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

gmk1
Image godzilla.wikia.com

Some of you may remember Gamera.  At one point in the 1960’s, Gamera was a serious box-office opponent for Godzilla, commanding great popularity with children and adults.  However, his films continued to deteriorate with each succession, and at the end, his legacy was a final movie made almost entirely of stock footage.  He is best known to American audiences as Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder.  He became something of a joke.  Then there was an aspiring director named Shusuke Kaneko, who really wanted to direct a Godzilla movie.  He was unable to, however, so he settle for reviving Gamera in 1996.  This movie was very well received, even famous critic Roger Ebert praised it, and it led to a well received trilogy of movies that changed the public perception of what a kaiju movie could be.  After the lukewarm reception of “Godzilla X Megaguirus”, Kaneko finally got his wish; he was going to direct a Godzilla movie.  His vision for Godzilla is radically different, and the movie re-imagines Godzilla and some of his monster co-stars with a heavy spiritual theme, as well as harsh criticism for the way Japan treats its history.

Godzilla was defeated in 1954, and has become a distant memory for the current generation.  A monster attack in New York City prompts an discussion of Godzilla’s possible return (despite American insistence, the New York City monster was probably NOT Godzilla…)  The tension escalates when an American nuclear submarine disappears and a monster is sighted nearby.  Meanwhile, at Mt. Myoko, Yuri Tachibana is filming a “docudrama” about a local mythical monster.  The area has been plagued by earthquakes lately, and the epicenters seem to keep moving.  When the film crew experiences one of the earthquakes, Yuri spots a mysterious old man who quickly disappears.  Later that night, a biker gang causing trouble in the area prompts the appearance of the monster Baragon, who is causing the earthquakes.  One of Yuri’s camera operators finds an old book that describes a trio of Guardian Monsters named Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah.  The monsters were killed long ago, but their immortal spirits would return in 10,000 years time.  That night, a group of teenage hooligans terrorizing a dog inadvertently summon Mothra, who saves the dog and wraps the hoodlums in cocoons.  Following a lead, Yuri finds the old man she saw earlier two tells her that Godzilla was killed in 1954, but his body is now possessed by the souls of the soldiers who died in the Pacific War (World War II).  The dead soldiers are angry that their sacrifices were ignored, and are using Godzilla to exact revenge.  Only the Guardian Monsters stand a chance of stopping him.  Yuri relates the story to her father, Taizo, who doesn’t totally dismiss the idea since he survived Godzilla’s original rampage.  Meanwhile, the old man from earlier appears in the shrine dedicated to King Ghidorah, as the golden monster sleeps in a block of crystal.

gmk3
Image weylander5.wordpress.com

Godzilla reappears and begins a tour of destruction throughout Japan.  Baragon catches up to him and the two titans battle.  Baragon is clearly outmatched and is killed by Godzilla.  Yuri continues to film the monster as he is attacked by the military.  A large cocoon has appeared at the lake Mothra appeared at, and Mothra emerges from it fully grown.  Godzilla and Mothra head for Yokohama, where King Ghidorah appears in a weakened state due to waking up early.  The two Guardian Monsters, along with the military, attack Godzilla, but to no avail.  Godzilla easily shrugs off the military advance and severely wounds Mothra and Ghidorah.  Mothra is eventually destroyed, but her energy flows into Ghidorah and powers it up.  King Ghidorah manages to wound Godzilla and drag him under the water.  Taizo devises a plan to fire a drill missile into Godzilla’s wound and destroy him from the inside, and commandeers a submarine to do the job himself.  The plan fails, but Ghidorah is powered up once again by assimilating a piece of his broken idol.  The golden dragon, glowing with energy, attacks Godzilla, who seems to absorb Ghidorah’s energy beams.  Godzilla redirects the energy toward Ghidorah and destroys him, but the souls of the Guardian Monsters return and weaken Godzilla.  Taizo sees this as an opportunity to try his plan again, and pilots the sub into Godzilla’s mouth.  He fires a drill missile into the wound on Godzilla’s neck from inside its body, and Godzilla is overtaken by his own rampant radioactive powers and explodes.  Taizo survives and is reunited with his daughter, after he first pays his respects to all those who died to stop Godzilla.  However, Godzilla’s heart survived and explosion, and continues to beat…

This movie (referred to as “GMK” by fans) dared to try something different with Godzilla.  The monster has been the antagonist before, but this is the first movie where Godzilla is absolutely evil.  During the scenes of his rampage, he is obviously targeting humans, as opposed to his usual displays of indifference.  His eyes are completely white in this movie, just to further emphasize his wicked nature.  For the first time in a long time, Godzilla is truly terrifying, and the scenes where he attacks the city can be frightening.  Godzilla is also very cunning, forming battle plans and tricking his opponents.  He even uses Ghidorah a shield in one scene!  While Godzilla is the villain, there was at least one unusual choice for the hero.  Baragon, a popular monster from “Frankenstein Conquers the World”, and Mothra are obvious choices for the heroic monsters, but King Ghidorah appearing as a hero was not without some controversy in the fandom.  While it was forgivable in “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” due to him being a cyborg, it is a bit unsettling to see Godzilla’s most famous foe as the “big good” in this movie.  In addition, both Mothra and King Ghidorah were weakened to make Godzilla seem stronger (this may be the only movie in the series where Godzilla decisively defeats Mothra).  This decision was criticized by many fans, though it should be noted the monsters in the film were not the director’s first choices.  While the spiritual aspect was really played up, the most notable portion of the script has to do with Godzilla’s motive for attacking.  Godzilla is powered by the angry souls of the people that died in World War II.  Japan as a whole has had a history of not talking about World War II, and in more recent years information on the war has been censored and outright changed to hide what many leaders would consider “embarrassing”.  This has led to ignorance about this period in history among the new generation of Japanese youths.  With this movie, Kaneko is essentially saying that ignoring the past is irresponsible and potentially dangerous, and it would be best to learn about what came before even if it might be painful or embarrassing, and throughout the movie the more outspoken members of the older generation are portrayed as the heroes as opposed to the irresponsible younger characters.  While the themes may be lost on a non-Japanese audience, and many of the changes are not for everyone, the action is solid and the fight scenes well choreographed.  “GMK” may not ultimately be as genre-defining as Kaneko’s Gamera trilogy, but the movie is a solid and interesting take on Godzilla.  The movie did well enough at the box office to save the Millenium series, and another classic Godzilla foe would return for the next one…

gmk2
Image pastemagazine.com

Trivia

The Guardian Monsters were supposed to be Baragon, Anguirus, and Varan.  Toho wanted Mothra and King Ghidorah instead, believing them to be more profitable.  One of the suit designers was upset that Varan had been cut, so he designed King Ghidorah to have Varan’s face.

One of the first drafts of this movie had Godzilla battle a space suit that had been mutated into a strange giant creature.  Kaneko rejected the first draft as “too depressing”.

Many of the fantastic, spiritual elements were introduced because Kaneko thought that there was no good way to explain a 60 meter tall monster, so he thought people would accept a fantastic origin for such a creature.

gmk4
Image jmountswritteninblood.com

Advertisements

~ by Chris on May 15, 2014.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: