Old 06-28-2009, 11:27 PM
Destroy All Monsters

This is part 19 of 29 of the Adam J. Hakari/Count Chocula GODZILLA retrospective. We will be reviewing all of the Godzilla flicks over the next few weeks/months/years. For the sake of convenience, the films will not be reviewed in chronological order. Hey, we're just two losers doing a lot of writing for free, so don't expect brilliant journalism. Okay, enough bullshit. Sit back and enjoy...

Destroy All Monsters is what people usually think of when you mention Godzilla, though it's a rose-tinted recollection at best. I know when I first gazed upon the cover, visions of towering titans engaged in nonstop combat danced in my head, unaware that this is just a fraction of the final product. It's a film whose reputation far exceeds its actual merit, but this isn't to say it's a complete dud. Though the story could've been whipped into shape a little more, Destroy All Monsters is as good an image as any for the series to adopt, thanks to its solid effects work and some mighty memorable monster battles.

In the far-off future of 1999, mankind seems to have finally solved its creature control problem. Godzilla, Rodan, and all of the planet's bothersome beasties have been corralled on Monster Island (referred to as "Monster Land" here), but their imprisonment is short-lived. In no time at all, the behemoths have broken free and set about ravaging various world capitals, but through no fault of their own. The real culprits are (say it with me, now) visitors from space bent on enslaving the earth. These intergalactic fiends have assumed control of the monsters and aren't afraid to use their destructive powers as they prepare for invasion. But the good guys swiftly step into action and set about fighting back against their alien oppressors, leading towards a showdown the likes of which the wide world of kaiju has never seen.

I guess you could call Destroy All Monsters a pioneer in fan service. Godzilla had amassed a nice following at the time, so to pay tribute to the atomic one in what was intended to be his final outing, Toho combed through their entire catalogue of creatures for guest stars. A nice array of the Big G's former opponents put in appearances, from obscure picks like Kumonga the spider (from Son of Godzilla) to audience favorites like King Ghidorah. But the cameos don't stop at the franchise, as everyone from Varan (Varan the Unbelievable) to Gorosaurus (King Kong Escapes) gets in on the carnage. But while everyone's present for the final beatdown, only a select few are allowed to participate in the earlier chaos; most are just briefly acknowledged before the film moves onto a more prominent monster. So many are included pretty much just so Toho could pat itself on the back for creating such a cheesetastic legacy.

But the bottom line, my little droogies, is this: is Destroy All Monsters a good Godzilla movie? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, I enjoyed the balance of cataclysmic set pieces. Viewers get just enough of a monster mash throughout the first two acts to whet their appetites for the one that dominates the film's final third. There's a cool montage of the monsters laying waste to the capitals early on, as well as a sequence in which four of the buggers take on Tokyo. Plus, Godzilla himself is still in good shape, though the following movies would take some cartoonish liberties with his appearance. Still, like Invasion of Astro-Monster, Destroy All Monsters gets a little bogged down in an alien invasion subplot that, quite frankly, is pretty boring. I've always found it curious that even with such a gaggle of goliaths at their disposal, the Godzilla filmmakers always feel the need to distract us with sci-fi psychobabble (as if the radioactive lizard wasn't enough to hold our attention).

Destroy All Monsters isn't the Godzilla movie to end all Godzilla movies, though it's not utterly lacking in entertainment value. It has the same flaws and shortcomings that come with all of the Big G's adventures, but it also has the foresight to try and compensate with a massive monster-off at the end. It's not a resounding success, but Destroy All Monsters is as much of a "greatest hits"-style compilation as kaiju buffs are likely to get.

MY RATING: ** 1/2 (out of ****)

Check out part 18 of the GODZILLA retrospective here...

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godzilla , horror , japan , monster

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