Destroy All Monsters


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Destroy All Monsters
"Sometimes the most thrilling experience one can have at the movies is simply watching a big monster fight and a lot of stuff getting smashed up."

If there is one classic kaiju film which comes close to matching the historic weight and enduring popularity of the original Godzilla, it’s Ishirô Honda’s 1968 epic Destroy All Monsters. No film of the era packs in as much monster action as this, and although it may not please cinemagoers who are wedded to seamless modern special effects, for anyone willing to suspend disbelief and accept it on its own terms, there’s a great deal of fun to be had.

At the heart of it is, of course, everybody’s favourite big lizard, Godzilla – but excuse him if he doesn’t quite seems like himself. Why does he attack New York City instead of Tokyo? Why does he appear and disappear so abruptly? What, one might ask, is his motivation? Suspicions grow when his companions from Monster Island, Gorosaurus and Manda, and even the usually gentle Mothra, also target major cities, leaving Earth’s population in terror. An investigation ordered by the UN’s Science Committee uncovers a plot involving alien mind control, but although they may be able to win traditionally friendly monsters back to their side, the aliens have a different kind of pact with King Ghidorah, and saving the world will not be easy.

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There’s a lot going on here, with human characters getting more meaningful action than usual, instead of just scuttling around on the sidelines whilst the real heroes do their thing. Seductive female aliens present and additional peril, and there’s espionage and intrigue and a battle on the Moon. As for the monsters, they work more destruction here than in any other Toho title, and there’s a spectacular final showdown on Mount Fuji which also involves Rodan, Anguirus, Kumonga and (comparatively) little Minilla, Godzilla’s son.

The more respectable critics of the era may have turned their noses up at the film’s stilted acting (not helped by bad dubbing) and overall lack of sophistication, but its 55th anniversary revival a the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival reflects its ongoing appeal even to those who are quite serious about their cinema. All else aside, it represents an understanding that sometimes the most thrilling experience one can have at the movies is simply watching a big monster fight and a lot of stuff getting smashed up. It’s colourful and playful and there’s nothing wrong with that. Art films also have their place, but sometimes Destroy All Monsters is exactly what one needs.

Reviewed on: 09 Jun 2023
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Destroy All Monsters packshot
Alien mind control leads to famous monsters destroying Earth's major cities - and that's just the start of it.

Director: Ishirô Honda, Jun Fukuda

Writer: Ishirô Honda, Takeshi Kimura

Starring: Akira Kubo, Jun Tazaki, Yukiko Kobayashi, Yoshio Tsuchiya

Year: 1968

Runtime: 89 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


Tribeca 2023

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