Tag Godzilla

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Earth: Out-numbered, Out-monstered, Out-done.

Earth is a transformed place. Whilst the planet is constantly under threat from giant monsters, some humans are discovered to have mutant abilities and are part of the international ‘M-Group’ task force designated with stopping the monsters. When a UFO arrives and seemingly removes the monsters in the interests of peace, the planet looks to have a bright future. That is until it’s revealed the aliens are simply ‘farming’ the population of Earth for food. They take the monsters under their control and order them to destroy the planet when humans resist. However there is one monster they can’t control. One monster that mankind has tried for decades to kill with no luck. Now Earth’s only hope lies with Godzilla!

 

Godzilla: Final Wars was the fiftieth anniversary production for Godzilla and was heralded as the last Godzilla film to be made for a long while – the big monster was going to go into semi-retirement in order to give the series a much-needed break (though they have retired Godzilla twice before so I take this with a pinch of salt). In an attempt to give the fans what they’ve been dying for and send Godzilla off on a high, Toho decided to rehash one of the most popular of the Godzilla films – Destroy All Monsters – for the modern era. A classic monster mash-up from the 60s, it was famous for featuring pretty much all of Toho’s iconic screen monsters in one go.

Bringing in director Ryuhei Kitamura (of Versus fame, one of the craziest Japanese films I’ve seen for a long time) was a sign that fresh blood was being pumped in to the franchise in order to give the old ideas some new bite. The return of the ‘aliens taking over the world’ plot was a great throwback to the films of old as this was the staple diet of all the late 60s and 70s Godzilla films. So with a talented director at the helm, a serious old school vibe and with modern advances in technology and special effects to bring the monsters, cities and destruction to life like never before, this surely has to be a winner, right? Well yes and no.

For a start, Toho finally heeded someone’s advice and decided to resurrect not just one or two of the same old monsters they always bring back (Mothra and Mechagodzilla have been in more Godzilla films than any other monsters), but they decided to bring back pretty much their entire back catalogue. Yes Mothra is back again but that is forgiven as Anguirus, Rodan, Manda, Kumonga, Kamacuras, Hedorah, Ebirah, King Caesar and Gigan are all brought to life once again. I’m especially glad to see Gigan back as I always loved him in the old films and he was one of Godzilla’s nastier opponents. There are also a couple of surprise monsters in the film, namely the return of Godzilla’s most famous nemesis (I won’t spoil it but fans know who I mean) and the inclusion of none other than the American version of Godzilla, from the dreadful 1998 film. Yes the ridiculous salmon-eating critter from Roland Emmerich’s stinker is here as ‘Zilla’ and needless to say, he gets what’s coming to him in a big way.

Visually, the film blows the socks out of nine out of ten Hollywood summer blockbusters. The monsters are all superbly realised, with their city-stomping antics being brought to vivid life like never before. Most of the new suits look great especially Gigan’s kick-ass new makeover. But here is the first major issue I have. You see so little of some of the monsters that it’s pretty pointless them being included in the film. Ebirah isn’t in for long, Hedorah makes a cameo (I heard the scene with him was cut) and some of the others don’t fair much better when it comes to screen time. Godzilla is pretty much unstoppable here and he finishes off most of the monsters in record time. He’s no match for them at all. Just a quick blast of his radioactive breath or a quick whip of his tail and the other monsters are finished. We know that Godzilla is ‘King of the Monsters’ but does he really have to destroy everyone else so easily as it lessens the reputations of the likes of Rodan and Anguirus to see them treat so shabbily.

Godzilla: Final Wars also relies too much on in-jokes and referencing previous kaiju films, with things like the look of the aliens being modelled on those from Invasion of the Astro-Monsters. Not content with simply rehashing old kaiju plots and scenes, Kitamura also blatantly borrows scenes and ideas from The Matrix, Independence Day and X-Men to name a few. When the monsters aren’t fighting (which is for a good portion of the film it has to be said), the film relies on old plots with new twists to keep the story moving. I’m not overly hot on the story here as it’s just an excuse for plenty of Matrix-esque action set pieces with aliens wearing shades and leather jackets like Neo clones and an over-reliance on fancy, pointless special effects. However, the actions of the human and alien characters have a massive bearing on the monsters’ actions so you can’t just write this off. As we all know, having a couple of actors standing talking meaningless jargon to pad a few minutes is a lot more cost-effective than having two guys in expensive rubber suits trashing miniatures that have taken ages to build!

 

I have to say I was slightly disappointed because I was expecting a hell of a lot more monster mayhem akin to Destroy All Monsters. Those in it purely for the fighting will have to endure lengthy periods of unhealthy Hollywood plagiarism with the human sub-plots. Godzilla: Final Wars is still arguably the best Godzilla flick since Godzilla Vs Destroyer in 1995 and even the appearance of Minilla, Godzilla’s son, does little to detract from the kick ass approach to the film. It is style over substance all of the way but when a kaiju film has as much style as this, who cares?

