Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Composed by: Bear McCreary

The sequel to the second American remake went through several delays, but finally hit theatres in May of 2019. I find it more enjoyable than the first film, but it’s propped up solely by the spectacle of seeing classic Godzilla foes rendered by a Hollywood budget (Rodan’s attack scene is an incredible highlight). Unfortunately the human characters are once again a weak point. They’re not as dull as the 2014 film’s cast, but many of them are entrapped in an overwrought family drama. Also, in the attempt to respond to the complaints that the 2014 entry kept cutting away from the monsters before the action picked up, the director over-compensated with outrageous battles that while fun often fail to convey the monster’s immensity. Overall, it’s a film that would be mediocre at best if made on the typical Japanese budget.

Alexander Desplat and his motifs did not return. Director Michael Dougherty instead used the talents of Bear McCreary. McCreary has primarily made his mark on television but has done quite a bit of films as well. McCreary gets away from the dissonant density and simple motifs of Desplat, which makes sense. While Desplat was supposed to score the giant monsters as natural disasters, McCreary is supposed to represent them as revived gods. This means a lot of choral chants and tribal percussion. McCreary also leans into the fan service by bringing back a couple classic themes. The question is, which American composer did it better? Continue reading

Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003)

Composed by: Michiru Oshima

Tokyo SOS continued the story from Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla. This time Mothra joins the fray. Her fairies warn Japan that by using the original Godzilla’s bones for Kiryu (MechaGodzilla), it’s actually attracting the current Godzilla’s recent attacks. They offer the services of Mothra as a protector, but Japan is hesitant. What results is a three-monster battle. I think this is a pretty good sequel. It’s the only film in the franchise where MechaGodzilla interacts with Mothra and it also further explores and resolves Kiryu’s spiritual link to Godzilla. My one major criticism is that Akane, the female lead from the previous film, is reduced to a small supporting role despite being the one to have carried Kiryu to victory. Still, the decision to focus on one of Kiryu’s mechanics, Yoshito, as the lead is interesting and gives a different perspective. As usual, Oshima’s score is great. She delivers more great themes while further developing the ones she had already devised for Godzilla and Kiryu. Continue reading

Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)

Composed by: Kow Otani

As with the previous Heisei series, the first films of the Shinsei series underperformed box office expectations, and once again Toho once again rescued the franchise by bringing back classic monsters. Shusuke Kaneko, the director the critically acclaimed Gamera trilogy form the 90s, was given a crack at the Big G. This time Godzilla squares off against the trio of Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Baragon. GMK (the popular abbreviation in light of the film’s rather lengthy title), is one of my personal favorite Godzilla films. It takes some risky unique angles (turning the monsters into physical manifestations of spirits, making King Ghidorah a good guy, etc.) and it pays off. This time Godzilla is the destructive embodiment of all the souls killed in the Pacific War. He targets Japan, which was mostly responsible for said war. Godzilla’s assault threatens nature itself, prompting a trio of sacred guardian monsters to come to Japan’s rescue. In addition to a highly original premise, GMK doesn’t sugarcoat the level of death and suffering a monster attack would bring. While previous films rarely showed the actual deaths of human onscreen, here soldiers are visibly blown into the sky or incinerated, while people are crushed and obliterated inside their buildings.

Matching the unique nature of the film is Kow Otani’s score. Otani is a frequent collaborator with Kaneko, including on his Gamera films. Kaneko’s Godzilla score is heavy on synthesizers and electronics, a stark departure from previous scores. It nevertheless works well thanks to the strength of his themes. Kaneko’s score is very thematic, with four major and a couple ancillary themes filling up almost every space. Godzilla’s theme is introduced forebodingly at the very start of the album. It makes its first full fledged appearance at 0:15 in “Main Title.” Matching the Big G’s most villainous portrayal, it’s decidedly more sinister than his other themes. One unusual appearance of this theme is “Escape from Godzilla,” where it starts off powerful and menacing, but then literally fails (this makes sense if you see the scene it accompanies). Continue reading

Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth (1992)

Godzilla vs. Mothra (Soundtrack) | Gojipedia | Fandom

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

Having learned with Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah that bringing back classic monsters would draw larger audiences, Toho thought it only natural to resurrect their second most popular creation: Mothra. Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth as an alright movie. The general plotline is too much of a mash-up of Mothra and Mothra vs. Godzilla. Once again an unscrupulous corporation wants the Mothra egg and once again they abduct the giant butterfly’s twin fairy priestesses. This again prompts their goddess to go on a justified rampage. Godzilla himself is pretty much a secondary monster character in his own movie, showing up once early on and then reemerging for the last act. The one aspect that gives the film a good injection of creativity is the addition of Battra, Mothra’s darker twin. As with King Ghidorah, Ifukube already had plenty of pre-created themes to use, but he does show more originality with this entry. Continue reading

Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (Soundtrack) | Gojipedia | Fandom

Composed by: Masaru Satoh

Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster is odd in that it was originally supposed to be a King Kong vehicle. Rankin-Bass, which was planning a King Kong cartoon, decided they wanted something different to promote their upcoming work (resulting in King Kong Escapes), and Godzilla was quickly inserted into the big ape’s place. This is why Godzilla’s foes seem underwhelming in terms of power levels and also why he gets a sudden fixation on an island beauty (thankfully this oddball moment is contained to one scene). The plot concerns a group of friends searching for a lost brother. They end up on an island where an expy of Communist China is using slave labor to manufacture heavy water as well as a yellow substance that keeps the giant shrimp Ebirah away. It’s a fun film that’s definitely less ambitious than its predecessors.

