So my review of Gojira went up yesterday and right after I was done with that I moved straight onto watching its sequel, Godzilla Raids Again. I had never seen this entry in the series before. There’s quite a few Godzilla films I haven’t seen, to be honest. Not surprising considering how much off a ball-ache it is to actually acquire these things. Godzilla Raids Again is the film that laid the groundwork for the monster Vs monster films that would come to be the main focus of the series from this point onwards. I believe, off the top of my head, only 2 Godzilla films made after this point didn’t feature a second monster. And one of those was the Roland Emmerich film that didn’t even feature Godzilla. This film features Godzilla though, so it’s all good. Click the link below or something.
When pilot Koji Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki) is forced to land his plane in an area around Iwato Island his friend Shoichi Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) heads out to rescue him. Whilst on the island they witness a fight taking place between two giant creatures. One of which is unmistakably a new Godzilla. They return home and report what they saw and the second monster is identified as an Anguirus, a dinosaur that must have been awakened by the same nuclear tests that awoke the original Godzilla. From here on a new way of defeating Godzilla, along with Anguirus, must be found as all knowledge of the Oxygen Destroyer used in the previous film had been lost when Dr Serizawa took his one life.
As far as a Godzilla film’s story goes, this is pretty much par for the course. Unlike the first film’s strong anti-nuclear message Godzilla Raids Again is content to push that to the sidelines in favour of spectacle and action. The human element of the story is more focused on the romantic entanglements of Tsukioka and Kobayashi than it is on the suffering and helplessness of those effected by Godzilla’s destructive path. Overall the entire film has reduced the thematic and emotional hooks that make the original stand out as more than just a monster movie. The film’s tone really isn’t that dissimilar to that of a 1940s aerial war movie. The pilots may not be military but the film revolves around the fishing business they work for as if it was a military operation. Lots of radio tower communications with the lovely young ladies back home and all that. The finale involves bombing runs and copious amounts of model plane sweeping by the camera footage. Many of the shots repeated multiple times over.
The repetition of shots, and an earlier scene that features near a solid minute of clips from the previous Godzilla film, would lead you to believe that production quality had been dropped overall. To be fair, they’ve merely re-prioritised. The film’s budget was reduced from Gojira and it appears that their approach was to take what money they had and put it all onto the Anguirus suit and one key action sequence. When Godzilla and Anguirus bring their fight to Osaka the quality of the effects jumps up a little from the previous film with far more detail in the actual crumbling of the buildings. Osaka Castle even gets destroyed in a scene that takes its time teasing you with the building’s eventual collapse/obliteration. There’s also a surprisingly dynamic looking model shot car crash followed by a factory explosion in the lead up to this sequence.
The rest of the film doesn’t share this dynamism though. Many scenes take place in the same few locations and, during the first half, often involve men in suits discussing how to deal with the monstrous threat. So whilst the film’s director, Motoyoshi Oda, has embraced the increased spectacle of having two monsters fighting he hasn’t matched the heightening of reality in the human scenes. Everything is still played as being incredibly serious, especially for the first half. There is some levity later as Kobayashi reveals he is looking to find a wife and everyone teases him and laughs and he takes on nickname “Mr Groom”… The day after the whole of Osaka was destroyed and he and his friends are picking through what remains of their business. That wouldn’t have happened in Gojira. The day after the Tokyo attack in Gojira we see some children crying as their mother’s dead body is carried away. The levity is required to endear you towards Kobayashi though for the film’s finale sequence so they got away with it… just.
As this is the first monster film to feature two creatures going at it you can forgive Godzilla Raids Again for not really knowing exactly how to handle the fight. There’s set piece moments but mostly the fight between Anguirus and Godzilla at the film’s midpoint involves the two creatures lunging at each over and occasionally rolling around a bit. Then they bite each other in a manner that the suit’s masks are clearly not designed to do. So it all looks a little silly really when compared to the serious and dry tone the film has up to this point. As previously mentioned though, the actual destruction effects are pretty well done and this allows for a decent amount of enjoyment to be had.
So Godzilla Raids Again is not the near masterpiece Gojira was before it. Drama was traded for spectacle moments and the message was sidelined for, well… pretty much nothing. Is it still a decent film though? I wouldn’t say it’s a bad film. It has plenty of decent moments, although it does blow a few. Godzilla and Anguirus just kind of appear a few minutes into the film in broad daylight, for example. The film’s main problems stem from an attempt to put all they had into a handful of moments at the expense of character development and drama. The first film is filled with melodramatic moments but Godzilla Raids Again only has a few such scenes. It is a weaker film in almost all respects, but it is at least entertaining in its own, slightly shonky way. This film was almost the end of Godzilla as a potential franchise. Whilst the first film spawned many monster movies in the following years, Godzilla was put to rest for 7 whole years. The next film, I’ll be covering is the 1962 monster brawl showdown that is King Kong Vs Godzilla. That is really the film that set the direction Godzilla would take for the following 2 decades.