Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Guilala, Beat Takeshi, Natsuki Kato, Kazuki Kato, Jon Heese
Written and Directed by Minoru Kawasaki
Distributed by Tokyo Shock
I have loved The X from Outer Space since I was a kid watching Japanese monster movies airing on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The movie is quite bad, endearingly so. The monster, Guilala, is simply astounding. I have been waiting for Guilala to get a second chance. During the Nineties when Godzilla and Gamera were seeing a resurgence, I kept crossing my fingers in hopes that Guilala would also make a comeback.
Sure, Guilala only appeared in one movie that flopped in the Sixties, but, again, what a spectacular flop. Just look at the absurdity of the Guilala design. Body-wise, it looks like a cross between a chicken, a dinosaur, and The Michelin Man. Its head looks like the head of one of the monsters from Pitch Black if it were to be dried out like a raisin; add on a chicken’s beak, Ultraman’s eyes, bobbling antennas, and whatever the hell that was on the head of Snork. The Guilala design is either hopelessly absurd or a work of cockeyed genius – perhaps both.
When it was announced that Guilala was making a return and it was going to be in a new film from the wacky director of such certifiably insane films as The Calamari Wrestler and Executive Koala using the same style of special effects as that seen in the original 1967 film, my heart was filled with joy. If you don’t believe how happy I was at the time, just read the article I wrote announcing the film on Dread Central. Despite word that the movie was a total flop at the Japanese box office and decidedly mixed word of mouth, I nonetheless remained giddy at the prospect of seeing my second favorite giant Japanese monster behind Godzilla in a brand new film. Now I have finally seen Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit. You know the ugly sound a balloon makes as air quickly leaks out of it? That was my heart.
Guilala has fallen from space in Japan at the time the leaders of the United States, Britain, Canada, Russia, Germany, Italy, France, and, of course, Japan are meeting for the G8 Summit. The braggadocios American President talks all the other world leaders out of running away, arguing that it is their duty to destroy the monster and would make them all look better in the court of public opinion. Various world leaders take turns coming up with a harebrained scheme to defeat Guilala, most of which would even leave Wile E. Coyote shaking his head at the lameness. Okay, to be fair, the bit involving giant headphones being dropped onto Guilala’s head to fry his brain with radio waves was worth a chuckle.
A female reporter has stumbled upon a rural village where the locals worship a multi-armed golden deity named Take-Majin. Spoofing all the scenes in various Godzilla movies of primitive villagers dancing and chanting to their monster god, the goofy choreography of these Take-Majin worshippers is amusing the first time you see it – not so much the third and fourth.
You go into a Minoru Kawasaki movie expecting a healthy dose of absurdism bordering on the surreal. As unapologetically ridiculous as his films are, there’s always a sense of some sort of demented intelligence behind it. That method behind the madness is what’s sorely missing from the majority of Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit. Whether it was due to budgetary restraints or Kawasaki’s own misguided focus, the majority of the film focuses not on Guilala creating havoc, but on political humor so lame you’d think it was written by a five-year-old.
The Italian President makes numerous references to pizza and shouts phrases like “Mamma mia!” The French President is a horndog more interested in bedding an attractive female interpreter than discussing politics or stopping a rampaging monster. The Japanese Prime Minister is a coward who disappears in time of crisis. The American President – meant to be Bush even though the actor more physically resembles Clinton – is a pompous blowhard itching for a fight against a giant monster. Childish stereotypes, every last one of them. Once a certain North Korean dictator makes his presence known, Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit makes Team America: World Police look as sophisticated as Dr. Strangelove.
The closest Kawasaki ever comes to sly political satire is when Russian President “Pucchin” formulates a plan to poison Guilala with a missile containing polonium-210, the very poison real-life Russian President Vladimir Putin is believed to have had used to eliminate political foes.
The funniest gag the film has to offer comes early in when a child obviously based on the annoying “Kenny” character from the Gamera movies suddenly appears in the summit room with the world and military leaders giving his childish take on why the monster should be named Guilala. In all the older daikaiju films, the adults would give an amazing amount of credence to the ramblings of this child. Not this time; the child is forcibly removed kicking and screaming from the room by security guards.
Now I know a lot of viewers of Japanese monster movies couldn’t give a spit about the lousy plots or the terrible acting and just care about how cool the monster action is. Sadly, Guilala’s antics are no better than the attempts at humor. A healthy amount of recycled monster destruction action from The X from Outer Space is used throughout. Seeing this old footage remastered only succeeded in making me long for a formal US DVD release of that first Guilala flick. They only appeared to have a single cramped Japanese countryside set for the new Guilala scenes that mostly consist of Guilala quite literally standing around and waiting for something to happen. It just stands around waiting to get attacked; the attack fails, and then it waits for the next attempt. Kawasaki even has Guilala give off a hearty belly laugh after a series of failed attempts to destroy him, a moment that somehow manages to feel out of character even in a film as silly as this.
The finale has Japanese cult actor Beat Takeshi going all Ultraman against Guilala in golden armor as the monster-fighting Take-Majin come to gigantic life. Given the loony visuals Kawasaki has put to screen during the action scenes in his past films, you’d think this Guilala vs. Take-Majin would have been chock-full of over-the-top wackiness. Yet, what should have been the movie’s highlight proves to be a shockingly routine Ultraman-ish battle with a cartoony sight gag or two. What should have been a tour-de-farce monster battle ends up being shockingly routine.
The original 1967 Guilala film, for all its unintentional goofiness and various shortcoming,s is still to this day funnier and more entertaining to watch than the outright parody Kawasaki has put together here. Big disappointment.
Monster X strikes out.
2 out of 5
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