.
- Michael Douglas gives the best performance in the film as Hank Pym. For some reason, hearing his voice coming out of the mouth of a character like Pym gives me a lot of joy. Douglas successfully capture the essence of his character: a scientist whose life is in shambles, until he discovers Lang and realizes that Lang is the one that could turn everything around. In addition, Douglas delivers his lines with the right kind of voice intonation, done in a way that makes you truly want to listen to him.
- Before 2018, Marvel struggled mightily with presenting us memorable and interesting villains, and sadly, Ant-Man is no exception. Darren Cross being the main villain is totally obvious from the first moment we see him, walking around Pym Technologies with a smug-look on his face. He might as well have a post-it note on his name tag that reads, "I'm The Villain! It's So Obviously Me!" My gosh, you could just look at the poster and determine that Corey Stoll plays the villain. It's not like his motivations are unique or that he's simply full of malice; he's just a sneaky business suit that's in it for the money. For all the tiny things in this movie, Darren Cross' intimidation factor is certainly one of them. I mean no ill will upon Corey Stoll and his acting; he does the best he can with a script that doesn't leave much space for him to do anything bold.
As odd as it may sound, I consider Ant-Man to be one of my favorite entries in the MCU, even if Ant-Man seems inferior to the other big wig Marvel superheroes. My fondness for this film comes from its feel-good atmosphere, something I thank the film's human center for. Ant-Man's hero is a realistic man with no wacky gimmicks or exaggerated features, a kind of superhero that adds more to the MCU than you might first think. As a whole, Ant-Man is breezy, delightful fun, getting a major boost from charming performances by Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas. It's not an overly ambitious film by any means, and why should it be? Not every superhero movie needs to be Avengers: Infinity War or The Dark Knight. It may not seem that important within its over-arching universe, but in its own small ways, Ant-Man proves itself to be a triumph.
Uh...someone can tell Raymond Burr he's late
Godzilla vs. Megalon is directed by Jun Fukuda and stars Katsuhiko Sasaki, Hiroyuki Kawase, Yutaka Hayashi, and Robert Dunham. Shinji Takagi takes over as the role of Godzilla.
The 13th entry in the Showa Godzilla series marks rock bottom for the entire franchise (quite the appropriate number, I must say), representing such a deviation from what Godzilla was when he was first introduced to the world back in 1954, I might argue it's not even Godzilla we're watching here, but instead some other lizard creature with a long tail and just so happens to have atomic breath. The question of, "What is the worst Godzilla movie?" is a question I've been hovering around and mentioning several times before, and this time, I'm throwing the dart right at the bulls-eye: Godzilla vs. Megalon is the worst Godzilla movie of them all. It's a film student's worst nightmare, doing basically nothing right with story, effects, or editing, and borrowing so much from other Godzilla films, the movie might as well be called, "The Ultimate Godzilla Montage, with guest, Megalon." And though this is easily the worst Godzilla from a pure film-making perspective, I can't even say it's the one I personally despise the most. The movie is way too zany to be boring, the monster's performing theatrics unlike any ever seen in the previous twelve films, resulting in one of the most hilarious monster battles to ever be put to film. But we'll get more into the monster fight later.
The story of Godzilla vs. Megalon begins with some narration about nuclear testing and how it's disturbing the monsters on Monster Island. We later find out that these nuclear tests are also affecting the people of an undersea organization called Seatopia. Pissed off by the noise and the damage caused by these tests, the Seatopians call upon their god, the beetle-looking cyborg known as Megalon, to head up to the surface and have a few words with the people living there. The Seatopians also send agents to break into the home of inventor Goro Ibuki (Katsuhiko Sasaki) and steal his humanoid robot named Jet Jaguar, in hopes of using Jet Jaguar to guide Megalon along his path of destruction. Goro, accompanied by his nephew Rokuro (Hiroyuki Kawase) and his friend Hiroshi Jinkawa (Yutaka Hayashi), manage to escape the Seatopians' clutches and regain control of Jet Jaguar. Goro then sends Jet Jaguar to summon Godzilla to help defeat Megalon. However, the Seatopians reach out to the Space Hunter Nebula M, who send their monster Gigan over to help. Everything culminates in a two on two monster showdown: Godzilla and Jet Jaguar vs. Megalon and Gigan.
Godzilla vs. Megalon originally wasn't supposed to be a Godzilla movie, but instead a solo outing for Jet Jaguar. Jet Jaguar was the result of a children's art contest held by Toho in 1972, the winner being a drawing of a robot named Red Aron from an elementary school student. Unfortunately, screen tests and storyboards proved unsuccessful, and Toho suspected that Jet Jaguar would not be able to carry the film on his own nor make the film marketable enough to score big at the box office. Thus, production was halted, and Toho brought in longtime Godzilla screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa to work Godzilla and Gigan into the script, believing the addition of Godzilla would enhance the film's market value. The story is that once the script was revised to include Godzilla, the whole movie took just three weeks to shoot. That should be a surprise to virtually no one who watches this movie. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if the truth was that it only took a week and a half to shoot the whole movie.
