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Review:
Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)

Class: User
Author: Tim85
Score: (4.5/5)
Published:
March 24, 2006 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

After two poor performances at the box office, many doubted that the Godzilla series could return. Godzilla needed a miracle and it came in the form of acclaimed director Shusuke Kaneko (famous for the Heisei Gamera Series). Help also arrived in the monster cast; reviving Godzilla's most famous creature costars Mothra and King Ghidorah. What Kaneko gave moviegoers was not just the best Godzilla movie in a long time but one of the top Godzilla movies of all time.

Fifty years after his initial onslaught, Godzilla is all but forgotten by many people. Admiral Taizo Tachibana warns not to let the peaceful time Japan has experienced to cloud judgment. The admiral also goes on to explain that there have been reports of monsters attacks all around the world, including New York in 1998. Tachibana uses this as a reason to be prepared for anything. During the lecture, Taizo takes leave to deal with a situation: a US nuclear submarine has disappeared off the coast of Guam. The submersible Satsuma is dispatched to help in the investigation. Near the wreckage; glowing fins are spotted. A nightmare from the past has appeared in the present day…

While Yuri Tachibana (the admiral's daughter) is filming a special docu-drama about Mt. Myoko, the head of the local village tells them to stop filming such lies. When Yuri tries to discuss with him about how it will be good for tourism, a tremor hits. Afterwards, Yuri spots an old man on in area and when she looks back, he disappears! That night, a biker gang is killed during a tunnel cave-in, and the truck driver witnessing the event sees a giant head looking back at him. While the D-03 missiles (special missiles with drills at the head) are being used to uncover the tunnel, the driver is interrogated about what he saw. He claims he saw Godzilla. Yuri tries to convince her boss to cover the odd occurrence, but he declines. Later her advisor, Teruaki Takeda, brings her a book about a local legend: a group of legendary creatures known as the Guardian Monsters. Later he brings her home drunk to her father.

The next evening, at Lake Ikeda, a group of teenagers rob a local store, and in the process of their revelry, almost drown a dog. When a few members paddle out with the pooch, they're tossed overboard and dragged under. The ones remaining on the shore are soon approached by a giant creature coming out of the water. That morning they are found dead, wrapped in a cocoon with the only survivor being the innocent dog.

The next morning, Yuri and her crew arrive at the Motosu Police Station to talk to the old man that appeared during the tremors. He explains to Yuri that Godzilla will return. He goes on to say that while nuclear weapons gave the monster exceptional survival skill, his true power lies in the collective souls (both Japanese and foreign descent) lost during the Pacific conflict that have congregated in Godzilla body. They're purpose is to remind Japan of its forgotten past. He continues saying that the guardian monsters will succeed where human weaponry won't. He orders her to go to the shrine where the dragon Ghidorah sleeps. All Yuri finds there is an amulet that she and her colleagues figure must contain great power.

That evening, a storm hits the Bonin Islands. Unknown to the inhabitants, there is another destructive force in the storm. It is confirmed that at a press conference that the culprit was Godzilla. However, after much searching, the JSDF comes up empty handed, causing the search to be called off, much to the frustration of Admiral Tachibana. He is later joined by his daughter, Yuri, and she explains the legend of the Guardian Monsters. While he doesn't quite buy the story, he doesn't dismiss it entirely. He explains that he is still haunted by his experience with Godzilla's first attack, during which he lost his parents.

Bar the door, Hades. All hell's breaking loose at Motosu when a giant red creature (mistaken for Godzilla) erupts from the ground by the police station. The creature, later identified as Baragon, makes its way toward Hakone Spa. While confusion grips the country, a certain horror surfaces in Yaizu Harbor. Godzilla has finally returned to Japan and rampages towards Tokyo. Soon Godzilla and Baragon meet in Hakone Valley and engage in fierce combat. Baragon is outmatched and soon is incinerated by Godzilla's heat ray. During the battle, Yuri is injured when the building in which she and Teruaki were standing began to collapse. The disaster results in numerous casualties and injuries. Yuri tries to convince Teruaki to follow Godzilla, who refuses. Undaunted, she purchases a bike and follows the King of the Monsters. She easily convinces her boss to go live with the footage as Godzilla is attacked by an air strike that ends with the monster turning all the planes into fireballs. Just then, Mothra hatches out of her cocoon and Ghidorah begins to tunnel from Mt. Fuji. After viewing Yuri's broadcast, Admiral Tachibana begins to believe in the Guardian Monster tale.

