Thursday, March 21, 2013

#Godzilla2013 Entry #7: INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER

Directed by: Ishiro Honda
Written by: Shinichi Sekizawa
Starring: Nick Adams, Akira Takarada, Jut Tazaki, Akira Kubo, Yoshio Tscuhiya, Haruo Nakajima, Masaki Shinohara, and Shôichi Hirose
Synopsis: When a pair of astronauts discover an advanced alien race on Planet X, they agree to give them Godzilla and Rodan to fight King Ghidorah who terrorizes Planet X. But the aliens have a ulterior motives for the monsters.

So what I really enjoyed about INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER (Kaijû daisensô) is that it's probably the first remake of a movie within same series. Because seriously, this is such a similar story to GHIDORAH, THE THREE HEADED MONSTER. It's also the first time that we have seen a "villain" come back in the series again. This film is notable for being the last of the Honda-directed movies for a while after he has directed all but one of the films up to this point.

The tone of the movie feels like that of those space-age, sci-fi movies or even something like Moonraker. The world where Godzilla lives seems to have advanced quite rapidly all of the sudden without any explanation. The astronauts go to Planet X, which is a newly discovered planet behind Jupiter. When the astronauts get there, they find that there's a race of aliens that live in constant fear of "Monster Zero," who turns out to be none other than King Ghidorah. The aliens from Planet X want to make a deal with the people of Earth; give them Godzilla and Rodan so they can stop Ghidorah, and they will give Earth the cure for cancer.

I trust that if you're reading this, you're a movie fan, and you know that this sound wayyyyyyyyy too good to be true. After returning to earth and relaying the message from the Planet X's aliens to the council of Earth leaders, who just so happen to be Japanese, they decide to reluctantly give up the monsters. There's a very interesting dilemma here because a lot of characters ended up having debates about how "ethical" it was to use these monsters to benefit ourselves. Another interesting aspect was the further humanization of Godzilla. After being abducted to Planet X, the astronauts, Fuji and Glen, comment on how it seems that Godzilla looks like he is upset at being taken away from earth, further foreshadowing his more heroic characterization later. 

Up until the last movie, we have seen Godzilla as a villain of the story, so the fact that there is debate is either a deliberate attempt at humanizing and making Godzilla a more sympathetic figure or maybe a metaphor for something more culturally relevant that I haven't been able to discover. Ultimately, the aliens control the three monsters via airwaves and have them attack the earth, and unless we surrender, there will be nothing but destruction. This is a cool concept in terms of how the monsters are used as weapons instead of forces of nature. This is a more interesting look at the destructive power of what they can do in theory. One of the things that I found really goofy was the fact that the “World Council” was all Japanese gentlemen and that Godzilla, Rodan, and Ghidorah’s rampage is only relegated to Japan itself. It’s nice to see that the nationalistic tendencies, like American movies, is everywhere.

In terms of the human story, this was a good mix of having characters that were interesting and that added something to the dynamic of the movie. The movie mostly follows the astronauts, Fuji and Glen, as they deal with their personal lives and their duty as the men who discover Planet X and its aliens. Fuji has a weird relationship with his sister of whom he’s very protective of. She is dating a dorky scientist that ends up saving the day with his sound wave invention. Glen is in love with a Planet X agent. Nevertheless, it is interesting that the movie deals with humans making a Faustian type of arrangement just because they blindly wanted to have the cure for cancer even if they didn’t think to explore the threat that was hidden in Planet X’s plans.

To the movie’s credit, it has really decent special effects, great practical effects with the space ships, and the awesome looking sets of Planet X. The monster suits look pretty….off. I understand that there’s a transition going on in terms of the Godzilla suits, but seriously, he looks like there’s something off with the big guy. Even Rodan didn’t look as weird in the last movie as he did this time around.

A big and lazy plot point of the movie is one of the few complaints I have. Humans defeat Planet X with a silly dues ex machine of sound wave. This machine not only breaks their control over Godzilla, Ghidorah, and Rodan, but it also messes up their bases. Seeing as many alien invasion movies, the laziest thing I see is how we always defeat aliens who have superior technology, firepower, and manpower with some super simple technology. For example, SIGNS had the aliens be allergic to water?, INDEPENDENCE DAY had the aliens be susceptible to primitive Mac viruses, etc… While I understand that this movie precedes all of them, I find this type of plot device of defeating aliens with super simple technology really lazy.

Ishido Honda took Godzilla from being a villain to becoming an antihero. Honda has directed all but GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN in the series so far, and his direction along with the partnership with writer Sinichi Sekizawa has been instrumental in the series so far. There were a few missteps along, but INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER serves as a fun send off for the man that started it all. Also, this movie has Godzilla doing this #KaijuVictoryDance:

DESTROYED JAPANESE CASTLE COUNTER: 5 (Seriously, WTF? None since 2 movies ago)

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