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Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
Not Rated

Starring: Chiharu Niyama, Ryudo Uzaki, and Masahiro Kobayashi

Rating:
****1/2
out of
*****

In 1998, when the American remake of Godzilla was being hyped to death, Tri-Star released a slew of Japanese Godzilla movies that had never been available before in the United States. While most of the hardcore Godzilla fans had already seen them, those without a connection to the kaiju underground were finally able to see the 1990s Godzilla films for the first time. Following the box-office failure of the U.S. theatrical release of Godzilla 2000, it seemed unlikely that any of the Japanese Godzilla movies made since would make it to the States. However, in early 2004, Tri-Star released two more Godzilla films on DVD: 2000's Godzilla vs. Megaguirus and 2001's Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (or GMK for short) takes place in a different reality from all of the previous Japanese films aside from the original 1954 Godzilla. (Similar to what happened in Godzilla 2000.) As a result, there's no need to know anything other than the fact that a giant monster named Godzilla attacked and destroyed Japan in 1954 before being repelled by a scientist's invention. Now, in the present day, Godzilla seems to be gearing up for another attack.

An American submarine has disappeared off the coast of Guam. When a rescue team tries to find it, they discover the remains of the sub and catch a glimpse of what appears to be Godzilla skulking back into the dark depths of the ocean. The Japanese military begins to mull their options if Godzilla were to attack Japan again. Commander Tachibana (Ryudo Uzaki) seems especially concerned but rallies his troops with a history lesson about the first Godzilla attack.

The commander's daughter, a reporter named Yuri (Chiharu Niyama), is working on a documentary for her company BS Digital Q, who specialize in questionable programming about ghosts and UFOs, when an earthquake occurs. Several hours later and only a few miles away, another earthquake hits. This "moving epicenter" -- which is not detected by the usual instruments -- intrigues her and leads her to a strange old man (Hideyo Amamoto) who tells her the legend of "the Guardian Monsters." He also tells her why Godzilla is attacking again. He says that Godzilla has been possessed with the spirits of people that Japan killed during World War II. They are returning to make Japan pay for its crimes against them.

Soon enough, Godzilla attacks, but a new monster appears. Baragon, a red, four legged creature, emerges and fights Godzilla. It appears that the legend of the "Guardian Monsters" is true. It's up to Yuri to convince her father that the Guardian Monsters are here to help Japan and not to fear them.

The two other "Guardian Monsters" are, of course, Mothra and King Ghidorah, and they appear later in the movie. I won't try to summarize the entire plot because, frankly, this is a Godzilla movie and it will ask you to make leaps of faith that other films would never dare to ask of a viewer. Just sit back and enjoy the ridiculous hodge-podge of science and fantasy.

This film marks the first time that Godzilla has been completely evil since his first appearance in 1954. He's been a "villain" before, but there was always some sort of explanation involved and he would usually do something to make himself seem like a misguided force of nature rather than pure evil. Not this time. Godzilla is bent on destroying Japan and, if his actions weren't enough to convince you, his pupil-less white eyes might clue you in on his possessed nature. He simply looks evil.

Director Shusuke Kaneko, who was responsible for the successful rebirth of the Gamera series, works his magic here by making the whole shebang gel into the most cohesive Godzilla film in a long time. Usually Godzilla films feature two sides: the boring human story and the monster story. Here both sides are entertaining.

Kaneko, who also co-wrote the script, brought the man responsible for the great effects in the last two Gamera films, Makoto Kamiya, to this project. The result is a wonderful blend of the traditional suitmation as well as some CGI work that makes this the pinnacle of the Japanese Godzilla films in terms of special effects. Some may complain about the look of Godzilla in this outing, which is a bit on the paunchy side, but I felt the positives of his newfound speed and more animated facial features outweigh the negativity of a slightly larger belly. Mothra, Baragon and King Ghidorah also look slightly different than they have in previous incarnations. All of them benefit from their upgrades.

If you're a Godzilla fan, GMK is really worth searching out and renting (or preferably buying) as it's really a treat. It's nice to see the series add a new dimension to the Big G and allow someone with some enthusiasm for the series give it a kick in the butt when it really needed it.

Trivia: The submersible "Satsuma" is named after actor Kenpachiro Satsuma, who stared as Gojira in seven films (from 1984 to 1995). (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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