Destroy All Monsters (1968) Review

For a long time, Toho studios had been receiving dwindling returns from the Godzilla franchise that seemed to be all but dead at this point. In order to put the franchise to rest, they approached original director Ishiro Honda and original composer Akira Ifukube to make one final Godzilla film before putting the franchise to rest. That film was Destroy All Monsters.

Set far into the future of 1999, all of the monsters ever seen in Toho’s library are kept safely on Monster Island and away from civilisation. However, when the planet becomes under siege by aliens to free the Monsters and use mind control abilities to have them target the cities on Earth, it is up to Japan and the heroic crew of the spacefaring rocket, SY-3, to free the monsters from alien control and reclaim Earth.

In many ways the plot of Destroy All Monsters is essentially the same as Invasion of Astro-Monster but on a larger scale, and the derivative nature of it eventually hitting the same beats as before can make the film quite predictable at times. However, much of how the plot plays out is very different from that film. This film has a tighter focus on the monsters, giving them the spot light more often than a Godzilla film has before up to this point. The scenes of city destruction are abundant and thankfully so, as the special effects, suitmation and miniatures are all at their best in here. Also getting to see Godzilla walk and destroy things alongside more monsters than he ever had before is truly a sight to behold, including familiar faces like Anguirus, Mothra and Rodan, and lesser known monsters like Manda, Gorosaurus and Baragon. Seeing so many monsters on screen at once creates a spectacle like no other achieved within the Showa Era and that gives this film it’s unique identity: It’s like the Avengers, but with giant monsters.

It’s not only the monsters that get to participate in the action, however, the human cast are frequently getting into gunfights, pursuing UFO’s or running away from the monsters themselves. This might be the most engaged the human cast has ever been with the monsters and the film shines for it, because it raises the stakes and makes all the moving pieces fit together realistically. Additionally, having the main characters be the crew of spaceship gives the film a blockbuster feel and allows you to find them more unique than the, more often than not, generic protagonists of past movies.

Also on point here is the music, which perfectly compliments the serious tone that this film returns the series to. Each track simultaneously elevates the sense of dread given off by the monsters and the elevates the stakes higher than what we have seen before.

In terms of monster action, most of their scenes are impressive set pieces where they rampage through cities and destroy things. Not only do we get to see them in Tokyo, but also briefly in places like Paris, Moscow and New York. At the end of the film one of the most iconic fight scenes in the franchise takes place: The fight between all of the monsters we have seen in the film, and King Ghidorah. It is a brief fight, but there’s a reason it’s so highly regarded and that’s because of how iconic it is. Every monster gets a chance to shine in this fight: Anguirus starts his trend of being beaten on relentlessly, Mothra gets to use her webs, Godzilla gets to stomp on his enemy, and even Godzilla’s Son, Minya, gets to help kill Ghidorah by blowing an atomic bubble around his centre head which kills it.

It’s hard to say anything other than this is the definitive Godzilla film of the Showa Era series. It encapsulates all of what made the previous films successful and gets rid of a lot of the pandering towards children that was seen in Ebirah Horror of the Deep and Son of Godzilla. This film is a must watch, not only for Godzilla fans, but also for anyone looking to get into the kaiju genre.

It’s hard to overstate how much this film raised the bar for Godzilla films. It was intended as a send-off for the franchise, but was so beloved that the franchise continued, and is still continuing to this very day. Out of all the Showa Era films so far, it’s also been the one I was the most engaged with and the one that I couldn’t look away from the whole time it was playing. Even with my other higher rated titles like Invasion of Astro-Monster and King Kong vs Godzilla I found myself being distracted by things outside of the film, but this was not the case at all with Destroy All Monsters. For this reason above all, you should absolutely see this movie.

At the end of every Godzilla review, I rank the films I have written about so far. The updated list can be seen below:

  1. Destroy All Monsters (1968)
  2. Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
  3. King Kong vs Godzilla (1963)
  4. Mothra vs Godzilla (1964)
  5. Godzilla (1954)
  6. Ebirah Horror of the Deep (1966)
  7. Son of Godzilla (1967)
  8. Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
  9. Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

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