What better way to start off this year’s March of the Movies block than with some Godzilla? I love Godzilla! I’ve watched a Godzilla film during March of the Movies every year since 2019! It’s a comfort viewing, really, especially since one can argue that they’re all more or less the same. Like Pokémon or Mega Man or Call of Duty. Now we’ve come to an entry with perhaps the longest name for a Godzilla film ever. Does the film feel as long as its title?
Fortunately, no! Alas, a similar achilles’ heel presents itself, like an ode to the previous film in the franchise’s history.
Just gonna take a wee bit of time to elaborate on the “Godzilla Timeline” or whatever you want to call it. Between the first film’s release in 1954 up until roughly 2004, there are three “eras” that are grouped together to help organize the franchise. The Showa era from ’54 to ’75; the Heisei era from ’84 to ’95; the Millennium “series” (or “era”; who cares?) from ’99 to ’04.
There’s apparently a “Reiwa era” spanning from 2016 to now that includes Shin Godzilla and a number of animated works, but I’ve yet to really dive into that.
Today’s subject, which I will simply shorten to All-Out Attack, is the third film of the Millennium era. From my experience with Millennium thus far (I’ve now seen all but one), it’s kind of a middling batch of films, with only one being really enjoyable. They all have some sort of issue or other that irks me enough to want to travel back to my comfort zone of the Heisei era. This trend will continue.
Let me detail what ruined Vs. Megaguirus for me: CGI. While the human element was relatively competent (and borderline hilarious), the battle between kaiju was a nightmare of terrible-looking special effects and distracting editing. What is normally a highlight of these films ended up being the part I wished to end the most. I watched a Godzilla film for the human element… my goodness.
Fortunately, All-Out Attack was nowhere near as egregious with it this time around. However, the action still took something of a backseat to the evolving power of CGI.
Shallow as it may be, a lot of what appeals to me about the Godzilla franchise is in its cool monster designs and action sequences. Giant beasts attacking one another with flashy lasers and impacted strikes with whatever they possess. Initially I thought it was just mindless beatings, but from watching so many films, I’ve come to discover that some fight choreography is better than others.
I do not like how Godzilla looks in this. Like a strange blend of classic and “modern” (at the time), with pupil-less eyes and an oddly protruding gut. Even as the plot progressed, I could not shake this feeling of “This is not the Godzilla I know,” which led me to theorize that it’s like a husk of the old Godzilla or a doppelganger. For whatever reason, it just didn’t click with me.
Fun fact: There are actually four monsters in this one. They left out “Baragon” because its name isn’t as recognizable. Ironically, Baragon is the monster that I thought was the best-looking among the cast. Seemed purely practical and has a nice dog-crossed-with-imp thing going on. A shame that it only appears to get its ass kicked by Godzilla; hardly puts up a fight.
Then there’s the entire ordeal with Mothra and Ghidorah. Mothra looks relatively fine, but also a little off. Ghidorah initially looks… also off, but fine. Then it powers up through plot-related circumstances and is… really bad. Just strikingly bad CGI the entire rest of the film. Advances in special effects at the time definitely had some growing pains; this is a(nother) great example of that. King Ghidorah looks more like play-dorah.
Much of the final few fights are really barred down by the constant use of CGI, too. Though again not as bad as Vs. Megaguirus, it took me almost immediately out of the film at regular intervals. You can argue that there’s nothing realistic about giant reptiles fighting one another, but this is something I still believe should be treated with some manner of realism. Make it look real.
At Least There Are Humans
Won’t speak too much on this topic only because it’s much of what can be said about most any Godzilla film. The human conflict is there; a spirited young girl wants to get the big scoop on Godzilla, willing to risk her life to get a front-row seat. Her father is a military commander in charge of warding the beast off. Some sprinkles of conflict here and there and a wee bit of development into their characters’ motivations. It’s… present.
For a Godzilla film, it’s passable. Frankly, it’s kind of astonishing how much more I’ve gotten out of the human characters in the Millennium era compared to the kaiju fights. What sticks out with enough entries under the belt, though, is a sort of template.
“Character” really identifies with Godzilla for whatever reason—maybe they empathize with it or want revenge for something. They have another character who tags along and helps them, but serve no purpose as an individual. Then there’s someone in the military—who’s important for whatever reason—that goes out and risks their life to appear honorable. All others kind of serve as background fodder. Rinse, repeat; a little differentiation here and there, but the formula persists.
Thankfully, it works enough. All-Out Attack is another case where the human element is a little more rewarding for me than the kaiju fights. What does that say about my enjoyment of the overall? Painfully little.
Interestingly enough, All-Out Attack is among the highest-rated Godzilla films on Letterboxd. Similarly to Vs. Biollante, I do not understand. Just seems like another ordinary (relative term) film in the franchise to me, plus bad special effects.
It’s certainly not the worst Godzilla I’ve seen, nor is it all that tremendous. Taking advantage of the marketability of these big-name kaiju, previously established in Godzilla lore, just to have them die off in minutes also feels a little gross. The company took a big swing this time around. If you like the idea of seeing a lot of monsters in a 105-minute span, go for it. For me, it was pretty pedestrian. Among the lower tiers of the series, from what I’ve seen.
Final Score: 5/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!
Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.