Guys, I’m fucking pumped. This month I’m reviewing one of my all-time favorite movies: Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (or GMK for short). It’s a movie as rad as its title is long. Directed by Gamera wunderkind Shūsuke Kaneko, this 2001 movie masterfully mashes together monsters, magic, and mystery. It stars a deliciously evil Godzilla, bolstered by heady themes, spectacular visuals, engrossing human characters, and slam-bang oh-shit monster wrassling insanity.
Let’s pick apart what makes it so fucking awesome, find all the juicy little Easter egg-y nuggets, talk about how we almost got Godzilla vs. The Mutated Spaceman instead, and reveal which GMK star spent the 70s shredding in a funk band! Kick over some little statues and absorb some souls, it’s time to All-Out Attack!
First, check out the trailer! It gives you a taste of the movie without giving everything away:
Plus uh, a commercial for Hamtaro toys. Ham-Ham and G-fresh were paired up for a bunch of double features in Japan. I get wanting to draw in a bigger audience by giving them more bang for their buck, but sticking Hamtaro and Godzilla together seems like a weird choice. It’d be like running an episode of Wonder Pets before Jurassic World. I’m sure they could have found a more natural match elsewhere. If only Toho had distribution rights for a wildly popular anime series about cute monsters battling each other…
Wacky promotional tie-ins aside, the trailer does a great job of teasing the spooky, mystical story, kick-ass monster action and gorgeous practical effects, but it unfortunately doesn’t feature composer Kow Otani’s score. The whole thing is fantastic, but here are a couple favorites that cover different ends of this movie’s emotional spectrum:
The whole score is great, evocative stuff. There’s a handful of themes that still get stuck in my head on a regular basis, and I am A-OK with that. For my money, this music is just about as iconic and character-defining as the classic Ifukube themes, which are put to spectacular use in the closing credits. If you’re like me and want to hear more, you could check out the suite Symphonic Fury put together:
Basically Kaneko and Otani are coming in red fucking hot off their ridiculously good Gamera trilogy, and they sure as shit didn’t phone in GMK. The movie opens with one of our leads addressing a class of military cadets. He is Admiral Tachibana, and he exudes so much fucking gravitas I’m shocked he doesn’t have little moons and rings orbiting him.
Sidebar: the actor that plays Tachibana, Ryudo Uzaki, is a prolific composer and frontman of the awesomely named Down Town Boogie-Woogie Band, one of the biggest Japanese rock groups of the 70s. DTBWB put out some seriously sick-ass music:
I like my rock bands like I like my baked potatoes: wrapped in tin foil, hot as fuck, and a little cheesy.
That funk song opened my eyes, this Pink Floyd-ish prog rock ballad opened my soul.
I thought this guy was bitchin’ before I knew he was shredding freaked-out acid rock back in the day, now he’s in the running for Coolest Person of All Time™. For real, surf around a little bit and check these guys out. Just at a glance they put out some killer funk, rockabilly, doo-wop, and prog rock tracks. This has really thrown me for a loop, guys.
The YouTube walkabout will have to wait though! Before he’s summoned elsewhere, Tachibana gives the cadets an inspiring speech honoring the efforts of the men and women that put a stop to Godzilla’s rampage back in 1954. He goes on to say that their efforts are as important now as they ever have been, due to the recent monster attack in New York City. It’s a neat nod to 1998’s Godzilla, followed by some expert shade-throwing:
Tachibana is rushed off because a US nuclear sub has gone missing off the coast of Guam. Now who does that sound like?
But per Tachibana’s speech, in this timeline, nobody’s really seen Godzilla since the original ’54 attack, so nobody thinks to suspect G-money is back on the prowl. If that sounds a little weird, it’s because GMK is part of the continuity-snarling Millennium series: the run of Godzilla movies that started with Godzilla 2000 and depending on who you ask either ended with Godzilla Final Wars or is still going today (with or without Legendary’s Godzilla movies, again depending on who you ask).
