Monday, March 9, 2015

Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Desite their reputation as "cheap" because the effects were not often up to Hollywood standards, the Godzilla series was actually a fairly expensive property for Toho Studios. Even with all the obvious shortcuts involved--such as only building them to be viewed from certain angles--those model cities required a lot of construction and attention to detail. Worse, all that work goes into something specifically made to be destroyed, so it's not like you can just reuse the exact same city set over and over. Sure, the studio could just set a few entries on tropical islands and forgo building the city sets all together--but then they still had to build a miniature island set.

And then there's the series' true "stars" to take into account. Godzilla may not have ever been exactly the work of Rick Baker or Stan Winston (well, okay, he almost was once), but he still required a lot of craftsmanship. A Godzilla suit is not cheap--and then you have to consider that from 1955 until 1975, Godzilla films required at least two monster suits because the very first sequel to the original film set the standard that Godzilla had to have at least one other monster to fight. So monster suits cost money, miniature cities cost money, and you damn well better believe remote controlled tanks, small explosives, and optical effects for beam weapons cost money.

Godzilla films are not actually the low-budget farces that people think they are. I don't say this as a defense of a film genre that I love: I say this to give you some idea of what the filmmakers tasked with creating Godzilla films (and, for that matter, Gamera films) were up against in the 1970s. Godzilla had never been a cheap property to bring to life on the screen, but while there was still clearly some public demand for kaiju eiga, interest in the genre was rapidly on the decline. Some of that was thanks to American films like 2001: A Space Odyssey showing audiences a new level of what films could be. Guys in rubber suits wrestling among balsa wood structures while fire crackers bounced off of them seemed increasingly quaint.

Godzilla had already wandered into the sea for an unplanned (temporary) retirement two years earlier, but I can only imagine he decided to stay there after Star Wars came along and further raised the bar.

As a result of the public's waning interest, Toho Studios did what studios always do when they fear for their bottom line: they asked their filmmakers to keep cranking out films, but at a fraction of the budgets that had earlier received. Such was the case with Godzilla vs. Gigan, which producer Tomoyuki Tanaka hurriedly set to work on after he saw the finished print of Godzilla vs. Hedorah and declared that Yoshimitsu Banno had "ruined Godzilla."

Tanaka hired Jun Fukuda, who already had two Godzilla films under his belt, to direct. He envisioned the film as a return to a "traditional" Godzilla entry, where Godzilla would thwart an alien invasion. Not just any alien invasion: the film would see King Ghidorah return* for another bout with Godzilla, accompanied by new monsters Gigan and Megalon. Godzilla, being no slouch, would enlist the aid of Anguirus and new monster Majin Tuol (something like a cross between Daiei Studios' Daimajin and Toho's later creation, King Caesar). Talk about an all-out monster brawl!

[* The best way to try and make sense of Godzilla continuity is to always just assume "whatever is convenient to the plot of the current film." The earlier film Destroy All Monsters was the last time King Ghidorah faced Godzilla and that battle pretty definitively ended with King Ghidorah being curbstomped to death and buried under tons of dirt and rock. However, that film took place in 1999, while Godzilla vs. Gigan takes place in 1972 so in the film's reality that battle hasn't taken place yet--however, a big aspect of this film's plot is that all the world's monsters have already been collected on Monster Island!]

What's that you say? That script idea would mean the creation of three new monster suits? Not with the budget Toho was thinking! Okay, how about King Ghidorah, Gigan and Mogu (I have no clue what Mogu was intended to be, but concept art indicates a dragon-like winged beast) facing off against Godzilla, Varan, and Rodan? That only requires two new monster suits! Oh, wait, the only Varan suit was made back in 1958 and it was nowhere to be found ten years later for Destroy All Monsters, where the creature appeared only as a flying prop that was already falling apart.

So, finally, the filmmakers had whittled their kaiju down to four, with only one brand new suit between them. However, that wouldn't be the last casualty of the shrunken budget. Not by a long shot.

