Godzilla vs. Mothra, also known as Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth is directed by Takao Okawara and stars Tetsuya Bessho, Satomi Kobayashi, Takehiro Murata, Megumi Odaka, Akiji Kobayashi, and Akira Takarada.
It is a pain in the neck to hear someone say the title, Godzilla vs. Mothra, because Toho, somewhat unintentionally, has made Godzilla facing off against Mothra to mean one of a bajillion different things. Only one other kaiju movie before 1992 had featured only Godzilla and Mothra, that of course being 1964's Mothra vs. Godzilla or as it was known in North America: Godzilla vs. The Thing. So while there was only one straight-up Godzilla versus Mothra movie before the Heisei series began, the two monsters had starred together in several other films, enough times that deciphering the whole Godzilla and Mothra relationship ended up being like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle where fitted pieces keep popping out.
But it's okay. Continuing their ambition from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah of bringing back all the classic monsters, Toho got to work getting the beloved Mothra up to date, capitalizing on a screenplay written in 1990 by Akira Murao, in which Mothra fights a dragon named Bagan who tries to destroy humanity for abusing the Earth's resources. A neat idea, but Toho didn't think Mothra had the marketing power to be a hit with audiences overseas, so in came the internationally recognized Godzilla. The story of Mothra vs. Bagan was altered to include Godzilla, but that's not all: Bagan was re-conceptualized as another insect monster named Battra, one that is a dark, evil twin of Mothra.
The story of Godzilla vs. Mothra tells us that long ago, an ancient civilization tried to control the Earth's climate, and in response, Earth created the flying insect monster Battra. However, Battra grew unstable and started to destroy the Earth. Mothra, another monster responsible for protecting the Earth, faced Battra in a great battle and won. In the present day, a meteorite crash lands on Earth and awakens both Godzilla and the long-dormant Battra, the latter of which is still angry over humanity's abuse towards the Earth's natural order. The meteorite also uncovers a giant egg that belongs to Mothra. Three explorers, Takuya Fujito (Tetsuya Bessho), his ex-wife, Masako Tezuka (Satomi Kobayashi), and secretary of the greedy Marutomo company, Kenji Ando (Takehiro Murata) are sent to explore Infant Island where Mothra's egg is located. While there, they meet the Cosmos, two pint-sized humans who can communicate with Mothra. Kenji informs the Marutomo Compay of the egg's existence and has them come to retrieve it, presumably for protection. The egg eventually hatches to reveal a new Mothra larva, who comes into contact with Godzilla and a Battra larva. Mothra escapes when Godzilla and Battra take their fight underwater, and heads for Tokyo in order to rescue the Cosmos, who have been kidnapped by the head of Marutomo.
Was "Save the Environment!" the message that all movies were going for back in the early-to-mid 1990's? Other pro-environment movies like Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas came out around the same time that Godzilla vs. Mothra did, so I guess how you feel towards movies like Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas will affect how much you may like Godzilla vs. Mothra, even though all three movies are radically different in regards to plot and setting. The strange thing is that this is not the first time that a Godzilla movie has attempted to be proactive in regards to keeping the Earth's climate in tip-top shape, the other being 1971's Godzilla vs. Hedorah, although that movie was more on the nose about minimizing pollution. Thankfully, Godzilla vs. Mothra avoids nauseating preachiness when it comes to its pro-environment attitude, and while the movie is mostly flawed in other areas of its writing, this is still one of the better Godzilla movies of the entire Heisei series.
- I'm glad the days of the cheap stock footage are over, because there is absolutely no shortage of quality now when it comes to the monster action. The fights involving Godzilla are wonderfully entertaining, and Takao Okawara crafts the fights to include more than just Godzilla firing his atomic breath or Mothra flying around and whacking Godzilla on the head. Battra knocks Godzilla over using a ferris wheel, and Mothra and Battra ram into each other a couple times while flying through the air. The green screen is embarrassingly noticeable during some shots of Battra chasing Mothra, but that's the worst it ever gets. All three monsters are given equal opportunity to do something, and the fighting is all the better because of it.
- Godzilla vs. Mothra is completely in love with its Mothra and Battra history, so much so that it throws into question what exactly Godzilla's purpose to the story is. Unlike Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, where we got a valid explanation for why the characters needed to go back in time and prevent Godzilla from ever existing, there's next to nothing in this movie to justify why Mothra and Battra need to confront Godzilla, other than to prevent him from wrecking Japan yet again. The script is missing a clear reasoning for why Godzilla has to be present, and because of this, hardly anything about the plot would change if Godzilla was removed altogether.