The first run of Godzilla movies (1954-1975, the Showa series) featured a loose, vague continuity from movie to movie. Other than Godzilla having a really neat character arc from Gojira to Son of Godzilla the movies all pretty much stand on their own. The second run (1985 or 1989 to 1995 or 1998, the Heisei series) featured a much stricter continuity, with movies’ events directly influencing their sequels, recurring human characters, and dead monsters staying dead. The Millennium series did something else still, allowing filmmakers for each Millennium movie to pick and choose their own canon, with the stipulation that they had to at least be canon with the original 1954 movie.
Which is bullshit, because Godzilla vs. Megalon should be canon with everything, Godzilla-related or not.
With different filmmakers custom-building their own canon, the Millennium series ends up being a run of unrelated (with one exception) alternate universe/what-if stories, all with varying tones, themes, and versions of classic monsters. It’s a cool idea that led to a pretty uneven series.
So for GMK, the timeline is Gojira->Godzilla ’98->GMK. Nobody’s first thought is “Godzilla must be back!” so Tachibana dispatches a pair of mini-subs to search for the missing vessel. The subs are cool and realistic, complete with claustrophobic interiors, and we get an eerily quiet moment as the subs scan the wreckage of the missing ship.
But then some suspiciously Jaws-ish music starts up…
The mini-subs get their shit pushed in, the music goes crazy (“WEEE-WOOOO”) and we get a fucking outrageously rad title animation as the music spins out of control right into the main theme:
Shit. Just. Got. Real. The opening credits are imposed over close-ups of monster skin, a direct nod to the classic monster mashes like Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster. From here we meet up with our human lead, plucky wannabe reporter Yuri Tachibana. YUP, rocker-admiral’s daughter! She’s a “wannabe” plucky reporter because instead of bringing hard news to the masses, she’s recording sci-fi schlock in the woods for a company appropriately called BS Digital Q.
The movie does a really fun job of introducing us to Yuri with one short scene. She wants to do real journalism instead of fakey Ancient Aliens-style bullshit, but she’s dedicated to her current job too. A flustered town official interrupts their shoot, accusing them of a bait-n-switch in regards to their whole thing of being fakey Ancient Aliens bullshit instead of a team shooting a culturally-enriching and tourist-attracting documentary.
Yuri explains that having a monster legend in their town will make it a major tourist destination. I follow that, that makes sense. She goes on to say the same thing has happened in Loch Ness with Nessie and Roswell with aliens. Just kidding, she says it happened in “villages” in the U.S. with tales of witches. Does she mean Salem? Does she mean in response to The Blair Witch Project? Is it meant to be a plausible-sounding bluff on Yuri’s part? Nobody presses the subject because it doesn’t actually matter, but it’s funny to see a foreign film warp a piece of American culture to fit their narrative, the way Hollywood does with foreign cultures.
A minor earthquake halts their discussion of witch-oriented U.S. tourism. While everybody’s shook up about the tremor, Yuri notices a creepy old man watching them from the woods.
She looks away for a moment, and when she turns back, he’s fucking gone. Oh yeah, this Godzilla movie is spoopy. Yuri shrugs it off as general weirdness, and the movie jumps ahead. We see the town official from earlier trying to impress some broad with the promise of incoming monster-tourism money, but a biker gang shows up and starts giving them shit!
These guys are rabble-rousing dickheads, and in their revelry they destroy a weird little statue near the official’s car. He freaks about that a little, but the bikers quickly get bored and take off: they are a streak of outrageous hairdos and be-fringed Elvis jumpsuits roaring off into the night for more vehicular debauchery.
Baragon collapses the Mt. Myoko tunnel on top of their flamboyantly-styled heads, and it is for sure is the scariest ol’ Barry has ever or will ever look (he gets pretty cute later). It perfectly ramps up the spooky menace and mystery of the film. It does a ton to set the tone and build the reality of this world. In GMK, when monsters do anything it has literally earth-shattering consequences, and they’re (seemingly) very willing to just mash us into person-salsa if we piss them off.
