It isn't conderacting if i'm pissed.
War of the Gargantuas
War of the Gargantuas is a movie that stems from another somewhat dark-themed monster movie, 1965's Frankenstein vs Baragon. Even from the beginning it has a sort of dark theme, with a sinister looking Gaira attacking Oodaku (giant octopus). As Gaira thoughtlessly devours people, you're tempted to cringe. But the hero gargantua, Sanda, brings another piece into the story. It becomes a battle of brothers, one dark and evil while the other is for all intents and purposes good and pure.
This isn't your average monster movie, but in a lot of ways that's a good thing. It is, however, one of those dark, near-horror style films that Toho produced in the 50s and 60s, such as 1954's Godzilla or 1958's H-Man. The more human like nature of the gargantuas draws the viewer in and in turn draws out more emotions.
It's worth mentioning that although the film is a direct sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World, almost all of the relationship between the two films is edited out of the American version, leaving a lone comment on the main protagonist discussing a 'hand' he's been studying. That would be Frankenstein's hand. Another thing mostly edited out of the American version is the more romantic relationship between the doctor and his assistant. You get that kind of vibe even in the edited region one release of the movie nonetheless.
If a lot of the campy 1960s or 1970s Godzilla films don't do it for you and you want something darker, more serious, near-horror, War of the Gargantuas is for you. It's a great film with the only real weak point being lack of character development. You don't really care even when they're in danger, but otherwise there are few faults. I wouldn't even mind if Toho decides against ever creating a remake of the film, because its quality even roughly a half-century later is superb, and they probably wouldn't capture the spirit of the original, much like other classics such as King Kong (1933) or Godzilla (1954).
Looking outside of this specific film, I'm actually glad they elected not to place the gargantuas in a Godzilla movie (Toho originally had written up some loose plans to make a "Godzilla vs Gargantua(s)" for a 1978 theatrical release). In the 60s and especially by the 70s, Godzilla had become campy and "fun". While there's nothing wrong with that in itself, bringing a gargantua would weaken their story much like the campy Godzilla films greatly weakened Godzilla's (1954) reputation as a dark horror movie. Both monsters have their place, just not together.
Space Amoeba was essentially the last fresh giant monster film from Toho's Showa era. After this 1970 entry, the rest of their giant monster films were Godzilla pictures. Space Amoeba is mostly a rehash of elements we've seen before at Toho. Alien life forms have come to conquer the planet and use a human vessel as assistance in carrying out the plan. However, instead of bringing their own monsters as the alien races do in The Mysterians, Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, or Godzilla vs Gigan, they simply blow up the size of some Earth animals (more on that later). It is up to a small group of people on the plot's island to save the day.
In spite of being that last original giant monster picture from Toho's Showa series, Space Amoeba fails to move the needle as much as some of their 50s and 60s movies did. The plot could've worked if it had been carried out with a bit more care, but the passe plot was made no more interesting by good acting or special effects. Eiji Tsuburaya was a famous special effects director at Toho, and this was the first kaiju film made after his death. The special effects are pretty hit-and-miss here. In other words, he is missed.
The monster with the most combined discussion and screen time is the first to appear, Gezora; he is thought to be a monster god by the inhabitants of the island. Gezora is referred to as both a squid and an octopus in the picture depending upon which audio and subtitles you are referencing, but he mostly reflects the proportions of a squid in my opinion. He isn't very convincing in his motions with his suit wrinkling and folding unnaturally. His eyes look very fake as well. Gezora is a pretty obscure monster even within Toho's fans, but it's not without warrant.
Ganime is a giant mutated crab, somewhat similar to Toho's own giant lobster Ebirah that starred in Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (aka Godzilla vs The Sea Monster) and much more recently in Godzilla: Final Wars. Compared to his Showa Ebirah stablemate, I actually think Ganime looks better and more menacing. A pretty well done suit and acceptable movements here. Kamoebas is the third and final monster in the film, a giant turtle. He is probably the best known due to his second appearance in a far more popular and contemporary movie, 2003's Godzilla: Tokyo SOS. Kamoebas and Ganime actually battle at the end of the movie and plummet into a volcano to their demise (predictably).
The only real reason to view Space Amoeba is to see some new monster action, because from the standpoint of the plot and acting, you've seen it before at Toho many times over. That's not to say I will give this film a low rating; I'd still rate it a mediocre 5/10, but that's the most it deserves. Toho did a plenty of superior monster movies before this one (and some of the Godzilla ones that followed), so this shouldn't be one of the first ones you seek.
Godzilla vs Megaguirus
I was pleased that Toho was continuing to explore new monsters with this film. In fact, I really liked Megaguirus' origins. I also like that they tried for a slightly scarier experience, particularly the alley scene. This movie is almost in some ways a throwback to the Showa era's silliness at times. Perhaps it's the mix of various elements and themes that turns some viewers off, but I have to say the movie is still fun.
And yet, I rate the film only 6/10. Outside of the monster action, much of the rest of the movie is fairly dull, as is the female lead. I also find the Dimension Tide piece of the plot almost too silly. A man-made miniature black hole fired at Godzilla from a satellite in space? Oh come on! That's gotta be more outlandish than aliens. The special effects were only okay, but with three notable bad points. The SGS looks like a small toy, the Meganula on Godzilla's hide looked iffy, and when Megaguirus first appears, the wires are visible. Some of these is another element that reminds me a bit of Showa era Toho movies but probably isn't one of the characteristics Toho wanted us to remember.
This was the second installment of Godzilla's Millennium series, and after watching these two you might not be inspired to watch the next four movies unless you're a major Japanese monster movie or Godzilla fan, which I am. But rest assured, the rest of the series picks up (even Final Wars). As a final word, if you don't really care how loony some of the plot is, then you'll probably enjoy this movie more than a 6/10, no problem. If you want to give the Godzilla franchise a try though, I'd check out GMK or Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo SOS before this one.
Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster is awesome, to say the least. It starts the era of goofy Showa films that feature Godzilla and Rodan as our saviors, but it still manages to portray the giant brutes as destructive, epic, and titanic.
The human scenes are actually interesting and mix well with the monster scenes (I liked them even when I was a little kid! Surprising considering human scenes from most other kaiju movies were either boring or went over my head). The story of a martian (or venusian, if you watch the original japanese version) possesing a princess is something new to the series, and it's fun seeing how this alien (or crazed lady) spreads word about Ghidorah, giving him plenty of buildup for his grand appearance. Admittedly, the other humans don't have much personality (or anything new), but atleast their story is interesting to watch play out. It makes waiting for the monsters very enjoyable, for once.
Let's not forget the music, which itself made many scenes quite powerful and expressive. Specifically Ghidorah's scenes (from his entrance to his city destruction) and the final battle. Ghidorah is absolutely awesome as a villian with his own agenda. He had never been so badass in any other Godzilla film, mainly due to his tendency to be mind-controlled by random alien invaders. He practically became Team Rocket with a single body after that. Then, of course, we have Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra, perhaps the three greatest monsters of any japanese monster movie, all showing up together for this movie. And all of them pull off a great performance. Godzilla and Rodan's characterization was shaped more like that of a human, which some people might hate. But I personally found it quite entertaining. It made their grumpy, crude personalities easier to understand. Mothra once again plays the little hero of the ending, and she does it with a great confidence and drive. It made me cheer her on after Goji and Rodan basically blew her off. All of these monsters, their personalities, and their interactions with one another, made me feel for them. And I loved it.
Godzilla vs The Sea Monster, a very fun adventure film. Definitley something different from most other Godzilla movies. The plot is much more human-driven, but that's quite all right, as the story is an interesting (but definitley cliched) one. The protagonists are a ragtag group of different characters with different backgrounds. There's the ambitious young man searching for his missing brother, his personality-less brother, two goofy characters (one goofier than the other), the badass dude with experience and a dark past, and the hot, skimpy islander girl (and I mean HOT). It's fun seeing them work together, doing some of the most simplest of plans to dupe/get away from the antagonists. Nothing heavy in characterization, but it's that simplicity I enjoyed.
What do these guys have in common? They're all stuck on a distant island that happens to belong to an evil terrorist organization called The Red Bamboo. What's keeping these guys from getting off the island? A gigantic monster shrimp known as Ebirah, "The Sea Monster".