To continue the countermeasure against Godzilla: The Yokohama Defense Line, Patrol Fleet Headquarters and the Yokohama Garrison Post are set up in the city. Soon, Godzilla arrives in Yokohama as does Mothra. The two battle it out until Ghidorah pops out of the ground to assist its fellow guardian. Despite the injections of electricity, Ghidorah is soon knocked out and Mothra too when she takes the full brunt of Godzilla's ray, in her efforts to save her ally dragon. With the monsters out cold, the military unleashes the D-03 missiles at Godzilla, which prove to be (yet again) ineffective. The monster proceeds to wipe out 90% of the defensive line. Before Godzilla can take out the battle cruiser on which Admiral Tachibana is stationed, Mothra attempts to attack the creature once more. Godzilla turns his ray on the insect and destroys her. Her essence is absorbed by Ghidorah, and they are reborn as King Ghidorah! The creature takes to the air surrounded by a glowing golden globe of energy. Godzilla fires his ray at the dragon but is ineffective thanks to the sphere of energy, which amps up the power of the ray and tosses it back at Godzilla. The ball of energy knocks the King of the Monsters into the bay with an open wound on the shoulder.

While King Ghidorah battles Godzilla underwater, Admiral Tachibana requests one of the Satsuma subs with a D-03, which he plans to launch at Godzilla's wound. A recently-arrested Yuri overhears this and pleads with him not to go. He argues that it's his job and it wouldn't be right to send someone else. She counters with it's her job to cover the story, and in response, he gives her permission to gather information freely. While the Satsuma subs are being readied, Yuri broadcasts on the Yokohama Bay Bridge. Suddenly, a ray comes out of the water and destroys the foundation of the bridge, causing Yuri to plummet. She is caught by Takeda just in time. One the subs launches the missile at the wound, but Godzilla pulls Ghidorah in its path, which stuns the creature enough for Godzilla to knock it out with his breath. He then grabs hold of the Satsuma, piloted by Tachibana.

On the bridge, the amulet that Yuri found earlier falls into the water and on to King Ghidorah. As Yuri and Takeda fall into the water, King Ghidorah awakens and exhales bubbles to the surface, cushioning their fall (Yuri is knocked unconscious however). King Ghidorah bites onto Godzilla's tail, causing him to let the sub go. King Ghidorah soon surfaces, and when Godzilla also emerges, the dragon unleashes its gravity beams on Godzilla. However, Godzilla simply absorbs the beams, combines the energy with his own ray, and fires the assault at the dragon, destroying the last guardian monster.

But the spirits are not done yet! The spirits of Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah appear in the sky and enter Godzilla's body, causing him to lose buoyancy. As he descends, Taizo pilots the Satsuma at Godzilla, who swallows the tiny sub. The admiral then sees his daughter's spirit urging him to keep going. He gets a grip, thanks her, and fires the missile. On the surface Yuri awakes, coughing up water. Godzilla soon comes out of the water near them. Staring at them, the D-03 comes out of the wound and blows up inside the monster! Furious at this internal attack, he turns his rage on Takeda and Yuri and prepares a ray to finish them off. Just as he's about to fire it, the ray instead comes out the wound! Roaring in pain, Godzilla cuts it off and attempts to fire another one. It does the same thing and Godzilla collapses into the water screaming. The Satsuma escapes out of the large wound. Through the blood, Godzilla is seen trying to charge one more ray at the Satsuma…

Then a massive explosion occurs and Godzilla disappears! Everyone begins to celebrate their victory over the monster. The Satsuma surfaces with Taizo inside safe and sound. On land he encounters his daughter, who salutes him. He tells her not to just thank him, but also his colleagues and the Guardian Monsters.

But on the bay floor, a giant heart continues to beat…

Kaneko brings again to the table 3-dimentional characters; something that has been lacking in the series for a long time. Yuri Tachibana (Chiharu Niyama) is a strong woman who'll go through hell to cover Godzilla's rampage. Her character is very likable and perseverance is something to be admired. Admiral Taizo Tachibana (Ryudo Uzaki) is strong military man who is still haunted by the memories of Godzilla's 1954 attack. He urges people not to forget the past and is frustrated when the government feels it's unnecessary to continue searching for Godzilla. His performance was well done, making the audience feel for his loss. A familiar face, Eisei Amamoto (the toy maker from All Monsters Attack [1969]) plays Hirotoshi Isayama, the old man who warns about Godzilla eventual return and tells about how the Guardian Monsters can stop the nuclear menace. The fact that his character is not well-developed added an air of mystery about him. The other actors (most notably Masahiro Kobayashi, Takashi Nishina, Kaho Minami, and Shinya Owada) all do a fantastic job in their roles despite them not being well developed.

