@synth_cinema: Monster Bites - Treading Behemoths


Monster Bites - Treading Behemoths


After Godzilla made a low-key return in 1984 the films that followed were less than restrained. Which goes without saying when they included time travel and human souls inside of mutant plants. This instalment is no exception, lifting scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark and throwing a meteor collision into the story. In the past it was easy to get behind all of these shenanigans, just because there was a lot of silly laser action. But these days it's harder to be so forgiving. There are plenty of wacky new ideas, but there are also a low of old recycled ones. Mothra being on the call sheet is a big selling point, so it's easy to see why this all came about. Some of the other inclusions on the other hand are more confusing.

Our Indiana Jones in this case is divorcee Takuya, (Tetsuya Bessho) who goes through a whole golden idol scene to set the stage. He quickly finds himself caught red-handed, but instead of facing a rival treasure hunter is simply thrown in a Thai prison cell. Coincidentally his ex-wife Masako (Satomi Kobayashi) and several government agents arrive to get him out of jail. Apparently they need his tomb raiding skills, or perhaps just his jungle experience, to find out about a meteor impact. It's not exactly an air-tight script, and it feels like the whole thing is just an excuse to have a neat opening sequence. Which is fun, even if it makes no sense. A sentiment that can be applied to most of this movie.

The meteor in question lands in the sea. Somehow it wakes up Godzilla, awakens a new creature called Battra, and also causes a landslide that uncovers Mothra's egg. There's also a global warming plot going on, in which scientists claim that the tectonic plates are moving more because of human pollution. Which is eye-brow raising stuff, even before someone says that the life-force of planet Earth is involved. Maybe if this was simply a mystical ecological tale about religion this would be fine. But it still spends time on all that stuff about the Cosmos pixie twins and an evil corporation. That kind of thing was perfect in 1964, but feels like a box ticking exercise here.

Still, the Lost World narrative goes on for a while before they find a giant egg and two tiny ladies. Nobody seems very surprised by these discoveries, and there's no 'Kong' type natives or killer plants this time to give context to Infant Island. There's a lot of goofing around as light beams are used to find clues and characters dangle from rope bridges. Apparently Mothra and a 'Black Mothra' were supposed to keep an ancient civilisation in check, and they throw in a lot of talk about machines controlling the environment. None of which really plays into the overblown monster battles later. New ideas are welcome, but the execution is pretty messy.

Again it's worth saying that this is generally nonsensical, which is part of the charm. It's also part of the frustration. Someone asks if the enormous egg belongs to a dinosaur, as if any prehistoric lizard had offspring this size. Later someone asks if Godzilla can withstand the heat of liquid magma. Which is baffling in a franchise memory kind of way, rather than a naturalist sense. There were volcanoes in the prior films guys. Why are they bringing that egg to Tokyo? Was that a Star Wars sound effect being used for an aircraft? But don't worry about these details, we've got to rush along to get in a Mothra song and some classic exploding miniatures.

There are a lot of satisfying series staples on offer. Ifukube's score delivers new takes on all the old tunes, and the monster battles are fun. Even if beam power fatigue starts to set in after a while. Godzilla is still the villain (even if they say it's actually humanity) which means that Battra and Mothra will have to blast him together in the finale. There's no Showa style smack-down but there is a Ferris wheel scene that almost reaches that point. If Battra was simply Rodan it would be an improvement, as the two giant moths lack personality. There are certain sound effects in the mix that even sound like Rodan, so perhaps it was considered early in pre-production. 

The more confusing elements come along in the last few minutes, where Mothra flies into space to stop a second meteor hitting the planet. Which would make sense if that was the plot of any of the Rebirth of Mothra films. If you're going to tease a spin-off at least write in some connecting tissue instead of just dropping it all for another Ghidorah appearance. What remains here is an entertaining movie, even if all the most appealing scenes are a greatest hits kind of affair. The new elements all feel like a kitchen sink approach was used, and nothing is really explored properly. Make it about the life energy of the planet or just tell an archaeology story, but pick one and run with it.



The shenanigans continue in another remix of old ideas, this time Mechagodzilla. Oh and hey Rodan is actually here this time. Oh and look it's Godzilla's son. Because why not at this stage, showing any kind of restraint now would be an inconsistency. Throw in ESP kids that give junior increased power by... singing a song found in an ancient leaf. Have someone casually say that Rodan is his half-brother. Steal from the plot of Gorgo too while you're at it. Robot pterosaurs? Godzilla having a second brain which is destroyed and then immediately regenerated? Get all those kitchen fixtures and just go for it Toho, maybe some of them will land in just the right way.

Mechagodzilla is back as the hero, and he's beefier than before. Like a sumo wrestler I suppose, which is pretty appropriate. Even if the design looks kind of dumb, particularly the face. Godzilla on the other hand is in still in the adversary role. He spends most of film getting trashed by the likes of Mecha-G and Rodan, and he's pretty angry about the whole thing. It might be my imagination but the big guy seems to have a more expressive head than last time. While the government builds this new robot from the remains of Mecha-King Ghidorah, a science team finds two giant eggs on a remote island. Apparently the place has been irradiated, which makes the creatures involved grow to enormous size. Oddly, no-one seems worried about contamination.

In fact character motivation is a mystery here. Godzilla's child attracts a lot of problems, but is kept on the mainland for a long time. Kazuma's superior hates him, but demands that he work on the robotics project anyway. The writers also remembered that psychic Miki (Megumi Odaka) is actually a character in this series. But having her feel bad about hurting Godzilla, after thousands more people are killed, makes her look stupid. That being said it's impossible not to like a story where people start a military operation by saying 'prepare G-Crusher' with a straight face. The special effects, particularly Godzilla's rampages, are all really good despite some wonky optical shots here and there. The movie is way too long and is another over-stuffed experience, but it's fun for the most part.