Welcome to Tokusatsu Gesundheit, where men in rubber suits beat CGI every time! In celebration of this week’s Rifftrax Live: Mothra (Thursday at 8 PM), we’re watching Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (abbreviated as “GMK”).
Godzilla, not seen since 1954, returns from the dead to menace Japan once more! What’s more, he’s animated by the souls of those who died – both Japanese and otherwise – in World War II. These angry souls seek vengeance upon the nation that wronged them, and it’s up to a plucky reporter/trash documentarian to awaken the Three Guardians Beast – Mothra, Baragon, and King Ghidorah – to save the country!
Toho’s iconic Kaiju franchise kicked off with 1954’s Oscar-worthy classic, Gojira. It was a hit, and like all hits it spawned plenty of imitators and sequels (in which Godzilla fought most of the imitators) that moved progressively further from the Anti-Nuclear point the original made. The sequels come in three eras:
- The Showa Era series, fifteen movies from the original film up through 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla. The continuity includes pretty much every Toho-produced suitmation Kaiju movie that Toho made in this time period, since most of them ended up appearing in the Godzilla series at some point. This is the iconic, cheesiest Godzilla.
- The Hesei Series, from 1984’s Godzilla Returns to 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destroyah. Ignores every Showa-era film except for Gojira, usually giving brand new origin tales when classic monster appear.
- The Millennium Series, six films from 1999’s Godzilla 2000 to 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars. No more than two movies at a time take place in the same continuity, and how many monsters/movies from the Showa era are canon (other than Gojira) varies. GMK is the third entry in this series and is a standalone sequel to the 1954 original.
- The film’s director, Shusuke Kaneko, had successfully revived the Gamera franchise in the 1990s and was brought in to the do the same here after a financially disappointing start to the Millennium series. This flick was the highest grossing in the Millenium series, but for whatever reason it was never directly followed up on.
- The events of the 1998 American Godzilla are referenced as having occurred, with Americans claiming the monster was Godzilla while Japanese experts are skeptical.
- The monsters seem to have a mad-on for disrespectful Japanese youth in this movie, almost specifically targeting packs of unruly and dangerously reckless teens.
The movie is pretty good, though not great. Godzilla is a terrifying force of nature that allegorically comments on World War II, which brings him back to his roots in a big way. The monster fights are well done, and the Millennium-era suits look really good. The main drawbacks are that the social commentary feels a touch heavy handed and that King Ghidorah as a hero teaming up with Mothra to fight Godzilla just feels wrong. Not my favorite Millennium series flick, but a strong entry.