Creatively bankrupt and looking for one last fix of monsterfied entertainment, director Ishirō Honda brings audiences Invasion of Astro-Monster, a film that feels panicked and a somewhat brutal attempt to capture the science fiction boom of the time. With shaking hands and sweating brow, Honda dares to shoot for the stars, engaging with the premise that an atomic bomb could birth an overgrown lizard and have it do battle on some distant planet nobody has ever heard of. Planet X is inhabited by the villainous Monster Zero, and it’s up to Godzilla and Rodan to fend off this beast, and in exchange for their services they provide the cure for cancer. Manic energy aside, there is at least the sliver of hope that Invasion of Astro-Monster will be focused more on fights than it will on people.
Entities as cultural ambassadors and memorable components of universal art are few and far between. The iconographic tour-de-force of Godzilla is one of the significant, defining assets Japan wields. We may not see anything as bold as the trusting bond between film and country than this example here, not in our lifetimes. With that bond comes inevitabilities, the commercialisation and corruption, liquidating the valuable message and core of a film into its few, vague tropes. Happenstance inclusions of entertainment that spilt over and festered on the deeper, rewarding elements of the initial creation found within Ishirō Honda’s original Godzilla. But perhaps that was just a lucky flare that captured his usual humdrum monster movie madness he helmed throughout his career. Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster would certainly be an argument to consider when discussing the commercialisation of the popular King of Monsters.
As if the plight and horrors of atomic warfare weren’t enough, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah pits Asian culture against a kaiju on the verge of a nervous breakdown. While the series was beginning to wind down, the waning years of the Toho era decided to pull out all the stops. One last hurrah for a series of films they had depended on since the middle of the 1950s. With flash, futuristic tech taking on the titans of land and sea, Godzilla vs. Destroyah uses people and buildings as mere background noise. Setting the stage for its all-out warfare, the fond farewell Toho temporarily gave Godzilla is a finely tuned piece that collates the biggest and best moments of the series thus far.
Seeing a man dressed as an atomic lizard swat a giant bug out of the sky shouldn’t be this engaging. Mothra vs. Godzilla is a monumental, important film for the Toho era. Pitting the two popular kaiju against one another reaps truly great rewards, and is possibly the strongest sequel of the initial Godzilla piece thus far. But it is how the great Ishirō Honda captures the brutal destruction left in Godzilla and Mothra’s wake that makes it this engaging. Clashing these characters together is no small feat, and considering this was one of the earliest entries into the series, it is quite surprising to see that it works so exceptionally well.
While the Kaiju-clad screen may have spawned with a stark warning to the effects of the atomic era, the social commentary would live and die within Godzilla. Beyond that, a marketable monster was found, and has left his scaly print on culture and a slew of mediums that stretch far beyond the big screen. Credit where it is truly due, for it is a thoroughly interesting and engaging character, the depth was just never tapped into as well as the debut, although there are plenty of stories to surround him. An infant of the radiation that spawned the King of Monsters, Mothra showcases a spin-off of filled with all the tropes and tribulations of these Toshi terrors.
Why the families and politicians of Osaka were surprised that Godzilla would indeed strike again confuses me greatly. Surely the assault of a giant reptile on a city not far from their own would have made local, if not national news. It’s not as if the people of Japan did a great job of repelling Godzilla the first time, and if there’s anything the original Godzilla has taught us, it’s that he has the temperament and focus of a cat when approached by a ball of yarn. Godzilla Raids Again showcases the King of Kaiju remembering his unfinished business, turning his attention this time to Osaka and the poor souls that live there, constantly gripped by the fear of a large lizard swirling his spit and firing it at their buildings, their fighter jets, and their loved ones.
Using a giant lizard destroying various parts of Japan as the backdrop to a political thriller really isn’t the type of high-octane, mesmerising destruction you’d want or expect from a Godzilla movie. The famous Kaiju has seen himself launched through an astronomical number of remakes, sequels and spin-offs, so it’s quite surprising to say that Shin Godzilla is the best of the bunch. Taking conventional aspects of the Toho glory days and colliding them into a conventional political thriller that looks to merge crisis management with humanitarian panic. The Japanese ensemble presents how a government would react to an unknown creature tearing up the streets of their country, and provides us with some delightful scenes of destruction splattered throughout a story of survival.
I have and probably always will feel some sort of respect and love for the Godzilla films. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d mentioned this strange adoration for the series in just about every review I’ve penned for the collection of films that showcase this big lizard and his destructive friends, but it needs to be said. They’re all back in horrifying, futuristic action in Godzilla: Final Wars and they’re as mediocre as ever.