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Passport Cinema: Godzilla Raids Again

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If Gojira was that one teacher in school who never strayed from the curriculum, then Godzilla Raids Again is like a substitute. For a while, it lets you get away with screwing around and having a bit of fun, but it's not long before the flick slaps its game face on. Godzilla Raids Again pretty much follows this structure. While the first half is an entertaining monster mash that never gets too cheesy, the second half sticks out like a sore thumb, swiftly putting an end to the good times it started out with.

While scoping out the ocean for a fishing fleet, a pilot is forced to make an emergency landing at nearby Iwato Island. But when another plane is dispatched to rescue him, a threat all too familiar to Japan is soon discovered. Though the city-stomping monster known as Godzilla was killed following his Tokyo rampage, it seems that a not-too-distant relative of the beast is alive and well on the island. It's only a matter of time before the new Godzilla sets his sights on destroying the city of Osaka, but as it turns out, he's not alone. There's another monster, named Anguirus, on the loose, and he's brought his feud with Godzilla to the mainland, a true clash of the titans that the people of Osaka may never recover from.

Godzilla Raids Again marks something of a halfway point for the Godzilla series. Though not as stone-faced as Gojira, it didn't quite embody the cheeseball mentality that the following feature, King Kong vs. Godzilla, would adopt. It's just loose enough to have a little fun for a few scenes without going completely over the top. As it comes to pass, though, these parts are the picture's best, and you'll miss them when the remainder of the story tries in vain to start giving a damn. While the effects are still fairly crude (check out the motionless Godzilla toy used for an aerial shot), the movie actually gets you to kind of see beyond the rubber suits. There's no real reason why Godzilla and Anguirus are fighting; they just do, which is all I needed. It's better this way, to see the two massive monsters duke it out for the sake of duking it out instead of being served with some moronic motivation. The brawls really are a lot of fun, setting the stage for many more rumbles down the franchise's road.

Unfortunately, one thing that Godzilla Raids Again does share with its predecessor is a malaise that pops up whenever the story focuses on the humans. Stock, paper-thin characters are nothing new, but the bunch that's gathered here is beyond boring. Worse yet, the story expects you to care about them, which is hard to do when they've been awarded as much development as a protozoa. It's not so bad when their scenes are interspersed with those of Godzilla battling Anguirus, but there comes a point about halfway through when the action comes to a screeching halt. It's at this time that Godzilla Raids Again peruses the pathetic array of subplots before it, dabbling in each one before getting back to Godzilla. You might not think it matters much, but this section really slows the flick down to a crawl, to the point where you ponder taking a nap instead of going any further.

Like Gojira, Godzilla Raids Again isn't a bona fide classic, but it's a decent enough example of kaiju in its own right. Fans might enjoy it even more than the first movie, since there's less concentration on Hiroshima-inspired imagery and more on the main monster mash at hand. All in all, Godzilla Raids Again isn't a halfway bad way of carrying on the Big G's destructive legacy.

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About A.J. Hakari