Film Review: Golden Eyes (1968)

Also known as: Hyappatsu hyakuchû: Ôgon no me (original Japanese title), Booted Babe, Busted Boss, Ironfinger Strikes Back (alternative titles)
Release Date: March 16th, 1968 (Japan)
Directed by: Jun Fukuda
Written by: Jun Fukuda, Ei Ogawa, Michio Tsuzuki
Music by: Masaru Sato
Cast: Akira Takarada, Beverly Maeda, Tomomi Sawa, Andrew Hughes, Makoto Sato, Yoshio Tsuchiya

Toho Co. Ltd., 80 Minutes

Review:

Since I thought Jun Fukuda’s Ironfinger was a pretty solid spy comedy, I wanted to give its sequel a watch, as well.

Fukuda is mostly known, at least in the States, for being one of the two most prominent directors of classic Godzilla pictures. While he doesn’t seem to be held in the same regard as Ishiro Honda, I always saw the two directors as fairly equal. Honda, however, did more of the earlier Godzilla films, where Fukuda did more of the later ones, which some fans like less due to them becoming more and more kid friendly as the franchise rolled on.

Fukuda did lots of other pictures over his career, though, especially for Toho, who loved pumping out quick sci-fi/tokusatsu fare. But between those movies, Toho also had Fukuda do these cool, ’60s spy flicks.

It’s obvious that these films are inspired by the James Bond movies of the era, as well as other spy flicks. At the time, there were many spy comedies like this, which sort of parody the genre but don’t completely deconstruct it like the Austin Powers movies would do later on.

This one pretty much follows the beats and tone of its predecessor but I didn’t enjoy it as much. There are some insanely goofy moments and some of the more over-the-top antics felt like they were too hammy.

For instance, there’s a gunfight scene where the heroes throw two assault rifles closer to the baddies and then shoot the rifles with their own guns, lifting them into the air from bullet ricochets where they fire and kill the villains. It’s f’n ridiculous and while it’s funny, it’s a “jump the shark” moment that happens pretty early into the film.

Still, I did enjoy Akira Takarada in this, as the spy hero. He’s just a good, fun actor and he was in dozens of Toho pictures and also worked with Jun Fukuda quite a bit.

Now I did miss Mie Hama in this one but since these movies are essentially ripping off James Bond, we can’t have the same chick in both films.

In the end, this isn’t as good as Ironfinger but it’s still cool and enjoyable if you like ’60s spy comedies.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, Ironfinger, as well as other ’60s spy comedies.

*No trailer available online.

Film Review: Ironfinger (1965)

Also known as: Hyappatsu hyakuchu (original Japanese title), 100 Shot, 100 Killed (literal English title)
Release Date: December 5th, 1965
Directed by: Jun Fukuda
Written by: Michio Tsuzuki, Kihachi Okamoto
Music by: Masaru Sato
Cast: Akira Takarada, Mie Hama, Ichiro Arishima, Jun Tatara, Akihiko Hirata, Sachio Sakai, Susumu Kurobe, Toru Ibuki, Chotaro Togin, Naoya Kusakawa, Koji Iwamoto, Mike Daneen, Haruo Nakajima

Toho Co. Ltd., 93 Minutes

Review:

Jun Fukuda is most famous for being the second best Godzilla director after the legendary Ishiro Honda. However, being number two behind a legend like that, a guy who gave us the first Godzilla film, is still a hell of an achievement. Plus, many other directors have come and gone but Fukuda’s films have still stuck out in the people’s conscious.

However, Fukuda didn’t just do big monster movies. He did some spy comedy parody films for Toho when they weren’t looking at him to pump out more Godzilla sequels.

This is the first of those movies and I have never seen it, so I was kind of excited to check it out. Especially, since I also love the spy genre, as well as ’60s Japanese crime cinema and noir-esque visuals.

This also has Mie Hama in it, so that’s a massive plus, as I was crushing hard on her back in the day from her appearances in Godzilla films, as well as her most famous role as a Bond Girl in 1967’s You Only Live Twice.

