“Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack” Review
Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (GMK) seems to be a love-it or hate-it film amongst many in the Godzilla fandom. Rarely will you find people with a middle-of-the-road view of the film. Shusuke Kaneko (acclaimed director of the 90s Gamera films) directs his one and only Godzilla film. News of this excited fans due to his Gamera films, especially Gamera 3, being considered some, if not the best, daikaiju films. How does it fair with me? We shall see…
Synopsis: After an American sub is found destroyed, assumptions arise thinking Godzilla may be the cause of the sub’s destruction due to the uniqueness of the damage.
When it is confirmed that Godzilla was the cause of damage, the military scrambles into action. Yuri, a reporter for BS Digital Q, is assigned to cover the Godzilla action. Not long after, the three guardian monsters: Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah are awakened to do battle with Godzilla.
When Yuri runs into Professor Hirotoshi Isayama (the Prophet), she finds out why Godzilla is back: His body is being used as a vessel of those fallen in the Pacific conflict during World War II. These souls believe their sacrifice isn’t being acknowledged anymore and, thus, must attack Japan.
Baragon holds his own against Godzilla, but Godzilla proves to be too strong and Baragon is disintegrated. After the military fails to stop Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah battle him in Yokohama. The two monsters are able to keep Godzilla occupied until he is able to gain the upper hand by de-commissioning Ghidorah (albeit temporarily) and annihilating Mothra. Mothra’s energy enters Ghidorah where he is revived and becomes more powerful. Godzilla and Ghidorah battle under the sea while Admiral Tachibana deploys himself into a small research sub in the hopes of launching a drill-like missile into Godzilla’s neck wound.
After Godzilla destroys Ghidorah, and the souls of the three guardian monsters drag Godzilla, momentarily, under the water, Admiral Tachibana purposely gets his sub swallowed by Godzilla. While inside Godzilla, Tachibana successfully fires onto Godzilla’s neck wound. Godzilla’s atomic blast, now, is diverted into this larger wound. Several atomic blasts shooting out from the wound prove to be fatal and Godzilla dies… Or does he? At the end, a large heart is shown beating.
Story: I’ve always had mixed feeling about the story. On the one hand, I will give Kaneko, and his crew, props for attempting to bring a fresh take on the Godzilla legend. Kaneko, like he did in his Gamera films, gave Godzilla a mythological story in this entry. But the issue lies in that mythological story-telling. It doesn’t work as well with Godzilla as it did with Gamera. Part of that, I think, could be that, after so many movies, Godzilla was established heavily into the science realm. Every time I think of Godzilla, I think of scientists, bombs, radiation, technological gadgets, etc. While we get some of those here, they are downplayed to assist in this unique story. This perspective doesn’t work that well for me.
I noticed, too, that there were quite a few moments where the story was a bit confusing and some of the characters contradicted themselves. I will try and not to say too much about characters as I will save that for later, but the development of the characters is pretty shoddy and there are inconsistencies with the story. Of course, I am splitting hairs when I talk about inconsistencies in a Godzilla movie, but Kaneko did so well with the Gamera movies and his product here pales in comparison.
Although, not all of this is Kaneko’s fault. Unlike Daiei, Toho’s shooting schedule is a lot tighter. Kaneko had more time to produce his Gamera films than he did GMK and he expressed that constriction in some interviews.
There are three small stone statues that are knocked over/damaged over the course of the film. These statues release the guardian monsters, yet we are never told why it’s so important that they not be damaged. Also, Professor Isayama explains to Yuri that the guardian monsters need to be unleashed in their first interview, and in the next interview, he explains that Godzilla is just an animal and can be stopped; but not by conventional weapons. If he is just an animal, and can be stopped, but not by conventional weapons, then that simply leaves the guardian monsters. But why didn’t he mention the guardian monsters again? But, also, how could Godzilla just be an animal when his body is possessed by souls? That wouldn’t make him just an animal.
I digress. My point is that some of the dialogue and story threads make absolutely no sense.
Even though, Kaneko isn’t wholly to blame for some of the story’s shortcomings, he and his crew could have definitely gone through to tighten the script up and remove/fix some inconsistencies.
All four monster suits look awesome and Godzilla’s takes the cake for best-looking suit. Although, I must say Ghidorah’s design isn’t the best. There are a few scenes involving Godzilla stomping through real estate that look amazing due to phenomenal green screen effects! These shots help make the movie.
Some of my favorite effects, believe it or not, are some of the monsters’ facial expressions. The animatronics in the monsters’ faces give them a realistic quality that was rarely seen up to this point in the series. One great scene involves Baragon just before his demise: As Godzilla knocks the ground out from underneath him, Baragon looks up to see Godzilla recharging his atomic blast. Baragon’s eyes widen and his ears shoot back; telling the audience he knows what is about to happen next.
