Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack ~ 2001, Shûsuke Kaneko – Japan
Poor Godzilla seems to be in a constant state of reboot. That’s apparently how it’s gonna be here in the Millennium era, just reboots as far as the eye can see. In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (Which shall henceforth forever be abbreviated as GMK because I never want to type that nightmare of a title again) we have again abandoned all previous Godzilla continuity save for the original 1954 film, with one surprising exception; the 1998 American made Roland Emmerich film. They keep that in cannon simply so that they can explicitly clarify that that fucking monster was NOT Godzilla. Awesome. Anyway.
The story is as follows: Godzilla hasn’t been seen since ’54, but Japan remains spooked. Apparently, they’re right to fear Godzilla’s return, because lo and behold- here he is, back, and hellbent on stomping Japan off the map for good. The fate of the country rests on three ancient guardian monsters who come to save the day; Baragon (who apparently wasn’t worth a spot in the title,) Mothra, and King Ghidorah. No idea where these asshole guardian monsters were in ’54, but in the end they can’t really get the job done this time either, so mankind is forced to step up to the plate at the eleventh hour with some sort of new super weapon and take out Big G forever, just like they did last time. You can’t rely on Guardian monsters for shit these days.
GMK carries along with it a reputation of being one of the better recent entries in the Godzilla franchise, and to a point, I agree. The production is mostly very competent, the monster effects are well done, especially Baragon, but occasionally Godzilla’s rubbery hide will fold in a way that seems too puppet like for the new millennium, and we should be doing better than that by now. If we had better costumes way back in The Labyrinth, then I really can’t pardon this today. Also, there are composite shots and CG effects all over the place that look like complete garbage, so as usual, Toho needs to put more of an investment in it’s digital effects department if they want to use them so friggin’ often.
Anyway. The tone is fairly consistent, and there is a clear attempt to recapture the grim menace Godzilla used to exude, which I can get into. Toho really seems interested in getting our big green boy back to his Atomic Bogeyman basics, so this time around they really make it a point to highlight human deaths as a result of Godzilla’s rowdiness. Unfortunately the tone is kept fairly light so these causalities don’t feel tragic enough to really get that point across. By and large, the Heisei era managed to communicate that particular message a lot more effectively, but GMK is still superior to those films by a wide margin.
What GMK does best, I think, is balance fun monster battles with grounding scenes of human drama and exposition, which is a phenomenal achievement. We spend just enough time with our humans on the ground to pull the narrative together, but not enough that we feel bored. In general, this balance is extremely difficult for kaiju films to strike, so I theorize that for this reason GMK stands out as being especially good, even amongst viewers who aren’t film savvy enough to recognize that this balance is what they’re responding to.
It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, however. GMK is a competent and enjoyable movie, but as a Godzilla film, it’s struggles in weird ways. It’s kinda like the Jason Goes To Hell of the Godzilla series, strong for casual viewers, but potentially difficult for longtime fans. We see in GMK new ideas that I would argue are playing too fast and loose with these characters, and Godzilla himself is stretched, conceptually, to the point of nearly coming apart at the seems. Essentially, this time around, all these monster are fueled with spirit energy, because from the looks of it, Toho has completely lost faith in science altogether. That’s fair enough, but while the Guardian Monsters are all gassed up on your run of the mill, ordinary Japanese spirits, Godzilla’s monster engine runs exclusively on pissed off Japanese World War II ghosts, who have possessed him with the intent of getting revenge on a modern day Japan which they feel has betrayed the values they fought for, and it totally has. I’m really not sure how I feel about any of that, especially since there is at least some evidence to suggest that Godzilla is, in effect, a zombie in this film, which I am absolutely not down with. Worst of all: (SPOILER ALERT) The film climaxes with Godzilla being blown up, and after victory is declared, we see a large, still beating Godzilla heart sitting at the bottom of the ocean, just waiting to like… Grow a new Godzilla, or something? I don’t know, but it’s very much reminiscent of Jason Goes To Hell’s most objectionable component, and also it sucks and I hate it.. (END SPOILER ALERT)
I think the worst thing about GMK, however, is the K. King Ghidorah, in this film, is like, the ultimate Earth Guardian Monster, the last champion for the human race, standing against Godzilla in a battle to save us all, and that, my friends, is horse shit. Maybe I’ve missed something, but I grew up with the Godzilla films, and in my day, there was no more sneaky, evil, treacherous asshole of a monster that King Ghidorah, alien dick head sent from Planet X to screw us all. Every time he shows up, he’s like, Godzilla’s ultimate nemesis, and he’s always the baddest of bad guys. Are you now, GMK, expecting me to do a complete 180 and root for this slimy, three headed douche bag? Oh, think again. I am not prepared to for that. I’d rather Godzilla kick his ass and then eat every human on Earth than flip flop on my staunch Anti-Ghidorah stance. That, in a nut shell, is the biggest problem with GMK, it’s just taking a lot of liberties with a pretty concrete and established universe, and not all of the ramifications are going to sit well with you.
That having been said, most fans seem to be pretty much fine with it, for whatever reason, so maybe these things don’t matter so much after all? What do I know, I guess. It’s still a pretty solid entry at the end of the day, and it beats the hell out of Godzilla Vs Spacegodzilla.