Despite that awesome title, and the reappearance of some old familiar monster friends, this stand-alone feature is easily the worst in the Millennium era. #28: GMK.
Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (usually shortened to GMK) sounds like it would be a worthy successor to something like Destroy All Monsters. It features the Millennium versions of Mothra and King Ghidorah, and also the appearance of Baragon, not seen since Destroy All Monsters. Oddly, Godzilla was also redesigned in this film, and he looks a lot like the Heisei Godzilla, but with bigger fangs and creepy silver eyes. For a while, I was struggling to reconcile the continuity of this film with the rest of the Millennium films, but I ultimately came to the conclusion that GMK is its own animal. This is a stand-alone Godzilla film that does not link up with any story, and is only included in the Millennium films because of its date of release. The only film it refers to is – much to my chagrin – the 1998 American film.
What’s more, the tone of GMK is different than any of the Godzilla films so far. This film is clearly trying to skew more kid-friendly, so it feels trifling, safe, and ready for Saturday morning. Not that the Godzilla films aren’t for kids (I have been commenting constantly on how the stronger films in the series feel like they were written by a 9-year-old), and they’re typically appropriate for all ages, they are typically more mayhem-centric than humor centric. When these films skew too young, they tend to suffer. This is why All Monsters Attack is the worst in the series. Also it had Minilla, but that’s an argument for another time.
The ultimate conclusion: The best genre action films should be acceptable and readable to people between the ages of 8 and 14 (this criterion can include R-rated films, by the way). Too old, and you’re taking yourself too seriously. Too young, and you’re only going to appeal to that age group. It’s a golden window, and your favorite genre films were probably consumed during those ages. Defy me on this point. I dare you.
GMK, meanwhile, is not only kid-friendly, but a little too sealed off from the Godzilla universe. It feels like a tribute reel more than anything. It’s an honorific more than a proper actioner. Indeed, those who are well-versed in the kaiju universe will be thrilled as the dozen-or-so cameos peppered throughout the film. Not only are there actors from previous Godzilla movies, but actors from Gamera films, Ultraman films, and monster performers out of costume. I don’t know kaiju films well enough to get a thrill from the cameos, but I saw the vibe happening. Whenever a bike shop owner or ancillary pilot walked by, you could sense the air of tribute around them.
The three monsters who fight Godzilla in this film are – in this film and this film only – considered Protector Monsters who spring into action when Godzilla gets out of hand. Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Baragon, then, are the good guys and Godzilla is the bad guy. Most of the action involves monsters fighting in wooded areas.
There is something else absent from GMK which may reveal why it was made the way it was: there are few shots of giant buildings toppling over. GMK, it needs to be remembered, came out in December of 2001, only a few months after the infamous World Trade Center incident. As such, many films around the world had to change their tune. Terrorism could not, at least for a while, be used as a simple plot point or comic villain, and the destruction of cities was no longer fun. Indeed, even when Man of Steel hit theaters, audiences were still shocked by the 9/11 parallels, so we may never be over that particular imagery. I’m guessing GMK, rather than making a tragic, heavy-handed political parallel to 9/11, opted to skew silly. I guess I prefer this approach to a preachy one, but this approach just isn’t very good. We needed it, though, to grow through a tough time.
By the next film, we’ll be back on our feet, the tone will shift back to the realm of the 9-year-old, and we’ll welcome back our old mechanical friend Mechagodzilla in his coolest iteration yet.
Up next: Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)