The film’s story is similar to a ’90s American teen comedy I recently reviewed, If Looks Could Kill, which saw a high school student on a class trip to France get mistaken for a secret agent. Funny hijinks ensued and the inexperienced regular Joe had to find a way to save the day. While the main character in this film isn’t a high school student, he’s just as inexperienced and a bit of a goof.

The lead, played by Toho regular Akira Takarada was energetic and pretty hilarious. It was hard not to like the guy and to cheer for him to beat the baddies and impress the girl.

Ironfinger is a funny, stylish picture that was lighthearted and endearing. It was neat seeing what else Fukuda did for Toho that wasn’t sci-fi related. It also got me excited and motivated to check out its sequel, Golden Eyes.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel Golden Eyes and other Japanese crime films of the ’60s.

Film Review: Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle For Earth (1992)

Also known as: Godzilla vs. Mothra (alternative title)
Release Date: December 12th, 1992 (Japan)
Directed by: Takao Okawara
Written by: Kazuki Ōmori
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Tetsuya Bessho, Satomi Kobayashi, Takehiro Murata, Megumi Odaka, Akiji Kobayashi, Akira Takarada

Toho Co. Ltd., 102 Minutes

Review:

“There isn’t a job that is too tough for me, except, the one time I was married to a real stubborn woman.” – Takuya Fujita

I kind of forgot how much I enjoy this entry into the Heisei era of Godzilla.

It’s a pretty solid picture, all around, minus some cheesiness. But that cheesiness is mostly from the human actors, as the kaiju interactions and battles are some top notch stuff.

Also, since I hadn’t seen this one in quite awhile, I forgot that it’s actually Godzilla versus both monsters in the end.

While this is the first time that Godzilla and Mothra meet in the Heisei era, it is the first time that Battra has ever appeared. For those who might not know, Battra is essentially the Yang to Mothra’s Yin. He’s a darker and, at face value, an evil looking version of Mothra. The two monsters do battle throughout the film but by the end, Battra and Mothra decide that it would be better to combine their efforts to fight Godzilla, who in this continuity, is still a real threat and not the friendly, kid loving monster he became later in the Shōwa era pictures.

The rubber suits and animatronics in this chapter are amazing. While I find the previous film, Godzilla vs. Biollante, to be more impressive overall, this looks like a pristine and well crafted production, top to bottom. It’s certainly one of the best kaiju films of its era from a technical standpoint.

This also has one of my favorite final battles because the location looks unique, the monsters look great and the action itself is well choreographed.

If you’ve ever wanted to see a giant, neon Ferris wheel dropped on Godzilla, than this is the movie for you.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Heisei era Godzilla films, as well as Mothra vs. Godzilla from 1964.

Film Review: Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)

Also known as: Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, Monster Zero (alternative US titles), Battle of the Astros, Invasion of Planet X, The Great Monster War (alternative Yugoslavian titles)
Release Date: December 19th, 1965 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Takarada, Nick Adams, Kumi Mizuno, Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Keiko Sawai, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Yoshifumi Tajima

Toho Co. Ltd., 93 Minutes, 74 Minutes (re-issue)

Review:

“[about the victory over King Ghidorah, while Godzilla is outside dancing] A happy moment.” – Controller of Planet X

This is the last Godzilla film of the Shōwa era that I had left to review. While I didn’t watch the movies in order, I did save one of my favorites for last. But honestly, I like all these movies and don’t think there is a bad one in the bunch. Nope, not even All Monsters Attack a.k.a. Godzilla’s Revenge.

What I liked about this film is that it is a true follow up to its predecessor Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and also features the same lineup of monsters, minus Mothra. This also introduces the Xiliens from Planet X, who were (and still are) the best alien villains in Godzilla lore. In fact, they should’ve been regular antagonists throughout the Shōwa pictures but Toho decided to introduce new hostile aliens with almost every movie after this one. Although, I did like the ape and the cockroach aliens, somewhat. But leaving the Xiliens behind, after this film, was a mistake.

