Film Review: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Also known as: Godzilla 2, Fathom (working titles)
Release Date: May 29th, 2019 (Europe, South Korea, Indonesia)
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields, Max Borenstein
Based on: Gojira, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Mothra and Rodan by Toho Co. Ltd.
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathaim, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, Joe Morton

Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho, 132 Minutes

Review:

“We opened Pandora’s box. And there’s no closing it now.” – Jonah Alan

*There be spoilers here! No, seriously, I spoil the shit out of stuff in this one.

It’s been five years since the last American Godzilla film and I hate waiting. Sure, we got Kong: Skull Island two years ago, which is a part of this series, but Godzilla is the true king of kaiju and his return has been long overdue. Plus, we were promised a movie featuring King Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan, so five years was too damn long to wait.

Now I enjoyed the first movie, even if I had some issues with it but I discussed those in that film’s review. As far as this one goes, I still have some issues but overall, this is a superior chapter in the pretty good American Godzilla series.

The film was certainly well cast with its human being characters but that was a part of my problem with the movie. There was just so much broken family drama and bullshit that it dragged the film down. Sure, you need a human story to ground the picture and make it relatable but I want to see giant monsters punching the shit out of each other, as opposed to an episode of This Is Us.

As far as the monsters go, I was afraid that the movie would have monster overkill, as the trailer mentioned 17 “titans”, which is white people for “kaiju”. Luckily, the only ones we really see fight are the main four we were promised: Godzilla, Ghidorah, Mothra and Rodan. There are several other monsters that appear, including a new M.U.T.O. and a creature similar to Kumonga, but we only really see glimpses of them and then one scene where they appear at the end, after the big action has already gone down. Kong and Skull Island are also mentioned but Kong does not appear, which does create a bit of a plot hole but whatever, everything has plot holes these days.

The origin of the monsters is different in this film too. Mothra is Chinese, Rodan is Mexican, Godzilla is from Atlantis and King Ghidorah is Antarcticese but is later discovered to be from space, so I guess his origin is the most accurate. Well, except for the fact that he has Wolverine healing powers and can grow back heads like a hydra.

Also, Rodan is a dick in this movie and he’s not an ally to Godzilla and Mothra, as he should be. He comes around in the end, after the final fight, but I wanted to see the classic match up of King Ghidorah vs. Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan in a 3-on-1 handicap match.

There’s one point in the film where a general says, “We’ve got a secret weapon…” And my mind immediately screamed, “MECHAGODZILLA!!!” But then the general continued with, “…an oxygen destroyer.” So that was a nice homage to the original Gojira and it was a tremendous use of CGI special effects to make it look much more powerful than the 1954 equivalent but the weapon was used so freely and carelessly that the film missed the whole moral debate over that powerful weapon. However, I guess that was sort of replaced by the humans arguing about this film’s other weapon/device/MacGuffin: the Orca.

But the big monster battles are the most important thing about any kaiju movie and this picture gives us pretty solid kaiju action. At least, it’s much better than the total lack of kaiju action we got with this film’s predecessor, the 2014 Godzilla.

New York Yankees fans will love the big final battle in this film as it takes place in Fenway Park. You see the iconic stadium and all of Boston get leveled. And I’m assuming the Red Sox allowed the film to shoot there, due to some of the specific shots that saw Millie Bobby Brown’s character arrive there for the climax. But I guess the famous saying should now read: “Boston Strong, Godzilla Stronger.”

Anyway, I was mostly happy with the film. The human drama bullshit was grating and Vera Farmiga’s character is an evil, selfish psychopath, no matter how hard this film wants to justify her apocalyptic actions. They kind of try to redeem her in the end with her final act but that bitch wanted to die a hero because of her own ego not because she’s got a heart or anything. Thirty minutes earlier she was releasing giant monsters despite millions of people needing to evacuate from giant monsters. She was an insufferable shithead and her husband, Kyle Chandler a.k.a. Mr. Friday Night Lights was pretty terrible too. But maybe I’m just pissed that he never got killed or arrested on Bloodline.

My favorite moment in the movie was when the deaf chick from that Oscar winning fish fuck movie got eaten by King Ghidorah like a piece of popcorn chicken. I bet she lost a shoe this time too.

