Better Title: The one where Godzilla dances
By this point in the franchise history, Godzilla was getting to be pretty big in America. His movies were pulled from Japan theater, edited badly, then dubbed badly, and the American audiences were like ‘yessssssssssss’. So one American production company decided that maybe they should try and get in on the ground floor of all that. So they rolled up to Toho, started getting involved in some monster movies, then when it came time for another showing of Big G to pop up, they were like “Yo, here’s a giant bag of cash.” And the rest was history.
With United Productions of America bankrolling half the cost of this film, they were wanting to make sure it’d do well with their target audience, so this is a bit more Americanized than most of the other Godzilla films are. Godzilla usually has a rather slow build, with a lot of mystery and people just kind of chilling before it’s finally revealed that all the weird stuff happening is really because of the monster whose name is in the title and also Godzilla is there too and they’re going to fight! Instead, here, the action starts right away. There’s a decent amount of human action and romance, there, and there’s even a western lead character for the first time in the series. And, probably a bunch of other subtle changes, too. I’m not really a film guy. I can’t really say much about the cultural differences in media there. Maybe Red Metal can, he’s the movie dude.
In any case, this is Godzilla with an extra dose of AMERICA! In there. Let’s see how that goes.
The film introduces our leads pretty quickly. We’ve got our two heroes, whose names I miraculously remember this time! They’re Glenn and Fuji! I’m proud of myself! They’re astronauts, currently en route to Planet X, a newly discovered potentially habitable moon of Jupiter, on behalf of an international coalition, the World Space Agency. This is set in the 1960s, by the way. Yes, we could travel all the way to Jupiter in the 60s. The government has just been hiding it from you. Fuji’s sister, Girl Fuji, works for the World Space Agency in some capacity. Girl Fuji is engaged with a Giant Nerd, who’s an inventor currently working on creating the most annoying sound possible. Seriously, he’s introduced activating his device, and it pisses his mom off because of how annoying and loud it is, and he’s like ‘yesssssssssss’. Obviously, this endears him super much to Girl Fuji, but Fuji hates him because he’s a broke giant nerd that still lives with his parents and is annoying as hell. Glenn and Fuji are super bros, while Glenn has a lot of sympathy for Giant Nerd, and not a whole lot of interaction with Girl Fuji. That’s the relationship between all of them.
Glenn and Fuji arrive at Planet X and find the surface very rocky and desolate but then weird stuff happens and ALIENS! Xiliens, to be exact. Who are the dorkiest sci-fi aliens I have ever seen. Look at them, up there. The Xiliens just take our heroes to their underground lair and pretend to be super friendly but are really suspicious as hell. Unfortunately, our heroes, being the main characters of a work of fiction, pick up on absolutely none of that. The Xiliens tell them that their planet is under attack by Monster Zero, showing them video feed of a very recognizable King Ghidorah rampaging over a whole lot of nothing there. They then say something about water being more precious to their people than gold (PSA:if you ever hear an alien say that, begin preparing your invasion defenses immediately), and say that they’re absolutely defenseless against Monster Zero, but if Earth is up for it, they’d like to trade Monster Zero-One and Zero-Two, otherwise known as Godzilla and Rodan, in exchange for a cure for cancer. Which, like, what the heck is up with that choice of monsters. Yes, they justify it by saying it was the two of them that beat back Ghidorah on Earth, but that’s slagging Mothra out of quite a bit of work. Godzilla was the heavy lifter of that fight, Mothra was a very effective support character, and Rodan was just kind of there. But I guess if they want to fill their planet with a general sense of failure, Rodan’s the guy for it.
Fuji and Glenn head back to Earth, and turns out that in spite of what I said earlier, they did pick up on at least a little of what all was going on there because they’re like ‘you know, maybe those guys weren’t really on the up and up.’ Giant Nerd has actually managed to sell his invention while they were away, too! A woman from the World Education Corporation, which is a partner of the World Space Agency, bought the rights for his Most Annoying Sound Generator but the way they worded the contract, she doesn’t actually have to pay him. What an education company would want with a horrible noise is never explored. So all four of our leads meet in a restaurant, where Fuji states that he still hates Giant Nerd because even though he sold his invention, he’s still a broke loser. Glenn then leaves to go have sexytimes with his new girlfriend, who turns out to be the woman that bought Giant Nerd’s invention. Said sexytimes are interrupted when one of the aliens shows up to say their preparations are complete, but the girlfriend tries to convince Glenn he was just dreaming.
The Earthy leaders convene and decide that getting to cure cancer in exchange for giving up a horribly destructive blight on society and a huge stupid eyesore respectively is a pretty good deal, so it’s time for Godzilla and Rodan to go. The Xiliens reveal that they’ve been on Earth and had the two monsters under their control the whole time, and were just waiting for confirmation to take them away. Fuji, Glenn, and some other space guy join the Xiliens on a jaunt back to their home planet. Giant Nerd stalks Glenn’s girlfriend for a while, stowing away on her boat and following her to a remote island, where he then gets kidnapped and sent to island jail. The Xiliens reveal in their spacecraft that they’re all mindlinked with their ships, and control it by thoughts. Then they all get to Planet X, set the monsters free, and immediately get attacked by Ghidorah. Godzilla dodges his blasts, somehow tackles the flying monster, and forces it to ground. Rodan is just there. Then they hit King Ghidorah with rocks until he flies away, and Godzilla does the dumbest blasted dance, thus cementing that the series is all done with any sort of gravitas the original films had.
