June 15, 2009
This summer, the Hirshhorn is paying homage to that radioactive Tokyo-raiding monster from beneath the sea. That’s right, this year’s Summer Camp film series is devoted to Godzilla and last Thursday, I saw my first movie featuring the big guy, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.
All I have to say is yeah, um… Wow. Trying to explain the plot is an exercise in futility, but the most I can tell you without running over plot holes is this: people from the 23rd century return to the 20th century and convince Japanese officials to destroy Godzilla, lest their country endure socio-economic hardship in the future. However, with Godzilla out of the way, the three-headed King Ghidorah appears and wreaks havoc on Japan. A new Godzilla must be created to save them from this new menace—a process that involves time travel, nuclear weapons and jumpsuits that come in a hideous palette of pastels. I won’t spoil the rest of the plot for you. (It spoils itself so nicely!)
So yes, the acting is cheesy, the plot is riddled with holes, and the special effects are on par with those seen in an episode of the Power Rangers. This is not to say that this movie and others like it aren’t entertaining. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah falls into that “so bad, it’s good,” category. It is one of those movies that tries to be serious but ends up being unintentionally funny. (Think along the lines of Robot Monster, Reefer Madness or the canonical Ed Wood.) Sure you can feel your brain cells die off as you’re watching stuff like this—but isn’t that part of the fun?
Frankly, the most entertaining bits of the movie were when Godzilla and King Ghidorah go head to head (to head to head). There’s something about actors in rubber suits engaging in the ultimate monster-on-monster smackdown that’s absolutely captivating. (Indeed, Godzilla ended up being more expressive than the actors trying to successfully pull off human characters.) Better still was a Japanese take on Americans, where the actors loudly deliver affected English-language dialog. (“Take THAT you dinosaur!” a naval officer quips after his troops seemingly kill off Godzilla. The monster quickly revives and goes on one of its famous killing sprees.)
It’s little things like that which remind me of how watching low budget movies can be an inspirational experience. You have to figure that, if these jokers can pull a movie together, who’s to say that you couldn’t make a movie yourself—and not do a better job of it?
The Hirshhorn series OMGodzilla continues every Thursday in the month of June. Admission is free, but seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. For a detailed listing of upcoming Godzilla movie events, check out the Hirshhorn’s website.
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.