Monday, 1 June 2015

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack (2001)

This is the first film since the original Godzilla to make me feel like Big G is a terrifying, unstoppable force of destruction.  I suspect that even if I hadn't liked other aspects of the movie, I would give it a qualified recommendation just for that.  But as it, I did find other things to like as well.

Before I talk about them, however, I'll quickly check off the three niggles I had with the film.  Only the first is of much consequence, to be honest, and it's that I don't much like the Godzilla suit in this.  Apparently it was originally designed with the intention that Godzilla would have a posture where his back and tail were horizontal to the ground.

More like this guy, in other words.

Unfortunately the posture put too much strain on the actor in the suit and they reverted to Godzilla's traditional, upright stance.  Which, well ... doesn't go so well since the suit wasn't designed for it.

He looks like he has a beer belly.

The other two niggles are the CGI - some of Toho's stuff in this wouldn't look out of place in an Asylum mockbuster like American Warship or Atlantic Rim - and the very last couple of seconds of footage.  They go for "Dun Dun DUN" and hit "hee hee hee" instead.  But as I said, these latter two aren't really of much consequence and even the first is easily enough forgotten when the movie gets its groove on.

As with each film since Godzilla 2000, this one jettisons all previous continuity except the first film, though it sneaks in a back-handed reference to Roland Emmerich's awful attempt when two characters discuss a monster attack that happened in New York:

"That was Godzilla, right?"
"In America they say so, but not in Japan."

We're quickly introduced to our two main characters: a young would-be documentary maker, and her father, who is a military man.  The film also takes little time to explain its ridiculously long title: Godzilla is on his way to wreck Japan, and three ancient "Guardian Beasts" have awoken to defend the islands.  Note that that means the actual islands, not the people on them.  Get in the way of a kaiju battle in this film, and it'll be the last mistake you ever make.

You may have noticed that there are three guardians, but only two monsters other than Godzilla mentioned in the title.  That's because the third guardian, Barugon, is much less well known than Mothra and Ghidorah, and also because he gets curbstomped pretty early in the film.

And make no mistake, 'curbstomped' is the right word for it.  The film makes no bones about who the biggest, baddest monster is.  Godzilla is more than a match for any one of the Guardian Beasts.  In fact he's a match for two of them, plus the entire Japanese Defence Force, which is what will occupy the last act of the film, in a very entertaining example of men-in-rubber-suits warfare.

But like I said, the "Godzilla is finally a badass again" angle is not the only reason to like this film.  It also has the distinction of one of the best human-level narratives in the series.  Which admittedly isn't the highest of bars to clear, but I found that the tale of how the young journalist and her father come to better understand and respect one another was pretty well executed.

This is a fun kaiju romp with a strong "B story".  Worth your time if you're not immediately put off by the whole giant monster millieu.

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