My Favorite Modern Giant Monster Movies

Off The Top of My Head

Since Gareth Edward’s Godzilla is turning a bigger profit than the Nevada pleasure industry I thought it would be fun to share with some of the newer Big G fans some of my personal favorite, lesser known, Japanese Daikaiju films and series. I’m sticking with the Japanese film industry for these so there won’t be any Pacific Rims or Cloverfields on this list. And while fans may say “that’s not a lesser known film” these are just the films that, in my experience, Kaiju neophytes don’t seem to know about. In addition I’ve tried to include a broad spectrum of giant monster movies. Those for die hard monster fans, horror fans, comedy fans, even kids’ movies.

1.)    Godzilla Heisei Series: This series started with the epically hard to find (in the states at least) Godzilla 1985 or Godzilla Returns. Then followed a terrific series of movies with some of the most creative monsters Godzilla ever had to fight and some of the best sci-fi stories in giant monster movie history. These movies follow a broad continuity where the people don’t always track from one film to the next but the general concepts do. Godzilla is halfway between good guy and bad guy in this series. He looks badass and the series has a very satisfying arch. For those unfamiliar with Godzilla or trying to escape the goofy king of the monsters from the 60s and 70s, this is a great series to start with.

Heisei Godzilla is one Bad Dude.

 

Godzilla Heisei Series:

Godzilla 1985

Godzilla vs. Biollante

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah

Godzilla vs. Mothra

Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla 2

Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah

 

2.)    Gamera Heisei Series: I know a lot of people grew up with Gamera on MST3k and became familiar with the giant, flying, rocket-powered turtle from his older, kid friendly movies, but this series changed it up. In the 60s and 70s Toho’s Godzilla took a page from Daiei’s Gamera and became more family friendly. In the 90s Gamera took a page from Godzilla and became a ferocious, kick ass monster. He’s still generally a hero, though there is complexity added by showing the problems created when giant monsters are stomping around fighting, even if they’re doing it for “good” reasons. Furthermore the second film Advent of Legion actually contains some very good horror elements. Gamera finally gets his due as a seriously good monster and made some of the BEST (no joke) Daikaiju movies out there. It’s only a trilogy and well-worth the time.

This isn’t “friend of all children” Gamera. This is “mess with me and I’ll wreck your sh*t” Gamera.

 Gamera Heisei Trilogy:

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe

Gamera 2: Advent of Legion

Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys

 

3.)    Big Man Japan: This is a stand-alone comedy/mockumentary following the life of a Japanese man who inherited the ability to grow to giant size to fight giant monsters who invade Japan. Directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto, who plays the titular “big man” it is an often hilarious look at the life of a guy whose job this is, rather than the more fantastical tales normally told. We see his lousy apartment, his broken family, his inability to live up to his ancestors, and how difficult it is to be publicly mediocre. It is very funny and marred only by a surreal (but typically Japanese) ending featuring some good, old fashioned, Ultraman style fun. It takes some getting used to but is a serious blast if you don’t take things too seriously.

The Big Man. Make no mistake this is a weird ass movie but tons o’ fun for giant monster fans and there aren’t enough INTENTIONALLY funny giant monster movies.

 

4.)    Rebirth of Mothra Series: I have no shame in saying I LOVE Mothra. In fact I may like Mothra more than I like Godzilla. I’m not sure if it’s her feminine wiles, her fuzzy lil face, or her endearing squeak (maybe it’s the hot little faeries that accompany her everywhere) but I’ve always loved Mothra… She escaped the Godzilla machine with her own films in the 90s the “Rebirth” series, which featured both Mothra and a “new” Mothra often identified as a “male” version. I have to stress these are KIDS movies. VERY much so. They are kind of like Willow meets Godzilla and have all the elements that keep kids watching, including bright action, kid heroes, and a generally happy mood. These movies are great fun, again if you don’t take them seriously and can just turn your brain off and view them as a kid. Great starter films for a younger generation of monster fans and a great series for Mothra fans in general. The first two are available on a two set DVD. The third one has NEVER been released in the states! C’mon Toho. Help a fan out here!

 

If you can’t find love in a giant, fuzzy, environmentalist moth there is something wrong with you…

Rebirth of Mothra Trilogy:

Rebirth of Mothra

Rebirth of Mothra 2

Rebirth of Mothra 3

 

5.)    Godzilla Millennium Series: These are my personal favorite Godzilla films. In these Godzilla looks as just about as cool as he ever has, there is a TON of monster mashing, loads of new opponents or a very good use of the monsters from the Toho canon, and some of the best human plots ever in giant monster movies. Godzilla stays somewhat “bad guy” here, and the humans fight to defeat him using all the best tricks from previous series, mazer cannons, mecha-monsters, other monsters. It has all the great plot elements too, invading aliens, guardian monsters, etc. The first movie is a terrific intro to Godzilla for someone who’s never seen a Big G movie. The third movie in the series takes a very different approach but is one of the best out there. The final movie in the series may be my favorite Godzilla movie ever. In it Godzilla is indestructible, EVERY Toho monster ever (and even the 1998 US “Zilla”) shows up, and it is just straight crazy action from start to finish. All of the monster suits look great. These movies are filmed well and you actually LIKE and care for the human characters. Just a great series.