Some people would laugh at a giant shrimp. I mean, c'mon, It's a giant SHRIMP. But I personally liked his excellent design. Of course, other than that, he's got nothing special. Ebirah is pretty much just The Red Bamboo's guard dog, and not much else. The even more random (and unexpected) Giant Condor also serves the same purpose, but only shows up for a single scene for the whole movie. Mothra looks great in this film, but her role is only to be the ultimate saving grace for our brave heroes. Still, it's cool seeing her wisk everyone off the isle (one of the few times a monster directly interacts with humans). Godzilla takes up a big spot of the film, showing off plenty of fighting amd destroying. All he does is fight Ebirah and The Red Bamboo's other forces, though, which is atleast entertaining to see.
A fun film to watch. Something great and exciting for kids, and simple enough for adults to watch on a lazy sunday morning ... oh, and don't forget Daiyo ... DAIYO. Daiyo, man ... she's Daiyo!
King Caesar wrote:Uncanny, I don't know if you can control this or not, but could you organize the reviews a little better? Sorry if that sounds Douschbag-y, but it would make it a lot easier to navigate through the site.
TheChingzilla wrote:King Ghidorah and Manda, they would make sweet love with their snake like structures
edgaguirus wrote:Talk about necking.
King Kong Escapes
Kid-friendly, and if you want something realistic and serious then run!
Heavily due to the success of King Kong vs Godzilla, Toho wanted to keep Kong around. The first project was Continuation: King Kong vs Godzilla, a direct sequel to the 1962 cash cow that adjusted for inflation was easily the highest grossing Godzilla film of all time. That project never came to fruition, but Toho later collaborated with Rankin/Bass in hopes of making a small series of Kong films. The first project was discarded by Rankin/Brass but didn't die out completely; Toho simply swapped out King Kong and replaced his role with Godzilla, which was released as 1966's Godzilla vs The Sea Monster. The script that actually did succeed was this one, King Kong Escapes.
With that bit of history out of the way, this movie is really aimed at a younger audience, so if you want something more serious, I'd kindly recommend you look elsewhere. The plot is totally ludicrous, with an evil mad scientist (that apparently is filthy rich) who wants to mine "Element X". Naturally, you'd build an enormous 35 meter mech named Mechani-Kong, right? It's interesting that when you mention a giant Japanese robot monster you'd be inclined to think of Mechagodzilla, who amongst giant mechs is far more popular than anything the world over. And yet, this here Mechani-Kong was in a movie nearly a decade earlier.
Speaking of monsters, we should probably start with King Kong. He looks terrible, almost like a joke. Will kids mind? Probably not. Mechani-Kong actually doesn't look bad. The giant snake would've been fun to have had his brief encounter with King Kong extended a bit, and I wonder if the 1976 King Kong remake was inspired by the snake used here rather than the dinosaur of the 1933 original. This film just seems to have given birth to a number of things, whether it actually did or not. We can't forget about Gorosaurus. He looks pretty good, and his kangaroo kick was fun stuff. Corny as heck, but fun. This is also actually the first film for Gorosaurus at Toho, although he's better known for his role in the much more popular Godzilla franchise, most notable being 1969's Destroy All Monsters.
This is a fun movie, something you could buy for your kids or just enjoy on your own as long as you understand its intentions. The monster action is overall quite good and the picture holds your attention throughout the film. I bought the DVD and enjoy it. I can't give it above average marks for a number of listed reasons above (did I mention King Kong seems to understand English/Japanese as long as the female lead speaks slowly and loudly enough?), but I still recommend it if it sounds like something you could appreciate, quirks and all.
Rebirth of Mothra
Not bad, just geared a bit towards kids.
After ending the Godzilla series with the Heisei series, Toho wanted to maintain a higher grossing monster movie. The one that drew in females in what's admittedly a pretty male-centric genre was Mothra. Mothra is definitely known for her numerous roles as a hero in Godzilla films ever since her first role in a Godzilla movie (Mothra vs Godzilla, 1964). But actually, Mothra had her own movie before all of this like some other monsters best known for their role in Godzilla movies (Rodan comes to mind). Her 1961 movie is something to check out, but getting that history out of the way brings us back to 1996's Rebirth of Mothra. Unlike the Godzilla series of Toho's Heisei era movies, Toho decided to cater more towards kids with the Mothra series.