The first indication of what kind of cutbacks the film had to deal with appear to us in the film's pre-credit opening. Godzilla appears, wandering Monster Island during a rainstorm (the rainstorm being a completely invisible detail on VHS, I might add). He's in a cranky mood and blasts the camera with his flame breath to present the title card.

Several things immediately present themselves here. First, Akira Ifukube is back on the soundtrack! But the music sounds...oddly familiar. Hey, it's Ifukube, though, the man was gifted but not above basically recycling his own work. However, in this case it's because the filmmakers actually just decided they needed Ifukube's gravitas but didn't want to hire him to create new music. Every bit of music in the film is lifted from earlier Ifukube movies, some of them Godzilla and some of them not.

Secondly, you've definitely seen that Godzilla suit before. While it certainly has its fans, the Destroy All Monsters suit has always struck me as the second worst Godzilla suit ever made (just behind Son of Godzilla's puffy Toadzilla suit that was a sad attempt to make Godzilla look like Minilla). Unfortunately, it happened to come along right at a point when the filmmakers were desperate to save money by reusing suits. Outside of the use of older suits as "stunt" suits so the primary suit wouldn't get ruined in water scenes, no prior Godzilla suit had ever been used in more than two films in a row. The 1968 suit was used in an unprecedented four films in a row. The suit already looks tired in the opening of the film, but by the end it will be literally falling apart before your eyes.

"Please...kill me."
The audience can therefore be forgiven for briefly thinking the film has decided to cut costs by presenting the rest of the film as a motion comic when we come back from the opening credits to a series of comic book panels of panicked civilians fleeing as an unseen monster approaches. Actual sound effects and voices accompany the comic panels, including tanks rolling out and--predictably--being obliterated.* "The monster Shukura!" the cartoon people cry out, before we flip to a blank page.

It turns out that the unfinished comic is something that manga artist Gengo Kotaka (Hiroshi Ishikawa) whipped up for the approval of the editor of a publication centered around Astonishing Stories-style anthology comics. The editor asked Gengo to come up something that kids hate or fear. Gengo settled on the telepathic emissions of children beaming into space and their hatred of homework forming a monster, Shukura. The editor is unimpressed, so Gengo doesn't get the job.

[* I've always wondered how, in the world of kaiju eiga, giant monster movies/comics/novels are viewed. Especially in the world of a Japan regularly besieged by giant monsters. Are they considered bad taste and, like action movies about terrorist attacks, constantly having their releases rescheduled to avoid insensitivity to victims of the monsters' most recent rampages? This is not the movie to provide the answers, alas]

However, Gengo's girlfriend, Tomoko Tomoe (Yuriko Hishimi), is apparently sick of him not carrying his own weight. (And well she should be, when we see how extravagant their apartment is) Over his objections when they have coffee later that day, she gives him a card and tells him it's the next interview: The World Children's Land Committee. Gengo's heard of them, of course. They're building a theme park whose main attraction is the life-sized Godzilla Tower. He's reluctant, but Tomoko is firm that he will be making the appointment. Gengo responds to this by calling her a "hard bitch" under his breath, but when she asks him to say it louder he responds expositionally that he's not about to risk it when she has a black belt in karate.

Hmm, looks familiar, doesn't it?
Gengo does, in fact, go to the interview. He quickly finds that Kubota (Toshiaki Nishizawa), the man interviewing him, is a bit on the odd side. First off, he keeps talking about how the best part of their theme park is its focus on "perfect peace," and when Gengo observes that there doesn't seem to be a connection between monsters and peace, Kubota explains that you have to be a child to appreciate what it is. It should probably be a bit of a red flag when Kubota actually likes Gengo's pitch of increasing the amount of monsters in the park by featuring his original monsters, Shukura and Momagon ("the monster of too-strict mothers"), but it's definitely bizarre how Kubota reacts when Gengo points out the obvious fact that all the world's monsters are housed on Monster Island.