While these effects may seem small when compared to some of Mothra’s tremendous CGI work, they help bring more personality to the monsters.
The miniature work has to be mentioned as well. The sets seems to be vast in scope during the Yokohama scenes and the Japan countryside is decorated very well with hills and foliage. These details help bring believability to these scenes.
Acting: The acting is subpar here; and a lot of it has to do with the script/story. Actors are sometimes only as good as the material they are given. Many of the film’s problems deal with the characters, so, again, I will try and not discuss too much of that here. But, unfortunately, I have to go with what I am given in the final product.
The actors are okay, but nobody really noteworthy. Although, I must point out Shiro Sano of Godzilla 2000 fame; he played Professor Miyasaka in that film. Again, he tends to over-dramatize his character. I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing. In fact, I think in both films it works to his benefit, because he seems to be the comic relief.
Nothing really stands out and, as I’ll point out in the Human Drama section, that makes this characters forgettable. But in terms of acting, the actors are okay.
Battles: The monster battles are great here! The Godzilla vs. Baragon and Godzilla vs. Mothra and King Ghidorah scenes are definitely well executed.
There is a shot, during the Godzilla-Baragon battle, where Godzilla throws Baragon towards a group of people. I find this shot to be really neat as it gives us a perspective that really was never done prior to this film.
Godzilla is shown to be highly intelligent (until he, literally, blasts himself to death at the end) and a juggernaut. Baragon, Mothra, and Ghidorah tend to hold their own at times, but they prove to be no match for the King of the Monsters.
I love how there is some nice hand-to-hand combat in this film. Some of the blows feel brutal such as Godzilla stomping on Baragon and Godzilla biting, then throwing, Ghidorah.
Human Drama: All right, now I can let loose the main issue with the film. The writing for these characters is bad, and it makes them extremely forgettable.
For example, there is a scene where Yuri is on the phone with her father. She is practically begging him to give her some information on what the military is planning to do next against Godzilla. He tells that, being a reporter, she should have other sources and shouldn’t solely rely on him. Her response? “Okay, but there’s something important you need to know.”
What? That whole scene made no sense. I understand that she may have some information regarding Godzilla, but there couldn’t be anything of extreme importance that he would have to know. If she has important information, why is she even bothering to ask her father in the first place?
The Professor Hirotoshi Isayama character could have easily been fleshed-out more as well. His character is the one that provides us with the reason why Godzilla returned and who the guardian monsters were. Unfortunately, we never know where he got this information nor understand why his image simply disappears from the video they took of him. On a side note, his prison cell is destroyed by Baragon and a few moments later, he’s dressed-up in his hiking gear, looking at the entombed Ghidorah, who is located in another area of Japan. How could this old man grab his gear and get to that destination so quickly?
There is one scene, earlier in the movie, when Takeda takes Yuri home because she’s drunk. Tachibana asks his daughter if Takeda was her boyfriend and she says he isn’t. For one, it was a waste of a line of dialogue, because no such relationship is ever developed. Another thing is that it’s unfortunate no relationship was ever developed between Yuri and any of her male counterparts (since it seemed like 3-5 of them were interested in her). This would have helped with some of the characterization of Yuri and one of the other male characters.
Once again, I digress and I think you get the point. I point these out, because it feels like GMK has these problems in higher frequency than any other Godzilla film. I can look over most of these, but when so many of them happen, and, in some cases, so closely together, it becomes annoying.
I hate to say it, but I was bored with the human drama in this film. The characters aren’t that well developed and there doesn’t seem to be much of a “hero’s journey” for either Yuri or her father.
Overall: I know I have complained a lot about particular aspects of the story and the characters in GMK. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an entertaining Godzilla film and it’s certainly better than a number of other films in the series.
The film is certainly well made and when the monsters are on the screen you can definitely get yourself caught-up in the action. I love the monster battles in the film and their designs are very unique with the exception being Ghidorah’s.
Story and character problems aside, I still would recommend GMK. It has some adult tones in it that may give adult non-Godzilla fans some appreciation for the franchise and the fights are the kind of knock-out-drag-out brawls we’ve come to expect from the Godzilla series.
Kaiju suits (with the exception of Ghidorah's) are fantastic.
Uninteresting human drama.
Ghidorah's look is just bad.
The mythological approach to Godzilla and co-kaiju doesn't work as well as it did for Gamera.
The souls of Japan's WWII soldiers inhabiting Godzilla and using him as a vessel to attack their descendants doesn't make any sense.