Anyway, the plot in this one is interesting, as it sees the Xiliens bring two Earth astronauts to their planet in an effort to get them to agree to let them borrow Godzilla and Rodan due to King Ghidorah being a major nuisance. It’s all a trap, however, as the aliens take control of Godzilla and Rodan and force them, along with Ghidorah, to attack Earth, leaving it defenseless. I guess King Kong, Mothra and Anguirus were taking naps on Monster Island.

Despite its hokiness, I really like the set designs and costumes in this chapter. Everything just looks really unique and seeing just one frame of this film lets avid Godzilla fans know which movie it is. Especially, in regards to any scenes involving Planet X or its people.

The special effects are great and consistent with the other films where Eiji Tsuburaya handled them.

All in all, this is just another really fun chapter in the franchise during its greatest run.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Shōwa era Godzilla movies.

 

Film Review: Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

Also known as: Mosura tai Gojira (original Japanese title), Godzilla Against Mothra (Japanese English title), Panik in Tokyo (Germany), Godzilla Fights the Giant Moth (Worldwide English title)
Release Date: April 29th, 1964 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Takarada, Yuriko Hoshi, The Peanuts, Hiroshi Koizumi, Yu Fujiki, Kenji Sahara, Jun Tazaki, Yoshifumi Tajima

Toho Co. Ltd., 89 Minutes

Review:

“I’m not as afraid of Godzilla as I am of the editor… he’s meaner.” – Reporter Jiro Nakamura

While not my favorite Godzilla movie of the Shōwa era, this one still holds a pretty special place in my heart, as it pits Godzilla against Mothra for the first time. Granted, they’d become solid allies after this movie, as Godzilla would evolve into a hero and Earth’s protector once King Ghidorah shows up in the picture following this one.

This is still a fun film that merges the two monsters into the same franchise, this being Godzilla’s fourth movie and Mothra’s second after 1961’s simply titled Mothra.

The story sees one of Mothra’s eggs get taken from Infant Island, the kaiju’s tropical Tiki-esque home, and put on display in Japan. Godzilla shows up, the egg hatches and we get some great kaiju action. In fact, the battles and the effects are some of my favorite in the series, so hats off, once again, to effects maestro Eiji Tsuburaya.

And while I’m mentioning Tsuburaya, his miniatures in this are some of the best he’s done. The vehicles looked and performed superbly.

The film also stars some of Toho’s regular actors from the tokusatsu genre, which I always consider a good thing despite familiar faces appearing multiple times throughout the franchise as different characters. In this one, we get Kenji Sahara, who I always enjoy, and Hiroshi Koizumi.

Mothra vs. Godzilla has a simple story but it works. This is a kaiju movie from the best kaiju studio from the best era in the kaiju genre. It brings together two of the most popular characters in film history and it is pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be while slightly exceeding those expectations.

This doesn’t have much of anything wrong with it and its just enjoyable through and through: a true tokusatsu classic.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Shōwa era Godzilla movies.

Film Review: Godzilla (1954)

Also known as: Gojira (original Japanes title), Godzilla: King of Monsters! (US version)
Release Date: November 3rd, 1954 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shigeru Kayama, Takeo Murata, Ishirō Honda
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kōchi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, Kenji Sahara, Raymond Burr (US version)

Toho, 96 Minutes (original), 80 Minutes (US version)

Review:

“I can’t believe that Godzilla was the only surviving member of its species… But if we continue conducting nuclear tests, it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again.” – Kyohei Yamane-hakase

There are two different versions of this film: the original Japanese version, which was released to theaters in 1954, as well as the English language American version from 1956 that featured new scenes starring Raymond Burr.

This is primarily a review of the original Japanese version of the film, as it is the superior version, in my opinion. Also, the American version loses some of the context and political themes within the picture.

