Review: Godzilla, Mothra, & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack

Supposedly an incarnation of all the souls of those killed in the Pacific region during WWII, Godzilla appears to once again stomp the crap out of Tokyo. Attempting to stand in his way are ‘guardian’ monsters Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Baragon. Meanwhile, we also follow the antics of an inept reporter (Chiharu Niyama) who seems perpetually the last to find out anything.

My favourite Toho monster movie is the all-star “Destroy All Monsters!” so I figured this third film in the ‘Millennium Series’ from 2001, given its title, would be something in that same spirit. And yeah I guess it is, but while I can’t claim “Destroy All Monsters!” is a better-made film, it’s definitely a lot more fun than this. A bit of a step down third time out I’m afraid, for this particular series. Directed and co-written by Shusuke Kaneko (who helmed films in the rival “Gamera” franchise including “Gamera, The Guardian of the Universe”), the story and characters are nowhere near as compelling here as they were in the previous two films. That’s a shame, because the one thing it does share with the previous films is that it gets the monster action just right. That and not a whole lot else.

We start off with some irritating shaky-cam to simulate an earthquake, suggesting the filmmakers needed to try harder. Thankfully, after that we get an awesome bit where Godzilla’s giant foot squashes some poor bloke’s house while he’s still visibly in it. However, it’s just too slow-moving, a talky re-run of the whole ‘Japan feeling bad about the past’ deal that we’ve seen done before and better within this very series. After about 30 minutes, I was rather bored. Also not helping things is an annoying female reporter who seems to be the last person to find out anything…usually via rival news reports. Characters had been a strong point of the ‘Millennium Series’ up until this film, here the characters here just don’t pop, despite all the screen time focussed on them.

As I say the monsters fare much better, if with less screen time. It’s a shame Baragon isn’t mentioned in the film’s far too elongated title, but it’s nice they’ve included him in the film nonetheless. He looks a bit cheap (that’s part of the charm, though), but emerging from beneath a stretch of road and going on a rampage, it sure is a bloody fine entrance for him. Godzilla also gets shot from awesome angles, as was previously the case. I do think they did a better job on his eyes in the previous two films, though. It was around this point that the film started to get going, at least for a while. The aerial night photography in the monster action is really nice, if clearly projection work at times. I really liked how merciless the monsters seemed to be here, they seem willing to fuck anyone and anything up, including each other. Godzilla kicking the fuck out of some cliffs in order to crush people with a resulting avalanche is extremely rude, and completely awesome. With Godzilla in an outrageously pissy mood, Baragon takes one look and tunnels himself the hell out of Dodge. Smart move. Unfortunately, Godzilla finds his hidey spot and it’s on for young and old. Seriously, Godzilla gives Baragon a monumental thrashing and I loved it. I did start to suspect that the Japanese population would be halved by the end of the film, though. I’m pretty sure less people died in WW1 than this movie, if I’m allowed to be so crude. Mothra, meanwhile in design looks a bit more intricate and colourful than usual. As for King Ghidorah, this is far and away the three-headed monster’s best showing. Usually too ungainly and awkward to convince as a credible threat, sadly Godzilla still makes its three heads its bitch in quick, humiliating fashion. Godzilla’s blue breath makes everyone and everything kneel before Zod, really. There’s really cool, if not A-grade CG laser and lightning FX too.

It’s super fun stuff watching the monsters do their thing. However, since this film focusses mostly on the non-monster stuff and doesn’t make that stuff especially compelling, the film is never as much fun as you’d like. When the film focuses on monster action, it’s well-shot, and highly entertaining. It’s just not often enough, and the father-daughter relationship meant to tug the heart strings as compensation just doesn’t resonate. Hell, to be honest watching Godzilla repeatedly humiliate Ghidorah might wear thin on some people eventually, too. After that, Mothra and Baragon have to come back to pick up the slack, and you start to realise that this is just gonna be Godzilla proving he can smash some ham-and-eggers for 90 minutes or so. The screenplay is by the director, Keiichi Hasegawa (“009-1: The End of the Beginning”), and Masahiro Yokotani (the subsequent “Godzilla, Mothra, Mechagodzilla: Tokyo SOS”).

Slightly underwhelming I’m afraid, though almost all Toho monster movies are at least worth watching. It’s no “Destroy All Monsters!”, but it works in moments here and there, especially when the monsters are on screen. Having said that, this appears to be the one of the most popular “Godzilla” movies ever made, so make up your own mind I guess.

Rating: C+


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