Mothra received a huge intake of power with her Heisei Godzilla redesign, and that continued even more so with this unrelated Rebirth of Mothra series. Boy, even the larvae can beam spam! Mothra looks okay, but a bit fuzzy in moth form. Her offspring, named Mothra Leo, looks pretty good in larvae form and doesn't fall apart like the larvae of the Showa series. This is also the first time we have a distinctly male Mothra, Leo. In moth form, Leo looks notably different from the female Mothra. Mothra also has blue circular eyes, whereas Leo has more angled green eyes and other design tweaks. I like that. How about the villainous monster in this movie, Desghidorah? He's an interesting take on the Ghidorah family, relying on four legs and with an almost elephant-like roar. He sure makes you pine for his defeat the way he heartlessly attacks Mothra and Leo in larvae stage. It may even be considered a bit graphic actually if the kids are too young. On the whole the monsters are a plus and the action is pretty good and maybe the best of the trilogy. The drawback is that the final battle between Leo in moth form and Desghidorah is just way too easy. Desghidorah overpowers the aging Mothra in the beginning, but then Leo just comes in and gives him a good one-two. Easy peasy. Except it was annoyingly easy. Maybe this has something to do with the kid-centric theme.
Moving on, what else does the film bring? Well, the RoM series has one distinctly annoying trait for me, at least with the region one release: the women just scream and scream and SCREAM. It gets old. The pacing is a bit iffy here too and a number of scenes could've been cut entirely or trimmed. The score does an adequate job of complimenting the film itself and conveying the emotions we should be feeling. The acting is not particularly impressive, but yet again the fact that it caters to children may have been Toho's way of justifying lower standards. Maybe I'm wrong.
What we have here is a decent movie especially for younger people, and you might certainly be emotional when you see the larvae desperately trying to keep its dying/dead mother alive. It's probably worth more than a 6/10 for younger people, but if you're a much beyond perhaps a teenager you may not enjoy as much. Its sequel, Rebirth of Mothra II, is arguably even more child-themed, so it doesn't get better here on out in that sense. But for all this kid theme talk, I still like the movie and have a copy on DVD.
Rebirth of Mothra II
A weak sequel to Rebirth of Mothra
Man oh man, has Mothra become a super monster or what? Transforming into aqua modes and all, woo! I also have to give Toho credit for coming up with an original monster that looks good. To continue, the plot isn't bad either. The ancient empire theme is cool, as is their architecture. But I have to say this movie has some serious execution issues. The plot is totally ruined by this movie's massive pacing problem. By the middle of the movie I was antsy, and it genuinely feels like a movie that exceeds two hours long. I was watching it with a couple of other people, and one had simply fallen asleep. This picture also slips even further into the kid-zone with the Furby looking thing and continuing with the children leads. I found this partially odd with them having become friends with a pair of grown men that they don't know. When's the last time you encouraged kids to make friends with strangers? But I guess that's missing the point.
Mothra Leo comes in three forms this time around. The standard Leo moth suit looks decent as it did last time and the same goes for the lightly revised Rainbow Mothra suit. Aqua Mothra has a very interesting take on what the Mothra design would look like as a sea dwelling creature. Toho did a pretty good job there. The same goes for Dagahra, who looks cool and manages to put up a good fight. All of these suits if nothing else do look like reasonable quality, hence me giving a high score to the quality of the monster aesthetics for this movie.
The special effects are often unimpressive but don't really tread into "awful" territory. The battle scenes may leave something to be desired, and one part of the battle is so drawn out that the movie gets boring all over again. The score is pretty uninspiring. This movie just fails to movie the enjoyment meter in any real way, this despite the good looking monsters. Since there really isn't much of anything connecting the three Rebirth of Mothra films, you might as well skip this one and go straight to Rebirth of Mothra III.
