“Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack” – A.J. Hakari

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is the sort of unwieldy title usually reserved for Pirates of the Caribbean sequels. But when it comes to this chapter of the kaiju great’s saga, it couldn’t be more appropriate. GMK is one of the most epic films of the series, yet at the same time, it keeps the story at a pretty basic level. There aren’t any psychics, anti-Godzilla commando teams, or an abundance of extraneous elements to get in the way. There’s just Godzilla, the panic-stricken masses, and just the right number of monsters needed to keep this shindig fun and fresh.

Serving as one of the Millennium era’s various reboots, GMK begins as Japan approaches its fiftieth Godzilla-free year. But a number of strange events all across the globe seem to signify that the big galoot is alive and kicking. Tunnels collapse, an American submarine goes missing, and a gang of troublemakers mysteriously drowns, with all signs pointing to a monster at work. Sure enough, it doesn’t take long for Godzilla (looking his most demonic) emerges from the ocean and embarks on a destructive rampage across the country. But tabloid TV reporter Yuri (Chiharu Niyama) soon discovers that help is on the way in the form of three mythical “guardian monsters”: burrowing beastie Baragon, the winged Mothra, and tri-headed dragon Ghidorah. All three emerge from their ages-old slumbers to protect Japan from Godzilla’s wrath, though it’s obvious that the new, even more pissed-off Godzilla isn’t going down without a fight.

Throughout my Godzilla tour of duty thus far, I’ve found that I prefer those sequels that manage to incorporate bare-bones concepts without sacrificing their flavor. GMK pulls off this act rather well, basing itself on a fairly simple premise while delivering enough of what fans want the most. If you’re in the mood for straight-up monster warfare, then look no further than GMK. This flick is 100% attitude, ditching the cutesy vibe and lighthearted fantasy elements of past pictures in favor of depicting the Big G as a lean, mean, city-stomping machine. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this movie’s Godzilla is one nasty son of a bitch. Sure, Gojira cast him in a pretty dark light, but this is one of the few movies in which he really seems to have a vendetta against humanity itself. On top of just looking like a soulless beast, with freaky blank eyes and a much more fearsome design, Godzilla is all about spreading wanton violence, and not always towards the mobs fleeing in terror. Certain individuals even become targets of Godzilla’s rage, including a hospital patient who meets the business end of our reptilian friend’s massive tail.

This hardened edge is a refreshing change of pace from the series’ prior indecisiveness on how to depict the big guy. But the film hasn’t reserved the reinvention process just for the G in GMK. All of the monsters involved get a bit of a makeover, preserving their awesomeness without becoming too repetitious. The biggest change here is the casting of ol’ King Ghidorah as one of the heroic monsters. One of Godzilla’s most popular opponents, Ghidorah gets the chance to actually save Japan rather than savage it (and from how often he dies and gets resurrected, he’s undoubtedly meant to be the main monster). His showdowns with Godzilla are easily the picture’s highlights, although Mothra gives it the old college try during his encounters with the Big G. As for Baragon…well, he doesn’t get much to do except get his ass served to him early on in the proceedings. Still, it’s a pretty riveting fight that sets the stage for the engaging rumbles that comprise the remainder of the flick.

My complaints about GMK pretty much fall right in line with other Godzilla adventures. Though the monster action takes center stage most of the time, the human drama is still fairly tepid, and the reason the story provides for Godzilla’s resurrection doesn’t come close to making a lick of sense. But more often than not, GMK is a terrific, action-packed ride even kaiju outsiders might get a kick out of.

Rating: ★★★☆

-A.J. Hakari

Read more of A.J.’s reviews at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, Classic Movie Guide, and Terror Tube.

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