Great Monster War,
known internationally as Invasion of Astro-Monster
and to American audiences as Monster Zero,
is the sixth Godzilla film, and a direct sequel
the Three-Headed Monster (1964) (which
I hope to critique another time). This film
is different than the rest; don't worry, I'll
get there later in the review...
The plot follows two astronauts,
one American and one Japanese. A new planet,
dubbed "Planet X" is discovered
(yet another in the proud tradition of naming
mysterious celestial objects "Planet
X" in both fiction and real life). This
remarkable orb was found just beyond Jupiter,
and when the astronauts land on this new world,
they discover that they are not alone. Aliens
calling themselves the Xiliens populate the
planet. These space brothers seem to possess
a slight problem. The leader, called the Controller,
explains that the Xiliens live underground
because their world is constantly under attack
by "Monster Zero" (King Ghidorah).
The aliens offer the astronauts a proposal:
let them borrow Godzilla and Rodan to fend
off Monster Zero, and they will give the humankind
the cure to all known disease. However, things
are not what they seem...
Pretty interesting plot, eh?
This is the first "alien invasion"
story in Godzilla history, and it would be
an element reused ad nauseam in later films.
The old Godzilla movies have
a reputation of "cheesy/campy fun"
and "cheap children's entertainment"
(thanks to Godzilla
vs. Megalon (1973) and the infamous
Monsters Attack (1969)). This film
shines brighter than the camp, in that it
doesn't concentrate on being a monster movie
with flashy destruction and cheesy lines.
Instead it focuses on being a high-quality
science fiction story.
The American Glenn (portrayed
Adams) brings something new to the table.
His character is fun to watch on screen, something
a lot of the Godzilla films lack. I'm always
dreading the human screen time in these films,
but in Invasion, I actually found
myself ENJOYING their presence. *SHOCK!*
The main antagonist, the Controller,
(portrayed by Yoshio Tsuchiya) is a cool,
mostly emotionless villain. The Godzilla series
villains (humans, aliens, and misc.) have
often been laughable (I'm looking at you Seatopians),
but this guy appears a lot more threatening
(his people even sport the old school spandex).
The other characters, such
as Miss Namikawa (Portrayed by Kumi
Mizuno) are actually well-balanced and
defined. The romance between her and Glenn
feels believable, and not forced or thrown
in like a lot of today's movies (I'm sorry
Now, for the REAL
reason why we're here: THE MONSTERS. You see,
this was before CGI; this is when they used
puppets and/or suits. It still holds up to
this day! Godzilla is looking mighty impressive,
Rodan flaps his wings with glory, and the
monstrous King Ghidorah is always a sight
to behold. Everybody here is moving organically,
realistically, and of course, awesomely.
Other effects, such as the
beams, carry well for the time. You have to
wonder though, Godzilla's beam in this film
looks far superior than the one used in later
Showa movies. It just goes to show you that
sometimes the classics have better effects
than later efforts.
The music is superb, a treat
Ifukube himself. It really brings up the
dramatic scale; little can compare to all
of the leitmotifs used in this film. It's
so fun to hear Rodan's theme transition to
Ghidorah's so smoothly.
In closing, you have to look
at this film differently. As a Godzilla film,
it fails in that he's lacking a solid onscreen
presence (the film technically isn't even
about Godzilla). But as a science fiction
story, it succeeds wonderfully. It has a high-quality
feel, something a lot of the later Showa films
lack (this was famed Godzilla director Ishiro
Honda's last film until Destroy
All Monsters (1968) some years later).
We get a quality alien invasion story, competent
acting, two fun monster fights, and satisfying
destruction. This film is truly an underrated