Over stock footage from Destroy All Monsters, establishing the various denizens of Monster Island, Kubota explains that they didn't forget this obvious source of inspiration. However, the monsters kept there are "hardly peaceful." So Kubota's company plans to make replicas of all the monsters and then destroy Monster Island. Gengo is shocked by the suggestion, but apparently decides that a paying job is a good enough reason to not rush immediately to the authorities to report that someone is planning to attempt to destroy an island full of easily angered, nigh indestructible kaiju.

Still, while Tomoko is happy that Gengo finally has a job--or at least until she notices that Momagon's scales and her favorite jacket seem to "coincidentally" share the same pattern and color--he can't shake the feeling that something about Children's Land doesn't add up. So, when he heads to an appointment at the committee's Tokyo office--which will be the only time we see the organization operate out of anywhere but their theme park or Godzilla Tower itself--and he nearly gets bowled over by an attractive young woman who drops a tape while fleeing the office, he points Kubota and his goons in the opposite direction when they ask where she went.

Gengo pockets the tape and goes in to meet the Chairman, Fumio Sudo (Zan Fujita), who sits in a chair that a Bond villain would envy whilst using advanced equations to calculate the orbit of something called "Nebula M Spacehunter" (or "Nebula Spacehunter M", depending on who's talking) for fun. The "Chairman" is also all of seventeen, so Gengo is already even more certain that hanging onto the tape is a good idea before Kubota returns empty handed and the Chairman agitatedly explains that the woman who stole it is an "enemy of peace" and that tape is the basis of their "entire plan," which doesn't sound ominous at all.

The "enemy of peace" confronts Gengo outside his apartment that evening. He is content to try and brush her off, until the fat hippy with her pokes him in the back with something he mistakes for a gun. When Gengo recovers from his faint, he finds the "bandits" have brought him home, the "gun" was a corn cob, and then his bizarre attackers introduce themselves: the hippy is Shosaku Takasugi (Minoru Takashima) and the young woman is Machiko Shima (Tomoko Umeda). Machiko's brother, Takashi, was working for Children's Land when he vanished mysteriously. Machiko suspects from his last diary entry that he had uncovered some diabolical scheme, and Shosaku assumes that the organization realized he was onto them and locked him up.

I know, it's ridiculous that they wouldn't just kill him, huh? Oh, it's dumber than that. For while Gengo is recovering the stolen tape from the pay locker he stored it in, we cut to a futuristic control room in the head of Godzilla Tower. Kubota is there and he turns and says, "Shima: no sabotage," like he's telling a dog to stay off the couch. For not only did they not kill Takashi (Kunio Murai), they are just letting him walk around their control room unrestrained! Though they do knock him cold when their computer alerts them that someone is playing the "action tape," and Takashi starts violently demanding answers.

The "action tape" does not have any answers for Gengo, Machiko, and Shosaku. It contains nothing but electronic beeping. Changing the speed does nothing to help them understand it--but all the way on Monster Island, the tape's signal wakes Godzilla and Anguirus right the hell up. You see, whatever language that tape is using means nothing to human ears, but as the Chairman explains, "The monsters on Monster Island can understand it!"

And then, possibly the goofiest scene in Godzilla history takes place.

See, in the Japanese version, the film kept to its comic book aesthetic by having Godzilla and Anguirus converse via weird tape sound effects and animated speech bubbles. Certainly this is strange, but it at least makes sense. However, when Toho produced the international dub, they apparently decided that it would be too much work to recreate the speech bubbles in other languages--so they just dubbed the monsters. Mere words cannot describe this silliness, so here's a video (that actually incorporates the Japanese version with the dub's audio track):

At any rate, Godzilla sends Anguirus to go check out the weird signal rather than going himself. Maybe he incorrectly assumed that Anguirus appearing in Japanese waters would be less likely to send the JSDF into a panic than his own radioactive mug. While Anguirus swims to Japan, Gengo manages to find Takashi's lighter--with engraved "T.S." initials--in one of the Godzilla Tower's "eyes." Where exactly Takashi is at that moment is anyone's guess,but Machiko confirms it's her brother's lighter when Gengo shows it to her later. Clearly their suspicions were correct.

Shosaku turns out to be the brains of the outfit when he suggests the three go investigate the World Children's Land to find out the company's background. The search doesn't turn up much--the headquarters are conveniently located in Switzerland and the company survives off of donations that come without any strings attached. Machiko turns up something more useful: the hometown of Fumio Sudo and Kubota.

It's odd enough that the two biggest bosses of the company would happen to hail from the same town, but when Shosaku and Gengo go to the address belonging to Fumio Sudo, they discover the boy has been dead for a year! He was killed during a mountaineering accident along with his beloved English teacher--and when Gengo objects that he saw Fumio in Tokyo a week ago, the distraught mother goes to fetch a photo of her son. The visiting priest laughs when Gengo says that Fumio appeared to be a genius, because Fumio was a complete moron. (For those of us who've seen the rest of the movie, that doesn't prove it's not the same guy) Naturally, the photos of the late Fumio are a dead ringer for the mysterious Chairman, and can you guess who Fumio's equally dead teacher was?

Meanwhile, Anguirus comes ashore in Japan. Unfortunately, the Commander of the JSDF (Gen Shimizu, who is bafflingly dubbed by two different people--one of whom sounds more like an old woman) has arranged to meet her* with all the stock footage from Destroy All Monsters, Mothra vs. Godzilla, and War of the Gargantuas that he can muster. This marks the introduction of the fan favorite Maser Cannons into the actual Godzilla series, via this stock footage. Now, in War of the Gargantuas said cannons were actually effective and nearly killed one of the titular beasts--but starting in this film and all subsequent appearances, they are so useless that you begin to suspect whomever manufactures the damn things has a government contract with the JSDF.

[* Kaiju genders, aside from any time one is explicitly shown to be pregnant, are essentially meaningless. I go back and forth on Anguirus's gender, but I think it makes more sense if you assume the second Anguirus that Godzilla considers his close friend is female, while the first Anguirus that he brutally killed was an overly aggressive male. That Anguirus is dubbed with a male voice in this film is also meaningless because it makes no sense]

Though, to be fair, the bombardment of artillery and Maser fire that follows the instant she puts a single paw ashore is sufficient to convince poor Anguirus to turn tail and swim back to Monster Island. What was the point of Anguirus being sent to investigate the tape signal in the first place, you ask? Beats me. Padding out the running time, probably.

So, now that he knows the Chairman and Kubota have both assumed the identities and faces of two dead people, Gengo still manages to make his snooping as obvious as possible. He gets caught talking to Takashi through the door that the captive man is attempting to lock pick, and the obviously suspicious Kubota gives Gengo a pack of cigarettes with the most sinister grin he can muster. You might think that Gengo would suspect something was off about this, but the dumbass happily takes the pack home while smoking them and even sharing them among the rest of the Scooby gang.

Yep, the cigarettes have tracking devices in the filters and Kubota and two armed goons confront Gengo, Machiko, and Shosaku in the cartoonist's apartm--wait a minute. Gengo works for them. Didn't they have his address already? The genius wasn't holding his Enemies of Peace meetings in some abandoned dockside warehouse. They literally just had to go to his house to catch him and get their tape back.

At any rate, after taking back their crucial tape, the only thing stopping Kubota's goons from perforating or vaporizing our heroes with their silly guns is that Tomoko comes home just then. Tomoko quickly assesses the situation and promptly beats the crap out of the gun-wielding intruders. Now that Tomoko is in on the plot, the group takes their story to the police. Unsurprisingly, the cops are unwilling to raid Godzilla tower on some rather flimsy evidence. And the report the cops receive from the control tower on Monster Island that Godzilla and Anguirus have "broken out" and headed for Japan means they have their hands full enough already.

