Thursday, May 14, 2020

Invasion of Astro Monster (1965)

In the [far flung] future of 196X, a team of astronauts are sent to the recently discovered Planet X, hidden behind Jupiter. They're they're met by the alien inhabitants, who warn the humans of the destructive Monster Zero. Choosing that moment to attack, the duo witness three headed dragon King Ghidorah arrive and lay waste to the planet's [barren] surface. Now that  the aliens make their proposition-Send them the monsters Godzilla and Rodan to help defeat Monster Zero, and they'll repay humanity with a cure for cancer. Seems too good to be true, and while some trust the aliens' intentions, others aren't so sure...

Invasion of Astro Monster is the sixth in the Godzilla series, though you wouldn't know it considering it takes over 45 minutes for him to appear!

The main focus of Invasion of Astro Monster (oh you wouldn't believe how hard it is for me to not add in a 'the' in there!) is the two astronauts investigating the aliens, and an inventor conducting his own [investigations]. There are enough twists and turns to keep you reasonably satisfied, although where I felt the film lacked a bit was in the sheer amount of time it took before the aliens true motive was uncovered. I guess it's not necessarily a bad thing for it to happen an hour in, but for that first hour they don't really do much beyond chatting about favours and are incredibly suspicious, so you're waiting all this time basically waiting for the other shoe to drop, with increasing impatience. Still, it's never boring or frustrating.

The climax is a little confusing with the technobabble, and two different methods of defeating the aliens and monsters seem to merge into one when you're not looking. They defeat the monsters pretty easily, but in a way that makes sense, and doesn't feel cheap or forced.

Chief among audience complaints against this film is the lack of presence from Godzilla, or any of the monsters. This however is excusable due to the title. It's not called Godzilla vs the Astro Monster, but simply Invasion of. This is a film about humans battling aliens, guest starring these monsters, and the title reflects that. It's honesty I can appreciate. Of course, I'm just a little bit grumpy we don't get enough monsters, but oh well.

The characters here are a fine bunch, with each feeling distinct. The romantic partners all share chemistry, and everyone has well-defined relationships, from Fuji's protectiveness of his sister and disdain for Tetsuo, and Glenn's more reasonable and friendly approach

While Fuji's senseless distrust of Tetsuo may make you wanna punch him, he's still a likeable enough hero, and works well with his buddies. Nick meanwhile is  It's also nice how his character interacts with everything Japanese, and never speaks English, but rather knows the tongue of the locals. He also has his own romance with secret alien operative Namikawa. Their story is nice, though I kinda hoped for a little more, and perhaps a happier ending. But we do get enough at least.

Tetuo and Fuji's sister Haruno are sweet together, and the former gets a good arc and things to do, even if he does disappear for a good chunk of the midsection. Haruno is ok on her own but is a bit [un-active] compared to everyone else. Alien spy Namikawa is cold and inhuman at first, but takes a surprising turn once she falls for Glenn, and helps out in saving the Earth.

The aliens make for good villains, although I felt their culture was unexplored. We get really interesting snippets into how they operate, and these make you wanna know more, but that's all we get.

The monster action that is on display here is awesome! What it lacks in screentime it more than makes up for in spectacle. Buildings are toppled, boulders are hurled, fire breath and sonic wings are employed, and more.

Something I especially liked is how the monsters interact beyond their fighting. It's subtle, but you can see how while Godzilla and Rodan may not be friends, they'll team up on an instant to knock that alien scum Ghidorah back into space. It effectively shows how much of a threat he is. Besides this, it's also fun seeing all the little things, like accidental tail whacks, boulder throws, or the very confused monsters waking up on an alien planet and immediately having to do battle with Ghidorah (what must they be thinking? Probably "FIGHT!"). Most notorious is Godzilla's victory dance, which may annoy some, and adore others.

The effects in Invasion of Astro Monster are very good. Not perfect, and the odd moment here and there looks amusingly fake, but nothing too egregious, and even the less convincing moments can add to the fun. The set design is neat, and the alien costumes are cool. While they don't have any differences to humans besides pasty skin, the outfits they wear help make them appear alien.

The miniatures for the cityscapes and military vehicles are all good. The latter sometimes look a little toy-ish, but are still nice. The places the monsters ravage this time round is less a big bustling metropolis and more small communities. Apparently this was due to budgetary reasons, but I feel it works well. You don't want the same locations for every single movie, so different sets are always welcome.

Lastly, the monsters are great! Godzilla is a little more cartoony than originally, but still a mean green machine, and packs a hell of a punc. King Ghidorah is a little chunky (but don't tell him that, you'll hurt his feelings!), but still looks cool, especially with how articulate his three heads are! Rodan is my least favourite given how normal and unremarkable he is in comparison (he's no Giant Claw!), but otherwise looks fine.

The acting here is all good. Not only do the performers in the monster suits do great jobs (ouch, the falls they must have taken!), but the main cast are all good too, from Akira Takarada and Nick Adams as the astronauts, to Akira Kubo and Keiko Sawai as the couple. Adams' presence is pretty nifty, and makes the movie feel more diverse. It's also nice how his character interacts with everything Japanese, and never speaks English, but rather knows the tongue of the locals.

The score here is great. Done by Akira Ifukube, there are some nice tracks, with the standout being the main theme, a triumphant piece that really heightens the mood during the climax. The music singlehandedly makes you realise that the heroes are succeeding.

Invasion of Astro Monster isn't necessarily a great Godzilla movie, but as a general sci-fi film with Kaiju elements, it's lots of fun, and worth checking out. It may not have much monster action, but what's there will entertain you, and everything else will keep you interested...

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