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2002)

Two is company but three is a very big crowd!

One year after the fight between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla, the Japanese Defence Force is rebuilding the cyborg in case Godzilla returns. But the tiny little twin fairies who speak for Mothra warn them that Mechagodzilla should be laid to rest in the ocean because it was built using bones from the original Godzilla and it needs to rest in peace. If the authorities will lay Mechagodzilla to rest, Mothra would step in and act as Japan’s defence against Godzilla. But if not, she will declare war on humanity. Their concern is evident when Godzilla does show up again to destroy Japan. Mothra joins forces with Mechagodzilla in an attempt to rid Japan of this menace once and for all.

 

Perhaps more so than the majority of other genre, kaiju eiga films (that’s monster movies for those who don’t speak Japanese) are bound by the sorts of things that its specific target audience expects from any entry. The Godzilla series, the Gamera films and the miscellaneous other giant monsters that have had big screen outings can do all they like with the plot and characters but when it comes down to it, the fans of this type of film want to see giant monsters smashing up cities and then smashing up each other. That’s the bottom line. The latest batch of Godzilla films, dubbed the Millenium series and beginning with Godzilla 2000, have been relatively hit and miss when it comes to this aspect. Whilst the advances in technology are clear to see in the special effects, the new series is lacking something that made the 1990s Godzilla films some of the most entertaining of the entire series and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is definitely the prime example.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is one of the first Godzilla films for a while to directly follow on from its predecessor without re-writing history which is a nice starting point as each new film usually picks and mixes whatever it likes from the previous films and most often pretend that every other film except for the original Godzilla doesn’t exist. Things are different this time around as it not only directly follows on from Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla but, in a nice nod to the original Mothra as well, Hiroshi Koizumi returns to play the same character he did back in 1961. The story is thread-bare though and is just an amalgamation of previous Toho outings involving all of the featured monsters. When the monsters aren’t fighting (which they don’t for the first half), the film is too bogged down with muddled characters and flimsy padding. It’s the same problems that faced the old 60s and 70s films but at least the camp and cheese values of the likes of Godzilla Vs Megalon and Invasion of the Astro-Monsters kept the human side of things entertaining, if only for the wrong reasons. Here none of the characters get enough screen time to make an impression and you’ll be sat watching the clock and waiting for the big fight anyway.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. was the most visually impressive entry to date (though bettered with the following Godzilla films) and the monsters do battle in an hour-long fight which takes up the bulk of the running time. CGI is kept to a minimum and at the end of the day the monsters are still guys in suits smashing up miniature cities on a sound stage but the mixture of old and new technology really brings these monsters to life as they fight each other in a battered city. Godzilla looks as bad ass as ever, Mechagodzilla’s new design looks like it was lifted from one of these Manga comics and Mothra is easily the most beautiful, elegant and fragile monster Toho ever created. Their mixed array of beam and laser weapons look superb, if relied on a little too much, and the miniature sets look as good as they have ever done. When a monster falls into a building here, it looks like it’s collapsing for real.

My major gripe with Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is that Toho has once again delved into the past and wheeled out the same line-up of monsters for Godzilla to do battle with: Mothra and Mechagodzilla. Whilst I can acknowledge the fact that the more popular monsters will get more cinematic appearances, it also means that the films themselves become too alike. You know that Mechagodzilla is going to break down during a fight and have technical problems. You know that Mothra will at some stage be represented in the form of the twin caterpillars before hatching into the beautiful butterfly. No matter how many physical makeovers both monsters get (and a whole new arsenal of weapons in Mechagodzilla’s case), they are the same characters and bring nothing new to the table. Toho has such a great catalogue of monsters from the past that any one of them could be given a bad ass new makeover for this new series (I’m looking at you Gigan)

 

Technically superb, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is the best looking Godzilla film to date (at time of writing) and it’s clear that a lot of time and effort has been put into bringing this series up-to-date with the technology available. It’s a shame that Toho keeps regurgitating old stories and old monsters instead of giving us something fresh that we haven’t seen before. Stop playing it safe and take a chance.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla (1974)

Godzilla-Vs-Mechagodzilla-1974

Mechanical Titan of Terror!

When Godzilla re-emerges after a long disappearance, he seems a lot more aggressive than normal, destroying buildings and even attempting to kill fellow monster Anguirus. Then to the shock of Japan, another Godzilla appears. After the two monsters fight in Tokyo, it emerges that one of the Godzilla’s is actually a mechanical monster created by aliens to destroy the planet. Can Godzilla put a stop to their plans and defeat his mechanical doppelganger?

 

All film franchises suffer from repetition after a number of sequels. Arguments can be raised against the Bond films, the Star Trek series and it’s definitely the case for the numerous horror franchises out there. But when you have a gigantic radioactive monster that just destroys Japan for a plot, there’s not really much room to manoeuvre, is there? Having originally been mankind’s enemy, Godzilla turned into the good guy in the 60s, defending the world from all manner of extraterrestrial conquerors and the weird and wonderful monsters they brought with them. Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla is the FOURTEENTH Godzilla film so anyone who expects anything remotely different from the preceding thirteen films had better get their head checked. Expect men-in-rubber-suits, miniature cities, 70s Japanese fashion, aliens trying to take over the world and a pulsating soundtrack.

