Not content with a single appearance in 1964, Godzilla decided to double dip in order to take on his greatest foe to date. It is here, in the fifth film of the franchise, that we are introduced to the dreaded Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster.
The titular monster, a golden three-headed dragon from outer space, comes to Earth via a meteor shower that smokescreens his egg’s entry into the atmosphere. He’s come to wreak his own specific brand of destruction, ‘cause that’s just was asshat space dragons do, I guess. Unbeknownst to him, though, a Venusian has also come to Earth, in the guise of an allegedly dead foreign princess (long story, we’ll come back to it momentarily), and she warns the Earthlings of impending doom. This catches the attention of the Shobijin, Mothra’s heralds, who monitor the situation in case they need to call upon their goddess (still in larval form after the events of the previous film). Things get complicated when Godzilla and Rodan – a pterosaur-like monster who starred in his own film back in ’56 – show up and start to rumble. Once Ghidorah hatches, though, Mothra comes in and convinces the two bickering monsters to team up with her and take the space dragon down.
My first experience with this film came about twenty or so years ago, when I was able to tape it while spending a day at the race track with my family (I won my very first bet!), and I remember enjoying it back then. Today, though, the film just plain doesn’t hold up. The Godzilla suit looks doofier than last time out, and he and the other monsters are edging toward Saturday morning territory in their characterizations: Godzilla and Rodan are more like quarreling children than dangerous kaiju, and they’re just stuck-up brats during their negotiations with Mothra. It’s downright silly at times. The special effects work isn’t up to the usual par, with the Rodan model often flying more like a jet than a pterosaur, shots being repeated, and some very obvious stage paintings standing in for horizons during the battle scenes.
Then there’s the human subplot, which is sorta like an intertwining of two or three into a braided single. The foremost thread is that of the aforementioned princess, who’s being hunted by agents from her government for reasons I think I forgot due to my eyes glazing over during their scenes. This plot is downright dorky, right down to the inexplicable lace frills worn by these foreigners as a matter of normal dress, and the fact that so much of the overall runtime is spent on it is ludicrous. The Shobijin happened to be on the mainland (insofar as you can consider any part of an archipelago the “mainland”) because they were participating in a friggin’ TV show wherein they sing their Mothra-summoning song to some fanboys. And we’ve got a few more people tossed in there for good measure, connecting the different groups n various ways, all of them kinda trite and/or dull, not gonna lie.
The only real saving grace for me here is the final battle, where Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan gang up on Ghidorah and lay a smack down. It’s pure kaiju-battle bliss, but it almost feels like too little too late after having to suffer through some overly-drawn-out human-based garbage. Still, we’ve got our series’ big bad in Ghidorah, and he won’t stay away long…