Film Review: Return of Daimajin (1966)

Also known as: Daimajin ikaru (original title), The Return of Giant Majin (US TV title), Majin (Spain)
Release Date: August 13th, 1966 (Japan)
Directed by: Kenji Misumi
Written by: Tetsuro Yoshida
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Kojiro Hongo, Shiho Fujimura, Taro Marui, Takashi Kanda

Toho Co. Ltd., Daiei Studios, 79 Minutes

Review:

Return of Daimajin was the second of three Daimajin movies, which were all filmed at the same time and were all released in Japan in the same year: 1966.

All the films have a very similar premise in that they see a giant, stone protector arrive to smash the hell out of tyrannical warlords who try to exploit the weak and the poor.

These are also period pieces and have the feel of a jidaigeki picture until the big demon monster shows up and essentially transforms these into kaiju movies in their third act.

Overall, I found this film’s story to be a bit weaker than the first picture but that was offset by the big finale, which I liked a lot more in this installment. I think a lot of that has to do with Daimajin literally parting the water like the Red Sea in the Bible and slowly walking towards the village full of tyrants, building tension and horror.

Also, the evil tyrant’s death was simply awesome.

I also thought that the special effects felt a bit more refined and perfected. The miniature work was solid and it holds up over fifty years later.

The action also played better and it was just cool seeing the big demon crush these scumbags while tearing down their town.

While at face value, this movie might just come across as “more of the same”, it’s the subtle differences that make it work. I guess it’s kind of like Friday the 13th movies where they follow a predictable formula in the same type of setting but if you’re a fan of the films, you don’t care and each one just has something special and unique within it.

Most people probably won’t dig these movies and that’s fine. However, for kaiju cinema fans that haven’t experienced any of these, you really should check them out.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in the series, as well as other ’60s kaiju flicks.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Release Date: March 24th, 2021 (Asian markets)
Directed by: Adam Wingard
Written by: Eric Pearson, Max Borenstein, Terry Rossio, Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
Based on: Godzilla by Toho, King Kong by Edgar Wallace, Merian C. Cooper
Music by: Tom Holkenberg
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Lance Reddick, Zhang Ziyi (scenes cut), Jessica Henwick (scenes cut)

Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Toho, 113 Minutes

Review:

“The myths are real. There was a war. And they’re the last ones standing.” – Ilene Andrews

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

My review of the previous film in the MonsterVerse series ended with:

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

That still holds true for this movie but one half of the human story was really good and the best use of human characters, thus far, in this series, which has now made it four films deep.

This is also the best film out of the four, as it found a really good balance between action and storytelling and seemed to have fixed some of the biggest criticisms of the series. Well, except for the human characters but it did get that half right, as I already stated.

Looking at the human stories first, I’ll start with the bad.

This brings back the daughter and father of the family with all the drama from Godzilla: King of the Monsters. With that, it primarily focuses on Millie Bobby Brown’s character and just uses Kyle Chandler pretty sparingly. Honestly, it felt like Chandler probably filmed all of his scenes in a day or two. Also, this isn’t a knock against these actors, it’s just a knock against how they’re used, especially Brown.

In this movie, Brown’s Madison teams up with Julian Dennison, the fat kid from Deadpool 2, and Brian Tyree Henry, who plays a really annoying conspiracy theory podcaster that I can only describe as a male Leslie Jones. Basically, he’s loud, awkward and unfunny while trying so hard to be the comedic relief in a movie that doesn’t need any.

Anyway, this odd trio easily break into high tech, high security facilities and somehow end up in Hong Kong and just accidentally stumble upon MechaGodzilla. When it comes to them stepping up to the plate to save the day, they more or less fail, but then somehow short out an evil supercomputer with booze from a mini flask.

Needless to say, everything that happens around these characters is stupid, convenient and if they were completely edited out, it wouldn’t disrupt the main story and it’d actually be a much better movie.

Now on the flipside, we get the second group of human characters, who were f’n excellent! It’s almost like their scenes were written by someone else than the other group. The stark contrast between the quality of these two different human plot threads is kind of astounding and baffling.

This other group consists of Alexander Skarsgård, a guy I’ve always liked, as well as Rebecca Hall and the orphaned deaf girl she cares for, played by Kaylee Hottle, who ended up giving the best performance out of any human being in these movies.

Hottle’s Jia is a native of Skull Island and she’s the only person that Kong trusts, as they’ve developed a way of communicating with each other, secret from the adults on the island. Jia is the voice of Kong throughout the film and she is also his conscience at times. Frankly, it’s a really beautiful relationship that was crafted exceptionally well. It’s impossible not to get wrapped up in the emotion of their bond and the pain and love they share throughout the picture.

Additionally, Skarsgård and Hall are absolutely perfect in this and if any characters come back for future films again, I sincerely hope its these three.

Now on to the monsters!

As should be expected, both Godzilla and Kong were great in this. Every single battle was visually incredible and it far exceeds what has been done in the previous movies. Plus, we get to see MechaGodzilla show up to the fight in the last twenty minutes of the film.

The special effects in this are just superb. There were even moments where I almost thought that the CGI was a practical effect, that’s how good some shots were. The big final battle in Hong Kong is, hands down, the best action sequence that this film series has given us, thus far. Granted, I hope that now that they’ve really found their footing, it’s just a taste of what could come.

Something I wasn’t expecting and was thoroughly impressed by was the Hollow Earth stuff. Kong and the humans I like in the movie return to Kong’s true home and Kong even sits on the throne of his long dead ancestors. This part of the film also shows us a lot of cool creatures and we see Kong mix it up with some of them.

As far as the story goes, it’s simple, pretty easy to follow but I felt like it left me with a lot of questions that I hope are Easter eggs to be answered in the future. Especially, in regards to the Hollow Earth stuff and the mythos around Kong’s ancestors and their seemingly advanced kingdom.

I honestly feel like this would’ve deserved an 8 out of 10 or possibly higher but that bad human subplot really takes you out of the film when it pops up. I honestly wish all that crap would’ve been wiped from the script and freed up more pages to develop the story and the good characters more. But I think that Brown and Chandler had contracts that had to be honored, regardless of what that meant for the total package of this motion picture.

Still, everything else is so good that I really, really enjoyed this movie. I just hope someone does an edit, removing the bad parts at some point because I’d like to see it and I think it’d make the plot flow better and wouldn’t detract from the movie’s strengths.

I know that nothing is currently announced, following this film, but Warner Bros. needs to get moving on a follow up. Honestly, this is really the only good thing the studio has going for them after they’ve squandered the DC film universe.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the Legendary Pictures’ King Kong and Godzilla films before this, as well as the original Japanese films King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes.

Film Review: Daimajin (1966)

Also known as: Majin (France, US), Majin the Monster of Terror, The Devil Got Angry, Majin the Hideous Idol, Majin the Stone Samurai, The Vengeance of the Monster (US alternative titles)
Release Date: April 17th, 1966 (Japan)
Directed by: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Written by: Tetsuro Yoshida
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Miwa Takada, Yoshihiko Aoyama, Jun Fujimaki, Ryutaro Gomi

Toho Co. Ltd., Daiei Studios, 84 Minutes

Review:

The Daimajin trilogy is mostly forgotten today. Many fans of kaiju and tokusatsu flicks haven’t even seen or heard of the movie. There are several kaiju film friends I’ve met online over the years that were actually introduced to these movies by yours truly. However, I didn’t know about them either until I came across some photos of the movie’s monster online in the late ’00s.

I bought the American Blu-ray set when it came out around 2012 or so and since then, I’ve developed a really deep appreciation for these movies due to their uniqueness and coolness.