Out of all the Godzilla movies ever made, there are now over thirty, this one is still the best of the lot. It’s just got such a dark and brooding nature that the tone is vastly different than the more kid friendly entries that would follow it. And I’m not saying that I don’t love kid friendly Godzilla, because that’s the Godzilla I fell in love with, but this is a film that had a deeper and more meaningful purpose than just counting kaiju sized piles of cash.

Godzilla makes a very bold statement, a statement that can still be felt today and it is still very relevant.

For those who might not know, Godzilla was created as a commentary on the horrors of nuclear bombs and their side effects. Coming out less than a decade after Japan was bombed by the United States to end World War II, the Japanese were certainly justified in making an artistic condemnation of nuclear technology. Plus, mass destruction was something that everyone in Japan had already lived through and it was still very fresh in their memories.

While the film gives us mass destruction in a different way, Godzilla, the monster, is unleashed on Japan due to the use of nuclear bombs and his rampage throughout the film is just as catastrophic. But at least with the monster in the movie, the Japanese people were able to find a way to defend themselves and bring the horror to an end on their own terms. That’s not to say that another Godzilla doesn’t show up later but within this movie, Japan perseveres, even if it comes at a great cost.

The special effects in this are dynamite, especially considering that this came out in 1954 and was made by a country that didn’t have the resources of a big budget American studio. Eiji Tsuburaya was the man behind the effects and his work here created a whole new genre, which would make his career, as he would go on to do many kaiju films for Toho, as well as creating his own studio, Tsuburaya Productions. Tsuburaya would later create the Ultraman franchise and other famous franchises beloved by the Japanese and fans of kaiju and tokusatsu films and television.

This was director Ishirō Honda’s big break and doing this film would pave the way for the rest of his career, as well. He ended up directing a ton of Godzilla movies, as well as other kaiju and tokusatsu pictures for Toho. In fact, he was pretty much the godfather of the two, overlapping genres.

Godzilla is a chilling film. The monster is truly a monster, which fans of the later films might be shocked by. It is this film that had the greatest impact on moviegoers upon its release, however, and it is why every single Godzilla reboot goes back to this well and presents the title character as a true harbinger of doom.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other Shōwa era Godzilla movies.

Film Review: Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)

Also known as: Gojira, Ebira, Mosura Nankai no Daikettō (Japan), Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (US)
Release Date: December 17th, 1966 (Japan)
Directed by: Jun Fukuda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Masaru Sato
Cast: Akira Takarada, Kumi Mizuno, Chotaro Togin, Hideo Sunazuka, Akihiko Hirata

Toho, 87 Minutes

Review:

Like Son of Godzilla, which came out one year after this, Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is a Godzilla island movie. Due to budgetary reasons, Toho did a string of Godzilla and other kaiju pictures on islands or in other wilderness expanses. While primarily filmed indoors like other kaiju flicks, these movies didn’t require sets made up of miniature metropolitan areas. Typically, the movies used a lot of water and just rocks, mounds of dirt and fake shrubbery. Some people disliked Toho cheapening out, I actually love these movies for providing the genre with a nice change of pace, environmentally speaking. There was just something cool and primal about seeing kaiju duke it out in nature.

This was originally written as a King Kong film but Rankin-Bass, the studio who owned the rights at the time in the U.S., rejected it. Unfortunately, this deprived fans of seeing King Kong tangle with Mothra. Toho altered the script to feature Godzilla and the rest is history.

In this, the seventh of the Godzilla movies, we see a group of men get shipwrecked after a storm and tangling with a giant crustacean creature. On the island, they meet a girl who has escaped from being enslaved like some of her other people. The island is controlled by an evil military terrorist group called the Red Bamboo. While hiding out from the evil men, out heroes discover Godzilla hibernating in a cave. Our heroes end up waking up the King of Monsters in an effort to crush the Red Bamboo and to help defeat Ebirah, the giant crustacean that won’t let anyone leave the island. Mothra also shows up to help rescue the enslaved people who came from Infant Island, where Mothra is worshipped as a deity.