The incident is cited as an earthquake with a moving epicenter(!). Yuri begs her boss to let her go investigate and report on it, but gets shut down. Twenty or so bikers were buried in the “earthquake,” so Japanese Self-Defense Forces are deployed to try and open the tunnel back up. There is a lone survivor on the scene, but he may not be able to provide a very sound testimony:
With their sole witness a gibbering mess, the JSDF decide to focus their time testing out the D3, a bad-ass new drillbit warhead:
I love this thing. It’s a piece of quirky super-tech without being immersion-breakingly over the top. It’s also a nice, simple set up and pay off. We get the set up here: the D3 is launched and we see it work to help dig out the tunnel. The drill is powered by fucking rockets and makes the same sounds as Turok 2’s giddily ghoulish Cerebral Bore (sans the brain splatter noises). We get the pay off later: this impressive super-tech is launched at a rampaging Godzilla, and it feebly twists itself into multi-million dollar scrap trying and failing to burrow into his scaly hide.
That night Yuri decides to drown her workplace frustration in BBQ and beer (making her the most relatable Godzilla character of all time). Yuri’s friend and super nerd Teruaki Takeda joins her. Takeda brought a rare occult book with him (I think I know where he shops!) that supports Yuri’s theory that mobile earthquakes are not like a normal thing that everybody should be chill about.
SPEAKING OF WHICH let’s check in with some shithead teenagers raising hell around Lake Ikeda! They have a loud party setting off fireworks all night, break into a convenience store and rob it, then try to drown a precious doge with another weird little statue.
The eerie old man sees all of this and is not digging it. You know who else thinks they’re douchebags?
My girl Mothra has no time for their bullshit, flipping over their boat, pulling them silently under Jaws-style, then bum rushing the beach to mop up the fleeing dicklings. Like Baragon, this is the scariest Mothra has ever been, and it’s especially satisfying to see her fury aimed at a gaggle of canine-killing taint-munchers. Best of all, we find out later that doge is okay!
We jump back to Yuri who is now completely shithoused (told you she’s the most relatable Godzilla character ever) and being helped home by Takeda.
Tachibana and Yuri have an adorable sorry-off the next morning, Yuri apologizing for getting trashed, and Tachibana apologizing for being short with Takeda. Their brunch is a nice little character moment before they hear the news about Mothra going H.A.M. at Lake Ikeda: 11 are dead, and their bodies were found cocooned.
Yuri powers through her inevitable hangover and realizes the locations of the attacks, Mt. Myoko and Lake Ikeda, match up perfectly with the crazy guardian monster book Takeda gave her, and the weird old man she saw at Myoko was also at Ikeda. Yuri rounds up Takeda and her BS Digital Q buddy Aki Maruo to go hunt down the creepy old man and find out what he knows.
When they make it to Spooky McHatter’s neck of the woods, he’s in the drunktank for creeping around and hassling the locals with his doomsday prophecies. He’s got real fuckin’ bad news for us:
And like, soon. He instructs them to go wake up King Ghidorah, the Three-Thousand-Year Dragon, and maybe if all three guardian monsters work together they can hold off Godzilla. Maybe. It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, and a group of wiener-y tourists hanging out in a cabin will soon show us why.
These partiers aren’t sociopathic nightmares like their Lake Ikeda counterparts, but they are super glib about the whole “atomic monstrosity burned all of Tokyo down to radioactive ash” thing. They chide the “mean ol'” military for offing G-fresh, and discuss how cool of a pet he would be. Now out of context, I 100% agree with them, but GMK does such a good job of setting up its world and getting you in the correct headspace, I couldn’t sympathize with my fellow Godzilla fans in this instance. It’s a good thing too, because Godzilla rolls up and fucking flattens their whole house without even thinking about it.