Considering how cheap the previous couple of entries looked, it’s a bit of a surprise to see that this one at least looked like it’s getting back on the right track. Gone was the majority of the juvenile humour and silly shenanigans of Godzilla Vs Megalon (tag team monster wrestling) to be replaced by something a little more serious. Those who doubt this new direction only need to watch the fight between Godzilla and former friend Anguirus, whom he beats within an inch of his life and attempts to break his jaw. Unfortunately the majority of the screen time is spent with the silly human sub-plots and the aliens attempting to take over the world angle that had become so over-used by this point.

Granted there was a recession in Japan at the time so Toho couldn’t afford to be splashing out on loads of fancy special effects. But what we get is something like a poor man’s James Bond with Interpol agents, dumb professors and aliens who look like gorillas all thrown into the mix. Throwing around mystical mumbo jumbo, random science about space titanium and spies wearing sunglasses at night, the script isn’t shy about doing what it can to keep the viewer entertained in between monster fights. The script does a reasonable job at this task – it’s nowhere near as boredom-inducing as some of the earlier 60s efforts and the amount of daft camp on display at least makes everything suitably compelling.

Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla sees the introduction of one of Godzilla’s most famous and successful enemies, his mechanical doppelganger, Mechagodzilla (the Japanese were not known for their originality in these films). Bringing to the table a multitude of weapons, Mechagodzilla is one of Godzilla’s toughest opponents and takes him to the limit and then some. The fights between the two are well-crafted and some of the best of the 70s. Even the design of the monster is visually rewarding and makes for an impressive sight when it’s first revealed in all of its robotic glory.

Sadly, they had to go and throw another monster into the mix. King Caesar is given a lot of build up throughout the film so when he finally comes to life and reveals himself at the end, the results are ridiculous. He looks like some big shaggy dog that needs a bath. Definitely one of Toho’s most uninspiring creations, King Caesar looks like a guy in a dog suit running around a miniature set. I know that’s all he is but the majority of Toho’s other creations at least give the illusion of something real. King Caesar brings nothing to the table in terms of the action and, despite being on Godzilla’s side, he ends up being more of a hindrance, getting in the way and just growling and slobbering all over. Stupid dog – there’s no wonder that it was thirty years before he made another appearance in the Godzilla series! Godzilla is his usual bad ass self, with the suit looking well-worn at this point but at least he still manages to get down and dirty in the fighting when it crops up.

 

For the time and the economic troubles in Japan, I suppose this is the best anyone could have hoped for considering some of the previous entries. Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla is still one of the sillier entries in the franchise but it’s not as bad as it could be thanks to the impressive fights between Godzilla and his mechanical buddy.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

The Three-Headed Monster battles Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan for the world!

Godzilla and Rodan are back on the rampage in Japan, destroying cities before setting their sights on each other. In the meantime, a massive meteor crashes to Earth and from it emerges Ghidrah, a powerful three-headed space monster intent on destroying the planet. Seeing how deadly this new monster is, the twin fairies of Infant Island summon Mothra who proceeds to communicate with Godzilla and Rodan, persuading them to work together to defeat this new menace. But with their past histories of fighting each other, can the Earth monsters co-operate long enough?

 

The fifth entry in the Godzilla franchise, Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster is arguably the one where the series ditched the seriousness and started playing things for laughs. As if seeing Godzilla and a rather flea-ridden King Kong ‘fight’ and then watching Godzilla take on a giant moth wasn’t funny enough for some, the previous films at least managed to maintain a level of seriousness and treat the monsters with a bit of respect. Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster introduces such camp daftness as the rival monsters playing rock badminton amongst other things. You would think that the most loaded Godzilla film up to this point (featuring four giant monsters!) would be an exciting thrill ride full of wanton destruction, monster mayhem and Tokyo getting smashed to pieces. Unfortunately it is not.

The main problem with Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster is that despite the inclusion of four monsters, the script doesn’t gel well enough to give them a valid purpose for being in the film. There is some footage of both Godzilla and Rodan during the opening credits but once they’re over, it’s a long time before they re-appear on screen. As with most of the earlier Godzilla films, there’s little action in the first half and lots of talking. Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster tries to lay claim to be the talkiest of the Godzilla films and I wouldn’t try and argue against that case. It takes ages for the first monsters to even appear on screen and even longer for them to do anything worthwhile.

