You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the monsters, not join them!
Destroy All Monsters was released in 1968 and is directed by Ishiro Honda, who returned as director after not directing the previous two Godzilla films. It was intended to be the final film of the Godzilla series, which wasn't the case.
By 1968, Godzilla had exhausted just about every ounce of creative material that Toho could possibly give him, from stamping on Tokyo by his lone self, to fighting other giant monsters, and even to conquering aliens from another planet. The series' popularity was running out of steam, and box office returns were sucked dry, so the only logical thing left to do was to retire the character. And what better way to retire the legendary Godzilla then to go all out in one of the biggest giant monster blowouts ever put to film? And bring back long-time Godzilla director Ishiro Honda and composer Akira Ifukube no less? Toho went all in with Destroy All Monsters, and the movie was so successful that they decided that maybe they could keep Godzilla around for a few more years. In hindsight, Destroy All Monsters was the lone bright spot in what was an ugly and unforgiving near decade of Godzilla movies ranging from the flabby Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster to the howlingly bad Godzilla vs. Megalon.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. Destroy All Monsters is far from being an upper tier Godzilla movie (good and terrible are pretty much the only two Godzilla movie tiers), being plagued by a host of problems that heavily diminish all of the good things that it has to offer. The most obvious gem of the movie is how it brings together almost every single monster that starred in at least one Toho production since Gojira, even though, at the end of the day, Destroy All Monsters is technically still a Godzilla movie. The big G is front and center with everything that happens in the movie, and everything that does happen is all, in one way or another, connected. What Godzilla and the other monsters do affect the humans, and everything that the humans do affect the monsters.
Taking place in 1999, the various kaiju of planet Earth have been gathered together and confined in the Ogasawara island chain in an area called Monsterland. An underground control center is placed on Monsterland to make sure that the monsters don't escape and also so that the scientists there can study the monsters. One day, communications with Monsterland are cut off, and all of the monsters on Monsterland suddenly begin to attack various capitals around the world. Monsterland is investigated by Captain Yamabe (Akira Kubo) and his spaceship crew, the Moonlight SY-3. Yamabe and his crew discover that the scientists there have fallen under the control of a feminine alien race known as The Kilaaks. The Kilaaks reveal that they have taken control of the monsters, demanding for the human race to surrender or face annihilation. As the monsters rampage across various global landmarks, Yamabe and his crew work to find a way to break the Kilaaks' mind control.
Destroy All Monsters is another alien invasion Godzilla film, looking like Godzilla vs. Monster Zero on steroids. No less than eleven monsters make an appearance, but, as there is a budget to be mindful of, only a few of them get any meaningful screen time. The likes of Baragon and Varan are reduced to mere cameos, although the snake-like Manda from Atragon is given a surprisingly decent amount of stuff to do, primarily participating in the destruction of Tokyo. The opening narration only mentions Godzilla, Rodan, Anguirus, Mothra, and Gorosaurus, which is highly appropriate because those are the only monsters the movie seemingly cares about (though I would argue that Manda is seen more than Gorosaurus). Of course, this all-star giant monster gathering would not be complete without a sighting from everyone's favorite three-headed golden dragon, Ghidrah, who is always a welcome sight.
- Destroy All Monsters doesn't pull any cheap stunts with its monsters when they're on screen. Godzilla and the other monsters smash new, exquisite sets, with no notable stock footage to speak of. The final showdown with Ghidrah does a fine job of making it seem like Ghidrah is able to hold his own, despite being outnumbered about ten to one. Ghidrah takes Anguirus for a ride through the air and keeps the other monsters at bay with his lightning beams, but eventually, the numbers game proves too much and poor Ghidrah starts to get the crap beaten out of him. There are strangely long stretches throughout the film's 88 minutes in which none of the monsters are on screen, but when they are on screen, it's just about everything you'd hope it would be.
- One problem that is impossible to ignore in Destroy All Monsters is its logical flaws. It is completely unclear as to how the monster's are able to travel to various capitols around the world in such a short time span (Rodan is the lone exception because he can fly), as none of them have the capability of running at Mach 2 speed, and it is never stated if the Kilaaks transfer the monsters using their UFO's (which would be ripping off from Godzilla vs. Monster Zero). And speaking of time, well, there's another problem. We have no clear idea as to how much time has passed in between scenes, as the movie frantically jumps from day time to night time and then back to day time again. We ask, "How long have the humans been fighting the Kilaaks?" to which the movie answers, "Who cares? Look at all of the giant monsters we have!"
And when it comes to the dubbing and dialogue, I'm just beating the dead horse when I say it's all oh-so bad...again. In my notes, I have written down, "The dubbing sounds like actor's saying lines during a first read through." I would fully believe it if someone told me the American actors doing the dubbing did no kind of rehearsing or preparation beforehand.
The only other thing worth mentioning is how lightning quick that Destroy All Monsters is with everything. The majority of the editing outside of the rampaging monsters is the human characters saying, "I'll go do this thing!" and the very next shot is the characters doing that said thing to propel the plot along. Like almost all giant monster movies, the humans aren't interesting in the slightest, and the many scenes involving them will have you begging for the movie to go back to the monsters. There are a couple of shoot-outs between good humans and humans under the control of the Kilaaks, but they're contrived as all hell. There's also a recurring female Monsterland scientist named Kyoko Manabe (Yukiko Kobayashi), but her purpose in the movie boils down to just acting as a human voice for the Kilaaks until she is freed from their control.
I hesitate to say that Destroy All Monsters is bad, because it's so difficult to not be won over at least a little bit by all of Toho's 1950's and 1960's monsters on screen together. If I was alive back in 1968 to see it in theaters, I'd have likely thought it to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Still, no matter how awesome the monsters may be, the human elements of the film are incredibly tedious, and several logical flaws flatline the film's overall satisfaction rate. Godzilla is given the attention he deserves, as is his other closest monster friends: Anguirus, Rodan, and Mothra. And, thankfully, Godzilla's ugly-ass son Minilla is nowhere to be found outside of the beginning and ending of the movie. Overall, you should be able to have at least a little fun with Destroy All Monsters, and believe me, it's a hell of a lot more fun than what was yet to come for the original Godzilla series.
Recommend? Give it a watch if you love Godzilla and are at least a little familiar with the other Toho monsters.
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: