Tuesday, April 26, 2005

GODZILLA, MOTHRA AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK

Toho Studios, smarting from the success of Daei Studios rejuvenated GAMERA series, decided to fight radioactive fire with radioactive fire and hired the director of those popular kaiju films, Shusuke Kaneko, to helm their 2001 installment, GODZILLA, MOTHRA AND KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK (2001, GOJIRA, MOSURA, KINGU GIDOR: DAIKAIJÛ SÔKÔGEKI).

Like most of the "Millennium Series" films, ALL-OUT ATTACK ignores all previous Godzilla films other than the 1954 original, and plays out as a direct sequel to that classic. Kaneko, hot off the box office success of his giant turtle trilogy, was given a completely free hand with the Toho monster mythology, and he recasts the creatures into new, sometimes drastically altered roles.

In this version, Godzilla is a nearly demonic force, with white, pupil-less eyes, and a more alligator-like head (although I think he looks a little chunky, to be honest). It is even suggested that the big guy is the living embodiment of the souls of Japan's WW II dead, out for revenge. Mothra, Baragon (from Toho's 1965 monster mash, FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD – apparently a favorite of Kaneko's) and King Ghidorah (who had previously always been portrayed as a malevolent alien villain) are reimagined as Japan's mystical guardian beasts, summoned to defend Nippon at the coming of the titanic terror.

Kaneko's film is entertaining and a nice twist on the mythology, if light on actual story, but it's not nearly as successful as his GAMERA films. The human characters are not particularly interesting, and it takes far too long to get to the monster battles. And when it does, instead of having Godzilla face his opponents together, he takes them on one-by-one in series of episodic encounters.

The effects are quite good, overall (even though, like I mentioned before, Godzilla looks like he needs a thighmaster) but there's a little too much CGI in this movie. While computer animation helps make the flying insect Mothra look more realistic, it's somewhat overdone. King Ghidorah often looks like he was pulled from an anime – although the final underwater battle between Godzilla and the three-headed dragon in Tokyo Bay is pretty damned impressive.

Once again, a great, 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Columbia. As usual, the only extras are trailers, a Japanese language track and optional English subtitles.

While ALL-OUT ATTACK isn't as good as Kaneko's Gamera Trilogy, it's still a worthwhile couple hours of monster mayhem.

BUY: Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah - Giant Monsters All-Out Attack