The buildup to the stomp is delicious. The entire interior of the building shudders with each approaching footfall, and it looks like they specially built the sets on top of huge moving rigs to achieve the effect in-camera.
After this quick taste of Godzilla-y goodness, our leads soak up a little background and put the last few pieces of exposition together. Yuri and Maruo are poring over their interview with the old man. He says that Godzilla was created by the atom bomb, but he’s fueled by the wrathful spirits of those that died in World War II and have been forgotten. It’s another element that matches up with the prophecies in the Guardian Monster book, and it perfectly suits the supernatural tone of the film. Then the movie loses its goddamn mind for a minute:
It sounds batshit bananas at first, but I think its a matter of the translation missing the nuance of what they mean. Geologists can look at rock strata and get an idea of what was happening in the world on a geological scale: not that you can pop a rock into your Dell’s disc drive and have it tell you about the War of 1812.
This line is… substantially tougher to make sense of. Basically they’re realizing that the spooky old man built the statues to store souls, and that breaking the statues awakens the guardian monsters. For the most part I really like that GMK traded in pseudoscience for mysticism. Nowadays we all know radiation causes cancer, not monsterfication. But the world of the supernatural can do whatever crazy things your story needs it to. This scene would have played a lot better if they stuck harder to spooky spirituality: the Guardian Monster book could have just as easily included an explanatory chapter about the statues.
So somebody‘s got to go get King Ghidorah! Does the creepy old man do it? Yuri and her friends? PFFF HELL NO, how about a suicidal schmuck!
And said schmuck is played by Yukijirō Hotaru, who played the hapless Inspector Osako in all three of Kaneko’s Gamera movies. Over the course of those three movies, the character went from police inspector to brewery security guard to homeless drunk, so suicidal putz kind of seems like the next step in that character progression. Osako or not, he screws up at killing himself, unearthing Ghidorah instead!
Yuri and Takeda try to explain to Admiral Dad that the Guardian Monsters are real, and here to protect us from the imminent Godzilla attack. The monsters attacked the bikers and shitty kids because the Guardian Monsters protect the homeland, not civilization. Tachibana recounts his nightmarish childhood encounter with Godzilla, and suddenly we understand why he isn’t skeptical of Yuri’s monster theories, and why he seems to take the threat of Godzilla so much more seriously than his colleagues. When HQ tracks Baragon’s location, Tachibana is quick to realize it matches with what the book foretold.
Barry busts the old man out of the slammer! It’s pulled off with a whole slew of fantastic miniatures and composite shots. We get our first good look at the Baragon suit, and it’s way cuter in the light of day. Barry’s body language is super endearing too, and it’s pulled off awesomely thanks to suit actress Rie Ota:
The other jailbirds do like the trucker from earlier and mistakenly call Baragon Godzilla, and generally chaos ensues.
Because guess who just made landfall?
Yes. FUCK YES. One thing I love about this movie is that Kaneko takes care to shoot his giant monsters like they’re actually gigantic. The camera stays low, looking up at massive creatures that really fill the screen. The main exception are the gorgeously composited and composed wide shots, which use the scenery to set the scale and are still careful to not be “eye-level” with the creatures.
It might seem minor or obvious, but I think most of the less visually arresting giant monster movies forget to do this. GMK’s beasts “feel” truly gargantuan. This is it though, gang! Godzilla’s on the mainland! EVERBODY GONNA GET FUCKED
The music kicks in spectacularly and we get moment after moment, shot after shot of Godzillish glory. His roar shatters windows, people freak out, he swats stupid shit out of his way, and all the while the JSDF has to sit on their hands until the cabinet lets them do something!
Hey, remember those jabronis in the cabin that felt bad for Godzilla? One of ’em survived! She’s cuckoo-bananas and in traction now, but she survived!
Wouldn’t it be terrible if by some stroke of bad luck she ended up in a hospital in Godzilla’s warpath?
Whoo! Damn! Calls don’t come any closer than that! Right? Smoke if ya got ’em!