A few familiar actors are seen here of course. Koichi Ueda (regular Godzilla player) plays the Village Headman whom Yuri convinces to film their documentary to help tourism. Shiro Sano from Godzilla 2000 (1999) is seen here as Yuri's boss Haruki Kadokura. His reactions to certain comments and situations are hilarious and add some comic relief to the serious film. The suicidal man who falls into Ghidorah's cave is none other than Inspector Osako (Yukijiro Hotaru) from Kaneko's Gamera series. The twin girls that are shown when Mothra flies overhead (reference to the Shobijin normally seen with the insect) are Ai and Aki Maeda, the former name being from the excellent Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999).

After countless movies of outrageous machines and fantastic monsters, Kaneko finally brings realism back to the Godzilla series. The monsters are all well fleshed out. Godzilla is the harbinger of forgotten souls taking their revenge on Japan. The Guardian Monsters are creatures that were killed long ago and await the time when they'll be awakened to defend their homeland. When Baragon's marching through the forest, birds are seen taking off in front of the giant creature, something logical that hasn't been seen in a Godzilla movie. The confusion after Baragon's arrival is also logical with scant reports, and the fact that everyone's calling it Godzilla just adds to the chaos; just like a natural disaster. One of Kaneko's points in this movie is the people's ignorance towards the monsters. Most don't take the situation seriously, like a real natural disaster. You can look at examples in real life of people not taken powerful hurricanes and tornados seriously and then they wonder why they lost what they did. He also shows the aftermath of the battle between Godzilla and Baragon in the hospital scene with all the injured and dead. Considering in the past movies that Godzilla attacks so much, this subject is never focused upon. Also another subject rarely seen in recent films are the deaths of the military people who fought against Godzilla. It's easily assumed that they died in previous films, but Kaneko shows the deaths realistically when Godzilla wipes out the defense force in Yokohama.

When the monsters were first awakened, teenagers were their first victims. What Kaneko is trying to say is that most of the problems today are due to teenage ignorance and their lack of ability of knowing the consequences for their actions. The director also shows the ignorance of politicians who don't take situations seriously and don't respond to a crisis promptly. (Ring a bell anyone?) Also, let's not forget the cocky military who assumes that because their weaponry is more advanced, they'll be able to handle the threat with no problem. They learn their lesson the hard way when even their most powerful weapon does nothing to Godzilla. Finally, Kaneko takes a shot at the news media and television programming with the name of the station that Yuri works for: “BS Digital Q”. BS pretty much sums it all up.

There are also plenty of references in GMK. Kaneko makes reference to the original Godzilla (1954) with the hospital scene after the battle. The showing of mental breakdown as well as the injured and dying is a throwback to the original. He also makes reference to the Lucky Dragon, the ship that irradiated by the first H-bomb test, with a poster of it in the harbor building when Godzilla appeared. Godzilla looking over the hill at the Hakone Valley was a reference to the famous Oto Island scene when Godzilla first revealed his presences to the island people. A reference to (or shot at, however you interpret it) the American GODZILLA (1998) was in the beginning when Admiral Tachibana mentioned an attack on New York City in 1998. One officer inquires to another if it was Godzilla and the other says that the Japanese scientists doubt it. Kaneko was well-known for his comment about how the American Godzilla was weaker because a monster that couldn't be taken down by their arms was unfathomable to the US.

In the battle of Yokohama, there is a scene that will seem hauntingly familiar to American viewers. Mothra is about to fly into the Yokohama Landmark Tower and just as she avoids it, Godzilla's ray blasts through the upper floors. Sept. 11th happened post-production and Kaneko shot this scene in remembrance of the victims that were lost during the terrorist attacks.

Like Godzilla (1954), GMK is filled with messages. The first one being that forgetting the past has consequences. If we choose to forget what happened in the past, more than likely, it will catch up to us. Another messages concern Godzilla himself. One of the things people try to pick at in this film is the fact that it was the military that defeated Godzilla and not the monsters. First of all, Ghidorah WAS the cause of the wound and it was Godzilla who caused himself to blow up in his attempt to fire his atomic ray. Secondly, Godzilla is our problem. We made him, so it's up to use to take care of him. Lastly, there is Godzilla's heart; while it can have many possible meanings, one is that problems (unless they are fixed) will always come back. Another meaning could be the fact that Godzilla will always be here to remind us of our mistakes and if it gets out of hand, he will be back.

