Godzilla is back, and this time he’s not alone! While scouting the seas for schools of fish, young pilots Tsukioka and Kobayashi encounter Godzilla and the spiny monster Anguirus in heated battle on a small Japanese island. The two beasts tumble into the ocean and soon resurface in Osaka, laying waste to the city in a fight to the death. As the threat of destruction mounts, the two heroes muster their courage for the final showdown with Godzilla.
The first of many Godzilla sequels, this is the heavily re-edited American version, in which Godzilla was re-named “Gigantis,” and featuring the voice of Star Trek’s Geroge Takei.
eyelights: the Cold War theme. the kitschy narration.
eyesores: the weakness of the plot. the cheap-o production.
Okay, so you’re looking at the picture and you’re telling yourself: “Hmmm… this looks vaguely like a Godzilla movie”. Or maybe you’re not. Maybe you don’t care.
Well, repeat after me: “Gojira = Godzilla = Gigantis”. Honest. This ain’t no word of a lie.
The genesis of ‘Gigantis, the Fire Monster’ is complicated one. Best as I can figure, American film producers bought the rights to ‘Gojira no Gyakushū‘ with the intention of hacking it to bits and using only the best parts to make an entirely different movie, to be called ‘The Volcano Monsters’. Along the line that production company folded, and a new company took it over and altered the original picture enough to repackage it as a new film, calling the creature Gigantis instead of Godzilla.
Truth be told, given how p!$$-poor ‘Gojira no Gyakushū’ (which is the second film in the monstrously successful Gojira franchise) was, I had no intention of watching its American counterpart. I had taken the time to watch ‘Godzilla, King of the Monsters‘ because it is as well-known as its original version, ‘Gojira‘, but, given that re-edits are usually weaker than their predecessors, I couldn’t bear the thought of watching this one.
Then I read about all the changes that had been made (such adding expository background stuff and archival footage, removing plot padding, …etc.), which seemed to effectively alter the tone of the piece for the best, and also discovered that George Takei did some of the overdubs. Sulu himself!!! AWESOME!!!
So I relented…
…and was mightily surprised to find out that I actually prefer ‘Gigantis, the Fire Monster’ over ‘Gojira no Gyakushū’!!! No joke: I had more fun, found the story less tedious, and was pleased with some of the additions that were incorporated in the American version.
Which is not to say that it’s great cinema. I only enjoyed myself a lot more: there’s something blissfully silly about the narration (which is heavy-accented for “authenticity”‘s sake!), some of the additional footage was hilariously discrepant and cheap-looking and they gave the character of Kobayashi a goofy voice.
Again, not great cinema. But more fun – in a cheesy B-movie sort of way.
I did enjoy that they tried to tie in the whole nuclear proliferation issue into the picture – something that was in the original ‘Gojira’ and ‘Godzilla’ films but was strangely absent in ‘Gojira no Gyakushū’. Even though it’s a rehashed theme, at least it gives ‘Gigantis’ some sort of basic substance – something that ‘Gojira no Gyakushū’ doesn’t have.
Still, the story remains vacuous. There wasn’t much that the producers could do with the footage of a couple of dweebs looking for fish in their airplanes. This part of the story remains, but at least in trimming Kobayashi’s storyline we are spared further blandness. And laughing at his newly-minted oafishness really is a gas.
As for George Takei’s role in the film? Well, so far as I can tell he only shows up in one scene, doing the announcement on a speaker (“Captain… we’re about to warp”, he says) (No… of course not – this was years before ‘Star Trek’!). It’s a brief bit, but it sure was nice to hear that familiar and soothing tone. He may have done other dubbing, perhaps in a different voice, but this is the only time that I could recognize him.
Anyway, all this to say that the only way to enjoy ‘Gigantis, the Fire Monster’ is to not be too attached to the original version of the film. With enough distance (heck, if you’ve never seen the original, even better!), then it’s a mild diversion. Of course, if one loves Gojira then this adaptation may prove frustrating – it’s not quite a bastardization, but the producers certainly didn’t bow to the King of Monsters’ gigantic fanbase. They had other things in mind.
As far as I’m concerned, even though I tend to be a purist, in this case I think that this was the correct decision.
Date of Viewing: March 7, 2013