Rebirth of Mothra III
A comeback compared to RoM II
Before I get into the actual film, a word for region one audiences (Canadian and American). You can't buy this film on DVD or VHS (you can buy RoM and RoM II as a double feature DVD). This hasn't been released on DVD yet, but in the future at some point there will probably be a DVD/Blu-Ray release. Up until some point in August 2011 you were able to watch it for free (and totally legally) on Sony's website crackle.com. In fact, the entire Rebirth of Mothra trilogy was available on Crackle, but at some point in August 2011 Sony took all three films down and as of this writing (early September 2011), they are still not back up. This has created some murmers as to Sony's reasoning. Is a new DVD/Blu-Ray release in the works? At this point, we simply don't know why.
After being totally disappointed with Rebirth of Mothra II, I didn't have particularly high expectations for RoM III, but it was definitely better than I thought it would be. To start off with a complaint, it's with Grand King Ghidorah. He looks great, but his appearance is just bizarre. A giant monster randomly comes to Earth and takes children hostage? It makes no sense, even as a children's movie. My other complaint is that the monsters almost always look great, but the dinosaurs look pitiful. In the era of Jurassic Park, this films low budget shines through loud and clear here.
This one has almost no pacing issues, which is a great improvement over the last two films. That said, the plot of having two or three child leads with the screaming hero fairies and laughing evil fairy falls too closely in line with the films before it and it ends up being a little repetitive. Maybe it's just me, but the film didn't try to branch out. I'm still not sold on the time travel aspect of the film, because although it doesn't create the billions of questions and controversies like Toho did the last time (Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, 1991), that's probably got more to do with the RoM series having a lot less baggage to it in the first place.
Its monsters look the best of the trilogy. Leo's standard form continues to look pretty good, but the best known Leo form is featured in this movie, Armor Mothra. Armor Mothra holds the title as far and away the most powerful Mothra we've ever seen and it looks the part. if a little stiff; it must be that excessive armor. Cretaceous King Ghidorah and Primitive Mothra are a bit uninspiring as designs go but their execution and quality is above par. Grand King Ghidorah is arguably the most powerful Ghidorah and he looks nothing short of great.
With a decent score, decent special effects, above part monsters, and much improved pacing, you could give it a decidedly average score of 5/10. For kids you could probably inflate the score a bit more than that. There are still a few too many unanswered questions and random-ness going on to warrant much better. Such a shame given the quality of the actual monsters here. I would be pleased if Toho would bring Mothra films back again someday, but I'd lose the overly child themes. It seems to allow the film makers to dumb down the movies as if they think kids will care less about plot holes or acting. It's true, but it softens the experience for us older folks.
One of the giant monster movie greats.
After the success of Godzilla's first film and the mediocre box office performance of its sequel, Toho had no idea they had a monster movie giant on their hands. Thus, they decided to keep pumping out new monsters. Rodan was the first one of these, a monster that would also go on to gross more money in America than the original Godzilla film. That fact is probably as much a surprise to you as it was to me when I found that out. Rodan's success propelled the Rodan monster to become one of the best known monsters at Toho.
As a very brief summary, a huge insect attack a mining village. Upon trying to dispose of the insect, one of the miners becomes trapped and discovers that there are numerous insects in a secret cave like area. More importantly, there's a giant egg that hatches. Naturally, the Rodan infant is born, feeding off of the Meganulon insects. Not long thereafter, reports of a UFO in Japan and other countries emerges, so frequently that it is believed that there is more than one UFO. It turns out to be not one but two grown Rodans. Eventually one of the Rodans become trapped in a volcano. The other Rodan refuses to live without the other and thrusts itself into the lava with its mate, a most touching scene.
Rodan is a very serious monster movie. The bloodied pilot's helmet, the young couple eaten by Rodan, the memorable death of the monsters, it all makes the movie emotional and extremely entertaining. I will say this, however. The character aspect of the plot is not very good. For a Toho monster movie, it's perfectly acceptable, but you won't walk away talking about the characters at all. This isn't to say that it takes away from the film; it just doesn't add to it. The special effects are good, and Rodan looks good. The Meganulon look pretty good, although their movements aren't natural. The miniatures look convincing, especially for that era.
