Once upon a time, I wanted to honor my favorite creatures from Japanese-style giant monster movies – kaiju, in other words–and picked an all-time top five. And kings among monsters those five rightly are. Unfortunately, though, as Sturgeon’s Law so cynically tells us, for every awesome thing, there are nine similar things that are terrible. These five kaiju, well, rank in the latter category–although they’re usually endearingly weird rather than grossly unwatchable.
Ebirah got top billing in the title of the film he debuted in–the movie was not, as you might expect, called Godzilla versus Ebirah, but rather Ebirah: Horror of the Deep. But being the nominal star of the picture is no guarantee of quality: the ways in which Ebirah is horrifying are entirely unintentional. Ignominiously to start with, the syllable “ebi” in his name makes him out to be a giant shrimp, while he is based on the marginally-more-dignified lobster (although “ebi” can mean “lobster” in Japanese as well). His origin story is equally ludicrous, as he’s a radiation-mutated (of course) monster who patrols a secret island for the terrorist organization Red Bamboo (which sounds rather more like the name of a restaurant), whose own ships aren’t harmed by the lobstrosity because of a special fruit the crew eats. Yeaaaah. Since Ebirah has no special powers beyond general crustacean-ness, he’s quite handily defeated by Godzilla in two battles, the second of which kills him. Ebirah did, however, have enough cult popularity to make a much-more-effective appearance in Godzilla: Final Wars decades later.
Imagine you’re a kaiju designer. Imagine you’re depressed, hung-over, and have a deadline to make. Imagine you know that whatever monster you come up with (that has to be completely original, darn it!) will not save the wretched piece of garbage film it’s to be used in. That creative process can’t be too far off from Ghogo’s inception! Yes, those dozen of you Western kaiju fans who have seen Rebirth of Mothra II, the sequel to the spinoff of the sequel to the spinoff, you know and “love” this deformed pseudo-yeti. For those who haven’t yet been acquainted, know that Ghogo is covered in fur that makes him resemble nothing so much as an albino Cousin Itt, his only mode of locomotion is constant hopping, he has, for whatever baffling reason, chicken feet… and his urine can cure all ills. Is this a case of the disease being preferable to the treatment?
Pity Gezora, because there but for the grace of Godzilla go we. Poor guy can’t catch a break–in his own movie he gets possessed by a space energy being, can’t menace anything more impressive than a small island, and is handed his slimy derriere by not another monster, not the military, but mere civilians, who slay him with the simple expedient of setting him on fire. Oh, and he’s a giant cuttlefish. With big “angry” google eyes. At least, unlike some other monsters I could mention who also happen to be uninspired huge sea animals, he has a marginally creative power of being able to generate extreme cold temperatures.
I didn’t intend to make it a habit of insulting walruses and walrus-like creatures as a whole (see my simultaneous fear and disdain for the dingonek) any more than I wanted sixty percent of this list to be mocking monsters that are just huge versions of real-world creatures. I blame Lewis Carroll and the Beatles for our cultural prejudice towards Rosmarus odobenus, and the “actual animal at 10,000% scale” concept is a noble one with a great history. But Maguma can’t even last one scene in a fight against the Air Force, one of the traditional prey of kaiju. He shows up once in Gorath in order to get buried under rocks by a blast from a VTOL aircraft’s bombs and do not much else. He’s also, again, *sigh* a kaiju with no supranormal powers. Just a big ol’ walrus, that one.
Oh, Varan. I’m so sorry. Look, the Komodo dragon, which you are based upon, is definitely a threatening animal. It’s cool-looking, physically formidable, and deadly venomous. You’ve got entirely apropos toxic powers–a promising start. Your movie is even called Varan the Unbelievable! But then your designers decided to give you the power of flight. Well, gliding. By the same means as a flying squirrel. This does not look good on film, especially not at kaiju scale. You can’t watch this guy in action without getting a little bit of an urge to say “Oh no, Bullwinkle, Boris and Natasha are at it again!” Then, as the final insult, Varan never even gets to fight another monster and is taken down by the army.