The music score is a fantastic blend of traditional orchestra sound with modern synthesized music. Don't be surprised if some get stuck in your head! In parts of the film, it adds to the supernatural feel when it's needed. The theme that plays during the opening really get the viewer pumped for the film. Godzilla's theme is powerful and really helps to capture the size and power of the King of the Monsters. Mothra's new theme is elegant and mysterious. Also if one listens close enough, you can hear singing from her old theme. While King Ghidorah's tune wasn't as memorable, it still gives regal style to the monster. The theme that is played during the preparation of the battle of Yokohama really adds suspense to the scene. Don't even think about stopping the movie when the credits start to roll! Two of Akira Ifukube's most famous themes (Godzilla's main theme and the "Monster Zero March") are played during the credits. Hearing these two themes is a nice tribute and allows comparisons to be made between these and the new stuff.

When it comes to special effects, the visuals shown in this movie are top notch. Better then anything seen in the Godzilla series in a looooong time. The monsters look the most believable out of majority of the Godzilla movies. The camera shaking with each step of Godzilla and the other monsters really adds to the effect. The matte shots were perfect and seamless. The CGI was excellent. The missiles were done better then in Godzilla 2000 (1999). The sets were so detailed it was like they took the monsters to the locations and filmed them. The battles are well-thought out, not just random beams and suits smashing into one another.

Now it's on to the monsters. One word can describe Godzilla in this film: wow. Godzilla is just plain evil. If there ever is a Godzilla that could give someone nightmares; this is it. You get in his way, he'll kill you. You get out of his way, he'll kill you. (You get the idea.) The bland white eyes add to the evilness of the monster. Giving Godzilla intelligence just adds to the scare factor. After two movies of a sharp-edged Godzilla, he's back to his old design. His beam is once again blue and is the best animated beam in the series with the vortex of energy that occurs around his mouth before he fires. The fact that it can generate an atomic explosion is a nice surprise. The animatronics in the head really helped to bring the monster to life. The shots of him through the windshield and rising out of the water really enforced the size aspect. Another common complaint is that Godzilla's too strong. In this movie, Godzilla is portrayed as a god-like creature. If he was weaker, it wouldn'y have the same effect.

Baragon, in his first screen appearance since Destroy All Monsters (1968), is just as good as he was back then. Once again his hind end is hidden so it will hide the fact that the actor is walking on their knees. The texture of the skin and the animatronics in the head added to the realism of the monster. Also, he's given a new roar this time out (instead of the old recycled roar during the Showa era) but he loses his flame breath to give Godzilla more power. This really helps to show the level of power Godzilla's opponents have. Baragon has no projectile weapon, Mothra has stingers, and King Ghidorah has his gravity beams.

Mothra is more insect-like in this movie. The fact that CGI is used more and more adds credibility to the creature. Her flight is well done and the flap frequency problem is non-existent. The poorest shot of her is when she's flying toward the tower, but the reason for it was discussed earlier. The fact that Mothra fires stingers is quite weird, but her hatching is the best seen since her debut in 1961. The larva is briefly shown in the beginning when it attacks the teenagers.

King Ghidorah has brought on the biggest complaints because he is a good guy in this film. Good-Ghidorah is still awesome. While they look goofy in some scenes, the heads give a regal appearance to the monster. The electric bite is a nice surprise. The glowing scenes were well-animated and the gravity beams looked wicked. He is one of the best examples of how the special effects have progressed through the years. His rebirth after absorbing Mothra's essence may look a little fake, but it is awe-inspiring, and that is a good testament to the series' progress.

Shusuke Kaneko is truly a great director in kaiju eiga. He brought Godzilla back to his original roots: an evil go-like creature with a message. The main reason for GMK not being on the same level as Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999) is the nitpickers (you heard me) who seem to try their hardest to find something wrong with film. Thanks to Kaneko; Godzilla received something that despite his fame, hardly ever has: high praise from American critics. The fact that film critic Leonard Maltin said (and I quote from his movie guide) “worth seeing even for nondevotees,” says something. This is the closest thing to a 21st century version of Godzilla (1954) that we'll probably ever see. It's too bad that Sony passed on releasing this film into theaters; it would have finally given Godzilla some respect in this country. This is a film that every fan should own. Period. Because simply: Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack is just plain awesome.