I don't sea where they were going with this
Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster was released in Japan under the title Ebirah, Horror of the Deep and was the second Godzilla movie to not be directed by Ishiro Honda and not have the special effects be under the direction of Eiji Tsuburaya. The film was originally written for King Kong, but the project got scrapped until Toho decided to pick it up and turn it into a Godzilla film.
As I hinted at in my review of Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, the Godzilla series would now dive into some murky waters that the franchise would not submerge from until the very end of the original Showa series. How appropriate that this film involves being far out at sea, because it is the beginning of what can be appropriately referred to as the Dark Ages of Godzilla. To start with, this film takes place in a much different setting than any of the previous Godzilla films. There is no Tokyo smashing or trouble with power-hungry aliens, sadly.
Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster mainly takes place on the far-away Letchi Island, where a man named Ryota (Toru Watanabe), along with two of his friends and a bank robber, end up after stealing a yacht and accidentally running into the giant lobster-creature Ebirah at sea. The four discover that a terrorist group called the Red Bamboo are stationed on the island and have enslaved natives of Infant Island, the home of Mothra. The natives are being enslaved to help the Red Bamboo manufacture nuclear weapons. You know, terrorist things. One of the female natives named Dayo (Kumi Mizuno) manages to escape and comes across the four men. The group of now five find a cave and discover Godzilla sleeping inside. They decide to wake Godzilla up to defeat the Red Bamboo and free all of the captured natives.
You could compile a pretty substantial list of all the bad things about the previous six Godzilla films. The dubbing and dubbed dialogue barely elevate above tolerable, and the initial application of human traits to the monsters is simply weird and indecipherable. My best guess is still that Ishiro Honda wanted to make the monsters more relatable. Anyway, no matter what wrongdoings that you point to in any of the first six Godzilla films, there is no denying that each one has an entertainment factor located somewhere within its run time. I am one to admit that I will give any Godzilla film a pass if the monster action does a quality job of making up for whatever shortcomings there are with characters and story. After all, why would be here if there weren't any giant monsters? Where Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster drops the ball is how the monsters fail to make up for the blatant lack of effort with characters and story.
- Unfortunately, I find myself unable to think up anything within the film that I would consider a high point. F-graded movies are normally the only movies that I have no high points for, but Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster is a strange exception. Nearly everything about it is so unsatisfying, but not quite to the point that I would fit it under the criteria that I give to an F film. Nothing stands out from the monsters, for starters. Godzilla lollygags through the film like he didn't fully wake up after emerging from the cave that he was sleeping in. He has a clumsy fight with Ebirah, and he tramples on the Red Bamboo base in a confusing manner. The base is not super large, so one might think something like Godzilla could smash the base and burn it to a crisp in, say, 10 minutes tops. Godzilla stomps on a few parts of the base, but he also decides to throw rocks and wave his arms around while the base turrets shoot at him. Let's just say that it takes Godzilla way longer than necessary to trample the base.
Godzilla also takes an interest in Dayo, which actually has some reasoning behind it. The film was originally supposed to star King Kong, who had a curious romantic interest in a human female in his own 1933 film. Although, exactly why Godzilla takes on traits that were originally meant for King Kong is beyond me. While Dayo is trying to run away from Godzilla, Godzilla decides to stop and go back to sleep. Godzilla then gets attacked by a giant bird, which is a fight that really has no purpose other than to be brief fan service. The giant bird, which I researched and found to be called a Giant Condor, comes out of nowhere and is gone as quickly as he arrives when Godzilla easily fries him with his atomic breath. This whole sequence with Dayo and the bird is basically pointless because it doesn't enhance anything in the story other than to give Godzilla some screen time. Any other time we see Godzilla is when he's fighting Ebirah or just wandering around looking totally clueless.
Mothra makes a brief appearance in the film, and there's really nothing interesting to say about her except that the English dub keeps insisting on calling Mothra a he. Ebirah, the monster villain, is one of the weaker foes that Godzilla goes up against. Ebirah and Godzilla play volleyball with some boulders, and the worst thing that Ebirah ever does to Godzilla is drag him underwater a couple times. Admittedly, I think the idea of Godzilla fighting an aquatic monster is pretty neat, but why must it be a giant, shrieking lobster and not something slightly more menacing like Zigra from the Gamera series? Hell, even a Sharknado would've been more intimidating.
- Godzilla doesn't wake up until about 50 minutes into this 87 minute film, and the only monster action that we get beforehand is watching Ebirah smash up some boats with his giant claw. I would not say that the movie is outright boring because of how long it takes for Godzilla to do anything, but the movie does have a hard time keeping our interest until it gets around to having Godzilla go on his island tour. The Red Bamboo are typical run-of-the-mill terrorists, although it's amusing to watch them shoot their guns and miss everything like Stormtroopers do. It's also amusing to watch how terrible the security is at the Red Bamboo's base, as the main characters just sneak their way through completely undetected while pick locking doors like it was child's play. The Red Bamboo are a scary bunch, aren't they?
- The human characters in most, if not all, Godzilla films are shallow and disposable. Like the dubbing and dialogue, I don't feel the need to really bite into a part of a Godzilla film that isn't worth chewing on, but man are the characters bad in this one. The two friends of the main character Ryota are first seen partaking in a youth dance competition, and, for whatever reason, decide to come along with him when Ryota goes to steal a yacht. The three of them then meet the bank robber who supposedly stole the yacht that the four take out to sea. The fact that the bank robber has a criminal background really amounts to nothing in the long run, and Ryota is really the only character that has a legitimate reason to head out toward Letchi Island, in that he wants to find his missing brother. The other three guys, well, they're there for physical and emotional support. Ryota is the only guy among the four that we might care about.
The main problem with Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster is not its characters, its story, or even its limited Godzilla appearances. What's wrong is how unsatisfying the film is as a whole. The Red Bamboo and Ebirah are villains that are not worth our cinematic opposition. The human characters are as forgettable as ever, and the story is not well-suited for Godzilla and what he is expected to do. Godzilla can't seem to decide if he's an antihero that just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or if he's made his full transition into monster superhero. Nothing looks cheaply filmed and it seems like everyone involved was trying, which is worth something, I suppose. Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster is essentially the cinematic equivalent of an insipid fish dinner.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: