Tuesday, April 21, 2020

KAIJU WATCH: Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah - Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) AND Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla II

Watched:  04/19/2020/ 04/20/2020
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First/ Firstish
Decade:  2000's/ 1990's
Director: Shusuke Kaneko/ Takao Okawara

I am unsure what I'd heard about Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) as a particular entry in the G-franchise, but it *seems* to be pretty popular.  Godzilla v MechaGodzilla II (1993) may be marginally popular with kaiju fans.  Arguably, GMAOA is aimed at an older crowd, and harkens back to the existential threat of Godzilla as first presented in 1954.  GvMGII seems aimed at a younger crowd, but still works pretty well.

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is kind of a strange movie.  It's part of the Millennium series of Godzilla movies where they just kept hitting the reboot button, so this one is one of several direct sequels to the 1954 movie, ignoring all other entries.  The filmmakers were looking to update the story in a linear fashion, with a modern Japan (of 2001) and the attack on Japan of 1954 is now thought of by some as myth or urban folktale, while most know it happened but don't know what to make of it.  And, the real events of the 1954 film have been hidden from the public, giving credit to the military for Godzilla's demise.

Godzilla is back now, though, seemingly a monster fueled by all the dead of World War II's Pacific theater, including the spirits of both sides and victims of the bombings at Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  He's an angry god coming to set Japan straight on their moral failings via stomping and atomic breath.  Weirdly, the movie posits three other monsters as defenders of Japan (but the physical place more than the people), and those include Mothra (but of course), Baragon (a friendly looking sort of burrowing fellow), and King Ghidorah, cast as a good-guy.  Which.  I mean.  Ghidorah? That guy is usually monster-jerk #1.

That said - It is monster mayhem!  Lots of tension in the set-up and a pretty straight through-line of a disaster movie with notes of horror flicks.

The human story isn't bad as the military steps it up to earn their reputation for fighting Godzilla and there's a weird bit of realization of what Japan's psychic scars really are about WWII and what they did.  But the focal point is a bright-eyed young reporter who has found herself working for a crummy "In Search Of..." type program that accidentally leads her directly to the clues as to what is happening.  Also- her dad happens to be the officer in charge of the naval unit prepping for Godzillas possible return.  Convenient!

Frankly, the plot feels like a super early, before-it-had-been-wrokshopped-and-got-great draft for Shin Godzilla. In a lot of ways, the movie is about people pulling their crap together to make it work when a Godzilla comes to town.  But it's nowhere near that level of filmmaking of the most recent outing from Toho.

As I said, this one felt aimed at PG-13ish crowds, complete with a high bodycount and blood spilt between monsters and military.  From a story standpoint, there's some father-daughter reconciliation aimed at an older crowd and horror-movie set-ups for some of what occurs (hooligans always going to get it).

Something feels off about the Godzilla design, like they thought too much about the head shape in all the wrong ways.  And reduced Godzilla's scale a bit.  But the other monsters look great.  And Godzilla is not shy about using his atomic breath - so that's exciting.

Godzilla v MechaGodzilla II (1993) is a non-sequel to Godzilla v Mechagodzilla, which HAS a sequel called Terror of MechaGodzilla.  The plot doesn't actually make much sense, nor does the construction of a giant, trillion-dollar single point of failure in your Godzilla defensive line.

This one feels aimed at 6-10 year olds while also trying to hit the regular G-fan.  But Godzilla v Mechagodzilla II has EVERYTHING.  There's ESP, a baby Godzilla, an international Godzilla response squad, flying mopeds, Rodan, a bored American Canadian blonde girl, pterodactyl fandom, a spaceship backpack, an American guy who can't act at all, a 30 story robot, and a short-lived sub-plot where the hero becomes a parking attendant.

Look, the battles in this movie are pretty great.  There's some good stuff in here that the WWE could learn from.

AND 1993 Godzilla design is among my favorites.

when game recognizes game
I like the idea of that international Godzilla response squad which was sort of folded into a 1994 Godzilla toy line that I never saw because I was in college and poor in 1994.  And, also, frankly, not all that into Godzilla in this window.*  But it's an international super group of folks who train in martial arts (because...?), make super weapons and are ready to take on a 30 story monster whenever the dude shows himself.  Frankly, I could have stood to see more of what that was about.

The movie ostensibly has a theme of organic life versus artificiality, but it is very hard to say that it succeeds.  At the end, the crew of MechaGodzilla stands around doing the End of a Godzilla Movie Thing where you make vague and somewhat poetic statements about the topic of the movie.  But the "well, real life will always prevail" message here seemed like it popped out of nowhere.  You gotta build that theme, Toho. And on something other than the near foregone conclusion that Godzilla will win and head back to the sea.

But, yeah, it's not even entirely clear why the third act happens.  They need to get Baby-G out of town (which, I could have told you, movie), but in transport, Rodan comes for him?  And then Godzilla comes for him?  But then doesn't seem all that interested in him?  Make up your mind, movie.

Still, it was pretty fun.  And had Rodan.  So.  You know.

*while I have fond memories of watching Godzilla movies on TV as a kid, it wasn't until 1996ish that I learned about true Godzilla fandom from a co-worker at Camelot Records who was way, way into Godzilla when that was an expensive habit to have.  The VHS tapes were incredibly expensive back then, and he had them all.  He started hosting Godzilla watch parties at his rented house, but... honestly, I had a girlfriend (see: Jamie) and a life, and so I did not join in.

However, Jamie, my brother and I went to go see Godzilla 2000 on a lark, went nuts for it, and that started my watching in a catch-as-catch-can manner.  It's only been recently with lower priced DVDs and BluRays that I'm really catching up.

No comments: