With such a large number of Godzilla sequels being released, we’re truly spoilt for choice. However, it seems that it doesn’t really matter which Godzilla film you watch: they all have a very similar feel, and not just because they all contain the titular giant monster. It’s more that each film shares the same themes and basic plot lines that make them feel so very ‘samey’. There are the recurring themes that nuclear anything is bad, the fact that Godzilla can never truly die and that those Japanese sure are wacky.
What delineates a good Godzilla film from a bad one is the way in which the writers and director are able to take essentially the same story (inserting random giant monster to fight Godzilla where applicable) and make it somewhat new and believable. Unfortunately for Godzilla vs. Ebirah, this task was easier said than done.
Godzilla vs. Ebirah is my first taste of one of the earlier Godzilla films (apart from the original). I’m so used to the formula-driven script found in the later films: Godzilla appears right at the beginning (so you know you’re in the correct cinema), those wacky Japanese concoct some plan to rid Japan of Godzilla once and for all, the plan back fires and Godzilla ends up saving the day, leaving Japan to be rebuilt. I was prepared for this style of film, and for the first half of Godzilla vs. Ebirah I was pleasantly surprised. It was actually quite good, albeit somewhat disturbing in its feeling exactly like an Elvis film.
The first part of the plot is sound: we find Ryota (Toru Watanabe), in search of his lost brother who went missing at sea. However, as Godzilla vs. Ebirah progress past the halfway point, small plot holes that were tolerated in the beginning start expanding with incredible speed. It’s mainly that nothing is explained with much clarity. There is no explanation of how any of the giant monsters came into existence (although I will admit that Godzilla is exempt from this). There is nothing about the bad guys except that they have an ominous sounding name (Red Bamboo), and that they kidnap people and so must be evil. Whilst nothing is truly explained, we are given hints. One particular moment is when our group of heroes is within the Red Bamboo base and are picking the lock of what looks to be a bank vault. Upon opening, the group enters the vault only to exclaim that it isn’t a vault but is in fact a nuclear reactor. Using this flimsy shred of plot, they are able to explain the existence of the giant monsters and conclude that Red Bamboo are evil and must be stopped.
I would like to be able to say that this lack of any real plot was made up for by a selection of spectacular giant monster-on-monster fight scenes, but alas, I cannot. I said before that Godzilla vs. Ebirah felt like an Elvis movie, and the fight scenes re-emphasise this. The music begins and Godzilla starts dancing, occasionally throwing a punch to dispatch a foe. Even if you’re able to ignore the dancing, the fight scenes are still depressing: this film was made in 1966, when rubber suits were much heavier and possessed little range of movement.
Overall, I really can’t recommend Godzilla vs. Ebirah. It has a sieve for a plot and the fight scenes… well, the less said the better. However, if a dancing Godzilla is your thing, then this film is probably right up your alley.