- The monster fight at the end is simply hysterical, and it allowed me the chance to bless Godzilla vs. Megalon with the holy title of Unintentionally Hilarious: one of the greatest and most underrated forms of comedy ever. All four monsters are bouncing around and wacking each other in such a wildly inane fashion, it's practically begging for cartoon sound effects and a Benny Hill soundtrack to start playing in the background. An absolute gem of a moment is when Godzilla does a sliding kick on Megalon: one of the greatest moments in all of kaiju history and the one and only reason I might recommend this movie. The fight starts off with Jet Jaguar knocking Megalon around a little, then Gigan comes in and the two start kicking Jet Jaguar's ass, until Godzilla shows up and starts to perform a series of tag team moves with Jet Jaguar. The fight is great, stupid fun, and the one redeeming factor in a movie that can't do a thing to stir up an ounce of excitement in any of the preceding scenes.
- If you haven't guessed already, Godzilla vs. Megalon continues the late Showa series' reliance on stock footage, even going as far as to use stock footage from Godzilla vs. Gigan, which is just downright shameful. Now look, some of the stock footage is understandable, such as Megalon destroying buildings left and right, because Toho didn't have the money to film brand new scenes of a monster trampling buildings. Other moments using stock footage, however, are simply unforgivable, as they represent such an impetuous approach to putting scenes together, that the film becomes a truly sad sight to behold. Two moments of stock footage really stuck out to me. The first one is a scene where Megalon uses his drill hands to destroy a bunch of planes firing at him, except the shots of Megalon destroying the planes are those of Gigan destroying planes from Godzilla vs. Gigan, with Gigan's claw so easily noticeable. The second moment is Megalon laying waste to an industrial area (more stock footage from Godzilla vs. Gigan), which comes mere seconds after we see Megalon hopping his way through an open field. This second moment speaks volumes of the lousy editing on display, giving no consideration towards the monsters' general location. It'd be as if Godzilla was travelling through the sea, and then just a few minutes later, he's rampaging through Tokyo.
- Megalon is a pathetic monster, not only in how he looks, but how he acts as well. Megalon's face doesn't look at all like some creepy insect, but instead like some cute, child-friendly bug that tries to obtain his villainous prowess by making a scrunched up poop face that even a toddler wouldn't find frightening. Megalon also likes to cackle a lot, though this isn't the first time in a Godzilla film we've seen one of the monsters laugh. What takes the cake for worst Megalon moment is a quick shot of Megalon during the climactic battle, where we watch him run away like some little kid who got grounded and got Fortnite taken away from him. I don't know how any sane person can look at Megalon and even conjure up the willpower to try and take him seriously. He is by far the worst monster that Godzilla has ever gone up against, and that's saying something.
The majority of the problems present in Godzilla vs. Megalon aren't new ones for the Godzilla saga; they'e familiar problems that are heightened to such an absurd level, that it defies almost all logic and common sense, whatever logic and common sense were left after Godzilla vs. Gigan. Aside from an amusing monster battle and the awesome sliding kick that Godzilla does during the battle, Godzilla vs. Megalon adds nothing of value to the Godzilla library and represents the most sorry entry in the entire Godzilla series. Godzilla himself has no purpose in this movie other than to show up and save the day, and no other scene that comes before Godzilla's arrival contains anything pleasing to the eye: nothing fun, nothing memorable, nothing to even inspire the tiniest bit of hope. It's the quintessential film of The Dark Ages for Godzilla, and I'm so happy to announce that it gets better for Godzilla from here on out.
Recommend? Find the monster fight and the sliding kick somewhere on Youtube. There's nothing else to see.
I think it stinks
Godzilla vs. Gigan is directed by Jun Fukuda and stars Hiroshi Ishikawa, Yuriko Hishimi, Tomoko Umeda, and Minoru Takashima. The film marks the last time that actor Haruo Nakajima would play Godzilla: a role he played since the beginning of the series.
Godzilla vs. Gigan marks something of a return to form for the Showa Godzilla series; several of the recent preceding films like Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Hedorah got away from all of the building smashing and monster brawling goodness in favor of converting Godzilla into a kid-friendly superhero. After Godzilla vs. Hedorah dumbfounded audiences with its weirdness and pissed off producer Tomoyuki Tanaka so much that he got Yoshimitsu Banno banned from ever directing another Godzilla film, Toho decided to cut the crap and get back to the basics. Well, except on two fronts: Godzilla was to keep his superhero identity intact, and the film was to utilize various cost-cutting procedures such as stock footage and recycled music, because that's what happens when you're working with a shoestring budget.
Here's the good news: Godzilla vs. Gigan is far from the worst in the entire Godzilla saga. But the bad news: I dare say that it's something of a drastic step down from the promise put on by Godzilla vs. Hedorah. Sure, Godzilla vs. Hedorah was weird as all get out, but the weirdness in that movie seemed like it had purpose, purpose in terms of getting its environmental message across. Godzilla vs. Gigan, meanwhile, is weird in ways that are almost impossible to justify, starting with the general plot: Comic book artist Gengo Kotaka (Hiroshi Ishikawa) is hired to work as a concept artist for an amusement park called World Children's Land, with the main attraction being a tower shaped like Godzilla. Gengo eventually learns that the park is actually the base of operations for alien cockroaches from a dying planet in the Space Hunter Nebula M.