Godzilla doesn’t really do anything until after the halfway point in the film. It doesn’t matter though, as the human story regarding our heroes and their run-ins with the Red Bamboo is entertaining enough. Godzilla showing up later is just a really cool bonus. Ebirah is also a cool monster, even if he isn’t as bizarre or as iconic as some of the other Toho kaiju baddies.

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep is a really fun movie. That isn’t hard to achieve, being that Godzilla is in this thing, but it is fun with or without the legendary monster. It would have been cool to learn more about the Red Bamboo or to have them show up in a later movie but this was a one-off for them, as most sinister groups in Toho films aren’t around for more than one picture. It seems like a missed opportunity though. Instead of several villainous groups, Toho could have had a consistent evil organization like Spectre or Hydra or Cobra.

I love this film. Something about it just resonates with me. I like the island Godzilla movies a lot. Maybe it is because I grew up in a coastal tropical area or because of my love for all things Tiki or South Pacific.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: King Kong Escapes (1967)

Also known as: Kingu Kongu no Gyakushū, lit. Counterattack of King Kong (Japan)
Release Date: July 22nd, 1967 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Kaoru Mabuchi
Based on: King Kong by James Creelman, Ruth Rose, Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Takarada, Rhodes Reason, Mie Hama, Linda Miller, Eisei Amamoto

Toho, Rankin-Bass, Universal International, 97 Minutes (Japan), 91 Minutes (USA)

king_kong_escapesReview:

King Kong Escapes is the second and last of the Toho King Kong films. It follows King Kong vs. Godzilla and while it is a sequel of sorts to it, it really is more of a standalone film. For one, there is no mention of the previous movie and Godzilla isn’t anywhere to be found. Although, Gorosaurus makes his first appearance in this picture before going on to be included in the Godzilla franchise. Also, Kong’s rival Mechani-Kong would go on to inspire Mechagodzilla and other robot kaiju in Toho’s future.

Like Son of Kong to King KongKing Kong Escapes is sort of the goofy yet lovable little brother to its predecessor. It is a highly fun film and it features a lot of adventure and great action but it is fairly hokey, even for a later Shōwa era Toho movie.

The actors are all fairly entertaining in this. This is one of my favorite roles for Mie Hama, who plays a sinister woman looking to have her country control the world by harnessing the power of Element X, as well as Mechani-Kong. Linda Miller plays a total cutie, who is this film’s version of the Fay Wray character, although she isn’t a starlet, she is a military officer. Although, Miller can get annoying at times, like every time she yells, “Put me down, Kong! Put me down!” or “No, Kong!” or just “Kooooong!!!” Eisei Anamoto plays an evil genius named Dr. Who, no relation to the British Doctor Who. Anamoto’s mad scientist is one of my favorite in Toho’s large filmography.

King Kong Escapes takes some of its action cues from the original King Kong. In fact, this is more of Toho’s King Kong remake than King Kong vs. Godzilla. Granted, the film takes huge liberties and is certainly its own thing.

To give an example, the big battle on the island between Kong and Gorosaurus plays out the same as the Kong and tyrannosaurus fight from the original movie. Kong even kills Gorosaurus the same way, ripping his jaw apart. Also, the damsel in distress is protected by Kong and put into a tree for safekeeping.

The final sequence of the film sees Kong and Mechani-Kong climb the famous Tokyo Tower for their final battle. It is a well shot and well orchestrated finale. Plus, the Tokyo Tower has sort of become synonymous with kaiju movies and television, at this point. It was a perfect Tokyo stand-in for the Empire State Building in this picture’s climax.

