So the new American reboot of Godzilla less than a month away, and to sort of gear up for it, I decided to write about my ten favorite kaiju films. This is admittedly somewhat of a pointless exercise seeing as how Chris Ready already reviewed EVERY SINGLE GODZILLA MOVIE last year and nailed the Gamera trilogy this year, and it's possible I won't be saying anything he hasn't already said, better. Dude’s an exceptional writer and you really should be paying attention to his work. Oh, and I might have taken a screenshot or two from his extensive Tumblr.
Anyways, here’s the first five, in no particular order. Absolute favorites are being saved for the next entry.
Godzilla Vs Megalon (1973) – This is my first Godzilla movie, the one I grew up with, the one I have two VHS and one DVD copy of. I’ve watched it so many times I practically have the whole thing memorized scene for scene. Megalon is one of my favorite kaiju. It’s also one of the worst Godzilla movies, but that doesn’t stop it from being pretty zany and fun. This movie explains a LOT about what kind of person I am and where my interests lie, to a level that’s maybe a little embarrassing. This is where my love of monsters and robots fighting began, ladies and gentlemen.
Return of Daimajin (1966) – The Daimajin trilogy is maybe the ultimate example of a studio just cranking things out to make money and little else. All three movies were released in the same year, and they all have virtually the same plot structure, where an evil warlord rules over a peasant village and blasphemes their god, only to awaken him in the last 20 minutes or so. They’re interesting though, as they’re the only movies I’m aware of in the kaiju genre that are samurai period pieces, and Majin himself isn’t as tall as other kaiju, which leads to more interaction with people. Or well, people interacting with large feet and fists, I guess. This one, the second one in the trilogy, is the most entertaining, with some great visuals like the statue of Majin bleeding when the villains hammer a giant nail into his forehead, the waters parting when he’s awakened, and the evil warlord getting impaled onto the mast of a burning ship. Good times.
Godzilla Vs Biollante (1989) – I feel like this movie has the best human drama to it, or at least the most interesting plot, out of any Godzilla film. Bioterrorists are after Godzilla cells from his last attack, threatening to release the monster from his volcano prison if their demands aren’t met. Meanwhile, a scientist splices those cells with the cells from a rose bush, which somehow merges with the soul of his dead daughter (killed by the terrorists) and forms the most wicked looking opponent Godzilla has ever faced. Biollante is a massive beast, especially in her second form, and the special effects are top notch, with Godzilla also getting a makeover, his most recognizable form. All the trappings of the previous Showa era films are thrown out the window. This, moreso than Godzilla 1985, is what ushers in the Heisei era, laying the groundwork for the rest of the movies to follow.
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995) – Following the success of the Heisei Godzilla series, Daiei Studios decided to bring back their own Godzilla knock-off, the flying turtle Gamera, but not without a big update. They gave writer and director Shusuke Kaneko a small budget, but free reign to go along with it, and the movie he made was a game changer. It’s so different from the Godzilla films (and arguably better), with an engaging plot and simple, real world approach to the monsters. No sci-fi tech here, only tanks and fighter planes. Set designs are incredible and the destruction is much more intense. Gamera isn’t indestructible like Godzilla, and takes a lot of punishment, leading to some extraordinarily visceral battles unlike anything else in the kaiju genre. Plus, Kow Otani’s score is incredible, that dude's one of my favorite composers.
Terror of MechaGodzilla (1975) – The final Showa Godzilla film, Ishiro Honda’s final as well, and one of the best looking to boot. For the American release they tacked on a weird 5-minute prologue detailing Godzilla’s exploits from the previous movies, which I’m actually really into. The plot is no nonsense sci fi action, with the alien villains from the first MechaGodzilla film wisely discarding their ape forms and dress a LITTLE more sensibly. Plus, this is the movie that gives us Titanosaurus, one of my favorite monster designs with one of the greatest roars. The destruction he and MechaGodzilla cause is just fantastic work, and they throw down on Godzilla when he shows up. Also: cyborg girl. I dig cyborg girls.