Rodan is a classic and fairly unique. For the rest of the Showa era, Rodan's appearances would be distinctly campy, funny as how his own movie is anything but campy. That's actually too bad, because they did such a fine job with this film. One question I left this movie with is where the second Rodan came from. The movie never touches on that subject. Overall, I rate this movie a 7.5/10.
Not particularly remarkable as a monster movie, but Toho for once addresses the human plot.
Dogora is one of those monster movies that -whether or not it was the intent- focuses less on monsters and more on people. Whether or not that was a good idea is entirely up to debate, but at least that meant Toho put more effort into the human side of the plots than they did for most other monster movies from this era. For this reason, Dogora is a bit unique among other Toho movies.
Dogora's plot breaks down two ways, with one part of the movie being committed to the diamond stealing gangsters, the other being committed to the space monster itself. Both involve diamonds, which is of course how the plots are supposed to converge and make the movie work. This works out well enough, although the two don't integrate flawlessly; at times the two sub-plots can feel a bit disjointed. I actually find it to be more about the gangsters than about Dogora at all. The acting is pretty lacking here, and the musical score leaves something to be desired as well. The one shining star is the surprise quality of the monster Dogora. It moves quite gracefully in the sky and looks great. Other aspects of the special effects are less successful, but I'm willing to bet most of us would consider it a reasonable trade off.
Dogora is somewhat notable in that it was the last solo giant monster movie from Toho's Showa era of pictures, but the movie on its own probably requires a foreign monster movie fan to fully appreciate the film. The main thing that props up this picture's rating is the better human story and greater attention paid to them. Whether or not this is a worthy compromise in the eyes of monster movie fans is up to debate, but since it breaks the mold from almost every other Toho monster movie, it's reasonable to believe that it helps differentiate this movie a bit.
Giant Monster Varan
A mediocre giant monster movie, for better or worse.
It took Great Monster Varan some four years before it finally made it to America under the title Varan, the Unbelievable. As fate would have it, Varan isn't so "unbelievable" or "great". I am reviewing the Japanese version that's presently available on DVD, the very one in the picture at the top of the page. Despite the American version's title, it's the Japanese version with English subtitles. It is my understanding that the American version is significantly worse than the English version, but I can't comment on that as I haven't seen it.
The giant monster plot is not unlike many other monster movies of the 1950s and 1960s. Scientists are searching for a unique species of butterfly and awaken the monster god. The Japanese military lends a hand, bringing their equipment and troops to the island, expecting an easy kill. As you'd expect, Varan is virtually immune to the weaponry, so the military retreats. Varan swims through the water and attacks an airport and some of the city, but certainly not on the scale that we see some other monsters, Godzilla for one. Eventually the military discovers a trick to defeating Varan, and the wounded monster retreats.
Pretty basic, but it works. It's mediocre, but in some ways that's kind of a good thing. Toho didn't make the monster out to be as huge, destructive, and powerful as monsters like Godzilla or Rodan. But while that bolsters the strength of those monsters, it makes this film and its monster a bit more forgettable. The first irk I have is that this movie was shot with a fairly tight budget, and it shows. The movie is shot in black and white, despite Toho having done color since 1956's Rodan. The acting is also average, with some rough spots where the character(s) should be acting more emotional (or seem to express the wrong emotions). Varan is nothing spectacular but still looks good enough and has some personality to his design. He's also versatile, being able to operate in water, in air, and on land. Two upsides to the movie were 1) a fairly good score, and 2) mostly good special effects. Sometimes Varan's suit gave away its rubber origins and the monster himself didn't exude much character, but he works, and that's what's important I suppose.
Is the movie worth checking out? Well, if you're just getting into monster movies or Japanese monster movies, there are many better choices. Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, War of the Gargantuas, and more were all done under Toho as with Varan, the Unbelievable, but are far more emotional, engaging, and solid films. If you're seen all of these main movies, then Varan is worth checking out. It's by no means a bad movie, it's just that it's not inspiring or riveting. If it comes pack of a discounted multi-feature set as they offer now (Varan with The Mysterians and Matango, for example), then the movie is probably worth it. On its own, for $10-15 it may be a less compelling proposition for you. I purchased it despite that, but I'd more likely just recommend it should it be found in a $5 bin.
It isn't conderacting if i'm pissed.
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