Of course, given that we then cut to Godzilla and Anguirus leisurely walking down Monster Island's beach before wading into the sea, I'm left to wonder exactly what they "broke out" of. There was also no such advanced report for Anguirus earlier, naturally.

Well, since the police won't help, it's time for our heroes to take matters into their own hands. I mean, surely two hippies, a cartoonist, and a black belt are enough to take on what you by now should realize are alien invaders. If you haven't cottoned to that yet, well, I'm sure you'll make the connection when the Chairman plays the action tapes and says, "We came to this planet in search of peace. Perfect peace for us all," and then the tape's signal summons two space monsters to our solar system, traveling in an asteroid and a giant diamond.

The first space monster that bursts out of the asteroid (and no, I haven't a clue why the monsters are bursting out of their containers while they're still in space) ought to be familiar, even if the plastic model used to render him is less than adequate. Yes, it's King Ghidorah! Who's that in the diamond, then? Why, only my absolute favoritest kaiju (sorry, Anguirus, you're second place): Gigan! This new kaiju is a truly bizarre creation and while I've previously expressed a bias towards the less bizarre, more dinosaurish kaiju--Gigan immediately spoke to me. I can't fully tell you what Gigan is: he's apparently some kind of cyborg given his glowing, electronic eye and the fully functional buzzsaw in his belly. Beyond that, he's the most completely alien kaiju that Toho ever created for the series: a bird-lizard-fish with metal hooks in place of hands and feet, insect-like mandibles beside his beak, and three rows of spiny fish-like fins on his back.

Man, King Ghidorah's performance in this movie sure is stiff.
Gigan is introduced via a stiff plastic model as well, but he comes off a lot better simply because he doesn't have any parts that need to be in motion during flight. King Ghidorah has huge wings, remember. Gigan also doesn't have ridiculously badly scaled tufts of fur on his head(s) and his eye(s) is supposed to be a featureless, glowing red. If the woeful plastic model entrance didn't make the film's evil kaiju team look ridiculous enough, it's quickly followed by them doing a loop-de-loop accompanied by airplane sound effects. In space.

At Godzilla Tower, Gengo and Tomoko sneak in via the stairs to rescue Takashi while Shosaku and Machiko wait below. Tomoko successfully disarms and knocks out two guards that Kubota belatedly sent to execute Takashi. However, Kubota and more armed guards block their escape. The three are taken to the control room so that the aliens can explain their plan in great detail. First of all, the reason Kubota and the Chairman are dead ringers for two dead people is that they're all wearing dead people as "uniform," which is exactly what it sounds like. (No, at no point is it explained why they would choose to assume the identities of people known to be dead as a disguise) They're not killing Gengo, Tomoko, and Takashi right now because they intend to use them as "uniform" for more of their kind.

The aliens come from a dying world, somewhere in the vicinity of Nebula M Spacehunter. (No, we never see a nebula when we're shown their planet, but given most of their planet is shown via stock footage of Earth that isn't surprising) A world where the humanoid species that dominated it polluted and poisoned the world until they drove themselves to extinction. Then the aliens' species took over, evolving and developing new technologies--but the planet was already too poisoned even for their incredibly resilient species. What species is that? Well, you probably guessed it even before a completely random lightning bolt forces the aliens to switch to creepy emergency lighting: and reveals that the shadows they cast are those of giant cockroaches!

I really hope this is where Men In Black got the idea for its antagonist. And no, I'm not sure how they're casting shadows of their true forms if they're wearing human suits. It's probably more likely, especially given the events of the film's climax, that they're supposed to be projecting some kind of disguise via pheromones but need actual humans to create the illusion.

At any rate, the JSDF's "Laser Radar" detects the incoming space monsters and once again the stock footage is rolled out to meet them. First, King Ghidorah and Gigan swing by the Godzilla Tower to circle its head. This only seems to serve the purpose of allowing the aliens to introduce their monsters to their captives. It also serves to be the film's most embarrassing effects gaffe (which is saying something). Remember, Godzilla Tower is supposed to be life sized. Yet, the King Ghidorah and Gigan flying models are about a fourth of the size of the tower prop and the actual suits. You'd think somebody would have realized this and not filmed the tiny models buzzing around the head of the Tower, but somehow nobody noticed. So unless King Ghidorah and Gigan were shrunk for space travel, it makes no sense.

At any rate, the Chairman gives the order for Gigan and King Ghidorah to destroy Tokyo. Gigan actually gets to destroy some new miniatures that range from pretty good to, "Store mannequins are basically just big dolls, right?" King Ghidorah, on the other hand, becomes stock footage of himself from Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster. This is obvious even if you somehow, tragically, have never seen the movie because not only does that Ghidorah suit look different, but the attack there happened in daylight. The attempts to darken the footage don't disguise that at all. There's also the obvious fact that Ghidorah's lightning bolts in Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster and Invasion of Astro-Monster were carefully hand-animated, but the lightning bolts for this film's new footage are little more than pin-scratches on the negative.

On the plus side, the new footage of Gigan destroying buildings at least gives us the amazing shot of him illuminated by flames.

[Insert Metal Horns Here]
Oh, and if you've seen any poster art featuring Gigan, played a video game where he was featured, or you've seen Godzilla: Final Wars, you may be asking when Gigan fires a laser beam from that small aperture in his forehead or from his main eye. The answer is he doesn't. Despite whatever memo the poster artists got, Gigan has no distance weapons: he's strictly a melee fighter. Although, he does at one point use the aperture on his forehead to flash a signal for King Ghidorah to shoot something for him. So...there's that.

"Ugh! I wish I had good skin like Godzilla. My forehead is so shiny!"
Somehow Gigan and ing Ghidorah end up in the mysterious vast countryside that Japan apparently has, if kaiju eiga are to be believed. A battalion of maser tanks attack the pair and one scores a direct hit on Gigan's eye, which causes him to fall to his knees and crawl through a grove of trees as the maser's beam chops the trees in two as it follows him. If this footage seems like it doesn't fit Gigan's behavior or body structure, that's because the monster crawling through the trees is actually Gaira in stock footage from War of the Gargantuas, a humanoid monster that could believably crawl like that. Of course, the maser operator gets cocky and shoots Ghidorah, who didn't bother coming to his ally's aid but promptly fires back when he's attacked. Here we see that the film is also perfectly content to take destruction footage from movies that King Ghidorah was not in and just animate his lightning bolts over it--as Ghidorah melts the tanks from Mothra vs. Godzilla.

Eventually, Gigan and King Ghidorah make their way to an oil refinery by the sea.  A squadron of planes attacks Gigan and he bats them out of the sky with his hooks because they stupidly fly too close. I mean, yes, Gigan can fly--but he barely has to jump to get these guys. Luckily for whomever else pulled the short straw in the air force division of the JSDF, Godzilla and Anguirus appear in the harbor. King Ghidorah hilariously lets Godzilla just slowly walk up and body check him, and then Gigan begins promptly wailing on Anguirus. Because he's a dick.

Whatever else you can say for the film, though, from here on in it's full of monster battles only occasionally interrupted by scenes in the Godzilla Tower control room, or Gengo, Tomoko, and Takashi's silly escape that involves a weather balloon and a zip line--during which the aliens reveal that they have a laser beam in the Tower's mouth when the aliens destroy the car they assumed the heroes were in. The battles themselves are a mixed bag. Gigan does a lot of the actual fighting, presumably because his suit requires the least amount of wire assistance. King Ghidorah is so lethargic in his non-stock footage appearances that if he were an actual human, you'd think he was drunk or hungover.

