Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)

Director: Shusuke Kaneko

Runtime: 105 minutes

I really do have an excuse for the sudden barrage of Godzilla movies. Classic-Horror.com is running a Godzilla week in May and I want to make sure I'm fully up to speed on kaiju flicks. Stop judging me!

Sporting what must be the longest English-language title in the entire Godzilla series, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (or GMK as it will appear in the rest of the review) takes a more mystical approach to kaiju, which makes a certain amount of sense, as Japan has always had a tradition of the supernatural. Here, Godzilla, while still a product of nuclear radiation, is also positioned as the living retribution of all the souls killed by the Japanese in World War II. Defending the Japanese homeland against his incursion are three Guardian Monsters: Baragon, Mothra, and making his first appearance as a full hero, King Ghidorah.

One interesting thematic thread introduced by director and co-writer Shusuke Kaneko is that Japan has largely forgotten Godzilla in the forty-seven years since the original attack (like the rest of the Millenium series, GMK is a direct sequel to 1954's Gojira that ignores the interceding films in the series). Some people believe him to be a myth, others fail to understand the destruction he brings (there's one scene where a local official becomes excited at the tourist trade that might come in if Godzilla attacked his village). Even when Godzilla does show up, the weight of the situation isn't immediately understood by all. For instance, a news helicopter team "reports" on the showdown between Godzilla and Baragon as if it were a wrestling match. However, they are repaid for their irreverence when Godzilla throws Baragon through their ride, killing them. Kaneko's message is that classic trope repeated in social studies classes the world over: those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Since Kaneko is using Godzilla and the other monsters as a means of social commentary, the human element is strong in GMK. The main human character, Yuri Tachibana, works for Digital Q, a low-rent video outfit that produces "docu-dramas" that sensationalize the supernatural for easy profit. Desperately to produce something of substance, Yuri gets her chance when the monster attacks begin. She dives furiously into the job of researching the monsters, then, as the final showdown begins, she risks her life to document it for future generations. Her drive to study the past and document the present gives the film a sense of hope that the cycle of history may yet be broken. Yuri also has the distinction of giving one of the few speeches in a Godzilla film that actually made me choke up a little.

The monster battles themselves are workable, but the suits seem a little cheaper than some of the others in the Millenium series. Godzilla's gone through a redesign to make him more "evil" -- he's the tallest that Godzilla has ever been, his eyes are fields of pure white and his gaping maw is brimming with razor sharp teeth. However, he also appears to have something of a pot belly, which somewhat negates his menace. Baragon's suit looks ridiculous and rubbery. King Ghidorah and Mothra come off the best here, looking classy and snazzy for the new millenium.

Worth the Purchase: It's a different sort of take on the Godzilla mythos. I kind of dug it.


Unrelated to this flick, I've been having some doubts about this project. While I am watching more films in my collection, it has been pointed out to me that I tend to overload myself with responsibilities. In addition to this blog and Classic-Horror.com (which is, in itself, a full-time job), I also work 40-50 hours a week in the IT industry, I work on "fanvids", and I have a fairly active social life. In the midst of all of this, I have a tendency to forget important things like keeping my apartment tidy, taking out the garbage, and cleaning my poor cat's litter box. Thank goodness I don't have spawn.

On the one hand, if I cut some of the fat from my life, I could devote more time and effort to the things that are the most important to me -- my girlfriend, my niece, my not-being-an-utter-slob. I could also raise the stakes on the quality of writing at Classic-Horror, write more biographies for our Masters section, and come up with some more in-depth features.

On the other hand, this has been a great place to stretch the writing muscles without having to run a full marathon. Plus, I'm seeing more movies than I would normally. I'm going to think about it over the next week or two. Until then, I'm not going anywhere.

PS: The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards have been announced. Check 'em out.

Stats: 30/401 movies watched in twenty-seven days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: February 19, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

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