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"These monsters are as stupid as human beings!"
~ Detective Shindo
The fifth film in the Godzilla franchise, "Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster" marked a few changes in the series. It was the first to deviate from the tried and true "giant irradiated mutants from a Lost World trample Tokyo" plot of the previous four films by introducing elements of the Space Operas and UFO culture that was prevalent in the 50's and 60's. This experiment would be expanded upon in later films.
More importantly, "Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster" marked a change in Godzilla as a character, one that was arguably necessary for the franchise to continue. After having played the villain for four movies straight, Godzilla switches sides in the third act of this film to fight an even worse monster than himself: the Planet Destroying King Ghidorah. This change in Godzilla's role would be slowly built upon in the following movies, and set the groundwork for the change in tone that would occur between the first and later halves of the Showa Godzilla series.
That's not to say it's all seriousness and high art, though. There is a fair deal of the silly and goofy atomic age monster movie weirdness one would expect from a good Godzilla movie. Magnetic meteors, assassination plots, princesses disguised as homeless prophets, tiny fairy women on talk shows, and Martians (or Venusians in the Japanese version) possessing human hosts all collide in this movie as three of Toho's biggest monsters join forces to fight a golden three-headed space dragon with "a voice like a bell."
The film provides examples of
- Action Girl: Mothra Larva, even if she isn’t very powerful.
- Aloof Ally: Godzilla and Rodan hate each other’s guts right up until the climax of the movie.
- Ancient astronauts: In the distant past Ghidorah destroyed the civilization on Mars. The survivors fled to Earth where they eventually interbred with earthlings. It's somwhat implied that Princess Selina and her people are their descendants.
- Anti-Hero: Type IV-V. Godzilla and Rodan are still very much creatures against humans where up until the last 10-15 minutes of the film they did whatever they wanted and even then it was either looking out for their fellow monster or just flat out Enemy Mine.
- Arch Enemy: This is the film that introduced King Ghidorah, who would go on to face Godzilla eight more times across four continuities.
- Asshole Victim: Malmess and his men. His men die first when one of Ghidorah uses his energy beams, which killed his men with a rock-slide and injured him. Malmess dies by the second energy beam, sending a rock-slide that kills him.
- Badass Normal: Rodan is just a plain big pterosaur, but can go tow to toe with Godzilla, and pull awesome move after awesome move on the King of Terror himself.
- Badass Abnormal: Then again, he’s a giant pterosaur capable of withstanding all known military weapons and direct hits from Godzilla and King Ghidorah’s respective breath weapons. The only thing that makes him significantly weaker than Godzilla is Rodan’s inability to breath nuclear fire, and even then he compensates for that by being able to fly.
- Badass Pacifist: Mothra Larva.
- Beware the Cute Ones: Mothra Larva, not Godzilla or Rodan, is the first to charge into battle against King Ghidorah and plays a key role in the dragon’s defeat.
- Big Bad: King Ghidorah.
- Blow You Away: Both Rodan and King Ghidorah can cause hurricane winds by flapping their wings, which can topple buildings and knock other kaiju off of their feet.
- Bodyguard Crush: Vibes of it with Shindo to Selina.
- Breakout Villain: King Ghidorah
- Cassandra truth: Nobody ever believes Princess Selina's predictions until it's too late.
- Combat Tentacles: King Ghidorah's necks (and the heads attached to them) behave like this.
- Crisis Crossover: The previous film linked Mothra and Godzilla but this one had Rodan coming in to join forces against a new enemy.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Though definitely monstrous in appearance, destructive, and incredibly self centered, Godzilla and Rodan are not truly evil. The lighter colored King Ghidorah, on the other hand…
- Destructive Saviour: Godzilla and Rodan, oh so very much.
- Death Ray: Godzilla's radioactive breath, obviously. And King Ghidorah's gravity beams too.
- The Determinator: Malmess the Selginian assassin. He pulls himself out of his crushed Mercedes after a rockslide and, bruised and bloody, immediately resumes his mission as if nothing happened.