The daft human sub-plots in the Godzilla films do take the biscuit though – this time around there is some princess who believes she’s a Martian, proclaiming to all that the Earth is doomed and who attracts the attention of an assassination who continually tries to kill her. The human sub-plot and the monsters destroying Tokyo don’t exactly gel together and run alongside each other with little connection. I’m sure the writers could have come up with some better ideas to link the two better as the film comes off as two separate films mutually thrust in a weird marriage of convenience. It seems like director Ishirô Honda is trying to hold off on the monster action in order to build up a bit of suspense like he did with the original. But if the monsters aren’t on screen then at least have the characters talking about them instead of worrying about each other.

The final battle between all four monsters is strangely disappointing given how much build-up it receives during the film. It’s nowhere near as spectacular as it deserved to be and Ghidrah has his ass kicked (not for the last time either) before deciding enough is enough and simply leaving. There’s no proper resolution – he just flies off, which could mean he simply heads off to New York or London and resumes Earth-destroying. Lots of miniature houses are destroyed in the process, though not as many as first imagined as the monsters conveniently head out of the city for the final confrontation so as to avoid any unnecessary damage to Tokyo. Most of the monster sequences are well-filmed and, as a testament to how strong they look, stock footage of the final battle and of Ghidrah laying waste to Tokyo would be re-used time and time again in the later sequels.

If there is one thing to be thankful for here, it’s the introduction of Godzilla’s greatest ever foe and my personal favourite kaiju, Ghidrah (or King Ghidorah as he would come to be known later on). He’s such an awesome-looking monster and the design and costume is fantastic. There is just something about Ghidrah that looks downright evil – you can almost feel the personal vendetta against Godzilla that the monster has here and in the future films. Ghidrah has such a mythical look about him that he’s unlike the majority of the other kaijus introduced in the series. His roar is memorable, his beams weapons deadly and he’s just one bad-ass monster (who unfortunately gets his ass kicked in every single film he’s been in!). Mothra makes her second appearance in a Godzilla film here and is confined to the larva stage for the entire film, presumably because it was cheaper to film this version of the monster than the flying version. She’s pretty useless in the film and is hardly the sort of monster you’d want by your side if you were Godzilla fighting a physical monster like Ghidrah.

Funnily enough, her participation in this film, specifically the ‘communicating’ that she does with Godzilla and Rodan to convince them that humanity is not the enemy, spelt the end for the monsters as Japan’s destroyers right up until 1984′s The Return of Godzilla. After this, Godzilla and his Earth monster comrades were protectors of mankind, defending the planet from all manner of nasty aliens and their monsters. So her inclusion served as a pivotal moment for the series although the merits of Godzilla’s transformation into some form of superhero will split fans down the middle. At least Mothra has an excuse for looking so cheap – Rodan doesn’t far too well at all. He comes off as some third-rate knock off of The Giant Claw and his battles with Godzilla during the film consist of some cheap puppet head repeatedly pecking the Godzilla suit.

 

Thankfully, there were better Godzilla films to come in the future, which included a lot more fighting between the giant monsters. Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster is certainly not one of the worst in the series and manages to keep a lid on the silliness and the camp. But it’s one of the most boring entries. The lure of four of Toho’s most popular monsters fighting sounded good on paper but it’s all a bit of a let down in the end.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Godzilla Vs Biollante (1989)

Godzilla Vs Biollante (1989)

The most terrifying monster of all time is back in his greatest movie ever

Godzilla remerges from the volcano where everyone thought he had been killed and immediately starts to destroy Tokyo, only this time he looks to be more unstoppable than ever. Meanwhile a scientist has been experimenting with samples of Godzilla’s DNA and mixes it in with those of his dead daughter and a rose. This creation grows to enormous size and eventually becomes big enough to do battle with Godzilla when the army fail to stop him.

 

The long-awaited follow up to The Return of Godzilla sees the return of Godzilla to more familiar territory – instead of taking on just the Japanese army he’s also fighting ludicrously thought-of monsters who want to kill him. The formula worked for nearly twenty years back in the 50s, 60s and 70s and after Godzilla was reborn in 1984, there’s only so many Godzilla versus humans films that you can do before you start pairing him off against other giant monsters.

Biollante is by far the biggest ever opponent created for Godzilla but doesn’t do an awful lot although the make-up and special effects for it are interesting to say the least. It’s the most unique of Godzilla’s opponents and to say that it’s a big, killer flower it certainly poses quite a menacing sight with lots of Venus fly-trap-like tentacles. It would have been hard for the effects team to bring something so complex to life in a believable fashion so the question should be why bother in the first place? Why not try something simpler and easier to animate? Godzilla is also given a meaner, more aggressive look in this one – a far cry from the feeble robot-like monster from the previous film or the superhero version from the late 70s. I’d have preferred to have seen Biollante battle Godzilla a little more but obviously the budget wouldn’t extend to too many fights, especially given the complexity of shooting with Biollante’s multiple tentacles.

The military also get another ass-kicking by Godzilla as tanks, helicopters and other vehicles are dispatched by the almighty monster. Toho has managed to work military stock footage in with the miniatures to create good illusions of the monsters fighting toe-to-toe with the armed forces. They’ve come a long way from the days of cheap plastic miniature tanks and cardboard model cities being destroyed. However the sheer number of failed ways of killing Godzilla that the army employ does get a bit ridiculous. They never learn from their mistakes and come up with all manner of weird and wonderful experimental weapons which all obviously fail.

