“Godzilla vs. Gigan” – A.J. Hakari

The ’70s was a period of experimentation in the Godzilla camp. By the time 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla brought the Showa cycle to an end, Godzilla had fought pollution, teamed up with a robot, and met his match in a cybernetic double. He also took his darkest turn since the original Gojira with Godzilla vs. Gigan, a change of pace that, if you know me, I welcomed with open arms. The film didn’t have the most sterling reputation, but I paid it little mind; there weren’t any annoying brats running around, and that was enough for me. But although Godzilla vs. Gigan’s mild intensity is undeniable, its perceived edginess translates into boredom, ending up a film more monotonous than mean.

Gengo (Hiroshi Ishikawa) is your typical cinematic artist, full of talent that’s unfortunately gone unrecognized. Our hero finally gets a break when he’s hired to design new monsters for a children’s theme park, whose biggest attraction is a massive, Godzilla-shaped tower. But, as it turns out, the guys spouting constant monologues about forcing peace upon the populace are up to no good (go figure, huh?) and soon reveal themselves to be alien cockroaches bent on world domination. To ensure their takeover goes off smoothly, the baddies have summoned not only King Ghidorah but also Gigan, what can only be described as a hook-handed chicken-bot. But the residents of Monster Island aren’t going to take their homeland’s destruction lying down, as Godzilla and little Anguirus make a beeline for the mainland to stop the monstrous invaders in their tracks.

“But A.J.,” you might ask, “why call out Godzilla vs. Gigan for unnecessary roughness when you’ve made it abundantly clear that’s what you want?” First off, how dare you use that tone with me, young man. Secondly, there’s a difference between hoping for something with a little extra bite and getting something a little too vicious. After the guilty fun of the ’60s, it made sense for the franchise to mature a bit, which I’m perfectly cool with. But where Godzilla vs. Gigan falters is that it’s not so eager to grow up. The film constantly shifts between ushering in a new era of more adult storylines and refusing to abandon the chintzy remnants of bygone pictures. The effect is nowhere near as schizophrenic as Godzilla vs. Hedorah, but the movie dabbles too much in both extremes. You’re either adrift in a sea of sci-fi mumbo-jumbo or confronted with some fairly tense violence, which reeks of wanting to have one’s skyscraper and crush it, too. I’m sure Godzilla vs. Gigan wanted me to have fun, but it’s hard to when Anguirus is getting carved up by Leatherface’s kaiju counterpart.

Also not helping matters is that Godzilla vs. Gigan feels pretty cheap. Godzilla’s seen better days, though he’s improved here over the deranged sock puppet look he’d sported in previous flicks. But what’s been done with King Ghidorah is nothing short of a travesty; often ranked in the upper echelon of Godzilla foes, ye olde gilded one has been reduced to a stiff, barely mobile shell of his former self. What’s especially sad is the abundance of stock footage, which strongly indicates the filmmakers really had no energy to spare. My best guess is that they put all their efforts into Gigan, because let me tell you, he’s a badass among badasses. Gigan is as ruthless as movie monsters get, tearing through major metropolitan areas in a way that had me nostalgic for the Gojira days. As indecisive as the story gets, director Jun Fukuda almost makes the monster battles worth the while, culled together with a certain spark that unfortunately eluded the rest of the movie.

On the basis of its fight scenes alone, I can’t completely dismiss Godzilla vs. Gigan. After all, it did provide fans with a villain so popular, he not only showed up in the following movie but also played a prominent role in the franchise’s last outing, Final Wars. But watching the flick scurry from one end of the kaiju spectrum to the other gets rather tiring, instilling Godzilla vs. Gigan with a sense of boredom I’m not sure too many of the Big G’s followers can forgive.

Rating: ★★☆☆

-A.J. Hakari

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

Leave a Reply