So this Godzilla is gigantic, unimaginably powerful, surprisingly cunning, and just the biggest, meanest asshole ever. He is amazing and I love him. If you scream, he comes after you personally.
This year’s Shin Godzilla looks to be the most ghoulish and horror-oriented Godzilla yet, but I’ll forever have a huge soft-spot for this giant, radioactive Jason Voorhees. He does take a break from his super-slasher antics though. The first time he unleashes his atomic breath it is sobering instead of sensational:
Yuri and Takeda try to follow the choppers to the monster action, and everyone realizes that Baragon is making a beeline for Godzilla. Baragon makes it to the resort town of Hakone, and the people there are… kind of charmed by him.
With Baragon trundling toward them, we overhear a vacationing couple: “It’s enormous but quite cute really!” “Hey quick, take a photo, and then we’ll run!” This movie’s surprisingly meta, so I have to assume this is at least partially a nod to Barry’s cult following in Japan. Plus he just is cute, even if it’s in an endearingly ugly, scrappy kind of way. Said cuteness makes what happens next all the more tense.
The ensuing battle is one of my favorite movie moments of all time. Even though it’s not the climactic showdown of our story, GMK has been deftly building to this moment since frame one. Tourists are frantically trying to escape, Yuri and Takeda are caught up in the crossfire, and thanks to an insanely ballsy news chopper, the whole world is watching to see if our so-called Guardian Monster is worth a damn. It’s not just a thrilling royal rumble of monster wrassling eye-candy, it’s an inevitable battle to the death with real emotional stakes. You go in knowing Baragon is thoroughly bone-zoned, but he’s a sweet, brave, scrappy little fucker that’s determined to go down swinging.
This fight is so fucking good, I’ll do my best to keep from just gushing about how good it is over and over again. It is visually incredible: a perfect storm of fantastic visuals and bitchin’ blocking and fight choreography. It’s fun and physical, focusing on tooth and claw brawling instead of beam-blasting.
It also gives us a little more insight into the monster’s personalities. Baragon is the clever and crafty earth guardian, so he’s constantly moving around Godzilla, using the cliffs and his burrowing abilities to surprise his colossal opponent and set him off balance.
Godzilla on the other hand is ever the vicious and cunning rage-monster: bodyslamming the bejeezus out of Barry, launching him at fleeing tourists, and just generally wrecking his ass whenever he can lay hands (or feet) on the little monster.
We’re also reminded that this Godzilla is upsettingly smart. Homie is playing chess, not checkers:
Godzilla doesn’t just send poor lil’ Baragon flying off aimlessly:
He uses him as a projectile against the news chopper… then keeps an eye the military helicopter:
Those JSDF pilots get a chance to escape though, because Baragon is desperately trying to get away from serial killerzilla.
The battle is exciting and dramatic, but it takes a disastrous toll on humanity. We see the nearby overwhelmed hospital, packed with bleeding, crying people and exhausted staff trying to help them all. Mothra’s cocoon’d up at the lake, the old man is frantically trying to get Ghidorah’s golden ass out of bed, and Yuri (unable to convince Takeda to lend her his car) barges into a bike shop as it’s closing, and chases after Godzilla on two wheels.
Yuri’s able to broadcast video of Godzilla live to BS Digital Q, and her fuddy-duddy boss is like “Hell yes we’ll preempt our usual garbage for this!” Yuri racing down deserted streets after an apocalyptic death monster is surprisingly intense: she’s like the bizarro kaiju movie version of Paul Revere, putting herself in a crazy amount of danger just to get the word out to people about Godzilla and the guardian monsters. What kind of danger? I don’t know, how about this kind:
Godzilla is pretty not chill about fighter jets. The defense line obviously doesn’t stop him from getting to Yokohama, with Yuri trailing right behind him. Despite some genre-savvy snark from the fleeing civilians (“You’re all gonna die!”), the JSDF manage to (mostly) evacuate the city just as Mothra makes her grand entrance!