The film has an underlying theme of ‘don’t do genetic engineering’ which wasn’t really explored much and the human plots to which the majority of the film is based are pretty bland. The problem with most of the Godzilla films is that they are basically two giant monsters fighting it out but this is usually towards the end of the film. So the rest of the film needs filling out with weak human plots to pad out the running time and keep the audience waiting for the fights. This one contains plenty of shoot outs between human characters, lots of silly things like fake countries, terrorist plots and government agencies. It’s all nonsense and quite appalling really.

Koichi Sugiyama’s score lacks the passion and likeability that Akira Ifukube’s scores had. The battle scenes aren’t the same without one of Ifukube’s rousing scores to go alongside the carnage. On the positive side it’s quite violent for a Godzilla film as not only the monsters exchange bloody thrusts but a human character gets electrocuted on screen too. It’s also got continuity with The Return of Godzilla as this one picks up straight after the events of that film. It’s something that the original series lacked and something which this later series of Godzilla films has been keen to stress.

 

I’ll give Godzilla Vs Biollante a bit of credit for trying to be a little different but one of the reasons why Godzilla has become so popular is the repetition factor – people like me watch these films knowing what to expect. And when they don’t deliver the requisite monster battles and little miniature cities in abundance, there is outcry. Just like here. It’s too easy to get lost in the mix of plots, characters and continual barrage of long-winded weapons names that when the fights come, it is all irrelevant.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Invasion of the Astro-Monsters (1965)

Invasion of the Astro-Monsters (1965)

A new planet is suddenly discovered in the solar system and the mysterious inhabitants arrive on Earth to make a deal: in exchange for the help of Godzilla and Rodan to defeat Ghidorah, who has been attacking their planet, they will provide the Earth with the cure to many of the world’s deadliest diseases. Earth agrees to let the aliens take the monsters but when they receive the cure for the diseases, they realise that it is a trick. The aliens have sent Earth an ultimatum: either agree to colonisation or they will send Godzilla, Rodan and Ghidorah to destroy the planet.

 

Invasion of the Astro-Monsters provides nothing new from the previous couple of entries, so much so that this film pretty much is a carbon copy of the previous film, the imaginatively-titled Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster. The only difference being that Mothra is not present in this one but Ghidrah still gets to tussle with Godzilla and Rodan once again (so much so that plenty of stock footage from the previous flick is used and look closely and you’ll see a little clip of Mothra). My main query with this logic is that it took three monsters to beat Ghidorah in the last film so why should two do any better considering they were both there as well?

Little nit picks aside, the film is one of the more entertaining of the earlier Godzilla films. The film has plenty of monster action but you’re going to have to wait a long time to see any. Before then we’re treated to the usual “aliens trying to take over the world using monsters” plot which became a staple of the series for the next ten years. To be fair, the plot was probably at it’s strongest in this and the next one, Destroy All Monsters, as the aliens were simply a little more campy and goofy-looking. Here the costumes are awesome, complete with matching black and grey outfits, black visors, antennas on their helmets and daft boots. Their leader, the Controller, is one of the most memorable villains of the entire Godzilla series, talking in his clipped English and making a series of weird gestures with his hands. This side of the story is more akin to the 60s spy thrillers like James Bond as the heroes race against time to uncover the fiendish plot of the aliens from Planet X. Cue gadgets, fist fights and a big hideout on an island.

American actor Nick Adams is on hand trying to blend in with the crowd but his performance is irritating and rather aggressive at times. Sadly Adams committed suicide in 1968. His inclusion was a desperate attempt to reach out to the international market and it fails because he sticks out like a sore thumb. In the original Japanese version, Adams speaks English throughout but the rest of the cast talk to him in Japanese! A bit confusing but much better than the ridiculous American dub in which everyone sounds dumb. The dubbing always added an entertaining aspect to the films which is lost during the original language version.

So apart from the goofy human-alien plot, which is a lot of fun it has to be said, there’s plenty of monster mashing as well. It takes a while for things to spice up but Godzilla and Rodan finally do battle with Ghidorah on Planet X. The fight is short but at least the alien world makes a change from Tokyo or the fields of Japan. Later in the film the action switches back to Japan as the three monsters lay waste to miniature cities left, right and centre. Then there is a final showdown which is the highlight of the film. Ghidorah was always my favourite opponent for Godzilla and the three-headed monster was and is still one of Toho’s most memorable monsters. The old-school contact fighting between the monsters adds some realism to the film instead of the ‘beam weapon showdowns’ that the 90s and 00s sequels became. I like to see the monsters getting down and dirty in the middle of Tokyo. Having said that (after laying waste to Tokyo), the monsters almost always ended up fighting in the middle of nowhere. I know it’s cheaper on sets for a couple of guys to stomp around on grassy fields but it ruins the illusion of them striking fear into the heart of Japan by toppling over a couple of mud huts instead of skyscrapers. All of this carnage to the strains of Akira Ifukube’s wonderful soundtrack.