The script also includes a lousy family divorce sub-plot between Takuya Fujito and Masako Tezuka, and it's handled without the least bit of care. Almost everything regarding this sub-plot is done through side comments that the characters make while they're either running from the approaching monsters or standing by and watching them fight. I commend the effort towards making something worthwhile out of the human plot of a monster movie, but it just doesn't turn out well.
So despite a highly problematic script, Godzilla vs. Mothra excels with its monster action and benefits from a cool-looking new monster in Battra. A lot of the story elements, like the hatching of a Mothra larva and a greedy corporation trying to use the egg for their own reasons, are borrowed from 1964's Mothra vs. Godzilla, but there's enough new material here to make for a fresh update of Mothra and for a perfectly watchable installment to the Heisei series. The film turned out to be a huge hit when it was first released, and this helped keep Toho inspired towards bringing back more of the classic kaiju. After a bumpy start, the Heisei series finally had some sense of direction.
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.
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).
I am fire! I am...death!
Godzilla vs. Hedorah, also known as Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster, is directed by Yoshimitsu Banno and stars Akira Yamauchi, Toshie Kimura, and Hiroyuki Kawase.
To review Godzilla vs. Hedorah without the use of the word 'weird' is simply an impossible task. There are far too many bizarre happenings throughout the movie to not walk away feeling like you sat through some drug-induced mind trip that only made sense when you saw Godzilla going toe-to-toe with Hedorah, a sludge monster that looks like Oscar the Grouch hiding under a filthy ghost sheet. Weird is a tricky word to use when describing a film; we could be talking about a good weird like in a David Lynch movie, or we could be talking about a bad weird, like Night of the Lepus, though I think there's more bad than weird in a bad weird movie. But anyway, Godzilla vs. Hedorah contains a lot more good weird than bad weird, because it's not overly difficult to identify a connection between the film's weirdest scenes and its overall context. The context is that our world is being overrun with pollution, and if we don't do something about it, well, it's probably gonna wipe us out, one way or another.
Godzilla vs. Hedorah was the directorial debut for Yoshimitsu Banno, who was given only 35 days to complete the film, and doing so with a budget much smaller than previous Godzilla films. Nonetheless, Banno was super happy with the final product, so much so that he began writing a script for Godzilla vs. Hedorah 2, a film that never saw the light of day. This was because longtime Godzilla producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, who was hospitalized while Godzilla vs. Hedorah was being made, was so irate over the way Godzilla vs. Hedorah turned out, he told Banno that he would never direct another Godzilla movie ever again. Yikes, but don't feel too bad for Banno; his film is far from being the worst Godzilla movie. In fact, I might even argue his film is pretty decent, despite how god damn weird it is.
The plot is as bare bones as they come for a Godzilla film: Godzilla comes by to take on Hedorah, an alien life-form that feeds on pollution and takes on an amphibious form. As Hedorah wreaks havoc on Japan, a young boy named Ken Yano (Hiroyuki Kawase) and his father Dr. Toru Yano (Akira Yamauchi) learn more about where Hedorah came from and how he was formed.
Seriously, that's it. Aside from giving us exposition on Hedorah, the humans serve no other purpose in this movie. The rest of the time is spent watching Hedorah dump his crap everywhere, with Godzilla showing up every now and then to remind us that we are indeed watching a Godzilla movie and not some low budget documentary on National Geographic. This is the movie that I would say marks Godzilla's full transition into superhero monster, a role he would play for the rest of the Showa series. Godzilla himself doesn't do anything astronomically weird, but he does show us that he is capable of flying. Oh, you think I'm making that up? Observe!
I fondly remember the title for this scene on the DVD menu: Something You Don't See Every Day.
So about this movie being weird: some of the eccentric things to happen throughout this movie include animated clips in which we watch a cartoon version of Hedorah feed off of smokestacks and fly around, spraying his toxic fumes everywhere. There's also a moment where a guy hallucinates in a dance club, in which he sees everyone wearing fish heads. I am one to believe that these scenes are meant to drive the sense of dread and discomfort that Banno wants us to feel towards pollution, and the only way he could get the point across without resorting to shove-it-down-your-throat preaching is to go all out on the weirdness, because weirdness always makes you feel on edge.
- It's hard to be upset when a movie called Godzilla vs. Hedorah consists mostly of Godzilla fighting Hedorah. The two monsters fight in a way that hardly resembles Monday Night Raw: Godzilla and Hedorah stand and observe one another, exchanging blows like characters taking turns in an RPG video game. It's never 100 percent goofy, almost a complete U-turn from the kind of kiddie violence that Jun Fukuda made a habit out of.