This review is probably all over the place but I got shit hammered at the theater, hit the bar pretty hard after and am currently too wired to sleep, so I wrote this now, as it’s approaching 3 in the f’n morning. Thank fuck for spell and grammar check.

But hey, this was a step up from the last one. It had better kaiju action, a better than decent story and good acting apart from the two leads that should have been merked much earlier than Bryan Cranston was in the first flick. Hell, Kyle Chandler survives again and he’s still getting away with killing his own brother and sending his other one to Cuba with his dumb wife that forgot to ditch her phone.

And I’ve also got to ask, what’s with all this need for a plot and shit? Monsters smash monsters, the end! It’s not rocket science! We don’t need story getting in the way of a kaiju Royal Rumble. Other than the original, original Godzilla picture, these don’t need to be thinking movies. When “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was giving Stunners to the Undertaker, we didn’t need him to stop before the attack and recite Shakespeare, we just wanted to see him drop the Deadman with a kick to the gut and a yank of the head.

The moral of the story review is:
Monsters punching monsters: Good!
Human family drama and storytelling: Bad!

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the American Godzilla film before this, as well as the original Japanese films Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster, Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla: Final Wars.

Film Review: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Also known as: Chikyû saidai no kessen, lit. Three Giant Monsters: The Greatest Battle on Earth (Japan), Monster of Monsters: Ghidorah (Worldwide English title), Godzilla vs. Ghidorah (Finland), Frankensteins Monster im Kampf gegen Ghidorah (Germany)
Release Date: December 20th, 1964 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Yosuke Natsuki, Hiroshi Koizumi, Yuriko Hoshi, Akiko Wakabayashi, The Peanuts, Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata, Kenji Sahara, Susumu Kurobe, Haruo Nakajima, Shoichi Hirose

Toho Co. Ltd., 92 Minutes

Review:

“Yes, it is possible for someone to be saved from an exploding aircraft. If we understand the curvature of space, we know that the continuum surrounding any spherical body such as our world is composed of different dimensions. The force of the explosion created a gap between these dimensions, and fortunately for her, she fell into it.” – Alien Expert

I’ve put off reviewing this film in the Godzilla franchise for awhile. The main reason, is that I wanted to save it for the week that the new American Godzilla movie was coming out, as that one features the same four monsters featured in this film. So if the new American film is remaking anything, it is closest to remaking this film.

Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster isn’t just one of my favorite Godzilla movies, it is one of my favorite monster movies… ever.

King Ghidorah is, hands down, one of the coolest and most iconic monsters ever created. While he might not be as popular as Godzilla or Mothra, he is most definitely the best villain in Godzilla lore and the true king of Toho’s baddies. He’s also much better than any of the evil kaiju creatures from any other Japanese series whether it be GameraUltraman or anything else. Personally, Gigan is my favorite but I can’t deny the greatness and dominance of Ghidorah.

What’s also really interesting about this film is that it is where Godzilla really becomes a good guy and a protector of Japan and Earth from worse monsters. He teams up with Mothra, after the two of them fought in Godzilla Vs. The Thing and he also encounters Rodan for the first time, which starts off as a big fight but eventually ends with the two of them becoming strong allies.

Ghidorah has three heads, so I guess it makes sense needing three good monsters to fight him. Also, it sort of helps to build up the mystique of the new villain. For the first time ever, Godzilla alone can’t take on another monster. Granted, Godzilla, over time, would evolve to be far more powerful than the standard Ghidorah.

The story of this one is also interesting in that it introduces a monster threat from outer space, as well as bringing in alien races and a new sort of dynamic to the Godzilla franchise, which changes all the movies going forward.

Additionally, this movie was helmed by the A-team of Toho tokusatsu: director Ishirō Honda, writer Shinichi Sekizawa, special effects maestro Eiji Tsuburaya and composer Akira Ifukube. It also features the top Toho actors, the real core of the studio’s talent at the time: Hiroshi Koizumi, Kenji Sahara, Takashi Shimura, Akiko Wakabayashi and Akihiko Hirata.

While I like the original Godzilla and King Kong Vs. Godzilla more than this, this chapter in the franchise is almost a perfect storm where everything just sort of went right. It ups the ante in new ways, is a hell of a lot of fun and it’s the one film that really sells you on how menacing and dangerous King Ghidorah is.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Shōwa era Godzilla movies.

