Saturday, January 25, 2014

All Monsters Attack / Godzilla's Revenge (1969)

All Monsters Attack is the tenth movie in the Godzilla series. Ishiro Honda, director of the original Godzilla (not to mention Rodan, Mothra, Destroy All Monsters, and a host of other kaiju, or giant monster, movies), returned to direct this one. I just wish I could say it was as good as some of those others.

Besides that trailer being misleading as a whole, half those shots aren't even in the movie.

The film follows Ichiro, an annoying young boy troubled by the least intimidating gang of bullies you've ever seen. They don't even push him around that much, they mostly just tell him what to do. For example, early on there is a guy painting on a billboard, and the bullies tell Ichiro to honk the horn on the guy's motorcycle that is sitting nearby. He refuses and runs away like a wimp. Also, he refers to the main bully by the monster name of "Gabara."

It's hard to even tell which ones are the bullies. Ichiro is in the solid blue and Gabara in the red.

Ichiro's parents are both always working, often leaving him to come home from school to an empty apartment. As a way of escaping the unpleasant real world, he imagines himself traveling to Monster Island.

Pictured: The power of imagination!
That, or the effects of powerful hallucinogens.

That's right--this movie takes place in the 'real world' and all the monster scenes only exist in an annoying kid's imagination. There he encounters Godzilla, his son Minilla, and lots of stock footage from other Godzilla movies.

Ichiro talks to Minilla and learns that he has his own Gabara, a blue ogre-like creature that knocks him around just because. Godzilla doesn't help him because he wants his son to learn to defend himself.

Fat chance of that happening anytime soon.

Normally I deride child abandonment, but you can't blame Godzilla for not wanting to hang around his son--Minilla is probably the stupidest monster out of all these movies, and definitely the most annoying. He constantly squeaks like a pig being raped, and his only offensive ability (other than making all living things want to die just by being around) is to emit radioactive smoke rings:

I feel you, Godzilla.

In between talking to Minilla and watching him get his ass handed to him by Gabara--

--the two of them witness clips of Godzilla battling other monsters taken straight from Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster and Son of Godzilla. Of course, no one calls attention to the fact that Godzilla's appearance changes with each next fight.

You get Godzilla vs. Kamacuras:

Godzilla vs. Kumonga:

Godzilla vs. Ebirah:

Godzilla vs. jets (humans trying to invade Monster Island, Minilla says):

Even Godzilla vs. the giant condor from Sea Monster--they were really stretching to pad out this movie: 

There are also brief shots of Manda, Anguirus, and Gorosaurus taken from Destroy All Monsters and King Kong Escapes.

Back in the real world, we keep hearing about a pair of bank robbers that have evaded the police and are thought to be hiding out in the area. Ichiro at one point goes exploring in an old dilapidated building and finds a wallet. If you can figure out who it belongs to, you are too smart for this movie.

The robbers of course don't want anybody to see the wallet and find out where they are, so naturally they follow Ichiro and kidnap him, taking him back to the abandoned building. So what does he do? He dreams his way back to Monster Island. It seemed to me that there were bigger things to worry about than whether Minilla (or 'Minya,' if you watch the English dub) ever got away from Gabara. Then again, Ichiro can't even imagine fights that he didn't already see in earlier Godzilla movies, so he's clearly not the brightest kid.

Eventually, with Ichiro's help, Minilla beats Gabara.

I'm still trying to figure out how.

This finally helps Godzilla overcome his embarrassment of his son (the hidden character arc of this movie), and he shows up to tell Minilla that he isn't a complete failure after all. But Gabara, understandably pissed at being shown up by such a little @#*$&, makes the mistake of getting back up and attacking Godzilla, and we finally get some new monster action.

Gabara puts up a good fight with his electric hands, but Godzilla shows him who's boss.

Meanwhile, one of the robbers has gone out to steal a car so that they can make their getaway. Ichiro takes advantage of the situation to set up some traps in the building for the robbers (did he see Home Alone too?). When they come after him, he uses what he learned from Godzilla and Minilla to fight back (a robber with a knife is paralleled with Gabara through quick cuts, the spray from a fire extinguisher is paralleled with Minilla finally breathing a full-on atomic beam, etc.) and of course they end up getting captured. Happy ending, right? The movie can finally be over?

