‘All Monsters Attack’ takes a new angle, in more ways than one

Gojira-Minira-Gabara: Oru kaijû daishingeki (1969)

All Monsters Attack (1969)

Directed by Ishirô Honda

For the second “Godzilla” movie in a row, I have a problem with the title, or at least the English translation. Once you’ve seen the movie, you’ll wonder how someone ever thought “All Monsters Attack” was the right title. That’s because the movie, for the first time in the franchise, doesn’t actually feature any real-time monster attacks. No cities are destroyed. And in the real world, no monsters appear at all. The main character, a young boy named Ichiro (Tomonori Yazaki), imagines hanging out with Minilla, the son of Godzilla, during his frequent daydreams. In these fantasies, he and Minilla watch Godzilla fight his foes (mostly using old footage from previous movies, like a Godzilla highlight reel) while talking about he and Minilla’s common problem—mainly, that they’re bullied because of their size and that they’re afraid to fight back. Using this wild imagination, Ichiro learns a lesson about not taking crap from people just because they’re bigger than you. That comes in handy when he’s kidnapped by big-time robbers because he happened to find one of their IDs on the ground. In the second, more interesting, half of the movie, Ichiro attempts to escape the abandoned building the thieves are keeping him in—“Home Alone” style.

“Destroy All Monsters,” from the previous year, was meant to be Godzilla’s swan song. Box office incomes had been dwindling. The production studio felt there were no more good ideas for future “Godzilla” movies. Why that plan was scrapped, I’m not sure. Maybe “Destroy All Monsters” made more money than they expected and gave them hope that the franchise had a future. Maybe they simply couldn’t bear to let go of their precious baby after 14 years. Maybe they thought it’d be a shame to end things before they had the chance to make a tenth movie. Or maybe the idea of using children as main characters—what a concept!—was too good to pass up. I agree the idea was worth exploring, since children at this time would have grown up in a world knowing monster attacks—but unlike most of the cops, government leaders, soldiers, scientists, and reporters who keep showing up as main characters in “Godzilla” movies, most children had maybe never actually seen a monster in the flesh. To Ichiro, for instance, the monsters are little more than cool things to dream about. They don’t hold the same fearful power over children as they do over their parents, maybe. But this isn’t really the direction “All Monsters Attack” takes. Instead, they never do let Ichiro see a monster in real life. They don’t even show him reacting to some faraway, but current, monster attack. Instead, the only kaiju we see or hear about are all in his head.

In terms of run time (70 minutes) and also main character, “Destroy All Monsters” has the shortest yet. This minor entry into the franchise isn’t necessarily offensive, but it is a major disappointment considering it’s the film that producers felt was worth continuing the franchise for.

4.5/10

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