Unleashing the Monsters: Exploring the Epic Battles and Designs of Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack
Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is a 2001 Japanese kaiju film directed and co-written by Shusuke Kaneko, with special effects by Makoto Kamiya. It was distributed by Toho and produced under their subsidiary Toho Pictures. This 26th film in the Godzilla franchise and the third in the Millennium era stars Chiharu Niiyama, Ryudo Uzaki, Masahiro Kobayashi, Hideyo Amamoto, and Shirō Sano. Mizuho Yoshida portrays Godzilla, Akira Ohashi as King Ghidorah, and Rie Ōta as Baragon.
In the movie, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Baragon defend Japan from Godzilla, who has become a malevolent force after being possessed by the spirits of those killed during the Pacific War. Like the other movies in the Millennium period, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is a direct sequel to the original 1954 Godzilla film. However, it ignores the events of every other installment in the series except for a small reference to the 1998 film, Godzilla.
Initially, the plan was for Godzilla to battle a new and improved Kamacuras, but director Shusuke Kaneko changed his mind and opted to pit Godzilla against three kaiju that symbolized different aspects of the planet: Varan, Baragon, and Anguirus. However, Toho Pictures persuaded him to swap Varan and Anguirus for King Ghidorah and Mothra in order to maximize the film’s commercial appeal. Principal photography for the movie commenced on May 11, 2001, at Toho Studios’ Studio 1, and was completed on August 9, 2001.
The 16th Tokyo International Film Festival premiered Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack on November 3, 2001. It was later released in theaters on December 15 in Japan as a double feature with Hamtaro: Adventures in Ham-Ham Land. The film garnered critical acclaim internationally and earned ¥2.7 billion, making it the third highest-grossing Japanese film in 2002 against a budget of ¥1.2 billion. Today, the film is regarded as one of the best in the Godzilla franchise.
Admiral Taizo Tachibana stands before a group of JSDF soldiers, his expression grave as he warns them of the greatest threat they have ever faced: Godzilla. The monstrous creature first appeared in 1954, laying waste to Tokyo and causing widespread devastation before finally being killed by the JSDF. Tachibana, however, reminds his troops that just because Godzilla was defeated once, it does not mean that they can afford to let their guard down.
In recent years, sightings of giant monsters around the world have increased dramatically, with a creature similar to Godzilla attacking New York City. Tachibana stresses that the JSDF must be prepared for any eventuality and remain vigilant in their efforts to protect the people of Japan. As Tachibana dismisses the troops, another officer approaches with disturbing news: an American nuclear submarine has disappeared in the waters off Guam. The JSDF quickly mobilizes to search for the missing sub, deploying the research submersible Satsuma to scour the ocean depths.
After hours of searching, the Satsuma finally comes across the wreckage of the submarine. Its hull is marked with huge claw marks, indicating that some kind of massive creature was responsible for its destruction. Before they can even begin to process this terrifying discovery, a violent wave rocks the Satsuma’s sister craft, causing it to crash into a nearby rock and explode. As the Satsuma’s operator attempts to assess the damage, he catches a glimpse of huge glowing dorsal fins passing behind nearby rocks. The reality of the situation sets in: Godzilla has returned, and the JSDF must once again prepare to engage in a battle for the fate of Japan.
Meanwhile, Yuri Tachibana, the Admiral’s daughter, is working on a fake documentary about a monster believed to live near Mount Myoko. She and her crew are confronted by the local village mayor who demands they stop filming, but Yuri convinces him to allow them to continue by suggesting the documentary could bring publicity to the village. Later, while at a restaurant with her coworkers, Yuri expresses her frustration with being a woman and not being able to pursue the stories she wants. Her friend, Mitsuaki Takeda, arrives and tells her about a legend of three guardian monsters that protected Japan in ancient times.
Later that evening, a drunk Yuri is brought home by Takeda, only to be met at the door by her father, who apologizes for her behavior. Meanwhile, back at Mount Myoko, the village mayor and his mistress are discussing the positive impact the documentary will have on their village when a group of motorcyclists arrive and vandalize the area, including a small shrine. As they drive through a tunnel, it suddenly collapses and buries them all alive. A witness sees the head of a massive monster inside the tunnel.