This Mothra is more wasp-like than I prefer, but the puppet is undeniably awesome looking. With GMK’s story being as packed as it is, we sadly have to forego Mothra’s trademark fairies, but we get a little nod to the concept via a pair of identically-dressed girls watching solemnly as Mothra flies in to kick some Godzillass.
With King Ghidorah nowhere to be found, Mothra decides to tangle with Godzilla one-on-one. The creatures square each other up with some spectacular long-shots.
Just like with Baragon earlier, Mothra’s battle gives us a little insight into her personality and her role as the water guardian. She’s fast, fluid, and confident, using her superior mobility to rush around Godzilla, landing little hits when she can, and dodging his brutal attacks when she can’t.
It’s a little wonky to have a flying insect as a water guardian, but ultimately I think they made it work. Godzilla’s rumble with Mothra is even more catastrophic than his bout with Baragon: people are crushed by falling debris from buildings, Yuri gets thrown around in Mothra’s hurricane wake, and Mothra dodging Godzilla’s beam leads to a whole platoon getting blasted out of a skyscraper.
Finally the Ghidster shows up! He kinda looks like crap!
But there’s a story reason for it, which is awesome! This Ghidorah is inspired by Orochi, the legendary 8-headed god-dragon from Japanese mythology. Problem is, Godzilla showed up to the party a couple thousand years early, so Ghidorah hasn’t hit monster puberty yet, hence the missing five heads and general lack of radness.
In this premature state, his wings are shriveled and vestigial, and his necks are kind of stumpy. But just like Mothra and Baragon, Ghidorah’s going to do his damnedest to save the world from Godzilla. As the air guardian, Viscount Ghidorah can blast bolts of lightning out of his mouth, and his three heads can all swing and strike independently, like a golden whirling dervish. Ghidorah and Mothra try to tag-team Godzilla, but even that isn’t enough to overpower this huge psychotic asshole.
Tachibana orders the surviving JSDF forces to fire the D3s! Hey, remember those?!
Of course, the D3s fail to do much besides piss Godzilla off (even more, somehow), and individual dudes on the ground feel Godzilla’s hot atomic wrath for their trouble.
Mothra tries to sneak up on G-fresh as he’s about to flame-broil a passing battleship–
Luckily when Mothra dies, she turns into magical Goldust (as you do) that reinvigorates the up-til-now kind of useless Chancellor Ghidorah. Mothra’s spirit finally transforms him into KING Ghidorah. He’s now a big golden flying bad-ass that wields the awesomely-named spirit bomb, a big energy shield that lets him absorb Godzilla’s atomic beam and bounce it right back at his evil ass:
G&G take the fight under da sea. Tachibana spots the big gnarly gash on Godzilla’s neck, and realizes he’s going to have to slap a big-ass D3 onto one of the mini-subs and blast that big asshole himself. Yuri’s been arrested by MPs, overhears this and (understandably) is like “FUCK THAT, MAKE SOMEBODY ELSE DO IT!” Tachibana calmly answers her back, asks her to get to safety, and grants her carte blanche.
After all this monster mayhem and apocalyptic destruction, this is a necessary little character moment breather that makes the story personal again. It keeps the human characters real in a huge cataclysmic fantasy. Takeda manages to catch up with and find Yuri, and they decide to broadcast the battle from a nearby bridge.
Tachibana and his wing man (but they’re in submarines, so… propeller man?) approach the dueling god-monsters, while the world (including many of the characters we’ve met along the way) watches Yuri’s broadcast. This final showdown PERFECTLY intertwines the destinies of monster and man, and it’s a fantastic, well-earned emotional moment. Cinematic crescendos like this are what kaiju classics are made of.
But Godzilla is disgusted by your sappy human sentimentality! He blasts the bridge with Yuri and Takeda on it, they fall into the ocean, Godzilla fucking MURDERS Ghidorah and then eats Tachibana’s sub.