They’re not traditional kaiju movies and I guess you could even debate whether or not they even fit the kaiju genre, as they play more like a jidaigeki with heavy fantasy elements. Plus, the monster is just a giant stone statue that occasionally comes to life to crush tyrants and their minions.

My brain categorizes it as a kaiju flick, though, as ever since seeing this, I’ve always thought about how this film’s big stone demon would fare against Godzilla, Gamera and other well-known giant monsters if he were scaled up to a similar size.

The story here is simple and it’s pretty much the same for all three movies despite the smaller details. A tyrant in feudal Japan does bad shit and draws the ire of this angry god, who feasts on the sounds of the crunching bones of a tyrannical army.

Daimajin doesn’t say anything but his presence is greatly feared as he is simply a force of nature in the form of a stone man, cleansing the Japanese countryside of scumbags. He’s unrelenting and will not stop until small corrupt empires are flattened and crushed.

The story that leads up to the monster coming to life in this movie is pretty good. It filled in the blanks nicely and made you have an emotional connection to the people being victimized by the evil bastards that deserved their fate.

I love this movie, the film series and the monster. This is one of the coolest kaiju film series of all-time and frankly, it deserves a lot more recognition than it gets. These are much better movies than what’s typical in the kaiju genre.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in the series, as well as other ’60s kaiju flicks.

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: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)

Also known as: Gojira tai Mosura tai Mekagojira: Tôkyô S.O.S. (original Japanese title), Godzilla, Mothra, Mechagodzilla: Battle for Tokyo (US complete title)
Release Date: November 3rd, 2003 (Tokyo International Film Festival)
Directed by: Masaaki Tezuka
Written by: Masaaki Tezuka, Masahiro Yokotani
Music by: Michiru Oshima
Cast: Noboru Kaneko, Miho Yoshioka, Mitsuki Koga, Masami Nagasawa, Chihiro Otsuka, Kou Takasugi, Hiroshi Koizumi, Akira Nakao

Toho Co. Ltd., 91 Minutes

Review:

This is actually the last Godzilla film I had left to review. Sadly, it kind of sucks that I saved this one for last because it’s from the Millennium era and is kind of drab.

I think the big reason for this one not being that enjoyable is that it’s the umpteenth time we’ve seen Mothra and it’s about the sixth time we’ve had a version of Mechagodzilla.

Also, this picks up where the previous film left off but it’s more of the same and done about half as well.

I watched it just to complete my mission of reviewing every Godzilla film ever made. That mission is accomplished and I can rest now.

Honestly, though, this just reinforced my opinion on the Millennium era being the worst series of Japanese Godzilla movies.

It has the worst the effects, the worst soundtracks and plots that feel like they should’ve been thrown in the shredder.

This was hard to sit through and it just made me wish that I had closed out this kaiju-sized task by saving something from the Shōwa era for the grand finale.

I guess this era does have its fans but there are also people that think jenkem is a good time.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Godzilla films of the Millennium era.

Film Review: Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla (2002)

Also known as: Gojira X Mekagojira (original Japanese title), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 3 (alternative English title)
Release Date: November 2nd, 2002 (Tokyo International Film Festival)
Directed by: Masaaki Tezuka
Written by: Wataru Mimura
Music by: Michiru Oshima
Cast: Yumiko Shaku, Shin Takuma, Kou Takasugi, Yuusuke Tomoi, Kumi Mizuno, Akira Nakao

Toho Co. Ltd., 88 Minutes

Review:

“You gave me strength. So did the others. No life is worthless. I believe you now.” – Akane Yashiro

The Millennium Era of the Godzilla franchise is definitely my least favorite. However, the films aren’t bad, they’re just kind of meh, overall.

While people seem to really like this film’s direct predecessor, I actually liked this one a wee bit more. I think it had a lot to do with feeling less convoluted and not bogged down by so much fantastical mysticism.

