This summer, CultureGeek will feature a series of guest blogs centered on the classic Godzilla films, written by author and Godzilla aficionado Jim D. Gillentine and collated from other Godzilla fans as well. Rawr! - CultureGeek
Gojira was a huge success for Toho Studios when it came out in 1954. It broke box office records, earned the equivalent of the Oscar in Japan and was a powerful allegory for the dangers of nuclear war and the heavy cost of using such weapons.
Toho decided to make a sequel to Gojira, and began production for the second film starring the overgrown lizard. However, it feels like a lot of the magic that Toho was able to capture for the first Gojira movie did not make it into Godzilla Raids Again.
The movie begins with a pilot (Minoru Chiaki) for a fishing company in a forced landing near an island due to engine trouble. Another pilot (Hiroshi Koizumi) comes to his rescue on the island in his own plane. Before the two can leave the island, a huge shadow blocks out the sun. The pilots look up and see Godzilla looking down at them. While the two men hide, another monster appears and begins fighting with Godzilla. After a little back and forth fighting between the two behemoths, they both fall into the ocean.
The two pilots escape and go back to Japan to report what they saw. The men identify the other monster after looking at several different pictures of different dinosaurs, and it is discovered that the other monster is called Anguirus.
Actor Takashi Shimura reprises his role from Gojira as scientist Kyohei Yamane-hakase in a brief cameo to tell the local government of Osaka that there could be no way they could hope to stop this new Godzilla, who is a different one from the one that appeared in Gojira. The authorites of Osaka decide to try to use flares dropped from planes to lead Godzilla away from the city if he should appear.
Which he does. Face it, you knew he was going to show.
The plan is set into motion and it is actually working, until some convicts from the local prison stage a escape while being transported through the city. In the chaos of being chased by the police, an oil refinery explodes. The sound and bright lights draw Godzilla back to Osaka, and he makes landfall. The military begin their attack on Godzilla, but none of the weapons work to stop him.
Just as he is about to start his rampage of destruction, Anguirus arrives out of the ocean to engage Godzilla in battle. This is when one of the biggest weakness of this movie shows itself. In the first movie, they slowed down the camera to make Godzilla’s movements sluggish. It gave the appearance of weight and mass to Godzilla and added to the illusion of his massive size.
But a mistake happened with the filming of the combat scenes between the two monsters. Instead of slowing the film down, they sped it up. But instead of fixing it, they released the final film as is. Maybe they were short on money, or they actually liked how it turned out, but watching it now makes the scenes seem comical.
It takes away whatever feelings of fear or dread could have been built up by the sight of two giant monsters fighting in the city of Osaka. Even the sight of Osaka Castle being torn down due to the two monsters battling each other loses any tension. Godzilla wins the fight when he bites Anguirus on the neck and then sets him on fire with his atomic breath. He leaves the city in ruins and the search for him begins again.
The two fishing-company pilots help in the searching for the monster and at last find him. The movie ends with the military succeeding in their mission to bury Godzilla in a massive avalanche of ice and snow on a small island. One of the pilots we have grown to know in the movie dies trying to help keep Godzilla distracted, giving the military time to arrive and pays the price for it when his plane is brought down by Godzilla’s atomic breath.
Godzilla Raids Again is nowhere near as good as the first movie. Maybe it was because they rushed it into production to strike the anvil while it was hot, but it is a rather disappointing film compared to Gojira. None of the human characters are memorable or really gain any kind of emotional response from the viewer comparable to Akihiko Hirata's performance as Dr. Serizawa. The musical score isn’t as memorable as Gojira’s and is rather dull. Even though this movie introduces the concept of kaiju battles, it suffers a great deal from the camera work.
One of the few good things in the movie is that it introduces the monster Anguirus, who went on to become a fan favorite for G-Fans with his ‘never say die’ attitude against stronger opponents in such movies as Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. Gigan. I still recommend checking out the movie if you wish to be a Godzilla completist like I am; just be prepared for a movie that is nowhere near as good as the first one.
Special Effects: 2 SRRREEEROOOONNKS
Plot: ONE FOOT STOMPS
Fun Factor: ONE ATOMIC BREATH ATTACK