 

It’s not the best in the series but the fights at the end should be enough to please any Godzilla fans. Invasion of the Astro-Monsters represents the quintessential Godzilla film when the budgets were still decent, the creativity hadn’t totally waned and the monsters didn’t look like they’d been dragged through a hedge backwards.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Godzilla’s Revenge (1969)

Godzilla's Revenge (1969)

A young Japanese boy who is getting bullied at school dreams that he visits Monster Island and befriends Minya, Godzilla’s son. Minya is getting bullied by a bigger monster. Together the two become an unlikely team as they learn to stand up for themselves.

 

How do you follow one of the most popular Godzilla films in the entire series with Destroy All Monsters? Well in the case of the Godzilla series, you follow it with the worst. To me it seems that Toho blew their entire bank balance on the number of monsters that they jam-packed into the previous film and were scraping the barrel for whatever leftovers they could find for this feeble, feeble outing. This is supposed to Godzilla’s Revenge, not his stand-up comedy hour.

This is by far Godzilla’s lowest ebb. Critics may say the juvenile entries where Godzilla tag team wrestled his way across Japan in the mid 70s were far worse than this but as a die-hard fan, I’ve got to disagree. At least they featured city-stomping antics, daft aliens trying to conquer the world plots and of course, plenty of monster action where Godzilla had to win to save the Earth. Here, Godzilla isn’t smashing Tokyo. He’s not battling space aliens. There’s no sign of any old school favourites like King Ghidorah, Rodan or Mothra. This time Godzilla is playing the doting father, letting his offspring grow up the hard way by learning to take the rough with the smooth and stand up to bullies. It’s not a serious science film about the perils of atomic radiation. It’s not even a silly action romp with ludicrous monsters fighting each other.

Godzilla’s Revenge is quite simply a ridiculously childish film which wouldn’t look out of place as an after school special. The story should never have been made into a Godzilla film and is the sort of childish nonsense that hampered the Gamera films. The main problem is that he isn’t even the focus: it’s his son Minya and the troubles he is facing thanks to the monster bully, Gabarah. It’s somewhat cute to have the monster and the human sub-plots actually mirror each other for a change (something which I’ve moaned on about a lot in my reviews as the sub-plots rarely seem to fit with the overall narrative) but I just wish it didn’t have to be this one about bullying. I can understand that the film wants to send out some form of anti-bullying message but why not just use Minya in his own vehicle? Why drag Godzilla down with him?

The main threat to the monsters in this one is, as I’ve mentioned, Gabarah. He’s one of the worst monsters that Toho ever created, with a daft roar and just electric hands as weapons. If he can’t even beat Minya in a battle, what chance does he have against Godzilla? Godzilla does ‘fight’ other monsters but it’s just stock footage culled from previous films. He does battle with Ebirah and Spiga but it’s just the footage we’ve already seen passed off as new material. This is a crime in itself as the film only runs for seventy minutes as it is. With padding courtesy of stock footage, there’s very little new footage of the monsters included. As far as this new footage goes, Godzilla is hardly around.

When he is on screen, he’s not smashing his way across Japan but playing the domesticated father! He might as well have had his license to destroy revoked and given an apron to wear. It’s a far, far cry from the devastating force he was in the original film. We don’t even know whether everything we see is real or not as it’s never made clear whether the action is taking place in a dream or what. Not only that but since the stock footage is from various films, Godzilla is constantly change appearances as different films used different suits. Sometimes when films come out with so many glaring problems, you wonder why they bothered in the first place. It’s a half-assed effort which does little to give credibility to the series.

 

Taken solely as a kid’s film, I’m sure that Godzilla’s Revenge ticks all of the relevant boxes with its inoffensive material, light-hearted approach and cute-factor going into overdrive. However this is not what fans of the series want to see, especially where Godzilla is concerned. Where is the bad ass monster who laid waste to Tokyo? We want that Godzilla back, not the father struggling to cope with his kid. If we wanted to see that, we’d turn in to TV soaps. We want to see cities being destroyed and other giant monsters being pummelled into oblivion. And on that note, Godzilla’s Revenge dramatically fails on every level.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Godzilla Vs Gigan (1972)

Godzilla Vs Gigan (1972)

Space Monsters War With Godzilla For The Earth!

Aliens land on Earth and disguise themselves as businessmen who are building a tourist attraction based on all of the Earth’s monsters. Their idea is to build this theme park and then kill the real monsters so that the people of Earth can live in peace and not fear for their lives. One of their employees begins to suspect that things aren’t as straightforward as they seem and he soon uncovers their true plan: they want to kill the monsters of Earth so that they can conquer the planet with their own space monsters Gigan and King Ghidorah. Two of Earth’s most fearsome monsters, Godzilla and Anguirus head to the theme park for a deadly showdown.

