By the late 1960’s the Godzilla film series had been firmly established as a venture into children’s entertainment. After entries such as “Godzilla vs The Smog Monster” and the all too hard to forget, “All Monsters Attack”, these films had become means of teaching kids life lessons in the best way possible: By mixing it up with monsters punching each other in the face. However 1972 happened to be when that all changed. Frequently considered one of the most hated films in the classic Godzilla franchise, Jun Fukuda’s Godzilla vs Gigan is a feature that deserves a second chance, as a secondary interpretation for its plot has been easily missed by many.
The film’s story centers around a new Kaiju themed amusement park, aptly named Children’s Land (I know… Wow…). After Gengo, a manga artist, is contracted to help create concept art for the gigantic recreation center, he discovers a strange tape deck inside the park’s HQ, which is brilliantly disguised as a giant Godzilla tower. Once played, he unknowingly contacts the monsters Godzilla and Anguirus. After discovering that the whole theme park, as well as its creepy curators, are up to no good, the film’s script goes about its usual “reveal the villains as some kind of alien hybrid” trope. The extraterrestrial Disney knock-offs then summon two evil space Kaiju: New comer Gigan, and returning favorite King Ghidorah. Of course, Godzilla and Anguirus arrive to level out the playing field.
The climactic fight scene in a Godzilla movie is always the one aspect that will make or break it. Surprisingly enough, the fight scene in this movie usually considered a draw-back. Why is this surprising? Because it is one of the longest and, otherwise, most satisfying Kaiju fights in the original Godzilla series. Though it uses its fare share of lazy stock footage to add to its length (This time from Ghidorah, The Three-headed Monster and Destroy All Monsters), the film does so to provide us with the same sensation we felt while watching the Avengers partially help destroy New York City. I didn’t complain about evening out the fight/dialogue ratio there and I definitely won’t do so here either. Although the film can be criticized for many things, one of the main points of the film’s existence is constantly overlooked. Near the end of the film, our human protagonists, along with help from Big Green, destroy the theme park’s giant center piece: the Godzilla tower. Not only does this add to the wholesome level of destruction, but it symbolizes something from behind the scenes at the TOHO offices.
Since 1964’s Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster, the series had began taking a turn towards the child market. The films were teaching us about pollution, friendship, bullying and the family system. They were no longer allegories for the atomic age nor were they metaphors on nature’s fury. They were basically Sesame Street episodes as if produced by Roger Corman. Godzilla vs Gigan was the turning point for this. By watching with open eyes, you’ll realize the slightly darker tone this entry takes. Godzilla actual gushes blood a few times throughout the film which is something he’s never done before and that would only get more graphic in further sequels. The film also had no blatant moral to speak of. And how do we figure this? By examining Godzilla destroying the infamous Godzilla tower near the end of the film in a children’s park making fun of the very idea of Godzilla culture. In doing this, Jun Fukuda was symbolically killing off the “Godzilla is only for kids” mindset that Ishiru Honda had established before him. Although the following Godzilla vs Megalon would prove to be heavy on kid friendly viewing, the later Mechagodzilla films would take note from Gigan, eventually progressing into the very dark “versus series,” beginning with Godzilla Returns in 1984. With all that said, I’ll be leaving this review on a question. Was this review supposed to convince you that Godzilla vs Gigan is a good movie? No. It was supposed to convince you that it’s an important movie. That being said, feel free to hate it, but you better damn well respect it. After all, the death of the villains in this film directly inspired the ending of Team America: World Police. Now that’s how you make an obscure reference!
– Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno