Saturday, March 27, 2021

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

Following the debut of Godzilla (aka Gojira) in 1954, the film proved popular enough to spawn arguably the best-known series of kaiju films that continues in some form to this day, even spawning a recent American-produced series of films known as the MonsterVerse that includes a crossover with King Kong. In the spirit of things, I decided to take another look at a Godzilla movie from 2001 I happened to own, dubbed Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (JP: Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidora: Daikaijū Sōkōgeki) (GMK). What I watched in particular was the US DVD release from 2003, which featured the original uncut Japanese version with English subtitles. Though the 25th installment in the series, produced during the Millenium Era, the film bills itself as a direct follow-up to the 1954 original, which worked out for me continuity-wise since I’m not the most knowledgeable in the Godzilla mythos. The movie itself holds up pretty decently, though I had some minor issues with it.

50 years after the original Godzilla attack, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) have been preparing for the possibility of his return. While filming a docudrama at Mount Myōkō, creating a fictional Godzilla attack for views, a film crew for BS Digital Q feel a random earthquake. Meanwhile, other monster sightings and attacks have been reported, leading reporter Yuri Tachibana (Chiharu Niiyama) to investigate. Her research leads her to receiving a book about the three Guardian Monsters, Baragon, Mothra and King Ghidorah, leading her to speculate Godzilla might be coming back.

The story was pretty easy to follow, following up on the original 1954 Godzilla film in an interesting way. The movie also builds on the idea of Godzilla being a terrifying monster based in the nuclear bomb strikes on Japan, portraying him this time as embodying the restless spirits of soldiers who perished during the war. This ties into a plot point at the beginning where Japan had tried to simply forget the Godzilla attack happened, to the point where most consider it a myth, with Godzilla’s return bringing about an interesting message that people should not forget the past, even if what happened was bad.

In an interesting bit of continuity, though the movie ignores every previous Godzilla film, apparently par for the course with the Millenium Era series, it does mention the events of the infamous 1998 Godzilla film directed by Roland Emmerich. Though this implies it is canon to the events of GMK, this is done solely for mockery; during a briefing on the original Godzilla conflict, it is mentioned off-handedly that a giant monster attacked New York that was believed to be Godzilla himself, however Japanese officials doubt it was really him. Though this would be the first time Toho acknowledged the 1998 movie just to take a jab at it, it would not be the last. Toho themselves purchased the rights to that version of Godzilla in 2004, officially renaming it Zilla for its appearance that same year in Godzilla: Final Wars, the intended final Godzilla movie, during which the real Godzilla kills it off.

The practical effects hold up extremely well, with the model shots blended mostly seamlessly with the live-action footage, thanks to some clever cinematography, to give the kaiju more of a presence and add more intensity to their fights. There is a rather conservative use of computer effects, the usage of which can be very obvious, though it also adds to the more mystical nature of the Guardian Monsters in this iteration. Godzilla’s iconic atomic breath is also presented very well, though used sparingly to make Godzilla more of a threat as in the 1954 movie.

Godzilla's atomic breath is used to make him more threatening.

Though I have taken a couple Japanese classes before and have picked up some of the language, I am nowhere near fluent, and so I don’t believe I’d be able to fairly judge the performances of the actors. I can, however, comment on the subtitles, which are incorporated in a way that isn’t too distracting. One thing that seemed odd, however, was a moment where Ghidorah accidentally gets struck by a missile intended for Godzilla, after which a soldier yells “Excellent!” for some reason. From what I could gather from fan wikis, this was one of a few errors caused by the subtitles taking from the Omni Productions dub script. This error in particular was the most obvious, since the original dialogue had the soldier yelling an expletive, and was corrected in the 2014 Blu-ray rerelease. On an interesting side note, one of the actresses in this movie, Kaho Minami, is married to actor Ken Watanabe, who himself would play a role in the 2014 Godzilla movie.

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is an interesting take on Godzilla, one which does not contradict the kaiju’s original depiction as a terrifying monster. The practical effects are spectacular and the lore it presents surrounding the kaiju is an interesting take, though I’m aware that certain differences in their depictions from other kaiju films may not be for everyone. Still, if you want a Godzilla sequel more in line atmospherically with the 1954 original or want to get in the mood for watching Godzilla: King of the Monsters, GMK isn’t a bad option.

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