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The Godzilla Reviews - Page 2

Mothra vs. Godzilla

Year: 1964
Era: Showa
a.k.a. Godzilla vs. The Thing

THE JIST: A typhoon washes ashore a giant egg belonging to Mothra, but unscrupulous businessmen lay claim to it and flatly refuse to return it to Infant Island. Unfortunately, the typhoon also brought Godzilla back to Japan, and the only one who may be able to help is Mothra, if only she will forgive the theft of her egg.

THE VERDICT: The most well-balanced of Godzilla's many sequels, Mothra vs. Godzilla finds the sweet spot between the dark intensity of Gojira and the goofy comedy of King Kong vs. Godzilla. It has an exceptionally good script with well-drawn characters and a clever premise that brings together two of Toho's most recognizable monsters, and it culminates in a thrilling confrontation. It maintains and expounds upon Godzilla's main themes, brings in some excellent music by Ifukube, and takes great strides in producing special effects that are far superior to the movie's predecessors.


Year: 1964
Era: Showa
Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster

THE JIST: Amid an unseasonably warm winter, a meteor crashes to Earth and a princess thought to be dead comes forward claiming to be from Venus and warning the Earth that a terrible monster is getting ready to lay waste to mankind.

THE VERDICT: This one takes a while to pick up steam and the plot is unnecessarily complex, but the introduction of King Ghidorah as Godzilla's greatest foe--a foe so strong it forces him to join forces with Mothra and Rodan--is worth it. The human characters aren't bad, but the entire princess subplot is a purposeless distraction, bringing in the embarrasingly cliché gangsters who wind up becoming superfluous once the monster action finally picks up. Still, the monster battles in this one are fantastic.

Invasion of Astro-Monster

Year: 1965
Era: Showa
a.k.a. Godzilla vs. Monster Zero
Monster Zero

THE JIST: Two astronauts visit Planet X only to discover that the aliens there are apparently under seige by King Ghidorah. With the help of Godzilla and Rodan, King Ghidorah is driven away, but then humanity learns that things are not as they seem, that the Planet X aliens are anything but benevolent.

THE VERDICT: One of my personal favorite Showa movies, Invasion of Astro-Monster has the most entertainingly ridiculous plot yet, but still manages to have well-drawn characters and a certain logic to the plot-hole-filled narrative. I appreciate that the humans have to solve the central conflict instead of just relying on Godzilla to solve it for them, and the monster battles are all really good.


Year: 1966
Era: Showa
a.k.a. Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster
Ebirah, Horror of the Deep

THE JIST: An unlikely group of castaways is lost on an island where natives of nearby Infant Island are forced into slave labor. They cannot escape, however, because a giant sea monster called Ebirah lurks in the waters. As the castaways flee from the tyrannical leaders of the island, they uncover another secret: Godzilla is sleeping under the rocks.

THE VERDICT: This is a schlocky 60's castaway movie that just happens to have Godzilla in it. It's a much smaller story than any of the previous Godzilla flicks, reflecting a tighter budget and a lighter tone. As such, the fight scenes are pretty stupid--at one point, Godzilla and Ebirah are just tossing a rock back and forth at each other--and the 60's rockabilly soundtrack is distracting. It's still a fun movie, but it's a lackluster Godzilla film.

Son of Godzilla

Year: 1967
Era: Showa

THE JIST: A reporter parachutes onto a mysterious island where scientists are conducting weather experiments. It isn't long before they find a giant egg that hatches to reveal a baby Godzilla, whose cries bring his Daddy to the island to fend off the giant mantises the scientists have unwittingly created.

THE VERDICT: Son of Godzilla is an uneven mix of good and bad. For example, the giant mantises and spider (the Kamacuras and Kumonga) are some of the best-looking monsters in the entire Showa era, but Minilla is truly awful-looking and the Godzilla suit used this time around is the absolute worst. The music is also pretty terrible, but the script is actually solid, with memorable characters, a good mystery island vibe, and a touch of some of Godzilla's main themes. And though I cannot hide my hatred of Minilla, I have to admit this one ends on a really touching note as Godzilla cradles his son to protect him from the cold world around them.


Year: 1968
Era: Showa
Destroy All Monsters

THE JIST: In the year 1999, all the world's giant monsters have been contained on Monster Island, leaving mankind in relative peace. However, that peace is broken by an alien race known as the Kilaaks, who use their technology to free and control the monsters, sending them on a global rampage of death and destruction.

THE VERDICT: The villainous Kilaaks in this film are undone by their ambitions and overconfidence, and the same could be said about the filmmakers. Destroy All Monsters is a big disappointment from a movie that should be Showa Godzilla at its self-indulgent best. It tries to get back to the epic storytelling of Ghidorah and Astro-Monster, but it is very poorly paced (for example, there's a scene in which the heroes are using a laser torch on an alien control device that lasts about six torturous minutes too long), narratively incoherent, and riddled with recycled footage. It also has some of the most sloppily written characters to date, with not one standing out as worth remembering. The only real positives are the music (which is some of Ifukube's best work), the scenes of destruction, and the epic final battle.

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-e. magill 4/22/2014


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