Godzilla originally attacked Japan almost 50 years ago and was defeated, presumed dead. He has not been seen since then, but recently there have been disturbing reports that may indicate his return. Suddenly, giant monsters start appearing all over the place! First, a large horned creature with big floppy ears is seen burrowing up from the earth. Then, a giant caterpiller rises from the bottom of a lake. Finally, in an underground cavern, a large three-headed dragon is discovered buried in the ice. Are any of these monsters Godzilla? Just what the heck is going on around here, anyway?
Well, as it turns out, Godzilla is returning, but none of these new monsters are him. Godzilla, we discover, is a dinosaur millions of years old who somehow became infused with the souls of all the people who died in and around Japan during World War Two. Those souls are apparently upset that modern-day Japan has forgotten about them, and Godzilla has been sent to wreak vengeance. And the other monsters? Well, it seems they are ancient "guardian" monsters whose mission in life is to protect Japan. They've been sleeping for centuries and have now been awakened to deal with this new threat. The horned monster with the floppy ears who likes to burrow underground is named "Baragon," the giant bug in the lake is named "Mothra," and the three headed dragon is named "Ghidorah." How do we know all this? Well, it seems there is this mysterious old man who wrote a book on the subject long ago, and he is the one going around and waking up these guardian monsters by removing special stones that were marking their resting places and keeping them asleep.
So anyway, Godzilla reappears and ends up doing battle with each of the three guardian monsters, one at a time at first, and then in a combined all out battle, laying waste to much of Tokyo in the process. Oh yeah, and there is this plucky young female reporter whose father happens to be the admiral in the Japanese Self- Defense Force who is tasked with killing Godzilla.
This is the third entry in the "Alternate Universe" series, meaning it has no connection to previous movies (except the very first one), including the two previous Alternate Universe films Godzilla 2000 and Godzilla x Megaguiras. And, once again, they have decided to reinvent Godzilla. This time, though, they really reinvented him. He is no longer a dinosaur mutated by nuclear energy or a force of nature. Instead, he is a living embodiment of Japan's war dead. Maybe you have to be Japanese for this to make sense, but it really didn't work for me. Toward the beginning of the movie, when the military types are discussing whether or not Godzilla is returning, somebody mentions that a monster similar to Godzilla attacked America at the end of the last century, clearly a reference to the American Godzilla movie. Somebody asks whether that was actually Godzilla, and he is told that the Americans say it is, but not the Japanese. A terrific in-joke, especially for those of us who really feel that the American version was too different to really be considered "Godzilla," but I can't help wondering if the makers of this film have strayed a little too far from Godzilla's essential character themselves.
The movie has a number of good and bad points. The special effects are really top-notch, and Godzilla looks very imposing and frightening. His breath weapon is truly spectactular and used to good effect. Giving him dead white eyes was a nice touch, but I wasn't overly impressed with the overall design that seemed to be a throwback to the films from the 1950s and 60s; it made him look a little cartoony. And speaking of cartoony, Baragon was just not a good choice for this film. Not since King Seesar has there been such a goofy-looking monster in a Godzilla film. The animatronics were well done, but he just looked silly. Mothra, on the other hand, was extremely well rendered and looked as good as I have ever seen her. As for Ghidorah, well, I'm a bit split. He looked very CGI most of the film, which was distracting. There were some scenes, however (especially close-ups), that made him look very good indeed. It's just a pity they had to make him a good monster in this film.
I have to give this film a fairly high ranking, simply because of the great production values and special effects. But the plot just really didn't work for me, and I can't help feeling that they took too many liberties with Godzilla's essential character. Hopefully, since this film is part of the "Alternate Universe" series, the next film can forget about the wrathful souls of Japan's war dead and guardian monsters and get back to the Godzilla we all know and love.
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