Godzilla Raids Again
Alright. I was a little too hard on Godzilla Raids Again the first time I saw it. The special effects and miniature work are fine, the final sequence where Godzilla is buried in the snow is honestly pretty fantastic, and the movie as a whole is somewhere in the B-/C+ range. There is, however, a very steep drop in quality from Godzilla. The pacing is way too relaxed. The scenes with human characters feel really flat and difficult to relate to. Most damningly, the fights between Godzilla and Anguirus are just awful. The Osaka fight is especially disappointing, because if they had really managed to do a good fight/city destruction sequence in that spot, it honestly might’ve saved this movie in spite of its other shortcomings. I know this is the first time Toho ever did a kaiju fight, but it’s a damn good thing they figured out how to do them better than this in a hurry, or this entire genre might have died before it even really got started.
Gigantis the Fire Monster
What’s kind of weird about Gigantis the Fire Monster is how little it changed about Godzilla Raids Again despite not even calling him “Godzilla.” All of the original sound effects are gone, Godzilla has Anguirus’s roar for some reason, and all of the dialogue is just absolutely atrociously dubbed. Like, I think this is pretty easily the worst dubbing I’ve ever seen in a Godzilla movie, and maybe any movie. And there are a few clumsily changed lines of dialogue that just make you go “?????” but other than that it’s somehow the exact same movie as Godzilla Raids Again, only drastically worse.
King Kong vs. Godzilla
King Kong vs. Godzilla is the movie where Toho finally started figuring out how to make movies about Godzilla that would turn them into an unkillable franchise. It’s the first Godzilla film in color (and the first King Kong film in color) and it looks fucking great. Godzilla himself begins to develop his rather distinct personality for the first time when placed in opposition to Kong. And he begins moving towards being the protagonist of the franchise rather than something the exclusively-human protagonists must contend with.
But there are Japanese actors in blackface.
This is, by the way, of fucking course inherited from the 1933 American original. I don’t want to get into this too much more because it’s not really my issue to speak on and I don’t think my feelings should be front and center here. I just think it’s really, really fucking weird that I don’t really ever hear it come up when people talk about this movie, okay?
I know I’m biased as all hell, but I really think even King Kong, the posterchild for the predominantly-American stop-motion approach vs. the predominantly-Japanese suitmation approach, looks and moves drastically better when portrayed via the medium of his rivals. And I think King Kong, despite being one of the earliest examples, is basically the pinnacle of American stop-motion monster movies, so, there you go. (Take this with a massive grain of salt, because I still prefer suitmation to the probably-objectively-superior CGI stuff we’re getting with the current crop of American Godzilla movies, sooo, yeah. Although, the trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters did make me feel physically weak with joy. I cried and related to the kid reverently reaching out to touch Mothra on a spiritual level.)
The fight between Godzilla and Kong is, of course, the main attraction. And while it’s hardly the misfire that Godzilla’s brief throwdown with Anguirus in Godzilla Raids Again was, it’s also hardly one of the best fights of the series. It definitely has its moments, though! And it’s very easy to see why it seems to have been such a watershed moment for the series in retrospect.
More than the fights themselves, I love the parts of the movie where Godzilla is on his own. Emerging from the iceberg was a really fun, clever entrance for him that sort of works with where we last saw him at the end of Godzilla Raids Again. Like, it actually kind of doesn’t, but it’s similar enough that the audience is probably going to basically be like, “Yeah, sure, whatever, I remember there being ice or snow or something.” Again, like with his fight with King Kong, he’s had better entrances throughout the course of the series, but this was a very important one for setting the tone for what kind of entrances we ought to expect from him.
Once he’s freed from his icy prison, my kaiju boyfriend makes short work of a nearby military base and I’m just all heart-eyed and weak. But seriously, he’s portrayed with so much gravitas and majesty and I just freaking love it, okay? That carries on through his small rampage through the Japanese countryside, but once the fight with Kong starts, he’s all cocky and playful, but still physically powerful and imposing, and I’m just grinning like an idiot because these are the first signs of what this series is going to become, and I love it. I love every second of it and I just wish none of the stuff on King Kong’s island had happened so I could love the entire movie this unabashedly.
Mothra vs. Godzilla
While King Kong vs. Godzilla did get the ball rolling as far as kaiju battles, Mothra vs. Godzilla not only improved on the quality of the fights, it features one of the best fights in this era of kaiju films despite being, I think, the third one ever? (If we count Angurius vs. Godzilla in Godzilla Raids Again, which I guess we kinda have to do.) The step up in quality from King Kong vs. Godzilla cannot be overstated.
Another cue Mothra vs. Godzilla took from King Kong vs. Godzilla was a grand entrance for Godzilla. Him rising out of the ground to the terrified astonishment of everyone nearby was fantastic. And again, when he just stomped through the Japanese countryside, the camera and music treated him as a being of supreme importance. Just as surely as Mothra was treated as the beautiful, heroic goddess she is.
Although I’ve never been a huge fan of Godzilla as a bad guy, this is the last time I’m going to have to worry about that for a while, and it’s also absolutely one of the better examples. Mothra is just such a natural foil for Godzilla when he’s in “bad guy” mode. I bet Godzilla could’ve stayed a bad guy for a few more movies if it weren’t for the fact that the fights he and Mothra have in this movie were just too goddamn perfect, and there just wasn’t really any obvious way for them to be followed at the time.