Destroy All Monsters

The first sentence of Destroy All Monsters' opening narration announces that the year is 1999 and that we have built a fully functional base on the moon. It then goes onto explain that most of the world's monsters are now living on Monster Island together. Now, there is a lot that can be said about Destroy All Monsters. After all, this is a film where the aliens who are attacking Earth are eventually revealed to be sentient rocks, and where these sentient rocks brain wash human women by giving them mind control earrings. And of course just the character of Godzilla is always worth discussing, which is why he pops up so often here. (I have reviewed more Godzilla movies than I have Marlon Brando movies for a reason.) But when the opening narration has that much to unpack, I kind of feel like it's my duty to unpack it.

First of all: the moon base. The entire reason why the United States went to the moon in 1969 was because we were in the middle of a space race with Soviet Russia. Sure, they got a satellite into orbit first, but by God, we were going to be the first people to set foot on another planet. It was as much about vanity and ego as it was about science. Hell, we were so desperate for the Soviets to know that we owned the Moon that at one point the U.S. was trying to figure out if they could detonate a nuclear weapon on the moon that would make a mushroom cloud big enough for the Soviets to see from the Earth's surface. So I'll buy that when this movie was made people believed that men would one day live on the moon - but did Japan ever seriously think that the U.S. would let them build the only lunar base and then staff it exclusively with non-Americans? Come on, Destroy All Monsters, that's just unfeasible.

Sadly, a similar point could be made about Monster Island. If you don't know about Monster Island, it's basically a nature reserve that was set aside to quarantine the giant beasts that have an unfortunate tendency to attack Tokyo. In addition to Godzilla, there's pterodactyls, spiders the size of houses, snakes the size of trains, and other assorted dinosaur-ish creatures. They are given what they would need to survive - the narration mentions that they have "an abundance of food" that they have to catch themselves, and then shows a school of dolphin leaping in the ocean, which I suppose means that Rodan is constantly swooping down and snacking on Flippers - but they are also trapped on the island by a giant force field.

If the United States was so competitive with the Soviets about outer space - an arena which didn't automatically grant them more military might - then wouldn't be very competitive about monster ownership, too? Monsters, after all, have the capacity to destroy cities and are basically living atomic bombs. In what world does one country get a monopoly on all the behemoths? If there was a monster gap the U.S. would damn sure be working over time to close it. Maybe we would let the Japanese keep Godzilla, but goddamnit you can be damn sure that we would do whatever it took to get a few of those scaly brutes to wave Old Glory for our team. This "monster island is owned by Japan under U.N. supervision" nonsense is just ludicrous.

(For the record, I'm not even sure that we would let them keep Godzilla. After all, we drafted him earlier this year and we didn't even give Japan any of our beasts in exchange. Although it isn't too late to send them the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, which we currently aren't using. I'm not sure that Leatherface is of equal value to Godzilla, but he has to be better than nothing.)

I know that pointing out all of the unexamined unrealstic assertions in Destroy All Monsters is disillusioning. Some part of me regrets that I have to be the one who breaks the bad news that there are a few plot holes in a movie about a giant lizard lizard who leads a super team of monsters on a rampage against the biggest cities on Earth before leading them against the alien overlords who magnetically manipulated them into attacking the cities. But if those poor Japanese scientists can do their duty and work together to destroy all the monsters, then I can do my duty and work by myself to destroy all the half truths that are buried in Destroy All Monsters. It's not fun, but it has to be done.

Winner: Me

Destroy All Monsters on IMDB