This is just a sci-fi action flick with a giant beast and a giant robot. Even though the Mechagodzilla gimmick had already been done to death, by this point, this version of that type of story felt like it worked. I also love the redesigned version of the robot, now called Kiryu.

The plot also feels like it was lifted from an Ultraman series more than it feels like a rehash of previous Godzilla plots. Although, the duo of Mechagodzilla films from the Heisei Era had similar plot setups.

The reason I liken this to Ultraman is that it features a government task force that is fighting the kaiju threat. Instead of calling on Ultraman and various suped-up vehicles, the ace pilot in this story controls Mechagodzilla (or Kiryu).

The human elements of the story are pretty boring, though. The action scenes and monster battles are good, however.

But if I am being honest, this is almost completely forgettable in the grand kaiju-sized scheme of Godzilla things. Honestly, this whole era, other than the series’ finale, Final Wars, is pretty forgettable.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Godzilla films of the Millennium era.

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

Also known as: Gojira, Mosura, Kingu Gidora: Daikaijū Sōkōgeki (original Japanese title), GMK (abbreviated title)
Release Date: November 3rd, 2001 (Tokyo International Film Festival)
Directed by: Shusuke Kaneko
Written by: Keiichi Hasegawa, Masahiro Yokotani, Shusuke Kaneko
Music by: Kow Otani
Cast: Chiharu Niiyama, Ryudo Uzaki, Masahiro Kobayashi, Shiro Sano, Takashi Nishina, Kaho Minami, Shinya Owada, Kunio Murai, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Shingo Katsurayama, Takeo Nakahara, Toshikazu Fukawa, Hideyo Amamoto

Toho Co. Ltd., 105 Minutes, 89 Minutes (US TV version)

Review:

“[recalling his encounter as a child with Godzilla in 1954] The sky was blood red and filled with smoke. And through it a devil appeared, its face was twisted with rage and hatred. When it was over my parents were gone. I will never forget the wretched cries of the dead…” – Adm. Tachinaba

This is the one Godzilla film that many fans seem to love the most from the Millennium era. I disagree with that but it’s still okay and features some of the franchise’s most iconic monsters. Although, I don’t like how it sort of reinvents them.

Essentially, this is another reboot that ignores all of the films except for the 1954 original. It tried to introduce new concepts and play around with the mythos but it doesn’t work for me.

Honestly, my favorite thing about the picture is the inclusion of Baragon, a long-time favorite kaiju monster of mine but one that is rarely used and underappreciated.

Outside of the Baragon stuff, my brain starts to check out.

Sure, there’s kaiju action but this spends more time than necessary on human characters and new concepts than it does just trying to give us a massive kaiju battle royale. But I guess that’s why I like Final Wars so much, as it has the human element and story but it mainly features monsters fighting.

GMK is just boring to me, bogged down by too much fluff and experimentation. It loses sight of what a Godzilla movie should be and tries to take itself too seriously while also failing at that.

Maybe the more serious reinvention Shin Godzilla was so great because it was bare bones, simple and not overly complex.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Godzilla movies from the Millennium era.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

Also known as: Last Godzilla (India)
Release Date: December 9th, 1995 (Japan)
Directed by: Takao Okawara
Written by: Kazuki Omori
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Takuro Tatsumi, Yōko Ishino, Yasufumi Hayashi, Sayaka Osawa, Megumi Odaka, Masahiro Takashima, Momoko Kochi, Akira Nakao, Shigeru Kamiyama, Saburo Shinoda

Toho Co. Ltd., 103 Minutes

Review:

“There’s only one solution. We must kill him, the way we killed the first Godzilla.” – Kenichi Yamane

Well, this is the big finale to the Heisei era of the Toho Godzilla franchise.

Looking at the full series, I like that it had a pretty tight, cohesive narrative and cared about its own canon. The Millennium series would get all wibbly, wobbly and weird but the Heisei era is the best period of Godzilla films, if you want to actually feel like you’re watching a series where each film builds off of the ones before it.