Hold on a sec--what about the bullies?

Well, the next time he encounters them Ichiro finally decides not to back down, resulting in the most awkward fight ever put on screen. The two of them grab at each other's shirts and spin around in a series of weird speed up--pause--speed up--pause strobe images that would make even Zack Snyder say "what the hell?" until finally Gabara falls to the ground, crying like a wuss over his hurt elbow. Happy ending, right? The movie can finally be over?

For some reason, the movie keeps going for one more little bit. Remember that guy painting the billboard from near the start? Well, he's still there, with his motorcycle still sitting nearby. Ichiro, proving that just because he was a victim of bullies doesn't mean he didn't deserve it in the first place, goes over and starts honking the horn on the motorcycle like they wanted him to earlier. The guy painting the billboard starts yelling at the little shit to get away and ends up falling to the ground, nearly drowning himself in paint. The bullies start to laugh and Ichiro runs off, telling his father, who is a train conductor or something, and whose train just happens to be passing by, to apologize on his behalf. I like to think the billboard painter didn't accept the apology and went on to brutally murder Ichiro, but the movie ends there. It's just as well--even with a running time of under 70 minutes, this movie couldn't have ended soon enough.

Okay, let's look at what does work with this movie. The Japanese version starts with a weird theme song called March of the Monsters that fits the movie pretty well:

The American version however, begins with a version of a piece called Crime Fiction, by Ervin Jereb, a totally bitchin' theme that doesn't fit the movie at all:

The rest of the music isn't bad either. It's much lighter than most Godzilla movies, reflecting this entry's kid-centeredness, but it's still pretty cool. Here's a sample:

Toho's special effects director, Eiji Tsuburaya, who had worked on all their monster movies up to this point, was ill during production on All Monsters Attack, leaving Honda to direct the new effects scenes as well. He didn't do a bad job, but Tsuburaya's absence may have been a reason for reusing so much footage from other movies.

As far as the monsters go, the Godzilla suit used for the new footage is the same one created for Destroy All Monsters, and it still looks good here (unless you listen to my dad, who described him as looking like Cookie Monster).

A quick Google search produced this image, so he clearly isn't the only one who sees it.

Gabara is a bit more divisive among fans. He's so weird that you probably decide whether you like him or not as soon as you see him. 

I guess it makes sense that he is as weird as he is since he was thought up by a kid as weird as Ishiro, but we'll get to that in a moment. Personally, I like Gabara quite a bit. Other than King Kong and the Frankenstein monsters, he's the only monster in the Tohoverse I can think of that is bipedal and doesn't have a tail of any kind. His strange humanoid form, evil visage, electricity powers, and mocking, laugh-like roar win him my approval.

The model work in this movie is restricted to just some areas of Monster Island. Most people probably think that landscape stuff is really easy to do--just toss some fake plants around--but there is a lot more to it than that, and there are no issues with it here.

There is one other sort-of-major character I didn't mention before because he doesn't really matter, but he did get a laugh from me at one point, so in the spirit of this movie being all over the place I'll introduce him here. An old guy named Shinpei, who designs toys and is a friend of the family, lives in an apartment next to Ishiro's. He kind of acts as a surrogate parent for Ishiro, feeding him and putting up with his bullshit and whatnot.

Anyway, I mentioned the thieves stealing a car, right? Well, Shinpei finds the car parked outside the abandoned building and looks at it closely, saying "I've seen this car somewhere. Where is it?" Then he jerks up and says "Wait! This is my car!" That leads to the thieves being located by the police.

That's it for the good. Now for the bad. I recommend ordering a pizza or something, because this is going to take a while.

I already talked a little about Minilla. For those wondering, his name in Japanese is Minira, as in 'mini' 'ra,' 'ra' being a common suffix for monster names, including Gojira. So Mini-ra is a mini Gojira. Obviously, it doesn't work so well with Mini-lla in English, but that's what we're stuck with.

Go die, you piece of shit.

