Whilst Godzilla in the first film was depicted as a force of nature, causing destruction as he made his way across Japan, it was never really put forward that he was an evil creature. This was something that seemed to be confirmed in later entries in the Godzilla franchise as he became a force for good, protecting the Earth and fighting various threats. 2001’s Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack would change this completely, presenting Godzilla as a force of pure evil.
The film begins with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces being briefed about an American nuclear submarine going missing off the coast of Guam. Photos of the remains of the sub, torn to pieces, show a giant fin in the background, hinting that Godzilla may have risen again for the first time since his attack in 1954. Meanwhile, reporter Yuri Tachibana (Chiharu Niiyama) is producing a programme on the Guardian Monsters of Japan and investigates strange occurrences, such as a mysterious earthquake, and a giant cocoon that suddenly appeared in a lake.
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When Godzilla suddenly returns and starts destroying cities across Japan, a mysterious old man tells Yuri that Godzilla has been awoken by the spirits of those who died in the Pacific in World War 2, and that he is a spirit of their vengeance upon Japan. As Godzilla terrorises and destroys, the creature called Baragon emerges to fight him, but is ultimately destroyed. Witnessing this, the old man tells Yuri that only the ancient creature King Ghidorah, asleep in an ice cave, can defeat Godzilla.
Eventually, Mothra hatches from her cocoon, and with Ghidorah’s help, travels to Yokohama, where Godzilla is nearing the amassed military forces. Together, Ghidorah and Mothra fight against the evil Godzilla; but are ultimately killed. Thankfully, they’ve weakened the creature enough for the military forces, led by Yuir’s father, to launch a new type of missile into him, killing the monster. The film ends with Godzilla defeated, but his heart beginning to beat once again on the bottom of the ocean.
Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack discounts all of the films that came before it, bar the first film, and takes the horror elements from that movie and continues them on. The film features staggering levels of destruction, but rather than just showing buildings being destroyed, focuses on the human elements of that destruction. Godzilla seems to target people, rather than smashing buildings indiscriminately, and this leads to some harrowing moments. There’s one part of the film where a woman lays in a hospital bed, wounded from the previous Godzilla attack. The creature passes by the building as the woman looks on, horrified. She thinks that she’s safe, that Godzilla has moved on, but then his massive tail smashes through the building, destroying it and killing her. It’s a pretty extreme moment.
The idea of turning Godzilla into some powerful force of vengeance, with an apparent supernatural origin, is one of the boldest retcons in the series; but it works really well and makes big G scary. The fact that he also has all white eyes, with no pupils, adds to this unearthly, monstrous quality; and this tiny change to the design is surprisingly effective.
The decision to have Godzilla be the villain also leads to a strange inverse as rather than having Godzilla and Mothra team up to stop King Ghidorah, this time those two work together to fight him, making this one of the only times that Ghidorah is actually a heroic monster. To make Godzilla more threatening, these other monsters were also scaled down in size, allowing the evil Godzilla to tower over them both during their climactic fight. The film also incorporates some CGI elements to the monsters, particularly Mothra, which allows her to fly and fight in much faster and more fluid ways than in the past. Despite not being in the title, Baragon is possibly one of the best monsters in the film, getting a lovely new suit that looks great.
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Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack is a very dark entry in the Godzilla franchise, with a tone that you don’t tend to find in a lot of the other films. Thanks to this change in the formula this proved to be one of the highest grossing of the Millenium series in Japan, and was held up by critics the world over as an example of Kaiju films to show those who aren’t normally fans of the genre.
Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack was released in Japan on 15th December 2001.