- I give Yoshimitsu Banno credit for this: he does his best to make the movie into as much of a horror film as possible, trying to disturb us not only with the unadulterated weirdness, but with other grisly moments like Hedorah turning people to bones. This is about the closest that the Godzilla series comes in regards to returning to its horror roots, the original 1954 Godzilla doing the best job of any Godzilla film when it comes to showing Godzilla as a monster of pure terror and expressing his destructive ways like they were truly horrifying events. Hedorah is a little too funny-looking to take seriously as a monster of pure evil, but the movie sells him enough to make you at least a little curious as to how Godzilla is going to fight such a creature.
- Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a slow-burn, but not in a way in which it takes the plot too long to get started (something we would not envision to be at all possible for an 85 minute film). The movie is a slow burn in that the movie loves to drag out several of its scenes to match the pacing of a slug, a heavily sedated slug at that. No scene makes this more clear than the one where Dr. Yano and the military try to lure Hedorah into a trap, where they plan to zap him with two giant electrodes. Hedorah takes his sweet old time, and I mean he takes ALL FREAKING DAY to walk over to where the military wants him to walk. Other scenes aren't as bad as the one I just described, but they like to overstay their welcome a little. The slowness makes the film feel somewhat longer than it actually is, though I would think this is a pretty smart move on the part of Banno, because despair is something that shouldn't feel rushed in a movie.
So make whatever you will of the weirdness. You might like it, or you might not. Remember this though: weird and bad are not always positively correlated, because weirdness is sometimes a useful mechanism in challenging the viewer and getting them to think a little harder about what they're watching. In the case of Godzilla vs. Hedorah, a movie that isn't at all deep, Yoshimitsu Banno relies on weirdness to substitute for pretentious messages about saving the environment and cutting down on pollution, all while giving us an interestingly choreographed monster fight that manages to transcend a lot of the goofy WWE-style monster fighting that became prevalent in several of the 60's Godzilla films and some of the other 70's Godzilla films. Godzilla vs. Hedorah isn't amazing by any means, but if you don't let yourself be blindsided by how weird the movie seems to enjoy being, you might look at things in the movie a little differently. Tomoyuki Tanaka didn't see things that way, however. I guess the weirdness was too much for him.
Recommend? Yes, because I think it's tough to pass up a movie known as Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster.
Revenge is a dish best served cold
Godzilla's Revenge, also known by its Japanese title, All Monsters Attack, is directed by Ishiro Honda who was also a co-director of the special effects with Teruyoshi Nakano.
If we were to answer the question, "What is the absolute worst Godzilla movie?" the passionate Godzilla fan base would likely be screaming full throat for Godzilla's Revenge, a Godzilla film whose American title makes no goddamn sense at all, because there is absolutely nothing in the film's brief 69 minutes that possibly implies Godzilla getting revenge on someone. The Japanese title, All Monsters Attack, also doesn't make any goddamn sense, because there is once again absolutely nothing during the film's 69 minutes that remotely resembles a monster attack, let alone an attack that involves all of the Toho kaiju monsters. We must not forget; this was the Dark Ages for the Destructor of Tokyo, where he would become the unfortunate victim of incredible budget constraints and a studio's desire to gear the target audience towards small children.
Targeting small children is one of the many things that Godzilla's Revenge is notorious for and much more so than the likes of Son of Godzilla. Unfortunately, having the film come right off the heels of Destroy All Monsters - a Godzilla film originally intended to finish off the franchise but instead resurrected it briefly from mediocrity - was not the smartest decision ever to be made by Toho, as it shows a complete fallback to the chintzy style of film-making that would suck out any form of excitement or creativity to possibly be had within the later stages of the original Showa Godzilla era. It shows a far cry from the technical successes of the original 1954 Gojira, and it was an indication that Toho was fully aware of their monster star's rapidly declining popularity yet displayed an obviously careless attitude towards addressing Godzilla's waning popularity. Was just cutting their moral losses and giving the Godzilla character a much deserved rest not an option in 1969? Of course it wasn't, because any more chances that Destroy All Monsters gave Toho at wringing just a few more dollars out of the pockets of longtime Godzilla fans was not something they were just going to let pass them by.
