“Godzilla vs. Hedorah” – A.J. Hakari

To be honest, I thought I was prepared for something as monumentally silly as Godzilla vs. Hedorah. After experiencing firsthand the kid-friendly atmosphere of All Monsters Attack and Godzilla vs. Megalon’s asinine plotting, I thought that the franchise couldn’t possibly get any goofier. But after watching Godzilla vs. Hedorah, I’m prepared to eat my words, along with a side order of heavy narcotics. This movie is crazy to the nth degree, to the point that it doesn’t resemble a Godzilla film so much as it does the insane ramblings of a junkie on his tenth eight ball in a row.

Decorated scientist Dr. Yano (Akira Yamauchi) and his son Ken (Hiroyuki Kawase) are on a normal afternoon outing when disaster strikes. Whilst doing a little deep sea diving, Dr. Yano is attacked by a mysterious creature that leaves him with a bunch of nasty scars. In the days that follow, the same monster, which Ken christens “Hedorah,” seems to be growing even larger and has set about capsizing ships as he continues cruising the ocean. Dr. Yano and company eventually determine that Hedorah is the unholy offspring of a fallen meteorite and, most importantly, Japan’s own pollution. The more waste Hedorah (looking more like the love child of Swamp Thing and the Kraken) consumes, the more powerful he becomes, evolving into an extremely toxic force that could lead to the end of the world. But with his very homeland under attack, Godzilla emerges from the woodwork to defeat Hedorah and give him the beating of the century while doing it.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a train wreck of such grand proportions, I’m not even sure the people who created it knew they were making a Godzilla movie. I’m positive that writer/director Yoshimitsu Banno was in the middle of a week-long bender, saw a poster for Destroy All Monsters, and said to himself, “Hey, I could do that!” The result is an incredibly disjointed affair, one whose bizarre nature you can’t even have fun with, since you’re too busy trying to sort out what the hell is going on. The greatest problem at work with Godzilla vs. Hedorah is that it tries to please too many people at the same time. On the one hand, you get the feeling that Banno wanted to take Godzilla back to his serious roots by pitting him against his darkest opponent yet. Seriously, Hedorah is one tough customer, hurling acidic blobs and giving off a mist that can melt people to skeletons. Godzilla villains don’t get any scarier than this, and there’s even some discussion about whether it’s such a good idea that two destructive forces like these should meet.

But such thematic elements last a grand total of about five seconds, as Godzilla vs. Hedorah bides most of its time by mercilessly beating its “save the planet” message into your cerebral cortex. I’ve seen “Captain Planet” episodes more subtle than this movie, which loses whatever resonance it has just by pressing on so long and so forcefully. The flick just isn’t any fun to watch, even though, in a schizophrenic twist, Banno and crew want you to do just that. Contributing to Godzilla vs. Hedorah’s erratic nature is how it awkwardly tries to lighten the mood. A good bit of the film centers on little Ken, which is no biggie, but then the story decides to randomly thrust in strange animated sequences, lessons about outer space, and a psychedelic club scene that has no bearing on the plot whatsoever. All of this ends up freaking you out to no end, with little Godzilla action to break things up. Those few scenes that actually do include the Big G are still pretty fun, especially a hilarious moment during the climactic brawl in which he propels himself through the air to catch up with a fleeing Hedorah.

I might have enjoyed Godzilla vs. Hedorah more if the entire story was taken on with a much more tongue-in-cheek attitude. But like the worst of B-movies, Godzilla vs. Hedorah has the audacity to actually take itself sort of seriously, which, in this case, is like Dane Cook trying to play Hamlet.

Rating: ★½☆☆

-A.J. Hakari

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

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