The next morning, the JSDF arrive at the scene and use missiles to dig through the rubble. Investigators question the truck driver who witnessed the collapse, and he claims it was caused by Godzilla. Another incident occurs at Lake Ikeda, where a group of teenagers on a road trip have robbed a convenience store and are camping by the lake. They destroy another shrine and try to drown a dog in the lake but are pulled underwater by a huge brown larva. In the morning, a large cocoon appears on the lake’s surface, and the teenagers’ bodies are trapped in a smaller cocoon.
As the JSDF investigates the incidents, they discover that the monsters are not the guardians from the ancient legend but are in fact mutated creatures. The JSDF deploys the research submersible Satsuma to search for an American nuclear submarine that has disappeared in the waters off Guam. The Satsuma discovers the sub’s wreckage, with what appear to be huge claw marks in its hull. Suddenly, a violent wave causes the Satsuma’s sister craft to crash into a rock and explode. The Satsuma’s operator catches a glimpse of huge glowing dorsal fins passing behind nearby rocks, confirming the existence of a massive monster.
The situation intensifies as more monster sightings and attacks occur, and the JSDF realizes that they must act quickly to stop the creatures before they cause more destruction. The fate of Japan and the world rests in the hands of the JSDF as they face their most significant challenge yet – the mutated monsters wreaking havoc across the country.
Yuri, Takeda, and another coworker visit a police station to interview a strange old man who has been detained for defacing shrines. The man claims that Godzilla will return to seek revenge against Japan for the atrocities committed during World War II. He believes that the only way to defeat Godzilla is to awaken the three Guardian Monsters. However, Admiral Tachibana, Yuri’s father, dismisses the story when they tell him about it.
Meanwhile, in the Bonin Islands, Godzilla appears during a typhoon and causes severe damage. The JSDF begins searching for Godzilla in the waters around Japan. In the Aokigahara forest near Mount Fuji, a suicidal businessman tries to hang himself from a tree and sees a giant three-headed dragon seemingly frozen in ice in a cavern beneath him. He reports his discovery to the police, but they do not believe him.
Suddenly, an earthquake strikes, and the monster from Mt. Myoko, Baragon, surfaces. Baragon frees the strange old man from the police station and starts wandering through the countryside. Meanwhile, Godzilla surfaces from Yaizu harbor and goes ashore, rampaging through a nearby town and obliterating a crowd of civilians with his atomic breath.
Initially, the JSDF cannot distinguish which monster is Godzilla, but Yuri and Takeda identify Baragon as one of the three Guardian Monsters. They conclude that Baragon is going to try and fight Godzilla. Both monsters converge in a forested area and begin fighting. Baragon tries to outmaneuver Godzilla by burrowing underneath him, but Godzilla overpowers him with his strength. Godzilla stomps Baragon into the ground and then blasts him with his atomic breath when he tries to escape. When he blasts Baragon a second time, it causes the monster to explode. Godzilla continues his march across Japan, heading straight for Tokyo. Admiral Tachibana remembers the 1954 Godzilla attack, where he lost his parents, and is haunted by the memories.
Despite the efforts of the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF), their weapons are unable to stop Godzilla, and they are quickly destroyed by his atomic breath. When Admiral Tachibana asks how the JSDF was able to defeat Godzilla in 1954, a superior informs him that the monster was actually killed by an experimental chemical weapon, but the government covered up the truth and had the JSDF claim credit for the victory. Meanwhile, Yuri uses a bicycle to follow Godzilla and record him from a safe distance. As Godzilla approaches Yokohama, the cocoon on Lake Ikeda splits open and Mothra emerges in her imago form, joining the battle against the King of the Monsters. The old man travels to the cavern in Aokigahara and awakens the final Guardian Monster, Ghidorah, who makes his way to Yokohama to fight alongside Mothra and stop Godzilla.