King Kong Escapes is a great companion piece to Toho’s better known King Kong movie. While Toho made two good films, while they had the rights to the character of Kong, I still feel like they missed the boat. Had they made a Kong film as frequently as a Godzilla film, we could have had a lot of variety: a Kong versus Godzilla rematch, a Kong and Godzilla team-up and even Kong versus some of Godzilla’s famous foes or allies like King Ghidorah or Mothra. Although, I am really happy with the Godzilla movies of that era and more Kong features may have disrupted that or created kaiju fatigue much earlier.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Also known as: Gojira: Fainaru Wōzu (Japan)
Release Date: November 29th, 2004 (World Premiere)
Directed by: Ryuhei Kitamura
Written by: Isao Kiriyama, Wataru Mimura
Music by: Keith Emerson, Nobuhiko Morino, Daisuke Yano
Cast: Masahiro Matsuoka, Rei Kikukawa, Don Frye, Maki Mizuno, Kazuki Kitamura, Kane Kosugi, Jun Kunimura, Akira Takarada, Tsutomu Kitagawa

Toho, 125 Minutes

godzillafinalwarsReview:

Godzilla: Final Wars, which came out in 2004, was the last of the Godzilla films to come out of Japan (until 2016’s Shin Gojira). Additionally, it was made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Godzilla. In doing so, the filmmakers at Toho decided to throw just about every monster they have ever created into this one movie. That being said, the word “epic” is a vast understatement to what this film was. Although, just so we’re clear, epic isn’t a synonym for “good”.

This film was at times glorious and at times hard to look at. The plot was recycled Godzilla shtick: alien race comes to Earth, alien race tricks people, alien race brainwashes monsters, alien race turns monsters against us, alien race makes monsters attack world capitals, Godzilla shows up, bigger mayhem ensues. Now I’m not knocking the formula because frankly, I don’t care that much about what the story is, as long as big monsters get to tear the crap out of each other for my enjoyment.

That being said, never has there been more kaiju violence in one place than in this film. Once Godzilla is reintroduced to us after his exile, he goes ape shit and runs through every monster like he’s playing Mortal Kombat III. Every second of Godzilla bad assery, I loved. It completely rectified any flaw that this film had and it went on for what seemed like forever. It was like a kaiju Royal Rumble match and Godzilla was that big unstoppable hero who drew number 30 – only to show up late to the party fresh and ready to crack every skull.

So what was wrong with the film? Well, in some instances, monsters were dudes in traditional rubber suits. In other instances, monsters were 100 percent CGI. The mixture of CGI vs. rubber monsters was odd and it just didn’t click. I’ve always been a fan of practical effects, although CGI doesn’t entirely irritate me. However, to mix the two so blatantly and so poorly kind of magnifies the flaws in both. Where effects should blend in and look real, having two differing styles together on the screen, at the same time, makes both styles look worse. I get that this was probably a cost-cutting measure due to the immensity and scope of this film but c’mon, the Godzilla franchise has made billions in fifty years. They could’ve fattened the budget a bit more or just cut out half of the unnecessary human versus alien special effects segments, which wouldn’t be horribly missed.

Speaking of which, the human parts of the film just felt like a really bad Underworld rip-off, which is itself a really bad Matrix rip-off. I liked how they structured the general plot but most of it was over-the-top and kind of tedious to watch. The only real highlight was the American general who looked like a thicker Tom Selleck with a generic American tough guy voice. He was certainly a caricature of what Japanese people see from a blockbuster bad ass American military leader but it worked. He was also played by MMA legend and pro-wrestling bad ass, Don Frye.

This isn’t what I’d call a good film or even close to being the best in the Godzilla mythos but it was supremely enjoyable and a bit of a gem in regards to the non-stop kaiju violence. In the end, I was more than satisfied.

Besides, if you love Godzilla, you aren’t going to let a few flaws ruin the movie.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Godzilla (2014)

Release Date: May 8th, 2014 (Los Angeles Premiere)
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Written by: Max Borenstein, David Callaham
Based on: Gojira by Toho Co. Ltd.
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, Akira Takarada (scene cut)

Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho, 123 Minutes

godzilla_2014Review:

It has been 60 years! Yes, 60 years since Godzilla first appeared on-screen. In that time we have seen a few different incarnations over dozens of films. There are some things that change from era-to-era and some timeless parts that remain consistent. Well, the new Godzilla follows suit, in that it was a reinvention that took some liberties yet also stayed true to the general nature of the franchise.

