AUGUST 1 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : GODZILLA VS GIGAN
If Godzilla seems a little tired-looking in Godzilla vs Gigan, it's because the suit used in the movie had been in an unprecedented three films, and it was in pretty sad shape by the time it got around to fighting the cyborg space monster Gigan. The suit is in such disrepair that little bits and pieces of the costume start flying off during the final reel.
Unfortunately, the fact that Godzilla is falling to pieces in front of our eyes is not the worst problem in this film. Beyond the obvious budget problems on display, the script is pretty ridiculous, even by the standards of Godzilla movies. Keep in mind, we're talking about a series of films that seems to think nothing of trotting out dozens of different alien races, all from different planets, yet all of whom feel the irrestible urge to wear jumpsuits. In Godzilla vs Gigan, the jumpsuited aliens (they wear orange this time) have come up with the goofiest plan for world conquest we've seen yet. Taking a page from "The Official Godzilla Movie Alien Conquest Handbook," giant monsters are part of their plan, but so is having their secret headquarters in a huge Godzilla-shaped tower situated in the middle of a amusement park.
Aliens hiding in an amusement park? That seems kind of unlikely outside of a Scooby-Doo episode, doesn't it? If we were aliens trying to take over the world, we would probably disguise ourselves as the heads of a huge software company. That way, even though we would speak gibberish and would have haircuts suitable for scaring children, no one would question the fact that we were human. That, and we would have a perfect excuse for our obvious meglomaniacal tendencies!
Who is our last line of defense against the insidious amusement park alien invaders? Is it a crack team of paramilitary commandos? Is it two wise-cracking men in black? Is it an alien with a British accent and a time machine that looks like a police box? No, it's an out-of-work cartoonist, his perky but fashion impaired girlfriend, and a hippie who is never without a half-eaten corn cob in his hand. You know, we humans have managed to hold back the seeming endless waves of alien invaders up to this point, but this may be the time the aliens get lucky.
One of the most crucial elements in any giant monster film is a balance between the "giant monsters fighting" scenes and the "humans talking about stuff" scenes. Quite frankly, the more interaction between the humans and the monsters, the better, but Godzilla vs Gigan hardly ever achieves that. The scenes in which people talk about the plot delay the monster appearances for too long, and the length of time it takes Gigan and his pal Ghidorah to lay waste to Tokyo means that you can go ten minutes or more listening to nothing but explosions and roars. Unless you're seriously immersed in the giant monster action, this movie can drag pretty badly.
Although this is one of several "alien conquest" films in the Godzilla series, few movies can match the awfulness of the aliens here. These extraterrestrials have exposition sickness in the worst way. Not only do they explain their plan in full ("If we didn't have these tapes, we wouldn't be able to control the monsters"), but they show a freakin' documentary to explain how they got to Earth in the first place! Of course, these aliens have occupied human bodies, because actual alien costumes cost money.
What is even worse than the aliens is the way the monsters are portrayed. In a move that has been reviled by Godzilla fans everywhere, Godzilla and Angilas actually have a conversation towards the beginning, courtesy of distorted voices (in the original Japanese version, we've read they used cartoon ballons). This movie also features some of the goofiest monster fighting in any of the Godzilla movies, including some unlikely tag team tactics from Godzilla and Angilas.
A few blows in this movie's favor: It has a very high monster-to-human ratio. Considering that the title only lists two monsters, it's a nice surprise that there are in fact four rampaging around Japan here. (We're not including the footage from Destroy All Monsters that appears near the beginning of the film.) Ghidorah, everyone's favorite gold-lamé three-headed dragon, accompanies Gigan to Earth, and Angilas fights (rather ineffectually) at Godzilla's side. Unfortunately, the film didn't have much of a budget, so most of the scenes of the city being destroyed are made up of stock footage from earlier films, particularly Ghidrah, the Three Headed Monster.
Also on the plus side, there are a few neat twists on the human side of things. The cartoonist's girlfriend turns out to be a black-belt in karate, so when there's butt-kicking to do, she gets to do it. As a result, she spends a lot of time questioning her boyfriend's masculinity, which is fun to watch. Also, the escape from the Godzilla tower is particularly cool -- our heroes actually formed a plan to escape! All we can say is that it involves a weather balloon and lots of rope.
Godzilla vs Gigan is not the film we'd recommend for anyone's first Godzilla experience -- it has too many scenes that run long, and the aliens aren't even bad in a fun way, they're just bad. The plot, while not complicated, has a few holes (the characters are particularly fond of jumping to conclusions without supporting evidence), and the monsters are looking pretty sad. At least we can take comfort in the fact there were other, better movies soon to follow before the original Godzilla series met its demise.