Millennium Godzilla might be my favorite Godzilla design of all time. It’s close between him and Heisei, but the serpentine head and ultra spikey dorsals just make him extra menacing.

 

Godzilla Millennium Series:

Godzilla 2000: Millennium

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack

Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.

Godzilla: Final Wars

 

Those are my personal picks for giant monster fun. Of course there are MANY others but if you just saw 2014’s Godzilla and want a modern taste of great these movies can be sans CGI be check them out!

 

Bullet Point Review of Godzilla: The King is Dead, Long Live the King

BulletPointReviews

As a lifelong fan it was necessary to share my thoughts on the new Godzilla movie. It’s been ten years since the last REAL Godzilla movie. There’s a lot to cover!

HailtotheKingUpdates to the Franchise:

  • Appearance: Godzilla looks different but he’s still recognizable. He has the same low-center girth, thick body, long arms, spikey back, and upright posture. He looks more crocodilian now and more “naturalistic” since he didn’t have to be designed to contain an actor.
  • Symbolism: Through most of the Toho series Godzilla was Frankenstein’s monster, created by the arrogance of mankind’s science and now out of control. He now represents the power of nature, a force mankind has no hope to control and that can destroy us at will.
  • CGI: Ok…I give… CGI allowed Godzilla to have a different presence than the rubber suit Big G. The odds that we’ll ever see a guy in a costume playing him are low, but for CGI he did look and act like Godzilla and added some movement and dynamism impossible in Suitmation.

Plot/Characters:

  • New primordial monsters awaken and threaten the world in a fresh new way (the EMP field). Big G wakes up; I think just to defend his territory. Good update on Godzilla’s origin too. And how he relates to the “bomb tests” in the 50s.
  • James Rolfe at Cinemassacre declared he watches Godzilla movies to see monsters fighting and people talking. This film follows that mold. The people do plotting, explaining, and interacting. Sometimes they try to fight the monsters, which is typically laughable. The fighting is done by the monsters and is relatively spectacular.
  • How is Godzilla best used? If a Godzilla movie was Titanic Big G works best as either the ship or the iceberg. He is what drives the plot or he is what the plot crashed into. Try to make him a leading man and you get the goofball comedy Godzilla we had in the 70s. He can be fun in that role but it’s not the “King of the Monsters.” Here Godzilla is a little bit the ship and a little bit the iceberg. He’s used sparingly enough to retain his mystique, but often enough to keep the action up.
  • The human characters are good for what they are. Ford is driven from place to place for his family, running into monsters along the way. His wife and child are in the middle of monster central. Ford’s obsessed father is actually effective as exposition. And Dr Serizawa (nice nod to the 1954 film) is a good voice for Godzilla, explaining his motives (as he sees them). For people in a Godzilla movie they do quite well. I’ve definitely seen MUCH worse…

Monsters/Brawling:

  • The new Mutos are good, creepy monsters. They look a lot like other modern monsters, but the fact that Godzilla had two enemies evened the odds since he’s the “alpha predator.” Interesting tie in to both the consequences of nuclear power and humanity’s reliance on technology.
  • The monster fights are terrific, however brief. The older movies could be a lot of slow monster fighting in wide shots, but in this one the monsters tend to fight from the people’s perspective, which gives it a new element. Of course no one would complain for MORE monster fighting, but it was done well.  it also kept the movie fairly short by modern blockbuster standards.
  • Godzilla’s demeanor and ferocity are well-displayed. His roar sounds like “Voice of God Radio” that’s been tuned to high distortion and his Atomic Breath is like a neon supernova of death and both have enough elements of Toho G to retain continuity. Big approvals for both.
  • Best alliteration moment: Multiple Memorable Mothra Mentions!
  • Godzilla now wins the “Best Fatality Move Ever” competition.

Final thoughts:

Is it a perfect movie? No. The people sequences do go on and I would’ve traded about 15 minutes of human drama for 15 minutes of monster combat, but that is a tricky balance. Monsters fighting too much can become silly and cartoony, people talking too much becomes boring. This film did a pretty good job with the balance. This was Monster Movies Level 1010: Introduction to Godzilla. It did everything that made the Toho Godzilla movies great, and added some new film features, while always treating their source material with reverence and respect.  The only real complaint I had was the lack of the Toho Godzilla theme, which isn’t always a constant but it would’ve been nice to have the Big Guy arrive to the recognizable strains of earlier times.  Godzilla has changed, probably forever. Barring an unlikely Toho-produced Suitmation movie, Gareth Edwards’ film represents the future of the Godzilla, and though I’d welcome a return to Suit-zilla, if this has to be the future the future is bright. All other sci-fi/monster movies should really sit up to take notice and notes. To paraphrase Nas, the king is back; time to return the crown.

Rating: 4.5 Haruo Nakajimas out of 5

Naka

For those who don’t know it, this is the classic Godzilla theme.  He burst from the water and trudged toward some doomed city for 50+ years, often accompanied by this music.