Just kidding, but all that stuff does happen! The sub can barely handle shooting down the esophagus of a nuclear hellasaurus, and Tachibana is knocked out as the cockpit goes dark. Maybe it’s a just a hallucination, maybe it’s some unspoken magic the guardian monsters conjured with their last breath, but Tachibana has a vision of Yuri urging him to get back in the fight:
Interestingly, Yuri is unconscious when he has the vision, and she wakes up when it ends. She wakes up to this though:
BUT ALSO THIS!
But if regular Godzilla is a big tenacious bastard, that goes quintuple for the GMK version. “Exploded shoulder meat? Fuck that I got murder to do!”
His beam comes out the shoulder hole! TO DEATH! Japan rightfully celebrates their victory over Godzilla, and when Yuri’s boss suggests calling up the spooky old dude for a follow-up interview, Maruo reveals he’s been dead for years and he doesn’t even show up on the interview tapes anymore.
Tachibana makes it back to shore safely, has another awesome mini-moment with Yuri, and salutes his fallen comrades… including the Guardian Monsters.
But Godzilla, being a horror movie monster (despite this being a fantasy movie), has to have the last laugh:
ROLL CREDITS AND BLAST THE MOTHERFUCKING GODZILLA MARCH. YAAHHHH! I love this movie. That was probably pretty clear. This review is turning out crazy long so I’ll try and wrap it up quickly.
The sub Admiral Tachibana pilots at the end of the movie is named Satsuma, in honor of Kenpachirô Satsuma, the long-time suit actor that portrayed Godzilla for all seven Heisei-era Godzilla flicks, plus Hedorah and Gigan back in the 70s, and Pulgasari in ’85!
Some of the miniature city sets were reused in Kill Bill Vol. 1!
As awesome as they are in GMK, Baragon, Mothra, and King Ghidorah weren’t Kaneko’s first choices for his Godzilla movie. They weren’t even his second choices. So who the hell was?
Okay, so his original script didn’t actually star Ultraman baddie Jamila, but it was the same core concept: an astronaut comes back from space infected with a horrible mutagen that transforms him into an inhuman monster. According to Toho Kingdom it was tentatively titled Godzilla vs. M, and would be a tragic tale of the misunderstood space monster desperately trying to ward off everybody’s favorite nuclear nightmare. According to TK even that was preceded by a treatment where Godzilla would face off against a new version of Kamacuras, the giant mantis monster most prominently featured in Son of Godzilla.
Kaneko bailed on both of these ideas in favor of Godzilla facing off against a trio of monsters that included Baragon,
Mothra and King Ghidorah Anguirus and Varan. RECORD SCRATCH SOUND EFFECT?!
I haven’t even reviewed a movie with either of those guys yet, so I bet you can guess why Toho executives were like “Make Godzilla fight some monsters that normal people might have ever heard of, we’re trying to make money here, dude.” I wish Anguirus and Varan could have gotten the GMK treatment. That said, based on the pre-production maquettes above, I don’t know if three quadrupedal dinosaur-ish monsters would have been as visually exciting as a giant worm->moth and three-headed golden dragon teaming up with one quadrupedal dinosaur-ish monster.
Monster designer Fuyuki Shinada still managed to sneak a little Varan love into the movie though: Ghidorah’s heads are based on his Varan concept art!
There’s so much in this movie that I haven’t even been able to touch on, but I gotta publish this review before August ends. If you come away with anything after watching GMK, it’s that Kaneko and his whole crew fucking love monsters, understand them, and understand their timeless, captivating power. GMK is just busting at the seams with giddy, infectious wonder. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is surprisingly thoughtful, out of control entertaining, expertly crafted, and perfectly balanced. Some fans are really bothered by King Ghidorah being Earth-bound and heroic, but it’s a total non-issue in my book (as long as he and Godzilla are trying to rip each other’s throats out I’m good). If you only ever watch one giant monster movie, make it GMK…. or maybe Mothra vs. Godzilla… You know what? Watch ’em both.