The stock footage, of course, is a different story--and a source of much inadvertant amusement. For one thing, while Anguirus and King Ghidorah's suits look different in this film from the earlier appearances being recycled the differences are subtle enough that only a sharp-eyed viewer or truly obsessive Godzilla nerd is likely to pick up on them.* However, the Godzilla suit's appearance varies so wildly in the new footage and the stock footage from Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster and Invasion of Astro-Monster that even a casual viewer is likely to notice there seems to be three very different Godzillas being shown to them. And that's even before you factor in the fact that Godzilla casually strolls past Mothra in one scene, clear as day!

[* Hell, since Destroy All Monsters was unavailable on US home video until the late 1990s, for years I didn't even know that the famous bit where Anguirus clings to King Ghidorah's neck while the space dragon takes flight was stock footage from that film! Although it seemed hilariously obvious in hindsight, given the poor attempt at darkening the footage]

The heroes go to the JSDF Commander with their story about cockroach aliens. Obviously, he's a bit more willing to believe them than the police captain was earlier. However, he insists that they can't get close to the Tower and "only Godzillia (?!) has a chance." I'm well-accustomed to the use of Hong Kong dub actors leading to that peculiar tendency of the English accent to turn an "a" at the end of a word to "er," which gives us "Godziller"--but I've never heard that pronunciation anywhere else!

Takashi suggests that they send in a small squad of troops as that will likely escape the aliens' notice. In fact, the Scooby Gang has a plan. They'd better hurry up with said plan, because Gigan has successfully herded Godzilla into Children's Land--after being the first monster to ever draw blood from Godzilla by slicing his shoulder with that buzzsaw. Upon seeing his doppelganger, Godzilla challenges it...and gets a faceful of laser beam. Whatever that laser is made of, it's powerful enough to seriously hurt Godzilla. Anguirus tries to come to Godzlla's aid, but Gigan blocks her path--and then slashes her face with his buzzsaw, which sprays blood onto the camera.

Luckily for Godzilla, the Scooby Gang puts their plan into effect. What is their plan? To load a bunch of TNT onto the Godzilla Tower's elevator, cover it with a drawing of the Scooby Gang that Gengo somehow found time to do in between talking to the JSDF and implementing the plan, and then sending the elevator to the top floor. Ah, you say, so they'll detonate it when they get to the top, right? Nope. Far as I can tell their plan is entirely contingent on the aliens being stupid enough to just shoot the dynamite without investigating.

"Knock, knock."
Naturally, the aliens are exactly that stupid. The head of Godzilla tower is blown clean off. The Chairman, pinned beneath debris, calls out to Kubota and wonders where the machines went wrong and then turns back into his true form, which is just a regular cockroach on its back super-imposed onto the footage. A secondary explosion ensures the aliens are all dead, and rains debris onto the unconscious Godzilla. Gengo observes that the space monsters aren't being controlled any more, but aside from briefly being confused that doesn't change their behavior at all. Gigan is the first to snap out of it and begins beating the weakened Godzilla bloody, while Anguirus tries to take on Ghidorah by herself.

However, being knocked into Godzilla Tower somehow allows Godzilla to shake off the stupor he's been beaten into and he finishes smashing the Tower, then turns around and begins to beat Gigan to a pulp. You can theorize that Godzilla absorbed the energy from the alien machinery or whatever you want, but the only explanation the film can offer is Tomoko eagerly crying out, "Godzilla's strong again!" Hilariously, it's during the scenes of Godzilla wailing on Gigan that the Godzilla suit begins to fully give up the ghost--with huge, obvious chunks of rubber sloughing off.