The JSDF places battleships in Tokyo Bay and sets up a defense line in Yokohama, awaiting Godzilla’s arrival. When the beast arrives, Mothra attacks him first, firing poisonous stingers into his face while dodging his atomic breath. But one of Godzilla’s atomic breaths misses Mothra and destroys the Yokohama Landmark Tower, killing soldiers inside. Mothra lands on Godzilla’s head and scratches his face, then Ghidorah enters the fight, biting Godzilla and discharging electricity through his bite. Despite being overpowered by Godzilla, Ghidorah manages to wound him before being slammed onto a building. Mothra tries to help, but Godzilla blasts her away with his atomic breath. As Godzilla prepares to finish off Ghidorah, Mothra sacrifices herself by flying in the way of the atomic breath, absorbing the blast and sending her flying away.
Angered by the death of Mothra, Godzilla turns his attention to the JSDF, and easily destroys their forces with his atomic breath. As he prepares to destroy the battleship on which Admiral Tachibana is stationed, Mothra tries to attack him from behind, but Godzilla turns around and completely destroys her. However, Mothra’s energy flows into the unconscious Ghidorah, reviving him as the Thousand-Year-Old Dragon, King Ghidorah. King Ghidorah takes flight, surrounded by a golden shield of energy, and deflects Godzilla’s atomic breath with ease. He then releases a ball of energy at Godzilla, blasting him out of the city and into the bay.
As the epic battle between King Ghidorah and Godzilla rages on, Admiral Tachibana and Commander Yutaka Hirose make a daring dive into the bay to launch D-03 Missiles at Godzilla. Yuri reunites with Takeda and the two of them head to the Yokohama Bay Bridge to capture the fight on camera. However, when Commander Hirose fires a missile from his ship, Godzilla manages to dodge it and it instead hits King Ghidorah, knocking him out.
A stray blast of Godzilla’s atomic breath destroys the bridge, causing Yuri and Takeda to plummet into the bay. As they sink, an ancient stone falls out of Yuri’s pocket, reviving King Ghidorah, who emerges from the water and resumes the fight. Using gravity beams fired from his mouths, King Ghidorah blasts Godzilla relentlessly, but the monster manages to withstand the attack.
Finally, Godzilla absorbs the energy from King Ghidorah’s gravity beams and combines it with his atomic breath, unleashing a spiral-wrapped atomic beam that obliterates King Ghidorah. The spirits of all three Guardian Monsters then appear in the sky and flow into Godzilla, causing him to sink underwater.
While submerged, Godzilla swallows the Satsuma, with Tachibana still inside. He regains consciousness after seeing a vision of Yuri, and fires a D-03 Missile into a wound on Godzilla’s chest inflicted by King Ghidorah from the inside. This causes Godzilla to surface, ready to fire his atomic breath at Yuri and Takeda. However, the missile explodes, expanding the wound and causing Godzilla to roar in pain.
As Godzilla charges his atomic breath again, the pressure builds to critical levels and he explodes, disappearing from all tracking systems. Meanwhile, the Satsuma surfaces, and Tachibana exits the craft. Yuri runs to embrace her father, but he warns her to stay back as he hasn’t checked the radiation levels. As Yuri salutes her father, he looks out at the sea and tells her not to thank him, but his comrades and the three Guardian Monsters. Unbeknownst to the humans, Godzilla’s disembodied heart begins to beat continuously on the sea floor.
The appearance of Godzilla in Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is a departure from the design featured in the previous incarnations of Godzilla in the Millennium series. Instead, it pays homage to past designs, particularly the original 1954 version. This Godzilla once again boasts rough charcoal-gray skin and smaller bone-white scutes. Its head is smaller and more rounded, with prominent fangs protruding from the mouth. One of the most striking features is its white pupil-less eyes, which give it an undead and otherworldly appearance. This Godzilla also possesses very large white claws on its hands and feet. Its legs and feet are relatively large compared to the rest of its body, and it leans forward slightly, holding its neck at a downward angle instead of standing completely upright.
In the Millennium version of Baragon, also known as SokogekiBara, the monster is depicted as a dark red, four-legged mammal-like reptilian creature. He boasts an orange horn on his forehead, head spikes, and large, floppy dog-like ears. While he retains a similar head design to his previous incarnation, he appears to be bulkier. Baragon’s eyes have also been updated with a more realistic look, featuring bright amber irises with large pupils.
Compared to the Showa version, the Millennium Baragon has more prominent teeth, including large fangs. His ears are wider and reduced in size, protruding slightly sideways rather than back towards the head. The monster’s legs are also more stout and larger, and have brightly detailed claws with the thumb claw being notably larger, resembling those of theropod dinosaurs. Overall, the design of the Millennium Baragon gives the monster a more ferocious and intimidating appearance than his previous iteration.
In the majority of scenes, the SokogekiBara suit was worn by actress Rie Ota. However, stuntman Toshinori Sasaki also contributed to the role.
The King Ghidorah suit in the movie is a modernized version of the original Shodai-Ghidorah suit, with significant updates. The wings have a more prominent dragon-like appearance, while the heads have a striking similarity to those of a mythical dragon. Additionally, the scales and feet are also crafted in a dragon-like fashion. Similar to the Heisei-Ghidorah suit, the Sokogeki-Ghidorah suit also has red-colored eyes, but the pupils have a more human-like appearance akin to the Shodai-Ghidorah suit.
To me, Ghidorah looked best in his 1965 debut, Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster. All appearances, starting with 1991’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, have just not looked the same or as terrifying. These later versions included wings much too small to carry the weight of the monster and often a still model was used in flying scenes, with no flapping of the wings. In this film in my opinion he doesn’t fare much better. There is too much reliance on CGI, which has never been a strong point in these movies due to lack of budget.
In her appearance in GMK, Mothra is depicted as a massive brown, segmented caterpillar resembling a silkworm, with glowing blue eyes. This iteration, known as Sokogeki-Mothra-Larva, has a unique shape around the eyes compared to the Heisei-Mothra- Larva. After undergoing metamorphosis, Mothra emerges from her cocoon with wings lacking in color, much like real-life insects when they first hatch. As she matures, her appearance changes into a mix of a hornet and moth. Her eyes are purple instead of the usual blue, and her legs are much longer. Her wings are pointier with a pattern that is similar to Mothra Leo from the Rebirth of Mothra trilogy. However, her pattern consists of purple on the top, yellow in the middle, and red on the bottom, instead of orange on the top and green on both the middle and bottom or all seven colors of the rainbow like Rainbow Mothra.
In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, the director Shusuke Kaneko opted to revamp Godzilla’s appearance entirely. He blended the designs of both the Shodai-Godzilla and Heisei series suits to retain the essence of the original Godzilla film while also providing a modernized look.
The Sokogeki-Godzilla suit is the second tallest in the history of Godzilla, measuring over seven feet tall, only surpassed by the suit used in a Snickers commercial in 2014. This suit has significant muscle definition, with the pointer and thumb claws being made longer than the other fingers. The eyes have no pupils or irises, emphasizing Godzilla’s evil and supernatural nature.
In addition, the dorsal plates on the Sokogeki-Godzilla suit are smaller compared to the previous Mire-Godzilla suit, and they have reverted to their original smooth and bone-white appearance. The skin texture of the suit is also back to its original charcoal black color.
One of the most interesting facts with this movie is in how Godzilla kills people. It has always been assumed that when Godzilla destroys a city that there are human casualties. In this film, Godzilla goes out of his way to kill people. While rampaging through the city scores of people are running away to escape. When one woman screams in terror, Godzilla stops, looks to where the screaming is coming from, and blasts the people with his atomic breath. In another scene, a woman who survived an earlier attack by Godzilla, is recovering in the hospital. She seems him approach and as he walks by, she sighs in relief. All of a sudden, Godzilla’s tail crashes through the building killing not only her, but everyone else in the hospital.
This is definitely a Godzilla film that stands above so many. It’s darker tone and amazing special effects sequences will bring you back again and again. The human characters are also really good and you get very attached to them, while they try to survive. I would’ve liked to see director Shûsuke Kaneko do more Godzilla films. He was able turn the entire Gamera series around and I would’ve loved to have seen what else he did with Godzilla.
If you haven’t seen this amazing film, you can order the Blu-ray double feature by clicking on the Blu-ray cover above. Make sure to read my other entries in my KAIJU KONNECTION series.