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

Class: User
Author: Godzillawolf
Score: (4.5/5)
October 22, 2009 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Godzilla, Mothra, & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack may have a mouthful of a title, but this amazing film is chock full of everything! Helmed by director Shusuke Kaneko (who boasts an alma mater that is the equally amazing Gamera trilogy), this movie is a thrill ride from start to finish, and if I may say so, one of my personal favorites. Godzilla returns to his roots as an unstoppable engine of destruction, Baragon makes his triumphant return to the big screen, Mothra is (yet again) the heroic moth beastie, and Ghidorah is…a good guy? The special effects are excellent, the characters are appealing, and the plot is fantastic. Everything mixes together to form one of the best Godzilla films ever.

It has been 50 some-odd years since Godzilla rose from the depths to turn Tokyo into flaming rubble. Those nightmarish days came to a close when the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) was thought to have vanquished the beast, or so many are lead to believe. Though the King of the Monsters hasn't appeared in decades, other enormous creatures have been reported in recent years, including a monstrous reptile who attacked New York in 1998. Time and trouble have washed away the memory of Godzilla's terrible onslaught from the minds of the current generation; however, all would soon be forced to face a rather rude awakening.

An American nuclear submarine is mysteriously lost near Guam and two Satsuma research submarines are deployed to investigate. A mysterious underwater landside occurs, and as the dirt settles, the pilots sight a set of massive spines moving through the silt, glowing a ghostly azure.

Meanwhile, a reporter for a low budget studio, Yuri Tachibana, reports on a local legend near Mt. Myoko in Niigata. After a mysterious earthquake, she spots an equally mysterious old man staring back at her from the woods. Before she can alert her crew to the man‘s presence, he vanishes. Later that night, a group of motorcycle thugs harass a truck driver, but soon meet a grisly end when a tunnel collapses upon them. The truck driver survives, but witnesses a monstrous, gargoyle-like head tear through the tunnel wall. He is certain that he has just witnessed Godzilla.

Yuri discovers that the epicenter of the earthquake she had earlier experienced has been moving, coinciding with the sighting in the tunnel. Her adviser, Teruaki Takeda, also discovers a book that chronicles the legend of three guardian monsters, Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah.

The following night, a group of troublemaking teenagers are killed at Lake Ikeda, attacked by a giant creature who emerged from the lake and cocooned their bodies in silk. Yuri ventures to the Motosu Police Station to meet with an elderly man named Isayama, the very same person she witnessed in the woods following the earthquake. The old man claims that Godzilla is returning, possessed and driven by the tormented, forgotten souls of those who died in World War II. He does provide a ray of hope, stating that the guardian monsters may have a chance at stopping him this time. He instructs her to find the sleeping place of Ghidorah. Upon arriving at the location near Mt. Fuji, she discovers an amulet that she is certain Isayama left for her to find.

During the night, Maganote in the Bonin Islands is obliterated during a powerful storm. However, the party dispatched to investigate is destroyed by a “moving hill”. This prompts the government to go public with their belief that Godzilla is returning once more. Yuri tells her father of the legend of the guardian monsters, but he has a difficult time believing it. However, he doesn't immediately disregard the story, after having seen Godzilla face-to-face on that nightmarish night in 1954 and losing his family to the dreaded leviathan.

Motosu is sent into chaos when the monster from the earlier cave-in emerges from the Earth in broad daylight, freeing Isayama in the process. Some claim the creature to be Godzilla; however, the true Godzilla soon erupts from the depths of Yaizu Harbor, laying waste to all in his wake as he starts out on a collision course with Tokyo. However, the red monster, Baragon, bravely faces Godzilla in Hakone Valley. And so, as the first guardian monster steps into the fray, the battle for humanity begins!

One of the strongest assets of this film is the characters. Yuri Tachibana (Chiharu Niyama), our main heroine, is played to perfection; her drive and personality make her likeable, as she never truly comes off as selfish. Her motivation to show others through her craft just what is being sacrificed to protect the county from Godzilla's wrath is admirable. Though her relationship with her father Taizo (Ryudo Uzaki) can best be described as “distant” for the first part of the film, they always show they love one another, particularly evident in the scene when he prepares to face Godzilla. Unlike many military figures in Godzilla movies, who only serve as static fixtures, Taizo has a depth to his character; he shows he loves his daughter and his country and is willing to go to any lengths to keep them safe. Nevertheless, he's also willing to allow his daughter to do something she believes is right, despite the potential danger. One final character trait worth noting is his unusually open mind. While military figures are normally portrayed as rather close-minded in monster films as a whole, Taizo is more accepting of the possibility of things that are beyond his comprehension (i.e. the guardian monsters). The only really noticeable flaw (which could be an editing mistake) is when the D-03 ends up hitting Ghidorah. It seems that Taizo is actually glad that they hit the wrong monster, which should be far from the case (particularly considering Taizo's back-story).

The titular monsters, and the special effects used to bring them to life, are top notch. Godzilla's suit is both lifelike and extremely menacing, the soulless eyes being his most defining and sinister aesthetic. Godzilla's character resembles that of the original movie, a force of pure destruction that exists only for one purpose: to obliterate everything in his path. This is refreshing, considering how long it has been since a villainous Godzilla tore through the big screen. His beam is excellently rendered, from beginning to end (particularly the effect of energy drawing into his maw). Baragon is also superbly realized, appearing very lifelike. He is also quite likeable, which is partly due to the obvious cute factor. This makes it all the more emotional when he fights his hardest against Godzilla, only to be outmatched in almost every respect. Mothra is excellent here, more insect-like than many of her previous incarnations. Her projectile stinger, as opposed to the many beam weapons she's wielded in recent years, is most refreshing. Finally, King Ghidorah is another fine suit. There is only one problem: his necks seem a bit too stout (other than that, he's golden). This is not really an aesthetic issue, it's actually a functionality restriction. His fighting abilities are somewhat lessened when his reach is truncated. On the plus side, Ghidorah being a hero in this film is a welcome and unexpected change, showing the design has the potential to fill the role of ether a hero or a villain. Finally, his gravity beams are about the best ever, behaving much more like lightning bolts than continuous streams. His thunder spark is another nice addition, as it increases his mêlée abilities.

Considering the fact that Godzilla was said to originate from an island legend in his first film, it makes sense to establish the history of his three opponents as shrouded in legend as well. The brawl between Baragon and Godzilla is a nice way to pick up the action midway into the movie; it breaks up the human drama a bit and adds a little more spice to the mix before the final battle (though Godzilla's continuing rampage is far from lacking the proverbial capsaicin, mind you). The final battle is excellently paced, with a lot of back-to-basics animalistic tooth-and-claw action (instead of the “beam wars” that have become so common). Considering this film comes from the same man who revived Gamera in three of the greatest kaiju films around, this is hardly a surprise.

The musical score was also a huge plus. The theme that played throughout the final battle was most enjoyable; it was fast-paced, yet veiled in a vibe that almost delves into a strange “fantasy” realm. However, nothing beats Akira Ifukube's classic Godzilla theme playing in all of its ominous glory at the close of the film.

After the Gamera trilogy, I expected great things from another movie by Shusuke Kaneko, and I wasn't disappointed. GMK is an excellent film with a lot of heart and action, not to mention great special effects. Any fan of Godzilla owes it to themselves to watch this movie, which is easily one of the best of the Godzilla films. From start to finish, it is near perfection (Ghidorah's clumsy necks aside).