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Invasion of Astro-Monster

Invasion of Astro-Monster

Godzilla vs Monster Zero / The Great Monster War / Kaijû daisensô

Ishirō Honda

Japan, 1965

Credits

Review by Leo Goldsmith

Posted on 06 February 2013

Source Netflix VOD

Categories The Compleat Godzilla

At the outset of the curiously titled Invasion of Astro-Monster – AKA Godzilla vs Monster Zero, et cetera – it is explained that a mysterious planet has been discovered “beyond Jupiter,” located in the “Scorpion constellation.” This planet, which has been lurking in the great planet’s shadows previously unseen because it’s “very dark,” is named by the humans “Planet X.” This proves convenient because, we later learn, the humanoids who inhabit Planet X also call it that. The inhabitants of this rocky, desolate planet, which is dangerously devoid of hydrogen oxide (that’s water to you and me, folks), are a strange race, grey-faced, vinyl-clad humanoids who wear sunglasses and equipped with antennae coming out of their heads. Their leader is called “The Controller,” and they are in fact “controlled by electric computers.”

They are also pretty friendly, at least they seem so to Astronaut Fuji and Astronaut Glenn (the latter played by Hollywood actor Nick Adams, a real-life pal of both James Dean and Elvis Presley), the representatives of the World Space Authority charged with exploring the newly discovered planet. But then, the X-ians have a problem, and they believe the Earthlings can help. That problem is that ungainly three-headed, flying demon King Ghidorah (who, in accordance with Planet X’s compulsive numbering system, is known to them as “Monster Zero”), and the X-ians propose a plan: They use their advanced nuclear technology to transport Monsters Zero One and Zero Two (that is, Godzilla and Rodan) to their planet to defeat Ghidorah, just as they had done before, and the humans get the cure for all diseases. Deal?

In this respect, Invasion seems to pick up directly where its predecessor, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, left off—seems, I say, because there are some notable inconsistencies. There are no fairies or Venusians here, for starters, but most glaring of all is the omission of Mothra. At the end of the prior film, Ghidorah is chased into space by a three-pronged attack by Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra; here, apparently due to budgetary constraints, Godzilla and Rodan are left alone to double-team Ghidorah. One should not feel too short-changed by this arrangement, however: this deal results in not one, but two monster-brawls, the first of which takes place on the surface of the alien planet, with much chirping and shrieking, reduced-gravity bouncing, and bolder-tossing, and culminates in a rather absurdly haughty victory dance, which has since been immortalized as an animated GIF.

Once returned to Earth – Ghidorah defeated, cure for all diseases in hand, and Rodan and Godzilla cruelly stranded on an alien world – Fuji and Glenn start to wonder: are Planet X and its emotionless electronic inhabitants to be trusted? For the moment, this twinge of doubt doesn’t prevent stop them from chit-chat, or Glenn from having dates with Japanese girls (“not the wrong kind, I hope!”), or Fuji tending to the sub-Ozu, bourgeois domestic affairs like sorting out his sister’s love life. Haruni, who complains of her brother’s infantilization, is in love with geeky Jimmy Olsen type Tetsui, the inventor of some kind of rape whistle, a device that emits a horrible noise which has just been purchased for an absurd amount of money by a shadowy toy company called the “World Education Corporation.”

All of this seems woefully unimportant but for the resemblance of the toy company reps to the X-ians, but then it’s also very quickly dispensed with, with little regard to character development or nuance. Before we have much time to care, Planet X’s flying saucers descend War of the Worlds-style and claim Earth as their colony. And if the humans don’t comply, they have not one weapon, but three—a trio of giant, destruction-hungry monsters, manipulated by remote control.

Of course, Earth prevails, all thanks to an innocent-seeming, noise-emitting device whose inventor the X-ians had hoped to buy off. The resolution of this intergalactic conflict and the return of the monster to Earth leads to a sort of strange new world order, however. Once awakened from their remote-controlled automatism, Godzilla and Rodan must engage in combat with the evil Ghidorah, once again restoring peace to the world, firmly establishing them as protectors of Earth. Invasion has many pleasures, not least of which is its resemblance to Honda’s earlier, more purely sci-fi ventures, like The Mysterians and Dogora, the Space Monster. But perhaps its most remarkable feature is its subtle, but noticeable steps in rehabilitating Godzilla’s character. This starts, as these things usually do in this series, with a slight update of the suit: Invasion’s Godzilla has slightly rounder eyes and a more athletic, streamlined physique (presumably the better to do a victory dance to). But the series’ mounting sympathies for these monsters is most perfectly encapsulated in that single from Planet X: a shot of Rodan and Godzilla, stranded on Planet X, helplessly flapping their arms as the earthlings blithely rocket back home without them.

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