Godzilla is forced to go save Anguirus from King Ghidorah, who has her pinned. Gigan attempts to charge Godzilla, but Godzilla dodges--and then the two space monsters briefly fight. Anguirus then sneakily jumps backwards into Ghidorah. Gigan, seeing that the tide has turned, flees into space. Godzilla and Anguirus curbstomp King Ghidorah a bit, but then he flees as well. We last see the two space monsters loudly roaring back and forth at each other as they disappear from view--no doubt laying blame on each other.

After Tomoko is frightened by a cricket--the apparent running joke being that a badass karate expert is terrified of insects, since she earlier fainted at the sight of the shadow cockroach--the heroes muse that maybe the insects will someday take over the Earth if humans don't get their act together. And how! Then everyone waves goodbye to Godzilla and Anguirus, as they swim off into the sunrise accompanied by the goofiest Japanese pop song this side of Jet Jaguar's theme song.

"Group picture, everyone crowd in!"
There's no question that compared to genuine classics like the original film or Mothra vs. Godzilla, this film is a dire mess. The stock footage, the stock music, the poor condition of Godzilla and King Ghidorah's suits, and the small amount of new miniatures all make the film feel as cheap as it probably is. The fact that its hero is a cartoonist and its villainous aliens are a bunch of incompetent boobs should tell you how obviously the story is aimed at children as well, and like the average Hollywood production you can tell at least someone involved went, "It's for kids, who cares if it's good?"

Yet, even with the obvious marks against it, this film is just too much fun to dislike. First off, I can't help but be a bit fond of a film that introduced a monster as delightful as Gigan. Secondly, there's the fact that it really does deliver on the monster goods, which should please people whining about the diminished amount of Godzilla in Godzillaand it manages to avoid becoming too repetitive. (Though, honestly, director Jun Fukuda would have served himself better by using less stock footage: it would make the film look less cheap and would tighten the pace more) Thirdly, despite being obviously aimed at kids and being book-ended by films whose heroes were Kennys, there is not a single annoying child in sight.

If someone is not a Godzilla fan, this is likely to be the kind of movie that they will cite as a reason why. It's cheap, childish, and just plain silly. Anyone viewing it with a critical eye is unlikely to believe that Godzilla can be serious cinema. On the flip side, many Godzilla fans will be annoyed at how completely unserious the film is because it doesn't fit with the recent trend of insisting that Godzilla is always the most serious of business.

Fie on both groups, if you ask me. This film is fun, plain and simple. It may not be very well-written and the budget has more visible stretchmarks than a python that swallowed a rhino, but if you're willing to just let the film entertain you, you will be entertained. And I don't mean "turn off your brain," either. Some of the most fun you can have with the film is reveling in how stupid it can be and if you try to match its stupidity you're going to miss out.

Even I will admit that this film is rather unlikely to appear on my top five list of best Godzilla movies, or maybe even my top ten. That doesn't mean I don't love it, but I recognize that it's not exactly good.

It does do one thing really well, however: the friendship between Godzilla and Anguirus. Keep in mind, at this point in time Godzilla and Anguirus had appeared in exactly two movies together (not counting the stock footage appearance of Anguirus in Godzilla's Revenge). In the first, Godzilla Raids Again, the two were sworn enemies in a fight to the death and in the second, Destroy All Monsters, they barely interacted at all. After this film, Anguirus and Godzilla appear together on film exactly three more times: once in Godzilla vs. Megalon when they barely interact in one scene, once in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla when Anguirus attacking "Godzilla" is our clue that it isn't Godzilla, and finally in Godzilla: Final Wars when they were once again portrayed as enemies.

Yet, Anguirus is usually thought of as Godzilla's best friend and sidekick; the Robin to his Batman, if you will. That's entirely down to how their relationship is portrayed in this film. Without this film, Anguirus would only be remembered as Godzilla's first foe--but she's barely remembered as that now! If nothing else, you have to give props to a film for so effectively rendering the relationship between two giant reptiles that it changed how they were viewed forever.

"♪ Girl, you're my best friend... ♪"

No comments:

Post a Comment