Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Top 5 Godzilla Movies

Saturday, I'll be seeing the latest Godzilla flick, Godzilla: Final Wars, on the big screen. It will actually be the third Godzilla I've seen on the big screen, having seen the amazing Godzilla Mothra King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack a year ago...or was it two years? Who the hell knows...and Godzilla 1985 in it's theatrical run. I'm a pretty huge Godzilla fan. I loved them as a kid. Then I tried to pretend that I liked them "ironically" as a teenager (irony really being just an excuse to keep watching Godzilla movies and listening to KISS records after you've figured out that they're crap). Now, I just love them, and I don't give a shit what anyone thinks. These are my top 5 Godzilla films. Not ranked in order, because each one is great in a different way.

Godzilla (1954): This is actually a very good scifi monster movie. It's as beautifully photographed as any Japanese film from that era, with a strange, shiny quality to the nighttime, rain-soaked city of Tokyo. Later Godzilla designs moved his eyes to the front of his head to humanize him, but in this version, the eyes are on the side, implying a reptile whose only thoughts are to satisfy it's hunger. There's certainly no sense that you could reason with this thing. Great theme music, great sound effects, and really kind of scary.

Godzilla vs. Megalon(1973): This was the second Godzilla film I saw (the first was the awful Godzilla's Revenge). They broadcast it on NBC, with a guy in a Godzilla suit introducing the film and cracking jokes between commercials (I recently found out that it was John Belushi). I guess this is my choice for a fun, "campy" Godzilla flick. It conjures memories of all those Saturday afternoon creature features growing up. Godzilla teams up with a robot to fight two monsters, Gigan and the incredibly weird Megalon (some kind of giant roach with a light on his head who spits exploding stones or something). And it's one of those where there's a kid with a baseball hat who keeps saying that Godzilla's not a monster, he's just misunderstood. There's so much wacky shit in this movie. Godzilla even does a flying drop kick on Megalon, which is utterly insane. The weirdest part is this scene right at the begining, when the kid is in the water on some kind of float that's shaped like a big fish, with two smaller fish on the sides that act as propellors or something. Every time I see it, I'm amazed that it's actually in there. It seems like the kind of false memory you'd have from your childhood--getting something you dreamed mixed up with something you actually saw.

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah(1991): This one is from the second series of Godzilla films, made in the late 80s and early 90s. Ghidorah is my favorite monster, so that gives this a big advantage. But this also has a complex, time-travel plot, probably the best story in any Godzilla film, and even some effective emotional resonance between Godzilla and an old Japanese general.

Godzilla vs. Destroyah(1995): The climax of the second series. For all-out, rock'em-sock'em monster fight action, this is the one. Destroyah is a pretty nasty beast, with elements of Alien and Predator in it's design.

Godzilla Mothra King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001): This might be my very favorite. Takes Godzilla back to it's dark roots. The new Godzilla design has a fat stomach, similar to old drawings of T-Rexes, and hollow, pupil-less eyes. This is sort of a reimagining of Godzilla as a mythological monster, representing the souls of angry Japanese soldiers (I think). The elemental gods of fire(Ghidorah), water(Mothra), earth(Barran?) and air(Rodan) must be summoned to do battle with him. You really feel the sense of doom when Godzilla is attacking, and some of the deaths hurt. And it has Ghidorah.

For the record, I think the fan-favorite Destroy All Monsters is overrated. It should be the best of them, but there's actually very little monster-vs.-monster action, and when there finally is, it's just everyone ganging up on Ghidorah. Although it is the best film title of all time.


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