After the breakaway success of Godzilla, it didn’t take Toho long to pump out a sequel. Godzilla Raids Again isn’t one of my favorite flicks in the series, and despite being the third most-attended Godzilla movie, was pretty much panned by critics. Indeed, Godzilla Raids Again is a much more straight-forward B-movie, lacking all the social and political commentary of its predecessor. That isn’t to say it’s a bad Godzilla movie, just a fairly forgettable one.
After making an emergency landing on Iwato Island, pilots Tsukioka (Hiroshi Koizumi) and Kobayashi (Minoru Chiaki) make a horrifying discovery: Godzilla lives! A new Godzilla (Haruo Nakajima) has been awoken by undersea H-bomb testing, but he’s not alone; the spine-backed Anguirus (Katsumi Tezuka) has been resurrected alongside him. As the two titans duke it out in Osaka, the Japanese Defense Force struggles to come up with a means to defeat them both.
It’s not hard to understand why Godzilla Raids Again was so poorly received. Godzilla was a landmark film, overflowing with commentary about the dangers of nuclear weapons. Godzilla Raids Again is a very cut-and-dry monster movie, lacking all of the intellectual layers of its predecessor. But when it comes to the Godzilla franchise, “intellectually layered” installments are far from the norm and it’s not something you should really expect from every episode of the series.
No, the problem I find with Godzilla Raids Again isn’t that it lacks thoughtful political commentary, but because it’s really dull. True, the “Godzilla” franchise was still in its infancy and everything was still a learning experience, but that doesn’t make the film any less boring. Perhaps “boring” is too strong a word; “bland” might be more appropriate. I found the human characters presented here, Tsukioka and Kobayashi, to be extremely uninteresting. There is no conflict within the human cast, as they’re all buddies and get along a-okay. So watching Tsukioka and Hidemi (Setsuko Wakayama) work out their wedding plans and joke around with Kobayashi wasn’t my idea of a thrilling human subplot. In a rare instance within the series, a human character from another movie makes a return appearance. Takashi Shimura returns for a cameo as Professor Yamane at the beginning of the film then swiftly disappears. While many actors who worked for Toho’s monster movies would appear in multiple films, they rarely played the same character.
As far as the monsters are concerned, this second Godzilla is identical to the old; you won’t miss a beat. He’ll go on to appear in the rest of the Showa series and undergo a procession of drastic appearance and personality alterations. But I don’t want to talk about him. I want to talk about my main man: Anguirus. Anguirus is a fan-favorite among American Godzilla fans (the Japanese seem to prefer Baragon, confusingly) and my personal favorite. I love the guy because he has no particularly good special attacks or powers; he’s just tough. Never backs down, always on the frontlines and always hanging in there with the other monsters who are ten-times more powerful than he is. But, of course, that aspect of his character won’t appear for quite some time. Here, he just appears as Godzilla’s nemesis, which is a stark contrast to their future relationship, where he becomes the Big G’s sidekick.
Being only the second installment in the series, the creators still have a lot of learning to do. Godzilla had never fought another monster before, so what we see here is a very… different kind of monster battle. Director Motoyoshi Oda didn’t seem to grasp the concept that in order to give the behemoths a sense of tremendous weight, they’d have to move slowly. Normally, Godzilla and other monsters are filmed at normal speed and then have their footage slowed down so they appear more lumbering and enormous. Oda didn’t employ that technique, so as a result, the fight between Godzilla and Anguirus is very fast and spastic. Saying that a fight scene in a Godzilla movie looks “silly” might raise some eyebrows, but that’s the best way to describe their battle. It’s like something out of The Munsters.
They’ve also yet to adopt color or Tohoscope, and that stupid Godzilla hand-puppet is still in use. Anguirus has a hand-puppet, too. In fact, there’s a whole hand-puppet battle!
Also, Godzilla shoots, like, Febreeze from his mouth. Which Anguirus finds only mildly irritating.
Godzilla Raids Again isn’t without its positive points. It develops the “Godzilla battles ____” dynamic that would become the pattern of the series and introduces my favorite monster of all-time. However, the human drama is some of the dullest you’ll ever encounter and the monster battle, the whole reason we watch these movies, is too goofy-looking for even a Godzilla movie.
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