Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-out Attack (will be abbreviated "GMK" for the rest of the review) has a rather interesting reputation among fans. Some claim it to be one of the greatest of the films, likening it to a "masterpiece." Some say after the Baragon fight it quickly deteriorates into mediocrity. There is some truth to both these claims to be sure. It's definitely a good Godzilla film. It has many great things about it. This is because TOHO got the director of the fantastic 90's Gamera trilogy, Shusuke Kaneko, to direct. Sadly, TOHO is not generally not very loose when it comes to the big G, and it shows how little creative control the director had here. Still, it's one of the more notable entries in the franchise.
Fifty years ago, the Japanese Defense Forces killed Godzilla or so they thought. When a series of terrifying natural disasters begin to plague Japan, including the inexplicable offshore sinking of a U.S. submarine, a mystic old man warns his nation that Godzilla has come back to destroy Japan as revenge for all the souls lost in the Pacific War. When mere military might cannot squash the monster, the mystic man awakens the Holy Beasts of Yamato — King Ghidorah, Mothra and Baragon, sleeping giants that protected Japan in ancient times. These untamed mammoth beasts take on Godzilla with frightening supernatural brute power that has been 2,000 years in the making. Tradition and technology collide in this chilling high-tech, cutting-edge fable.
The most unique aspect is Godzilla himself. While previous Gs range from villain, hero, to anti-hero, never has he been displayed as pure evil before. He has never purposely targeted humans before, just buildings and nuclear plants. Interestingly, while there's so much destruction, very rarely do we actually see people dying in the movies. We see them running around, but rarely actual death. Here it's different. The most powerful scene is when after hearing a lady's scream, G turns around and gives her and the rest of the fleeing people attention. He then precedes to unleash his atomic blast on them. The film then cuts to a classroom where students and the teacher can see the explosion, which looks like the aftermath of a bomb. (With Japan's and Godzilla's history, it's even more powerful.)
The film has some of the best city destruction scenes in all of the franchise. In fact, it could be fair to say this might have the best and most thematic destruction since the original film. Godzilla's emergence is grand, and he continues on to be one of the most engaging Gs created. The design itself is fantastic, with the white eyes and no pupils further giving the impression that he's pure malice. The reason why he's evil is intriguing. Apparently he has the collective souls of World War II within him. How that works and Hirotoshi claiming that G is "still an animal" is quite an interesting and confusing thought. This spiritual aspect is representative of Kaneko's work on "Gamera," and it's a shame it wasn't explored more. Nonetheless, despite intriguing but too little explored concepts, this Godzilla remains one of the best.
Before diving into the two aforementioned monsters, let's talk about Baragon. (Who sadly wasn't popular enough to make it into the title) This is his first appearance since "DESTROY ALL MONSTERS" (33 year difference!) and his redesign is easily one of the best parts. It looks great, and his burrowing ability is used to great effect. The fight against Godzilla is probably the most well-done aspect of the film. Since Baragon is a non-beam fighter here, the battle was more traditional than compared to the climax. The viewer also greatly feels for Baragon, as he tries to hopelessly battle the evil Godzilla. In fact, this is one of those rare times when the viewer is rooting against Godzilla. When the director can pull that off, you know this is truly something else.
Mothra's redesign is truly beautiful. While Larva could have appeared more, the emergence of her Imago form makes up for it. (That, and the fact the Larva actually attacks a bunch of lawless teenagers in her one scene!) While Mothra makes sense as a guardian monster, Ghidorah does not. Still, Kaneko makes the best of what is given. While it may be appalling to see a version of the "King of Terror" who is basically a weakling when compared to G, (he wasn't even the one that finished off G in the end) it nonetheless makes for an interesting "what if." That, and one can't deny how realistic the suit looks. When it emerges in the city it just looks good. The climax with it being given wings thanks to Mothra's sacrifice (very well-done) scene makes for an exciting final battle. Underwater sequences can be very boring in kaiju films sometimes, but it's utilized well here. (The CGI for Godzilla swimming looks incredible. In fact, almost all of the CGI is fantastic, especially Ghidorah's transformation and then blast attack)
While the monsters are of course what make the film at the end of the day, the human characters either bring up the rating...or down. While not bad, the characters here aren't particularly too notable either. The main one is Yuri Tachibana, a reporter for a mockumentary show. She's okay, not particularly interesting but not bad either. I must give credit to the subplot with her father, Admiral Taizo Tachibana. It was quite emotional since she had the knowledge he was going to be the one attacking Godzilla head on. A lot of the side characters however need desperate help. There's some silliness that bring down the rather grim tone. For example, the owner of the Mt. Myoko park comes to force out Yuri and her crew, but is soon enticed by her saying that tourists will come. This is not bad, but he way over-acts. Another thing is Yuri's boss. Kaneko is no stranger to odd characters (Kurata in GAMERA III) and like that guy he's rather too unrealistic. A no-name character apparently wants to hang himself...and we're given no reason why. Another thing is the bathroom scene. It's just unnecessary and awkward. (But, I suppose the scene redeems itself when Godzilla's foot smashes the house, which was well-done.)
Godzilla movies almost always have notable soundtracks. This one is done by Kow Otani. (Who also did the music for the Gamera trilogy.) There are no complaints to be had. From Godzilla's fantastic new theme to the King Ghidorah's transformation, the soundtrack is very solid. (It was ingenious to include the classic ifukube theme at the end, which the 2014 film should have done!) As far as pacing goes, the film does a solid job with that. The tension for Gozilla's first appearance is well executed, which is also thanks to the excellent choreography. The scene when Yuri is riding her bike and sees Godzilla in the distance presents a great ominous picture. One character who deserves mention is Hirotoshi. He added to the unique spiritual aspect, but sadly this was not explored further. The film has that mythical atmosphere which separates itself from all other Godzilla films, but I have a feeling TOHO didn't let Kaneko go as far with it as he would have liked.
Overall, GMK remains a very solid entry in the series. The little problems and unexplored potential stops it from being aligned with the "greats"such as Gojira, Return of Godzilla, MONSTER ZERO, and Mothra vs. Godzilla. But it remains a step above almost all the Heisei films and most of the Millennium ones. The main monster has one of his greatest appearances yet. The fights have a thematic quality, and it has one of the best final scenes in the series. While GMK could have been a masterpiece if somethings were tweaked, fixed, and explored, it will always be an entertaining watch.