on November 15, 2003
Shusuke Kaneko is the man behind the recent trilogy of Gamera films that turned the giant turtle from film camp to excellent cinema. He changed the creature's origin to that of myth and gave the movies a great script, close human involvement, amazing special effects (the last entry rivalling standard effects,) and leaving a breath of wonderful imagination over the series. But Kaneko wasn't done. He wanted to make a Godzilla movie.
With "Godzilla-Mothra-King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack," he has brought everything from that Gamera series to Godzilla. The human drama is interesting, the pain of the Japanese people is realistic, the monsters look great... This very well may be one of the best Godzilla movies yet made.
This is one of the movies that ignores all others except the first. Godzilla appeared in 1954, was defeated, and has not been seen since. However, there are those who believe that the monster will reappear, such as the current Japanese Admiral. A submarine has been destroyed off of Japan, and a submersival has discovered it, as well as catching a glimpse of something's spines beneath the water.
The Admiral's daughter, Yuri, is a reporter for a local tabloid TV station. She believes she may have caught on to something real, but her boss won't let her pursue it. Soon, reports of monsters appearing spread over Japan. An old man tells Yuri that they are the Sacred Beasts, guardian monsters who will defend Japan when Godzilla returns... and boy, does he ever return. No longer the spawn of the atomic bomb, Godzilla is now composed of the souls of those who died in the wars of the Pacific, exacting their revenge for being forgotten.
The story is involving and it's nice to care so much about the humans (for a change in these movies.) But that's not all. Because of the mythic background Kaneko has given the Godzilla monsters, they end up having human souls... and human actions. The monsters no longer act like intelligent animals. Baragon (not in the title, but he's here) plans before attacking Godzilla. Mothra does the same, as well as showing compassion for her fellow beasts. And Ghidorah goes from terror to noble warrior. Godzilla is the best of them. His personality is one of malice and vengeance. He doesn't just wander around tearing things apart. He looks to a crowd of people, his back lights up, and... well, you know what happens. This is the most villainous Godzilla has ever been, even topping the original film in that sense.
As for the monsters' looks, they're hit and miss. Godzilla initially looks somewhat fat and awkward, but as he continues, begins to look powerful and even scary. His eyes have lost their pupils and his mouth is adorned with fangs. Baragon looks great and I love how his ears flare out when he roars. It's a shame he's missing his heat ray, but when crawling on all fours he looks better than when he tackled Frankenstein. Mothra is incredible and is the only one of the monsters to remain looking good completely. Alternating between suit and CGI, Mothra flies realistically and is awesome to behold. Ghidorah is on and off, like the first two. At some points, he is very detailed and looks menacing. At others, he looks fake. I was impressed at his wingspan at first, but then it diminished in suit-form and looked fake. You'll have to judge for yourself.
As for sound, everything is clear and the dialogue is funny and touching at times (I use subtitles though.) The sounds of artillary and destruction are great. The monster roars remain as signature, but with some alterations that help exert their new format. Most pleasantly, Ghidorah regains his original chirp (for the most part) after losing it in his last film with Godzilla.
The only problem with the movie is... well, monster time. By getting so wrapped up in what the humans were doing, I didn't notice time going by. The non-Godzilla monsters are slightly unrepresented, and those uninitiated into the series by other films may be confused about them, even though they shouldn't considering that this is a stand-alone project.
In spite of that qualm, this movie is highly entertaining and involving. It tops all the other recent efforts and certainly shows off the magic that Kaneko has brought to the series. It also managed to save the series, considering that the success of this movie in Japan was the deciding factor in whether or not more Godzilla movies would be made for a while. In light of this fact, I hope Toho gives Kaneko the reins of the Godzilla franchise at least once more. He's certainly proven he knows how to make a great movie out of it.