UltramanGoji wrote:Just rewatched this film for the first time in years. My original thoughts going in was that it was overrated and people only liked it for the large amount of effects sequences.
But...wow, I was floored by just how fantastic this movie is.
Not only are the main characters likeable and well-written, even the side characters shine with little touches of personality that make them stand out more among the crowd of forgettableness that is the Millenium series. The station head at BS Digital Q always popping in and out of scenes with his aloofness (one of my favorite little scenes is when he seems offended by his employee calling the station "the trash bin of TV"), Yuri's coworker who develops the mini-crush on her and is intimidated by Takeda's appearance, even the bicycle shop owner gets a small chuckle out of me for mistaking Yuri's company name with that of Bridgestone (this might not be on the R1 subtitles, but it was in my bootleg BR).
Yuri herself is a great character. She's persistent, courageous, and reminds me a lot of April O'Neil in that she'll do anything to get a story. I really like how she's kind of an antithesis to the military characters in this film.
Admiral Tachibana is probably the films greatest character. Despite his position among the military he still doesn't fully believe in the actions of his country. He’s one of the few to listen to Yuri about the guardian monsters and actually believe that they’re trying to help instead of attacking them. The rest of his peers don’t really think of the monsters as anything other than targets like Godzilla...until the third act when Yuri broadcasts her message on TV and everyone realizes that it's not Japan against the monsters, but Japan and its guardians against Godzilla. There’s one scene towards the end of the film right after Ghidorah is awakened where Tachibana addresses troops onboard a naval ship and tells them that non-combat is the best honor (or something to that effect, I'm probably quoting it incorrectly). The others look at him bewildered but he stands by his word.
Another great moment in the film is when Admiral Tachibana questions the defense minister‘s choice to keep the real Godzilla‘s death a secret. He claims that if the public knew, there would be a cry for disarmament and that saying Godzilla was killed by military power than by a third party was to get people to have more faith in the military. Tachibana looks dismayed and disappointed when hearing this. Kaneko is criticizing the Japanese government for keeping secrets, being incompetent, and hiding and hand waving things. The acts of censorship for the wartime deaths, as well as the first Godzilla‘s, are one in the same. Both are horrible truths that ultimately should be acknowledge and shared with the public but due to that sense of pride, they are either out right ignored or denied and replaced with extremely patriotic tendencies that are rightly critiqued by the film's characters. In a way, this is what actually makes Yuri’s character so great. While the government is actively denying facts about Godzilla and the monsters, she’s pursuing them, quite literally. Her mantra is “the truth is out there” and she’s going to be the one to show the truth to the Japanese public.
We are also shown that the Japanese government really has no idea what they’re doing. It's very similar to the ideas behind Shin Godzilla. One scene that shows this well is the scene where the jet fighters attack Godzilla. The missiles aren't affecting it at all and the commander says that they’re not doing it at the right angle, which prompts one of the pilots to say that it’s not the angle that’s the problem. That’s a subtle, but really well done character moment in this film. And then right after this scene, the defense commander is going over his notes for what to do next and Tachibana just gives this hopeless look that really sells the incompetence in front of him.
Cinematography is also super important in GMK and it's one of the best shot of all the series. There’s lots of really cool angles and framing devices that Kaneko uses and he’s very much a visual director. It really has a different feel from all the other Millennium movies. Effects are also well done too, even the CGI. I dare say it's probably the best CGI in any pre-Shin Toho film.
All together, this film was really a big surprise to me. I'm glad it shattered my expectations and it's quickly become one of my new favorites of the entire franchise. I think it's definitely a lot more intelligent than it lets on and fans should definitely give it a rewatch with these themes in mind. You might find yourself appreciating it a lot more.
100% agree, man! The special effects are fantastic of course, but the story, characters, direction, themes, writing and cinematography are what makes the film so good to me. Yuri and General Tachibana are easily among my favorite characters in the franchise, and what you said is why I like them so much.
I always thought that GMK was kind of an influence to Shin Godzilla, given that both films are very critical about the Japanese government´s incompetence, and both films had characters being skeptical about the government, and even then with all this criticism, both films had moments of hope when things could change for the better of Japan. I think both Kaneko and Anno nailed those themes, making both GMK and Shin engaging films about Japan´s government!
Now I have become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds- J. Robert Oppenheimer.