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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