Three's a crowd
Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster introduces one of the most famous monsters of the Godzilla-verse; the golden, winged, three headed dragon named Ghidrah (or Ghidorah) who can shoot lightning from his mouth and is considered to be Godzilla's arch rival. Rodan and larva Mothra also make appearances alongside Godzilla.
Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster is quite special because it marks some rather radical changes in the Godzilla-verse. It's the first Godzilla movie that involves extraterrestrial science fiction. In other words, non-Earthly forces make their way onto planet Earth, and they end up getting Godzilla's attention, one way or another. Aliens in a Godzilla movie will be a recurring plot element from here on out. This is also the first Godzilla movie in which the monsters have strangely acquired human traits. More on that later.
What we also get is our first example of a large-scale monster brawl, not just two monsters wrestling to the death. Actually, the monster fights begin to more progressively resemble WWE wrestling matches instead of giant monster sumo wrestling. Hold on, have giant monster fights always been some form of wrestling? Ah, screw it, who cares?
Ghidorah has probably one of the thickest stories that you will ever get from a Godzilla movie. A meteorite crash lands in the mountains of Japan one night, and a team of scientists, led by Professor Murai (Hiroshi Koizumi), go out to investigate. They find the meteorite and discover that it behaves like a magnet. They also realize that the meteorite is growing in size. Meanwhile, police detective Shindo (Yosuke Natsuki) is assigned the task of protecting the Princess of Selgina, Selina Salno (Akiko Wakabayashi). Shindo is informed that there may be a potential assassination attempt on the princess. Princess Selina is seen flying to Japan, but we find out that a bomb has been planted on the plane. A strange voice calls out to Selina and tells her to leave the plane, which explodes, moments after she escapes. Selina then surfaces in Japan, claiming to be a Martian and warning people of an impending disaster. The group of assassins behind the plane bombing, led by a man named Malmess (Hisaya Ito), head to Japan to find the princess and kill her.
That's all the main story bits that don't exactly involve the giant monsters. The giant monsters do come into the picture when Rodan emerges out of a volcano, and Godzilla surfaces from the sea. Godzilla notices Rodan flying through the skies and decides to chase after him. Godzilla and Rodan eventually get into a massive fight. Why are the two fighting? I don't know, but I think I recall hearing somewhere that Rodan was trying to convince Toho to let Gamora take over the franchise and, obviously, Godzilla wasn't having any of it. The fighting between Godzilla and Rodan calls the attention of Mothra, who is still in larva form. Why does Mothra care about Godzilla and Rodan? Because that magnetic meteorite that I mentioned before eventually explodes and turns into the three-headed space dragon, Ghidrah (or Ghidorah, if you prefer). Ghidrah begins to wreak havoc on Japan, and Mothra tells Godzilla and Rodan that the three of them must team up to expel Ghidrah from Earth.
That is quite a hefty amount of story to keep up with; a rarity for a monster movie which are movies that are normally as straightforward as can be. The humans bring elements of spy and drama to try and complement the action and sci-fi aspects brought by the monsters. Call the film a cluttered mess or call it a delicious monster movie pot roast. It all depends on how much you care for humans in a movie that can brush them aside with the easiest of efforts.
- Roger Ebert once said that a movie is only as good as its villain. Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster's titular villain is a good villain, largely because of how freaking cool he is. Ghidrah's design is really neat, with a body of bright, golden scales and three active heads that can shoot lightning. Honestly, how much better can you get than a monster villain that is a three-headed dragon that destroys everything with lightning beams? There's really not much to say, because Ghidrah owns the film whenever he's on screen. It's a bummer that he doesn't make his first physical appearance until 45 minutes into the film.
- This is one Godzilla movie that definitely gets it right when it comes to having fun. The fight between the 4 monsters is still a bundle of great entertainment, even over half a century later. Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra make coordinated efforts to go about fighting Ghidrah, but Ghidrah is able to hold his own long enough to make the fight not seem too one-sided. It's also amusing watching Godzilla and Rodan go at it, which is one of the very few times in the entire franchise that the two duke it out. In fact, I think it's the only time that the two have a one-on-one fight. Admittedly, there are segments of the fighting that are super cheesy, but it all amounts to good, spirited fun.
- The application of human traits to the monsters takes the franchise on a rocky train ride that would last, at least, the rest of the original Showa series. All of the weirdness involved is most easily identified in the scene when Mothra has a monster conversation with Godzilla and Rodan, trying to convince them to fight together against Ghidrah. Giant monsters apparently have their own language and are now capable of having conversations. Lucky for us, the twin fairies understand monster talk and give us a translation of what the monsters are saying. If the monster conversation alone wasn't enough for unintentional laughs, the fairies (at least in the English dub) make a funny comment saying "Oh Godzilla, what terrible language!" which I actually think is the funniest line in the entire film. I have always been curious about what exactly Godzilla said and how he phrased it.
When Mothra makes her way up to where Godzilla and Rodan are fighting, she proceeds to watch the two play volleyball with a boulder (it's WEIRD). She then blasts Godzilla with her silk spray, and Rodan proceeds to start laughing. Rodan isn't laughing for long because he also gets sprayed, and Godzilla proceeds to cackle with laughter too. I am not sure what director Ishiro Honda and the screenwriters had in mind by making the monsters seem more human. The illusion that the monsters we see on screen are hundreds of feet taller than us is now heavily impaired. The monsters, now more than ever, actually seem like humans working inside a monster suit. It is frustrating and a detriment to several more Godzilla films. Thank goodness that Ghidrah avoids being portrayed in the same fashion (well, at least for this film).
- The human villains in the movie are shallow and fail to amount up to much of anything. The main assassin, Malmess, looks like he belongs in a Matrix movie, as he never removes his dark-covered glasses. There's also a scene where he and his partners catch the princess inside a hotel room, but decide to retreat when the lights suddenly turn off. They just let the princess go free and decide to kill her next time. I was under the assumption that the only job on their to-do list was to kill the princess, but I guess that simply slitting her throat in a dark hotel room wasn't dramatic enough or punctual enough for these assassins. Plus, the true villain of the movie is a lightning-spewing three headed dragon from outer space, so it's only too obvious that the assassins take a backseat. But I must ask, is it a little too much to request another reason to root against these assassins other than them trying to kill a princess because of politics?
There is a lot to keep up with in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. The humans and the assassination attempts on the princess are a gluttonous vacuum sucking up the majority of the film's limited 90 minute run time. Throw in the monsters acting weird in ways that you never thought imaginable, and, boy, do you have one bizarre and disorganized monster flick. Ghidrah is the film's saving grace, as he is able to prevent the movie from turning into a total disaster. The 4 monsters going at it provides for some giddy fun, and it would be the first of several large-scale monster fights that would follow down the road. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster is a lot of things. Fun is one of them. Weird is another one. How about problematic? The answer is yes, but if you can accept the film for its moments of unintentional comedy and its bloated story, you might just have yourself a wacky, good old time.
Recommend? Yes. I think this is one Godzilla movie worth seeing eventually.
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