Film Review: Kaiju Bunraku (2017)

Release Date: March, 2017 (Glasgow Short Film Festival)
Directed by: Lucas Leyva, Jillian Mayer
Written by: Lucas Leyva

Borscht, 13 Minutes

Review:

A short film made in America about two cool things from Japanese culture coming together? Count me in!

This short was a great homage to the art of bunraku, which are Japanese puppets usually used on the stage to act out historical dramas. It’s also a good homage to old school kaiju films, especially those put out by Toho, as this actually features Mothra and includes the sound effects of Godzilla’s iconic roar.

The story is about a husband and wife in the era of feudal Japan. They are trying to reach shelter, as a kaiju attack is happening near their village. The big finale sees the husband come face to face with the larva form of Mothra.

There’s not much else to say about it, as it is really short. I almost would have liked to have seen this concept in a broader sense but it was probably a difficult endeavor in trying to create the 13 minutes that we got here.

I did enjoy it nonetheless. The puppetry was well done, the puppets, especially the Mothra one, were beautiful and the story was interesting.

All in all, this was a great concept but this film feels more like an experiment and a light exploration of that experiment. I’d like to see the filmmakers do something bigger with the idea because I think it deserves further exploration.

But if you like kaiju, bunraku or just Japanese culture in general, this is a cool way to spend 13 minutes.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the kaiju film that inspired it, 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla, as well as the short films of Niki Lindroth von Bahr.

Film Review: Destroy All Monsters (1968)

Also known as: Kaijū Sōshingeki (Japan), All Monsters Attack (alternate), Monster Attack March (alternate), Operation Monsterland (UK alternate)
Release Date: August 1st, 1968 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Takeshi Kimura, Ishirō Honda
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Kenji Sahara

Toho, 88 Minutes

Review:

This was the Shōwa era Godzilla film that literally had it all. It was jam packed full of kaiju, had aliens and a ton of kaiju action and really good action sequences that didn’t even involve monsters. It isn’t the best Godzilla film of its era but it is probably the film that is the most fun. And when I am introducing friends to the Shōwa era and old school kaiju pictures, this is usually the one I pop on just for the non-stop action and overabundance of giant monsters.

Usually these sort of films get convoluted by trying to wedge in too much. Look at the modern Avengers movies versus the solo Marvel films. Destroy All Monsters throws a dozen kaiju at you but they all mostly get to shine without stepping on anyone’s toes or complicating the plot. Granted, a few were used minimally but that was due to their rubber suits being in bad condition due to age and the effects of previous films.

While the story here is decent for a kaiju picture, it really doesn’t matter. This is the Royal Rumble of Godzilla movies and all these fantastic creatures come together. Initially, they are controlled by evil aliens and attack different parts of the world. Godzilla even takes out the United Nations building in New York City. Eventually, the monsters are free from alien control, which brings in King Ghidorah because every sinister alien group seems to have a Batphone to King Ghidorah’s study in his stately manor.

The highlight of the film is when all the good monsters gang up on Ghidorah and just kick the living shit out of him. I love Ghidorah but the mud hole stomping finale is friggin’ glorious! Then the film is capped off by our Earth heroes in a cool ship fighting a phoenix. I mean, really? How cool is this movie?

Eiji Tsuburaya handled the special effects, Ishirō Honda returned as director and Akira Ifukube returned to score the film. Honda and Ifukube took a hiatus from the series, after being instrumental in giving it life and longevity. The reason for their return, is that this was initially planned to be the final picture for Godzilla. However, Toho didn’t even make it a year before they were working on All Monsters Attack a.k.a. Godzilla’s Revenge, a universally panned sequel but probably gets a worse rap than it deserves.

This film is set in the future, at least at the time of its release, so the chronology is a bit confusing after this movie but I’ve always seen this as the real final chapter and the Shōwa films that came out after this one as events that happened before this picture. So when King Ghidorah dies here, he really dies and his return later in the series in Godzilla vs. Gigan was set before Destroy All Monsters.

I love Destroy All Monsters. It is not my favorite Godzilla picture but it is exciting for old school kaiju fans.

