*. Invasion of Astro-Monster is usually classified as the sixth film in the Godzilla canon, and we shouldn’t be too surprised that Godzilla’s name isn’t in the title, or the Japanese title The Giant Monster War (though it was shown on TV in the U.S. as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero). After all, Godzilla’s name hadn’t appeared in the previous film either (Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster). But what we may be surprised by is how secondary a role Godzilla, Rodan, and Ghidorah, have to play this time out.
*. Normally this would be the kiss of death for a Godzilla movie, since he is the star. I didn’t mind his absence from most of this film though, or even the fact that he doesn’t show up until we’re more than a half-hour in, when he’s turned into a bit of space luggage along with Rodan (appearing a bit like the Star Child in his embryonic bubble, three years before 2001).
*. I think there were two reasons this relegation of the big boys to the sidelines didn’t end up sinking the movie. First, by this point in the series I was getting a little tired of seeing monsters stomping on buildings and fighting among themselves. Some of the monster mash footage here was even recycled from earlier flicks.
*. Second, the human story this time is, for my money, the best of the series yet.
*. When I say the “best” I certainly don’t mean the most credible. The plot here is absolutely ridiculous. As Stuart Galbraith IV puts it, with some understatement, in his DVD commentary: “as enjoyable as the film is, it’s not exactly logical or dramatically sound.” If the Xiliens can already control Ghidorah (whom they call Monster Zero), and already have a team of agents established on Earth, why do they need to kidnap Godzilla and Rodan, and then bring them back to Earth? I mean, nothing else in the film makes sense either, but this is basically the whole movie we’re talking about here. And it doesn’t make a lick of sense.
*. But I prefer cheesy ’60s science-fiction to cheesy fantasy any day. Give me Planet X, wherever and whatever the hell it is (a satellite of Jupiter? part of the “Scorpion galaxy”?), over that magical island where Mothra and the faerie twins hail from.
*. How can you resist the Xiliens? They look like an ’80s New Wave band with their narrow sunglasses, shiny and far too-tight silver pants, pointy, curly-toed boots, and antennae sticking out of their heads. Not to mention the way they go crazy when they hear a particular sound, clutching their heads like the Knights of Ni hearing the word “it.” These may be my favourite spacemen ever.
*. So this is the first Godzilla movie where I actually found the human story more interesting than anything to do with the monsters. For their part, the guys in rubber suits do their thing. The one highlight, or lowlight if you’re a purist, is the victory jig Godzilla does after scaring off Ghidorah on Planet X. Apparently this was taken from a manga character who was popular at the time. I just thought it was natural exuberance.
*. Other than that, I was really feeling a bit sorry for Godzilla and Rodan getting swept up in this business. Dragged off to Planet X, abandoned, and then returned to Earth, all for no clear reason. It’s like they’ve been relegated to sideshow players now, which would be likely to make any star angry I think. When the Xilien radio signal is jammed I wondered why they didn’t keep going on their rampage. Clearly Godzilla was the hero now, but after this movie I think he was ripe for a heel turn.