Godzilla, as a monster, was pretty damn accurate overall. Some people have complained that he’s too bulky, he is – but he just looks like more of a beast. Others have complained about his face and the fact that it looks human-like, I get that and noticed it but it didn’t bother me. We’re no longer limited by the technology of the rubber suit and truth be told, I haven’t liked most Godzilla faces since the original era came to an end in the mid-70s. At least the monster didn’t have the Jay Leno chin of the 1998 Godzilla monster from that atrocious Roland Emmerich film.

The other monsters in the film, there are two, are variations of one another, as one is the male and has wings, while the other is a much larger female without wings. I wasn’t too keen on these monsters, called M.U.T.O. for “Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism.” Their design was kind of cool, their backstory and biology was even cooler but they didn’t have that classic Godzilla monster feel. They kind of came across as more streamlined versions of a couple of generic kaiju from Pacific Rim. Maybe their design is just how filmmakers envision contemporary monsters to be. I thought it was pretty unimaginative and they had more resemblances to that shitty Cloverfield monster than anything from the vast Godzilla mythos. I just didn’t like them, I never felt that threatened by them and was kind of just waiting for King Ghidorah to fly on-screen and really tear shit up.

That leads me to one of the beefs I have with the film. With such a deep pool of characters and monsters to pull from, if you really needed Godzilla to battle a threat, why not reinvent some of those iconic monsters and really give fans a fight they want to see instead of this film that could have been titled Godzilla vs. The Unimaginative Insect-Dragon and His Big Angry Wife? I don’t think Hollywood understands that the Godzilla brand isn’t just Godzilla, there is an entire sea of monsters waiting to be exploited. In fact, in the trailer when I saw the flying monster for a split second, I thought Rodan was going to be in this. Nope, no Rodan, just some slightly modified Cloverfield creature with wings – opportunity completely missed.

But then there is the issue with licensing. Apparently, Legendary Pictures didn’t have the rights to any other creatures. I feel like this could have been resolved before this film was made, as they have since acquired the right to several more monsters for the upcoming sequel.

Another beef with the film is that it is called Godzilla but it barely has any Godzilla in it. He doesn’t show up for like an hour and when he makes his first appearance to fight the flying M.U.T.O. at the Honolulu Airport, they cut away just after he roars and right when your fanboy boner goes to full attention. Thank you, Gareth Edwards and Legendary Pictures for giving millions of moviegoers cinematic blue balls.

The lack of Godzilla carried over into the big finale. Godzilla would engage the two monsters, they’d do a power move or two and then the film would cut to the human characters running around trying to complete a nuisance of a mission that didn’t matter all that much considering the state of San Francisco by that point. Godzilla punch, M.U.T.O. bite, cut to overly dramatic white Army dude torching eggs. Godzilla kick, M.U.T.O. jump, cut to overly dramatic white Army dude starting a boat. Screw the humans, show the monster fight, that’s what we paid to see. In fact, scrap the whole plot and just put Godzilla in a cage match with a dozen monsters. Preferably classic kaiju and not some half-assed Level 3 bosses from a 1987 Konami game.

Now getting to the human element of the film, it was pretty good. Bryan Cranston  and Ken Watanabe were fantastic but lacked screen time compared to Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who was better than decent, and Elizabeth Olsen, who felt completely wasted and unnecessary in the film.

Now it probably sounds like I am griping about this a lot but I did really enjoy the movie. There was much more good than bad and it is worth your time if giant monsters engaged in combat is your thing. Tonally, the film felt like it belonged in the same world as the original 1954 Gojira – the original Godzilla film that was darker and a lot more serious and frightening than it’s comedic and campy successors. The tone was perfect, in my opinion, and that is what really makes this movie.

I hope that if this becomes the franchise it is destined to be, the filmmakers going forward tap the well and bring back our favorite kaiju from past films. Because comparatively, no one wants to see Superman fight some scrubs that just walked out of the gym.

Rating: 7/10