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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