The Xiliens get all happy, but then notice that Fuji and Glenn had slipped away while everyone was watching the monster action. Our two heroes sneak into a cavern covered in gold, where Glenn finds his girlfriend. Except she doesn’t recognize him. And then he finds another of his girlfriend. It turns out all of the Xilien women look exactly like his girlfriend. Glenn despairs, because if his girlfriend looks exactly like everyone else then she’s not hot anymore. The two astronauts get capture, I don’t know what their plan really was to avoid that, and would face execution except they have diplomatic immunity so now they have to leave on this exactly the same but even better copy of their spaceship the Xiliens just made for fun. Godzilla and Rodan are sad because they’re abandoning them on a world in which there is nothing for them to do but fight King Ghidorah.
They take the tape that has the data on how to make the cancer cure to a government assembly, and start playing it for the first time there. It turns out, there’s no cure data on there at all! Instead, they play a recording where the Xiliens say that they have to surrender the Earth or be destroyed by three giant mind controlled monsters. This was foreseen by everybody except for most of the people in that room. Also, this seems totally pointless. Like, the Xiliens could have just surprise taken Godzilla and Rodan if they needed them on Planet X to mind control them, and could have skipped the whole first half of this movie, but then they wouldn’t have gotten the “Haha PUNKED!” moment with the bait and switch tape. Glenn goes to see his girlfriend at the World Education Corporation which is quickly revealed to be a total Xilien front. His girlfriend says that they have to do whatever the computer says, and the computer said she had to pose as his girlfriend to spy on him, but he’s such a hot hunk of American man that she super fell in love with him. A bunch of armed Xiliens storm in, tell her to get back, she doesn’t and sticks a note in his pocket, so they kill her. Then Glenn gets taken to the same island jail that Giant Nerd is in. Glenn reads the note his girlfriend died to give him, which gives him the instructions of how to genocide her whole race, namely that they’re weak to a certain really annoying sound. Giant Nerd realizes that’s why they bought his invention, and has a prototype of it with him, so he activates it, which kills all the nearby guards. Then Glenn and Giant Nerd escape.
Earth hasn’t surrendered so the Xiliens set the kaiju loose. Godzilla and King Ghidorah go and wreak some stuff something fierce. Rodan beats his wings really hard and stuff coincidentally happens to fall down around him. Fuji and Girl Fuji are apparently also scientists in addition to their day jobs, and begin developing a ray that can block the Xiliens’ mind control waves. Glenn and Giant Nerd show up just as they finish that, and they’re like “Maybe we can have everyone on Earth holding up their boomboxes and blaring the murder-sound.” So they do the both of those, severing the mind control of Godzilla and Rodan, but not King Ghidorah, because as future movies will illustrate, Ghidorah is addicted to mind control. The sound gets to the Xilien’s central spacecraft, where it kills all the Xiliens because they’re all mindlinked to it. Godzilla and King Ghidorah fight for a while. Ghidorah’s apparently a lot weaker now than he was when it took three monsters to face him, as he’s having trouble with Godzilla alone. Then Rodan decides to go cock it all up, and knocks everybody into the ocean. King Ghidorah flies to space again, but Godzilla and Rodan don’t reappear, because maybe they’re dead but of course they’re not.
Sooooooo…. that’s the movie. It’s certainly a… thing.
Okay, listen. This is a film that, at least going by what summaries I read online, a lot of people really enjoy. According to good old wikizilla this film is ‘very popular among fans’. And you know what? I’m not going to take it from them. If you like the type of incredibly cheesy sci-fi movies MST3K used to cover, this might be good for you. I can’t especially recommend it, otherwise. The story was way more focused on its sci-fi content then its monster action, so this doesn’t feel like a Godzilla movie so much as some goofball sci-fi film with Godzilla as an extended cameo character. Which, you could do. Lots of Godzilla films give him rather minimal screentime, and use it to great effect. They’re still about the Big G in some way, though. This one, you could have largely excised the Kaiju and had basically the same movie.
And it’s not even a good sci-fi plot with or without him. And let’s be clear. I like the right kind of bad movie. I like it a lot. This isn’t the right kind of bad movie though. The Xiliens look incredibly goofy, but outside of that, the plot’s just not different enough from anything else to be good cheesy bad. I could watch any other dumb alien invasion movie, and it would hit largely the same notes. Come to think of it, Mars Attacks follows largely the same plot save that it cuts the faffing about in the first act here down quite a bit. Not a good showing.
And the monster action here is kind of lame. A bit uninspired. The budget for this film, even with the American backing, is still significantly reduced, and that shows a lot in the special effects. The big fight at the beginning between the three beasties on Planet X was the highlight of the film, and it’s over in a couple of minutes. Once everyone returns to Earth, honestly, I found myself glazing over in a lot of the monster sequences. Not really what I want out of the film. If you’re looking for good Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, the previous film hit it a lot better. If you want a good bad Godzillaverse sci-fi adventure, some of the later films will get into that. I think the biggest problem with Invasion of the Astro Monster is that it just doesn’t stand out.
Still, it does have a very distinct place in the Showa Era’s slide into the kid friendly sci-fi Godzilla films that it would become. This does establish the change the previous film made, showing Godzilla as a hero, and does give us the first look at hostile aliens getting involved with monsters. Both drums that will be beat again and again in the coming movies.