The Sacred Beasts of Yamato: 'Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah - Giant Monsters All-Out Attack' Review
I don’t hate old movies. In fact, I love classic cinema just as much as any connoisseur of film. However, the difference between Citizen Kane and classic kaiju films is that one relies on an intriguing plot, exceptional character development, and a surprising, pioneering twist while the other was praised for its visual effects in an age of developing VFX. That’s not to say, Citizen Kane is necessarily better than classic kaiju because it doesn’t depend as much on out-dated VFX. Simply that as a viewer used to the visual effects of today, it’s hard to watch a film that depends so much on very old, poorly-aged visual effects. When a movie’s only strength, or source of popularity, is how nice it looks on screen (and not in the Wes Anderson way), it paves a road that leads the film to a somewhat bleak future. Despite how exceptional or amazing it was decades ago, a reliance on “cutting-edge” visual effects in its hey-day will lose virtually all rewatch value and overall viewability 10 or 20 years into the future; see: Tron (1982).
That in mind, Giant Monsters All-Out Attack takes Godzilla back to its 1954 origins by placing him as the sole antagonist. A giant, fire-spitting, scaled abomination of a kaiju, Godzilla is back with only one goal, to eliminate mankind - starting with Japan. Enter a Japanese mystic who understands the threat Godzilla poses and summons the beasts of Yamato - King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Baragon, ancient Kaiju that have protected Japan from similar threats before.
I think my favorite part of the film is the synopsis; which is a surprise. Usually, good movies can have a terrible summary, but they defy expectations through various filmmaking methods. Though I’ve not been exposed to much kaiju, the summaries I’ve read have been very cut and dry if not exceptionally cheesy with trying to make Godzilla a sort of metaphorical teacher instead of a rampaging, skyscraper-sized lizard beast. Where Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is both original and derivative is that Godzilla is very much the big-bad. So horrifyingly threatening, that the only way to combat him, is to summon several terrifying Kaiju in the hopes their combined strength can best him. The argument could be made that the beasts of Yamato are a contrived plot device to have an excuse to have four monsters in one film, but of course, that’s the point. Instead of having these monsters randomly stumble upon each other and fight for no good reason, they have at least some backstory.
The film itself is not only a fine kaiju movie, it’s a great intro to kaiju cinema in general. The story isn’t canon to Godzilla lore, so it’s a safe watch in the sense that nothing that happens in this film is influenced by past kaiju movies, and nothing that occurs in the film affects any sequels or spiritual successors. What it has, however, are the classic cinematic tropes of all kaiju films. Odd, sometimes “too-human” movements by the kaiju (because they’re essentially guys in suits a lot of the time) detract from the monstrous, menacing presence these supposed mutated demigods demand. What’s more, the acting is nothing to write home about either; there’s a plethora of over-excited delivery and so-so terrified screams.
Though it should be noted; that’s not why you watch a kaiju film. You watch it for the goddamn monster fights - and there are a-plenty. Though Baragon may take to the sidelines a little too often (so much so that he isn't in the title), Godzilla, King Ghidorah, and Mothra have exciting, action packed fights. Seeing Godzilla take on two massive Kaiju by himself, and at times with ease, is an iconic display of the sheer capability of this legendary monster. If the film does anything, it shows you who the true king of monster movies is.
At the end of the film, I didn’t feel like I’d wasted my time. Though the rudimentary special effects were off-putting, you have to understand that this was made a long time ago. It’s just one of those things you have to get used to and eventually look past, to enjoy this era of Japanese cinema. Unlike the forgettable cyber-scape movies of the early 2000’s, this film is a part of a larger, grander franchise - the kaiju universe. While there’s enough lore in classic kaiju movies to fill a library of tomes, All-Out Attack is an inconsequential, non-demanding entry in an intimidating chapter of a film; making it a perfect entry-point for any curious would-be kaijunauts.