So anyway, Godzilla's Revenge gives us a story focusing on a little Japanese boy named Ichiro (Tomonori Yazaki). Ichiro lives in an urban Kawasaki, and we quickly learn that Ichiro, despite being very imaginative, has few friends and comes home from school every day to an empty house, as his parents are always working late. Ichiro frequently visits a toy designer named Shinpei Minami (Hideyo Amamoto, an actor who was normally cast as menacing villains), telling him of his fascination with the monsters on Monster Island. However, Ichiro is also picked on by a gang of bullies, led by a boy named Sanko (Junichi Ito) that Ichiro has secretly named Gabara. To escape his loneliness, Ichiro spends time sleeping and dreaming of being transported to Monster Island, where he encounters Godzilla fighting other monsters and also meets Godzilla's son, Minilla (pronounced "Minya", according to the English dub). Minilla is capable of speaking as well as changing size whenever he wants (Minilla goes back and forth many times from being Ichiro's size to Godzilla's size), and he informs Ichiro that he too is having bullying problems. The big bully who is picking on Minilla is an ogre-like monster named - you'll love this - Gabara. Godzilla apparently refuses to help Minilla deal with Gabara because, according to Minilla, Godzilla wants Minilla to fight his own battles and stand up for himself.
Meanwhile, back in the human world, a pair of bank robbers are hiding out in an abandoned building in Ichiro's neighborhood, and Ichiro, while running from Sanko and his gang one day, happens to stumble upon the building where he unintentionally takes one of the robber's driver's license. The bank robbers follow Ichiro and later kidnap him, and Ichiro, shockingly, must apply his new inspiration from Minilla in order to escape.
The whole "stand up to bullies" message is what Godzilla's Revenge hammers you over the head with over and over again, which is perfectly acceptable when looking at it in terms of Ichiro eventually standing up to Sanko's gang and even going so far as to befriend them. But where things fall short is in how the bank robbers are made out to be rather incompetent buffoons, which is how most criminals are portrayed in children's films. They somehow can't catch Ichiro while he's running away, and you'd think that they'd be the least of Ichiro's problems. Somehow though, the movie turns the bank robbers into Ichiro's primary obstacle, completely devastating the "standing up to the Sanko gang" plot line that should be the central story arc.
- Believe me, there is A LOT that is wrong with Godzilla's Revenge, and I wanted to rip it to shreds as much as the next Godzilla fan who hates it with a burning passion. But my kind and caring soul just could not, largely because the film is just so gentle with what it does. Think about what the movie is trying to be at its core: an uplifting children's film that relies on Godzilla and other monsters in an effort to tell the children watching that bullies need to be stood up to, and that being brave will help you solve your bullying issues. There's nothing inherently wrong with such a message. It's just that the film's cheap and uninspired method for presenting such a message weighs down any and all credibility to be had, especially because the film also decided to throw in a pair of bank robbers thinking they would add to the message, where in reality, they detracted from it. Aside from all of the bullying stuff, there's nothing else here that would frighten a child or make them feel bad about themselves.
- Godzilla's Revenge is an orgy of stock footage. Entire fight scenes from Son of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster are used time and time again, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that literally the entirety of the fights from those two earlier Godzilla films are used. Ichiro and Minilla are supposedly watching Godzilla engage in these fights from the sidelines, but I'm at a loss when it comes to trying to explain how this makes sense. The movie even includes a scene from Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster in which a group of fighter jets attack Godzilla, implying there is a human presence on Monster Island, which you would think was devoid of any human presence. I don't know. NONE of this makes any sense. I would also like to mention just how jarring it is to see the Godzilla suit change about two or three times throughout, where all of the new scenes involving the Gabara monster rely on the Godzilla suit used in Destroy All Monsters.
- The movie also does a lousy job of making clear how things work with what's going on in the human world versus what's happening on Monster Island. Everything on Monster Island is seemingly taking place inside of Ichiro's mind, so if Ichiro knows of the existence of Godzilla, Minilla, and the other monsters, we would like to assume that the monsters are real in the human world, right? Well, the movie never bothers to take the time to explain if this is correct, and our understanding is no better at the start of the movie than it is at the end. It's also unclear as to if the events on Monster Island are happening AT THE EXACT SAME TIME as those in the human world or if Ichiro can progress the events on Monster Island whenever he wants. I'm going with the latter because Monster Island is going on inside Ichiro's mind where he has all the power.
So is Godzilla's Revenge the worst Godzilla movie ever? It's too tempting and too easy to say yes, but I will declare to you that it's not the worst, though it's way down there in the smelly basement of bad Godzilla movies. The production is some of the laziest and cheapest you'll find in the Godzilla series, and a poorly misguided standing up to bullies premise leaves so much more to be desired. The whole thing is a bad Godzilla film, a bad children's film, but a bad movie that knows what it is and tries to be what it is with a gentle touch. Let's just say that Godzilla's Revenge keeps tripping over its own feet, and as it keeps trying to stand back up and get things right, you can't help but look on and maybe feel a little sorry for it. But hey, at just 69 minutes, the movie is at least being generous with its punishment on us as viewers.
Recommend? No, though if you can handle bad Godzilla movies, I'd say give it a shot.
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