Set in the confusing year of 196X (?) an outer space exhibition to the far side of Jupiter is under way. A new planet dubbed Planet X (noticing a pattern already?) has been discovered and as the world watches a rocketship hurtles towards the planet’s surface. While there, the astronauts (clad in spacesuits that look like they couldn’t keep a fart in let alone keep the pressures of space out) encounter a race of alien people living in underground cities to avoid the dreaded “Monster Zero” who is revealed to be King Ghidorah choosing to use Planet X as an intergalactic Travel Lodge after being booted off-world during his last appearance. The aliens request is simple: allow them to use Godzilla and Rodan to drive off Ghidorah (like sort of a Kaiju time share) and they will hand over a cure for cancer. The humans agree and the transaction takes place but it turns out it’s a double-cross (gasp! A duplicitous alien in a movie from the 60’s? No way!) and the aliens use all three monsters to destroy Japan using mind control. Can the humans triumph over such overwhelming odds?
Over the last couple of Godzilla movies a definite swing toward showing the King Of The Monster’s in a more heroic light was emerging and with IOTAM that “arc” is now complete. While Godzilla is at one point still seen knocking over buildings like a multi-storey Mike Tyson, it’s interspersed with family-friendly shots of the huge lizard throwing lefts and rights at Ghidorah’s multiple mugs and, most infamous of all, dancing a jig after a victorious bout. While it’s a million miles away from the character’s atomic horror origins, it’s actually pretty damn charming and essentially sets the tone from where the character went from there.
Any flaws the movie has are inherent in the restrictions on the genre itself but also it does do a fine job of keeping the human sides of the story ticking over nicely while we subconsciously wait for the REAL stars to arrive. Although I have to say the lack of any original monsters is a little annoying as a big part of the fun of these kind of movies is getting to see what design the creators in Toho’s Kaiju factory are gonna come up with next.
Also the inclusion of a flat out alien invasion hurls the series into 110% science fiction territory and while it feels like a natural progression here and works incredibly well setting everything up simply, of the remaining 9 movies in this early “showa” era, 5 of them use this exact template as a plot. Not exactly a fault that can be laid at the door of this movie but you could argue that it heralded a definite lack of imagination for the future.
As it stands, Invasion Of The Astro-Monster is a high level monster movie romp and is indicative of how adept Toho was getting at churning these things out (the scene of the three monsters tearing up a major city is one of the best of it’s kind) and yet despite it’s inclusion of flying saucers and funky sliver alien jumpsuits, somehow doesn’t seem to add anything new.
Godzilla maybe stomping over old ground, but he’s doing it exceptionally well…