 

The twelfth entry into Godzilla’s film legacy, Godzilla Vs Gigan reflects the economic strain that Toho Studios were experiencing at the time. Japan was suffering from a heavy recession in the 70s and Godzilla was not spared financial butchering: the monster suit is in a real sorry state and makes it look like he’s been living rough for a few years. There was also a clear creative drain on the series by this point – with Godzilla having to defend Earth from a bunch of aliens who were trying to take over yet again.

This is one of my favourites from the original Godzilla series and it’s because it delivers what the shallow fans of the series like me want – plenty of monsters smashing buildings up before smashing each other up. Although it takes them a while to appear, the monsters are given a lot of the screen time in the second half. Godzilla Vs Gigan features one of the better monster fights at the end, as Godzilla and Anguirus take on Ghidorah (my favourite monster from the Godzilla films) and Gigan, some weird cyborg-chicken monster that sports a buzzsaw in its chest. In this one, Gigan is played seriously (he’d be turned into a comedic buffoon in the next film) and he’s one of Godzilla’s toughest opponents in the entire series with a real nasty streak to boot. He makes Godzilla bleed for the first time here and the pounding that the Big G takes from the monsters in this one is one of his harshest in the entire series. There is plenty of new monster action with all four monsters getting down and dirty and they all get a fair chance in the limelight. It’s time to suspend your disbelief as you witness monsters tackling each other with wrestling moves, slams, double teams and all manner of backyard brawling antics.

This is what attracted me to the Godzilla series in the first place – giant monsters fighting it out. It’s just a pity that they probably only included Ghidorah and Anguirus to re-use some stock footage from Destroy All Monsters (the stock footage shown is from a day fight whereas here the monster fight takes place at night – but no one seemed to notice when editing). The traditional ‘monsters attack Tokyo’ sequence seems to go on for ages too as Gigan and Ghidorah lay waste to the city before Godzilla shows up. The miniature sets look as daft as ever but they really get smashed to pieces and Gigan doesn’t take any prisoners when it comes to taking down planes either. There’s a really cool shot of the two evil monsters standing amidst the ruins of an oil refinery with a cloud of flames and smoke engulfing them.

Let’s not forget that there is a human side to this monster action and it’s usually overlooked in Godzilla films. The story may be pretty weak but the characters in this one are some of the best in the series. They’re not secret agents. They’re not spaceman. They’re not scientists. The characters are simply a cartoonist, his spunky girlfriend and her fat hippy friend. Hardly a trio to strike fear into the hearts of aliens but they’re all likeable. The fat hippy is a loveable oaf, always eating something. You’d better get used to them even if you can’t stand them because there’s plenty of talking. In fact there’s nary a monster in sight for the opening half of the film until Anguirus finally shows up to see what the fuss is about and is promptly zapped by some traditionally-ineffective human weapons. Thankfully the carnage at the end more than makes up for this lull. The aliens are of the usual variety – they look Japanese, dress in funny clothes and love to predict Earth’s imminent doom. Even Godzilla gets to talk in this one which has angered many fans. I don’t see why, it’s a silly gimmick and it wasn’t re-used but we’ve all wondered what he’d say to his mate Anguirus so this film just shows us!

 

It’s not high art and it’s not going to appeal to everyone but if you like the Godzilla series for its city-stomping and monster-smashing action, then Godzilla Vs Gigan is one of the most entertaining in the series. Not the best but one of the most enjoyable.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)

This is one lobster you don’t want to order!

A terrorist organisation called the Red Bamboo has enslaved the residents of Infant Island in order to make nuclear weapons at their secret hideout in the Pacific. A group of shipwrecked friends decide to help by reviving Godzilla during a thunder storm after they find him in suspended animation. But in order to stop the Red Bamboo, Godzilla must do battle with Ebirah, a giant lobster who guards the waters off the island.

 

One of Godzilla’s worst cinematic efforts, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is woeful. Nearly everything about it lacks budget, interest and above all, entertainment. Originally intended to be one of Toho’s King Kong stories (notably evident where Godzilla takes a romantic shine to one of the native girls ala Kong), the scope just isn’t what one would expect from a Godzilla film. Where is Tokyo? Where are the feeble Japanese attempts to stop him? Where is my giant monster battle giant monster action? Instead of the decent-but-flawed monster smashing efforts of the previous few films, we get a low budget camp fest where Godzilla began his downward spiral into being a goofy monster instead of real menace to Japan.

It smacks of cheekiness when a Godzilla flick hardly features the big guy but like many of his big screen outings, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is unable to match what it wants to do with the budget it’s been given. With a lower budget, it’s the special effects that suffer and in this case, the special effects are Godzilla. Keeping him off screen as much as possible allows the limited use of miniature sets and costly suits. Smashing up Tokyo costs money and so it’s no surprise to see the island setting is sparsely populated and vegetated so when Godzilla is walking around, he’s not smashing anything apart from an odd coconut tree. It’s then down to the human story to try and interest the viewer because we get so little monster action. At least this time we haven’t got aliens trying to take over the planet. This time the human plot is grounded in relative reality with the addition of the terrorist group, The Red Bamboo. They’re like some James Bond villainous organisation complete with hideout, submarines and hordes of minions waiting to die horribly. They’re the main threat in this film. Screw Ebirah, the Red Bamboo are the ones who actually try to stop Godzilla.