Ranking All the Kaiju of the Toho Godzilla Universe

The Godzilla universe spans seven decades, four different Japanese eras and two American remakes. In that long history, he has fought many deadly foes and had several awesome allies. However, the franchise expands beyond that as well, as some monsters that had their own films have crossed over into Godzilla movies, comics and video games. Toho has created a massive kaiju universe over the years and even if there are different eras and continuities, in some way, all these monsters exist in the same general realm.

So I feel the need to quantify these awesome giant beasts with a list. Because I like making lists and who the hell doesn’t like reading lists. Sure, our opinions may differ but that’s what the comments area is for. So feel free to list your favorites and discuss the results.

Also, I included the MUTOs from the American film for comparison’s sake.

How am I ranking these? Well, it is a combination of who is the most powerful, bad ass and the coolest. And of course, number one should not be a surprise.

1. Godzilla
2. Mothra Leo
3. Destoroyah
4. Monster X (Keizer Ghidorah)
5. Mecha-King Ghidorah
6. Biollante
7. Cretaceous King Ghidorah
8. Shin Godzilla
9. Fire Rodan
10. Gigan (Millennium)
11. King Ghidorah
12. Dagahra
13. Mechagodzilla (Showa)
14. Desghidorah
15. King Caesar
16. Mechagodzilla/Kiryu (Millennium)
17. King Kong
18. Mothra
19. Zone Fighter
20. Godzilla Junior
21. Gigan (Showa)
22. Rodan
23. Anguirus
24. Jet Jaguar
25. Mechani-Kong
26. Hedorah
27. Space Godzilla
28. Mechagodzilla (Heisei)
29. Gargantuan Sanda
30. Battra
31. Orga
32. Varan
33. Gargantuan Gaira
34. Megaguirus
35. MUTO (female)
36. Frankenstein
37. Megalon
38. Dogora
39. Gezora
40. Baragon
41. M.O.G.U.E.R.A. (Heisei)
42. Ebirah
43. Titanosaurus
44. MUTO (male)
45. Gabara
46. Moguera (Showa)
47. Manda
48. Kumonga
49. Ganimes
50. Gorosaurus
51. Kamoebas
52. Maguma
53. Kamacuras
54. Meganulon
55. Giant Octopus
56. Giant Sea Serpent
57. Minya
58. Giant Condor
59. Zilla

Film Review: Mothra (1961)

Also known as: Mosura (Japan)
Release Date: June 30th, 1961 (Japan)
Directed by: Ishirō Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Based on: a story in Asahi Shimbun by Shinichiro Nakamura, Takehiko Fukunaga, Yoshie Hotta
Music by: Yuji Koseki
Cast: Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyoko Kagawa, The Peanuts, Ken Uehara, Takashi Shimura, Akihiko Hirata

Toho, 101 Minutes

Review:

Mothra is the most famous Toho kaiju after Godzilla. Even though he started out in this film, his very own movie, it was probably a nobrainer to bring him into the larger Godzilla mythos. But before all that, there was Mothra and frankly, it was great revisiting this monster in his debut solo flick.

In a change of pace, Mothra’s introduction is due to people messing with his island. He doesn’t come to Japan because he’s just some rampaging beast. A bunch of jerks stole the Shobijin, who are two miniature female twins from Infant Island. Mothra crashes Japan to find the Shobijin and to return them to their home.

The special effects are amazingly handled by Eiji Tsuburaya. The miniatures were great and the heat ray trucks were a prototype for the maser weapon trucks that would be used throughout Godzilla films forever after this movie.

Mothra, as a creature, was the most beautiful and ornate kaiju of his day. Tsuburaya pulled off the creature effects superbly and the art department did a fine job in decorating the monster.

It is more fun to see Mothra rough it up with other monsters but even though he is the only creature in this film, it still plays well. It is similar to Rodan in that it didn’t need to rely on other kaiju to be a success and to leave a mark on the genre.

To this day, Mothra is still incredibly popular. A version of the creature also had its own trilogy in the late 1990s, after popping up in that era’s Godzilla movies.

Mothra will probably just always be around. In fact, Mothra’s first American incarnation is coming in Legendary Pictures’ upcoming Godzilla 2.

As for Mothra, the movie, if you are a kaiju fan, this is a must-see.

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.