Sure, the Showa era did this too but it was really lax on being strict with the details and kind of just relied on throwing more and more monsters together over actual storytelling and trying to work towards making a bigger arc for the title character and some of the other reoccurring characters.

That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy the Heisei films on their own, you certainly can, but it feels more rewarding when watching them in order and seeing how things develop from The Return of Godzilla to this film, eleven years later.

It also features Burning Godzilla, one of the coolest forms the famous monster has ever taken, as he glows from the nuclear fire from within because he exists as a living time bomb on the verge of bringing nuclear meltdown to anything and everything around him.

Being that Godzilla has to face Destoroyah, hands down one of his toughest foes, the timing for his added nuclear power couldn’t have been better. Still, his fight in this would be one of the most brutal he’s ever faced but it just adds to the epic-ness of the whole encounter and frankly, this was one of the best finales in the entire franchise.

In a lot of ways, this is the perfect ending to the Heisei series, as well as a great send off for what was established in the original 1954 movie, which also exists in this canon, as 1984’s The Return of Godzilla was a reboot that started as an alternate version of a second film, as opposed to being a reboot of the original.

This film’s biggest nod to the ’54 film is in how it brings back that film’s superweapon, The Oxygen Destroyer. And it is the use of that weapon that created this film’s new monster.

All in all, this is just a solid ’90s era Godzilla flick and it’s one of the better ones in the entire franchise.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Godzilla films of the Heisei era.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)

Release Date: December 10th, 1994 (Japan)
Directed by: Kensho Yamashita
Written by: Hiroshi Kashiwabara
Music by: Takayuki Hattori
Cast: Megumi Odaka, Jun Hashizume, Zenkichi Yoneyama, Akira Emoto, Towako Yoshikawa, Kenji Sahara

Toho Co. Ltd., 108 Minutes

Review:

“Godzilla! I still have something to settle with you!” – Lt. Kiyoshi Sato

This was the second to last of the Heisei era Godzilla films and while they tried to up the ante and get really creative, it falls just short of the film before it: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II.

The story picks up the plot threads about Godzilla Junior and the psychic chick from the previous movie. However, it mainly focuses on the arrival of SpaceGodzilla, who basically looks like a larger Godzilla with giant crystals protruding from its body. The creature’s origin isn’t clear in the film but it’s been theorized that he was born from Godzilla’s cells that ended up in the cosmos by either Mothra or Biollante’s spores. It’s believed that the cells were mixed with black hole radiation.

Anyway, the film also features the return of Moguera to the big screen. While this giant robot was never used in a Godzilla film before, it first appeared in Toho’s 1957 film The Mysterians. Moguera had then been used in other Godzilla related media. In the US, the giant robot is probably most recognized as an early boss in the original Nintendo Godzilla game.

In this film, Moguera, now spelled M.O.G.U.E.R.A. is created from the left over tech and armor that was salvaged from Mechagodzilla after its defeat in the previous movie. Since Mechagodzilla was created from left over parts of Mecha-King Ghidorah, it ties all these films together. And frankly, I like that Toho was really trying to keep a tight continuity in this era unlike the Millennium era that followed a few years later.

For the most part, the movie is engaging and enjoyable and it fits well within this series. My only real complaint about it is that the effects feel like they’re a step down from the previous few films. Maybe it’s due to the weird environment changes, like seeing the kaiju battle in a city populated with giant crystals and smoke, as opposed to detailed metropolitan miniatures but it does feel like SpaceGodzilla was created just to find a way to cut the budget in regards to effects.

Also, the Godzilla Junior suit is hokey as hell after it looked really good in the previous chapter.

In the end, though, I really like the baddie and seeing Moguera officially enter Godzilla cinematic canon was cool. But really, this is just more of the same when compared to the rest of the Heisei pictures.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Godzilla films from the Heisei era.