There have been some weak opponents for Godzilla during his career (Gabarah from Godzilla’s Revenge springs to mind) but Ebirah is easily one of the worst. It’s not that the suit is daft. In fact I think a good job has been done given that Ebirah is a water-based monster. The problem stems from the fact that Godzilla kicks his ass comprehensively – twice! He poses no real menace or threat to the Big G and doesn’t do much during the fights except get his claws ripped off. There’s an amusing sequence in which the two monsters attempt to better each other by using rocks in some sort of volleyball match but it’s too juvenile when you consider the tone of the previous films. Godzilla even tangles with a giant condor at one point and makes mince meat out of it.

The Godzilla suit looks to be in pretty bad shape too so it’s probably a good thing that he’s not around much or else an arm or tooth might fall off. Mothra makes a small cameo appearance here but the puppet also looks very badly worn and her inclusions seemed to be a token effort to up the monster count. Compared to the monster fighting from the previous few films where Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah were all doing battle with each other, this is a surprisingly tame and lacklustre affair.

 

Godzilla is on total walkthrough mode here and breezes through the film without any hassle. You wonder why he bothered to get up this morning if Ebirah was all he had to sort out. Definitely a low point for the series.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

Metal meets monster.

Aliens trying to take over Earth find and rebuild Mechagodzilla, making him even more deadlier than before. They also align themselves with a scientist who had previously claimed to have found a dinosaur, Titanosaurus, living at the bottom of the ocean. His theory had been mocked and now he wants revenge upon mankind using the monster as his weapon. So Mechagodzilla and Titanosaurus are sent out to destroy the world and only Godzilla can stop them.

 

Godzilla’s final film appearance for nearly ten years is one of the best of the original series and that’s because it tries to take itself a little more seriously than the previous few films like Godzilla Vs Megalon. Long time Godzilla director Ishirô Honda was back in the seat for Godzila’s send off and the budget for this one seemed to be a bit higher than the previous few despite obvious use of stock footage and the limited screen time that the monsters do get. Mechagodzilla is resurrected. Aliens are back to take over the world. What can go wrong?

Of course you can’t really take it totally seriously because it’s a Godzilla flick but that’s beside the point. There are few of the comedic moments that plagued some of the previous films and even the monster fights are taken relatively seriously. No tag team wrestling or silly bits with Godzilla doing flying kicks and stuff will be found here. There are some decent battles here, mainly the finale where the three monsters duke it outside Tokyo. The Godzilla suit looks to be in good condition, save for his cheesy smile. The Mechagodzilla films are always decent enough watches for the fancy weapons that the monster displays. And newcomer Titanosaurus is one of the most original creations in the entire series. The suit looks really good and the monster has a rather unique roar. It’s a pity that the monster wasn’t used in any of the newer films. Apparently the monster was planned to return in a few of the 00s entries but was cut for budgetary reasons which is a big shame.

What I didn’t get was that Godzilla found it hard to beat Mechagodzilla in the previous film on his own before he had the assistance of King Caesar to help him win. So why put him up against the same opponent AND Titanosaurus at the same time? It’s a bit unfair but at least they didn’t pair Godzilla up with another monster and have another silly tag team wrestling match.

Anyway you can probably guess what is going to happen in this before you start watching but that doesn’t spoil any of this fun film. Titanosaurus shows up and does some damage before Godzilla comes along and kicks his ass. Then Mechagodzilla appears and starts to go on a rampage with Titanosaurus. The humans discover that aliens are controlling both monsters. Godzilla gets his ass kicked for a bit. The humans eventually defeat the aliens and release the control mechanisms of their monsters. Godzilla then miraculously recovers from his near-death state and kicks the metallic ass of Mechagodzilla and batters Titanosaurus around for a while. It’s more or less the same plot thread that Godzilla films have followed for years. Why change a successful and popular formula?

Miniature cities get stomped. There’s some bad rear projection when humans and monsters share the same screen. The humans and aliens are played by the usual array of Toho’s stock actors including Katsuhiko Sasaki and Tôru Ibuki so if you’ve watched any of the earlier films, you’ll recognise the faces. You won’t recognise the voices though as the dubbing job is pretty bad and the aliens come off more as slimy businessmen than intergalactic conquerors. Add in one of the best scores of the series by Akira Ifukube and we have a fitting send off for the end of the original series of Godzilla films.

 

What more do you want from an old school Godzilla film? Terror of Mechagodzilla is a decent if flawed entry into the series and was a worthy way to put the series on the back burner for as long as it was.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