Minilla is annoying and stupid enough in the Japanese version, with his permanent dumbass grin and general insipidness, his voice sounding like a muffled woman, as if they wanted you to know it was somebody in a shitty costume, in case you couldn't tell. Whatever. But the English dub gives him a dopey voice that sounds like a stoned version of Barney, as if they wanted you to know it was a shitty movie, in case you couldn't tell. Seriously, it'll make you want to kill everything. I'm not even going to try to find a clip because I don't want to be responsible for setting someone off on a murder spree.

As if Minilla wasn't bad enough, he's the perfect monster for Ichiro to imagine as his double on Monster Island, meaning Ichiro is just as bad.

Go die, you piece of shit.

This is but one of millions of cases where producers mistakenly assume that kids want stories with kid characters, or other cutesy characters, like comic relief animals. You see it in superhero sidekicks (you don't read Batman for Robin), '80s cartoons (how I hated Snarf in Thundercats), etc. Imagine a movie focusing on the most grating of those unnecessarily-shoved in characters (Snarf probably comes close) and you have All Monsters Attack.

Our lead is a doofus-faced runt who wears the shortest shorts legally available, not to mention being a total pussy. To be honest, I didn't think he was the worst of actors, part of it is just the character he is playing, but that doesn't make him any less annoying. Just seeing his face makes me want to punch my computer. All he does is mope around, feeling sorry for himself. Plus, he's extremely disrespectful, like when he disparages Shinpei's toy inventions, or the weird scene where he jumps on a car that is for sale.

He kinda bounces up and down in that position for a while…yeah...

When the guy selling it comes out to tell him to stop yanking on the door handle or he'll break it, Ichiro says the car is "already broken," and goes on to mess with the antenna. If the guy didn't make him go away, I bet he would have shattered all the windows and slashed the tires. 

And then there's the ending, where he almost kills the billboard painter. I get the message about standing up to bullies, but it seems that Ichiro just ends up joining them.

Another big problem with this movie is the blatant use of stock footage. This wasn't the first movie to do this (Monster Zero reused footage from Rodan), but when three-fourths of the non-Minilla monster scenes are lifted straight from other movies, it's a little much. Unfortunately, this movie signaled a shift in the series in the use of stock footage, going hand in hand with a lower budget.

Then there is the whole 'real world' part of it. Again, no one wants to see a monster movie where the monsters don't really exist. Honda does a good job of setting the real world apart from the world of the other movies, but that doesn't mean he makes it interesting. The movie is about a kid that is by himself all the time, and that means it's kind of boring.

The story doesn't help. I don't have a problem with the message being promoted here, but it isn't handled very well, and the movie, short as it is, is just too long for the content. It ends up dragging. Even the monster scenes are inherently less interesting when you know they aren't really happening.

Finally, we have the odd title: All Monsters Attack. All the monsters do seem to attack Godzilla in randomly strung together scenes, I guess that much is true, but it's still very misleading. The American one isn't any better: Godzilla's Revenge? While it's an awesome title in abstract, not only is the movie not about Godzilla, but he doesn't get revenge on anyone.

All right, this review has gone on longer than this movie deserves. Is it a bad movie? Well, technically, not really. It coherently tells a complete story. But that story isn't very interesting at all, and the movie ends up failing on every front.

As a Godzilla movie: None of the monsters actually exist, so the events of the movie don't actually continue the series, and we've already seen most of the monster footage before. Gabara is arguably interesting, but feels wasted here, and Minilla is the real monster star, which is the last thing a Godzilla fan ever wants to hear.

As a kids' movie: I saw this movie as a kid, and it bored the hell out of me. I did like that I could just fast-forward to the Monster Island stuff and watch Godzilla fight one threat after another in rapid succession, but I still hated the fact that all the monster stuff was in a kid's head. Plus, I had seen the movies most of that footage was from already. Other than that, I thought it was one of the most boring movies ever and didn't understand why it was even made.

As a movie for adults: There is absolutely nothing here. I could see misguided parents thinking it would be a good movie for kids to learn a lesson from, but if they actually watched it I think they'd change their minds.

I disagree with those that say this is the worst Godzilla movie, but it's definitely near the bottom. It doesn't make me angry the way some of the others do (it's no Godzilla vs. Megalon, at least I can say that), but it's still a big, disappointing waste of time. I strongly recommend skipping this one.

I want to leave on a relative high note though, so here's another shot of Minilla getting electrocuted:

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