The alien cockroaches plan to take over Earth, but first intend on wiping out humanity by unleashing the space monsters King Ghidorah and Gigan. Godzilla and his sidekick Anguirus learn of what's going on and head to Japan to combat Ghidorah and Gigan and foil the aliens' plans.
I don't know where to start. The plot is so laughable it almost has to be seen to be believed. I'll give screenwriters Takeshi Kimura and Shinichi Sekizawa a pass for making the aliens into cockroaches; aliens looking like insects isn't anything brand-spanking new. What I can't fathom though is the mindset behind setting the aliens up in an amusement park. Seriously, an amusement park? Scooby Doo villains hang out in scarier places than that! Did Jun Fukuda think aliens hiding out in an amusement park was some kind of stroke of genius on the part of Kimura and Sekizawa? The conversation about that part of the script probably went something like this:
Kimura and Sekizawa: Jun, we're working on the script, and we're thinking that the aliens should be located in an amusement park. Thoughts?
Jun Fukuda: An amusement park? That's brilliant! No one would ever think to look for the aliens there!
Except in Japanese.
- Gigan is an interesting-looking monster, with a design that I actually have quite a bit of praise for. He looks like some kind of robotic bird, with a red cyborg-eye, metal hooks for hands, and a buzz saw on his chest. His face looks like it has a beak, and he also jumps and starts gliding through the air several times. Originally, Gigan was supposed to shoot lasers out of his eye, but this idea was scrapped for reasons made clear by the inordinate amount of stock footage on display. In a movie filled to the brim with terrible things, Gigan is at least one thing deserving of a thumbs up.
- The sad thing about the stock footage isn't the sheer quantity of it, but how much it indicates a lack of care on the part of Fukuda and his crew. Day and night switch as drastically as the Godzilla suit, with one shot from Godzilla vs. Monster Zero having Rodan visible in the background. But the real kick in the teeth is how the use of the stock footage barely takes into account the spacing and the general location of the monsters. One newer shot of Anguirus facing Ghidorah is followed by a stock footage shot from Destroy All Monsters, making it seem like Anguirus did some magical 90 degree flip in between shots. Then Godzilla is fighting Ghidorah like a boxer, until the stock footage kicks in, and then all of a sudden, Godzilla starts throwing boulders at Ghidorah. It's clumsy editing at its finest, while the movie plays tunes from previous Godzilla films by Akira Ifukube. The movie even goes so far as to give Ifukube credit for the music!
- So I mentioned that Godzilla vs. Gigan is weird in some inscrutable ways. After we get past the mind-boggling fact that we have aliens working in an amusement park (it's too funny for me to consider a serious low point), we should look next at the fact that the monsters spend time talking. Oh, but this is not "monster talk" like in Ghidrah, the Three Headed Monster. No, the monsters talk with actual words! Godzilla and Anguirus find out something is wrong in Japan (another weird plot detail that doesn't make much sense), and the two speak to each other with human voices that sound like two middle-aged men who have smoked one too many cigarettes. I've heard rumors that the Japanese version uses speech bubbles instead of actual voices, which makes a little more sense because the movie's main human character is a comic book artist. Regardless, watching the monsters exchange human-based dialogue makes the film that much harder to enjoy. And as for the monsters fighting each other, Fukuda goes back to the WWE wrestling style of fighting, interlacing the fighting with weird little moments like Gigan and Ghidorah getting angry and squawking at each other like they're having an argument.
The title of the film is a little misleading, because there's four monsters doing battle with each other and not just two. Well, most of the fighting is Godzilla versus Gigan and Ghidorah, because Anguirus just likes to stand around looking clueless. And to keep up with the tradition of Godzilla movie title problems, Godzilla vs. Gigan was released in the U.S. under the name Godzilla on Monster Island, despite the fact that only about two scenes take place on Monster Island. Who are the idiots that keep getting assigned these titling jobs?
Overall, Godzilla vs. Gigan mostly speaks for itself. It's a dodgy film that was put together without an ounce of care, save for at least a bit of thought given to the design of Gigan. The worst part of it all is how the movie never seems like it's having fun with anything it's doing, as if Fukuda's only concern was for the movie to bring the series back to a sense of normality, following all of the kiddie fluff from Son of Godzilla and Godzilla's Revenge and the weirdness of Godzilla vs. Hedorah. But with the aliens hiding out in a freaking amusement park and with Godzilla having conversations with Anguirus, normal is not a word that can be used to accurately describe Godzilla vs. Gigan. It's not a straight-up disaster that acts as a source of unintentional hilarity nor is it any breath of fresh air that would give Godzilla a resurgence of popularity. It's just a giant ball of blah, a ball that is very low on calories. That didn't stop my 10-11 year old self from enjoying it though. I really did rent it more than once from the local video store.
Recommend? No. There's really nothing here that's worth your time (except maybe Gigan).
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