Destroy All Monsters is probably one of my favorite Godzilla films in terms of the human element. That may seem like high praise, but given the state of humanistic conflict within this franchise, it’s actually like saying I prefer untoasted white bread to moldy bread. The benefit to this era of the king of the monsters is that plots can be as uproariously stupid as possible and be endearing because of it.
What that goofy nature ends up doing as a negative consequence, however, is making the kaiju scenes relatively dull. I adore the Heisei era of films from this series (1984-95) because of their scale and atmosphere. The incredible size of Godzilla and the weight to its movements. The booming score as it stomps around cities or fights other gargantuan beasts. Back before then, Godzilla was more… Power Rangers. Such is the case here.
“At the turn of the century, all of the Earth’s monsters have been rounded up and kept safely on Monsterland. Chaos erupts when a race of she-aliens known as the Kilaaks unleash the monsters across the world.”
From what I’ve gathered from a couple sources, this was supposedly going to be the last Godzilla film. I don’t know how true that is given this was over 50 years ago and those stating it likely aren’t affiliated with Toho or anything “official,” but that’s what’s floating around. It would make sense; the events of this film have a sort of “larger than life” quality to them.
From the very beginning, sweeping shots show that humanity actually has a firm handle on the kaiju. “Monsterland” is an island inhabited by Kaiju that humans have meticulously monitored and lined with preventative measures to ensure no monster escapes. Godzilla, Anguirus, Rodan, Mothra, among others are all roommates on a big island out in the middle of the ocean. That seems ripe for a big battle later on, eh?
Notice, though, that Godzilla’s name does not even appear in this film’s title. This becomes more apparent when Godzilla is barely featured among the plot whatsoever, regarded as more of a side character to a mostly human-central plot. Aliens invade Earth and throw the world into disarray with their “advanced technology” and control over the kaiju. Thus sets into motion a relatively engaging trek to stop this new threat through human valor.
Incredibly over the top is one way to put it, a friend of mine would find “really stupid” to be more apt. Gunfights with laser beams, aliens that disguise themselves as humans wearing tinfoil onesies and brainwash people with metal balls, explosions aplenty, very dated special effects seamlessly breaking any immersion one can have. One cannot (and should not) take the direction of this film too seriously. All in good fun.
It’s appreciable for what it is, only it’s not really what I watch Godzilla films for. As superficial as this may sound, something that takes me out of these kaiju flicks is if the creature designs look really bad. Godzilla, itself, looks really bad. Which is unfortunate because a lot of the other monster designs look pretty good! Anguirus, Mothra, Baragon, and that fucking spider kaiju (which I did not know existed) stood out amongst the crop. When your star attraction looks bad, it dampens some of that excitement of cool monsters havin’ a brawl.
Speaking of, there is a big, “climactic” battle near the end of this film that feels completely thrown in. Humans, just on the verge of thwarting the aliens’ plans, are shocked to discover that the aliens, in fact, have a King Ghidorah up their sleeves! So they remote control every kaiju on Monsterland to pummel the dough out of the armless wimp. Nothing more than the producers going, “Oh no! We need a big battle, stat!”
One’s enjoyment of this will hinge solely on what they expect from a Godzilla film. I’ve come to learn from the past that specific entries from this era are generally geared more towards zaniness and campy fun. That’s cool and all, but usually not what I seek as a form of monstrous entertainment. Though not a bad film, it’s probably best to assume, based on my (albeit limited) experience with the series prior to 1984, that I should stick with a more modern aesthetic.
Was a little hesitant going in, but am pleased with how not-boring it was. Lots of goofy action scenes and weird set pieces to keep things flowing, even if not totally immersive. Far more interested in the human side of things rather than a giant, violent orgy of kaiju battles, which is more of what I assumed prior to viewing. Not terrible—not really much of a Godzilla film, all things considered. Worth one watch, I suppose.
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!
If reading this compelled you to give me a dollar, feel free to tip me on Ko-fi.
Thank you for your time. Have a great rest of your day.