Tuesday, May 13, 2014


DAY 27


It's a monster movie so big and so crazy they can't even fit all the monsters in the title! Following the previous year's disappointing returns on Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, Toho decided to go back to the monster vault and bring back not one - not two - but three of its classic monsters to battle Godzilla, but this time Godzilla's not the hero. In fact, he's your worst nightmare.

Like the previous two films in the Millennium series, Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (hereby to be known simply as GMK) is a stand-alone movie in its own continuity, and what a wild departure from continuity it is! Following the death of Godzilla in 1954, Japan has had almost 50 years of peace. In this time of prosperity, few remember or want to think about the terrible sins Japan committed during WWII and the terrible horrors its suffered as a victim of the atomic bomb. But the tortured souls of the dead demand revenge. A second Godzilla emerges, a truly demonic and evil-eyed Godzilla, resurrected and powered by the cursed souls of Japan's forgotten dead.

This is not Godzilla: savior of the world. This is not Godzilla the hero. This is not even Godzilla the random, amoral force of nature. GMK's Godzilla is 100% pure violence. Intentionally sadistic, purposely brutal, and just plain evil, this Godzilla is a completely unsympathetic monster fueled by the fury of those who died in Japan on both sides during WWII. Director Shūsuke Kaneko's Godzilla is out to cause pain, and there's nothing humanity can do to stop him, not matter how hard JSDF admiral Yuri Tachibana (Taizo Tachibana) and his journalist daughter Yuri (Chiharu Niiyama ) try. The only thing that really stands a chance of ending Godzilla's reign of terror are the legendary three guardian monsters of Japan:

Hold on! Wait just a minute. King Ghidorah? Monster Zero? The infamous Astro-Monster? The three-headed space monster whom, in every incarnation thus far, as been one of the biggest threats to the Earth? Yup, that's just how nuts GMK is. By making Godzilla more evil than he's ever been in the history of the character, his ultimate enemy King Ghidorah must come all the way around to take on the hero role for the first time. Some fans hate this with a passion because it's "out of character," but I love it. After almost 40 years of Godzilla movies, GMK feels finally like a fresh take on the character. GMK also manages to present some very likable human characters who exist perfectly well in their role as commentators and observers. They are rarely directly involved in the action, yet somehow they also never feel extraneous to the plot. They're quite forgettable, but when they're on screen you're not necessarily tuning out until the monsters show up either It's a tricky balance, but GMK nails it.

Get in mah belly!
Unfortunately, GMK doesn't live up to its full potential. Despite it's brutal depiction of Godzilla and the on-screen death and destruction he causes during his spectacular monster battles and run-ins with the military, the movie is also full of silly sight gags and cheesy slapstick moments. It's also slow to get started. By the end, the pace really picks up and most of the cheesy bits have been worked out, but still GMK never manages to be as devastating or brutal as it hopes to be because of these issues. The unfortunate fusion of scary and silly is really exemplified by the new Godzilla suit which tries to replicate and update the scariest elements of the 1954 suit and the 1990s Godzilla costume. The face is so evil, it's really cool and like nothing we've seen before in the series. At the same time, it's marred by something silly. In this case, the costume has distracting pot belly that jiggles around as he walks and fights. He's not very intimidating from the waist down.

Godzilla's got some junk in the trunk
Another strike against GMK is its digital effects. The Millennium series really embraced green screen technology to cut costs in the set building department, but these effects have not aged well. A lot of the time, Godzilla, Mothra, Baragon, and King Ghidorah are superimposed into real city scenes rather than shot on location in miniature sets. Unfortunately, they do not integrate well into all their digital environments. The monster suits look way more fake when contrasted against real shots of urban Japan. GMK really proves why miniature sets are a staple of giant monster movies; they create an artificial aesthetic that actually manages to enhance the reality of the monster costumes. For many of its early scenes, GMK simply does not have a believable aesthetic unity. But at least we get to see Baragon, who hasn't been in a film since Destroy All Monsters in 1968. Too bad they couldn't fit his name in the title. Poor Baragon has no marquee value.


Embracing fantasy over science fiction, GMK stands as one of the most original films in the Godzilla series. Its representation of Godzilla as a force of evil rather than nature or punishment for human hubris may be divisive for fans. Either way, this new take certainly didn't hurt its reception at the box office. After opening in Japan on December 15, 2001 it went on to become one of the most successful films in the Millennium series. However, it's hard to sustain a series on the back of a reprehensible atomic monster, so for Godzilla's next film, Toho would take the King of the Monsters back into more familiar territory. Check us out tomorrow for 30 Days of Godzilla when we look at GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (2002).

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