Masaru Satoh returned for his second film. His material is widely different from his score for Godzilla Raids Again. It’s more jazzy, exotic, and upbeat, fitting the tone of an island romp. The music is thus more entertaining, though bereft of outstanding tunes that stick in your head. The strongest thematic addition is “Mothra Song.” This piece graces the main title after some island percussion. It thereafter gets turned into another fairy song for the giant butterfly. It’s not as powerful as her more well-known songs, but it’s pretty nice. On the subject of Mothra there is a neat short cue towards the end called “Arrival of Mothra” with a sparkling heroic rhythm.

The music in general would fit a 60s spy show with all the percussion and some very jazzy moments. Ebirah’s theme is basically a guitar riff that is only slightly sinister. “Endurance Dance Rally” is a groovy source cue that could fit in the Adam West Batman show. In addition to the themes there are some pleasant travel and island cues. Standouts include “Transportation by Yahlen II” and “Departure of Boat to Lech Island,” the latter another instrumental of “Mothra Song.” Ironically one of the weakest aspects is Godzilla’s material. There is sinister motif that appears in “Sleeping Godzilla” and another rolling motif introduced in “Rebirth of Godzilla.” Oddly his fight with the villains’ planes is literally scored like a beach party. Satoh just does not convey the presence and majesty required for the character.

Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster is a very different score. Given the nature of the film, it’s not wrong for Satoh to have ditched the more ponderous and sinister tone of Ifukube’s work. However, he might have gone too far. There is some good music here, but outside of “Mothra Song” it lacks a strong thematic base. Satoh himself may have realized this judging by how his next two scores went.

Rating: 4/10

Tracklisting

  1. Main Title
  2. Young Go Go
  3. Appearance Of Yoshimura
  4. Transportation By Yaren I
  5. Transportation By Yaren II
  6. Yacht And Hurricane And Monster
  7. Lech Island
  8. Red Bamboo
  9. Fierce Ebirah
  10. No Way To Survive
  11. Wish Of Dayo I
  12. Mothra Song
  13. Sleeping Godzilla
  14. Infiltration Of The Enemy Base I
  15. Infiltration Of The Enemy Base II
  16. Escape
  17. Fly Away Balloon – Southern Sea Horizon
  18. Wish Of Dayo II
  19. Mothra Song II
  20. Crisis In The Pasture
  21. Sleeping Godzilla
  22. Godzilla’s Wakening
  23. Departure Of Boat To Lech Island
  24. Rebirth Of Godzilla
  25. Godzilla vs. Ebirah
  26. Red Bamboo Base
  27. Retreat from Base
  28. Godzilla vs. Big Condor
  29. The Demolition Of Red Bamboo Base
  30. Godzilla vs. Ebirah II
  31. Godzilla vs. Ebirah III
  32. The Wish Of The People On Infant Island
  33. Mothra’s Song
  34. Godzilla vs. Ebirah IV
  35. The Arrival Of Mothra
  36. Before Nuclear Explosion
  37. Ending

Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Ghidorah, The Three Headed Monster Original Soundtrack - YouTube

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

Right off the heels of two cross-over successes, Toho went further, combining Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan, a popular giant pterosaur. This time, though, the three monsters would eventually have to stop fighting each other and instead focus on taking down the three-headed space dragon King Ghidorah. King Ghidorah is one of the most iconic Godzilla foes. Towering over the Big G, he is armed with laser beams, powerful wings, and an eerie cackling sound. Ghidorah was a turning point in the franchise, where it started to move in a goofy direction. The monsters are much more humanized. One scene even has Mothra’s fairies narrating a three-sided conversation, in which Mothra comes off like a school counselor and Godzilla and Rodan two troublesome kids. That being said, it’s still a strong entry with one of the best monster battles of the series. Continue reading

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

Cue By Cue: Film Music Narratives: Godzilla vs. The Thing (Mothra ...

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

With King Kong vs. Godzilla a roaring success, Toho had another epic crossover duel. Instead of grabbing a popular foreign character like King Kong, they went for their other homegrown mon-star, the giant butterfly Mothra. Unlike the other members of Toho’s growing stable of titans, Mothra was a good guy (or good girl?), only causing havoc when her faithful foot tall twin fairy priestesses are abducted by an unscrupulous businessman. Mothra vs. Godzilla concerns her egg washing ashore on a Japanese beach. Quickly the egg is claimed by a corporation, despite the pleas of the twin fairies. Days later Godzilla emerges and, despite the flaws of modern man, Mothra rushes out to defend Japan from the dinosaur’s latest rampage. Mothra vs. Godzilla is often considered one of the greatest films after the original. It’s not hard to see why. Godzilla is really built up as a threat, there is some actual depth to the story, and the battles with Mothra are satisfying in that she is a total underdog using her wits and specialized powers. Continue reading