The Godzilla Retrospective, Episode 3: The Bad, The Weird and the Meh

Godzilla's_Revenge_1969

You keep hoping I’m gonna get bored with this, don’t you?

No such luck, pally, cause this week we’re diving back into the Godzilla franchise in a carefree cannonball. But sadly this won’t be a dive into lighthearted fun. This week…this week is gonna be a rough one, people.

Godzilla’s Revenge (1969)

Every franchise, in film or otherwise, has a low point. A Batman and Robin, a Never Say Never Again, if you will. Godzilla’s Revenge is, without any doubt at all, the low point for the Godzilla franchise, a fetid black hole of failure and shame, not entirely unlike my last relationship.

Here’s the setup. Our protagonist is a little boy named Ichiro, who gets mercilessly bullied and picked on. His absentee parents aren’t there to help, and his only solace is his obsession with Godzilla and other giant monsters. Now here’s a problem one right of the bat, who wants to spend time with a Kaiju fanboy? God, those people are boring.

Anyway, things get worse when Ichiro is caught by a group of thieves hiding out in the area and has to find a way to escape. Now by this point you’re probably wondering how Godzilla figures into this, and what he’s getting revenge for. The answers are “Hardly at all” and “No one”.

You see, in times of stress, Ichiro retreats to a fantasy where he’s on Monster Island palling around with that Godless abomination Minilla, who can shrink to human size and talk. Yep, talking Minilla. Let that sink in to your nightmares, people. Minilla is facing bully problems of his own, not to mention the stress of having to live up to his dad.

The setup already presents a number of problems. “Climactic battles between herculean monsters for the fate of all mankind? Screw that, let’s teach a little boy to stand up for himself!”, the movie seems to say.

And it can’t even be bothered to do that most of the time. To put it bluntly, this movie has more padding than an insecure cheerleader’s bra. There are entire fight sequences lifted from other movies and just airdropped in to supplement the film’s already pitiful 70 minute running time.

What new monster fights there are are passable, but mostly are played more for laughs and mostly hinge on Minilla being an annoying little scrote-wart.

There’s no being nice here. This movie just sucks. Hard. If you skip even one Godzilla movie, for the love of all that is holy make it this one.

 

Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971)

So you’d think that after the 70 minute session of franchise-harikiri that was Godzilla’s Revenge, Toho would want to return to what made the series great in the first place and get things back on track.

You’d think that…but you’d be wrong.

They followed up Godzilla’s Revenge with this perplexing film and…God, is it weird. I mean it’s weird. Weird, weird, weird.

But let’s start at the beginning.

Godzilla’s opponent this time is Hedorah, an alien monster that feeds off pollution. Right out of the gate, that’s a good setup. A creature created by man’s nuclear hubris squaring off against a being powered by our own slow murder of our planet, and whoever wins, we lose.

But…then the director, Yoshimitsu Banno came along. I can honestly imagine how he felt. A young, green, unexperienced director being handed the reins of Toho’s flagship franchise. His head full of wild ideas and visions of him spinning a new kind of Godzilla movie, a bold and original game-changer.

What he turned out wasn’t so much bold and original as it was pretentious, offbeat and…well, WEIRD. For one, the tone of the movie is just off in a way I can’t put my finger on. This is actually one of the darker Godzilla films in the original series, with on-screen deaths and everything.

But there’s also these strange little animated segments that seem almost like the kind of running societal meta-text you’d see in a Paul Verhoeven movie, minus all the cleverness and insight.

There are strange visuals, probably meant to be some kind of artsy psychedelia, like when one character in a bar hallucinates everyone around him has fish heads.

This was actually the first Godzilla film in the franchise’s history to be produced without the oversight of producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, who was hospitalized during the production. When he got out, he told Banno that he had ruined the Godzilla franchise. And if you need any further proof that he was probably right, check this out.

http://youtu.be/3cjfJKMX11g

 

Godzilla vs Gigan (1972)

So how do you follow up two indelible black marks on a franchise’s history? Make something almost entirely forgettable and generic, apparently.

Godzilla vs Gigan is a movie so generic, it probably would have been forgettable even if it weren’t following up to two of the more memorably bad entries in the franchise. I suppose it could be worse, I’d rather something that’s just adequate over another a trilogy of movies that all make me want to pour bleach in my eyeballs.

The plot to this one is more or less straightforward. Evil aliens have a plan to take over the Earth, which for some reason involves creating a Godzilla-themed amusement park. A lowly comic-book artist is the only one who can stop them, and it all culminates in a brawl between Godzilla, Anguirus, King Ghidorah and newcomer Gigan.

The ending fight is laced shamelessly with stock footage, but also gets pretty violent at times, even featuring the first time the Big Guy ever bled on screen.

The only really remarkable thing in the movie is one scene in which Godzilla and Anguiras actually speak. In the Japanese version their dialogue appeared in word-balloons, but in the English dub they had full on voices. And if you think that’s really trippy to see…you’re very right.

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