- Mothra as well. Compared to the other monsters she's tiny. Yet she throws herself at King Ghidorah again and again.
- The Unfettered: Malmess again. To him, a giant, golden, lightning-spewing space dragon is a negligible inconvenience to his mission to kill a princess.
- Then again, Malmess was threatened by his boss with death as punishment if he returned home without completing his mission, so he actually has a valid reason to keep going.
- Eldritch Abomination: King Ghidorah is probably the greatest of all kaiju Eldritch Abominations, and this is him at his very best. He, as mentioned above, devestates entire worlds just for the fun of it.
- Enemy Civil War: Two of the film's key antagonists, Godzilla and Rodan, spend the bulk of their screen time fighting each other instead of focusing on their personal vendettas against mankind. They only stop when Mothra convinces them to pull off a Heel Face Turn.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Godzilla only decides to fight King Ghidorah when the space dragon attacks the much weaker Mothra larva.
- Everything's better with princesses: Princess Selina Salno of Selgina
- Eviler Than Thou: Godzilla and Rodan are both fairly huge threats, but both cease being villains once Ghidorah makes the scene because they simply cannot compete.
- Evil Laugh: Ghidorah has an iconic cackle which he uses constantly
- Freudian Excuse: Before his eventual heel face turn, Godzilla said the reason why he hates humanity is because humanity has hated him and Rodan and had trouble with them. Okay, look at 3 movies back. Godzilla destroyed a fishing boat in Godzilla Raids Again, attacks an Artic base in King Kong vs. Godzilla, and attacked a city in the previous film. Not to mentioned, he destroyed a ship eariler before fighting Rodan. Plus Rodan agrees despite his debut film, a Rodan pretty much ate humans. But hey, Ishiro Honda decided to give Godzilla and Rodan something to be liked about.
- Heel Face Turn: Godzilla and Rodan quit raging war on humanity (and each other) to face the threat of King Ghidorah. This is also the beginning of Godzilla's change towards a heroic defender of Earth.
- Human Aliens: The Venusian/Martian. Maybe… really, her whole deal is something of a Mind Screw.
- Implacable Man: King Ghidorah is nearly unstoppable as this stage.
- Malmess as well.
- Jerkass has a point: Godzilla and Rodan's reason for initially refusing to help save humanity is because they keep attacking them.
- Know nothing know-it-all: When Shindo seeks answers as to how Princess Selina escaped the destruction of her plane a scientist offers a totally ridiculous explanation that the explosion somehow tore open a wormhole that she fell into. Really?
- Light Is Not Good: Ghidorah is a beautiful, golden, shiny dragon. Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra Larva are duller, darker-toned entities, with Godzilla being nearly black.
- Lilliputians: The Shobijin, for obvious reasons. In fact, they are only one foot high.
- Little People Are Surreal: The Shobijin, again. They talk in unision, can teleport, and are priestesses of a gigantic-ass catterpillar.
- Names to run away from really fast.: Ghidorah, the king of terror! Plus Godzilla. And Rodan, too!
- Nice job fixing it villain: When the Doctors decide to try electroshock treatment on Selina Malmess tampers with the machine so it would deliver a lethal charge to her but just before it's turned on the power lines get destroyed by Godzilla and Rodan.
- Then later, as Malmes is about to shoot Shindo and Selina Ghidorah's gravity beams cause a rock slide that crushed him to death.
- Precision F-strike: If the Shobilin's reaction is anything to go by Godzilla drops one of these.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Ghidorah arrives within a meteorite. Subverted when Ghidorah breaks out without any help from outsiders.
- Also Rodan was sealed up inside the crater of Mt. Aso until he broke out.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Gojira, Godzilla, Mosura, Mothra, Radon, Rodan, Ghidrah, Ghidorah...
- Staring Down Cthulhu: Mothra, in her generally helpless larval stage, faces down King Ghidorah, the King of Terror who wrecks worlds for the fun of it. Alone (initially).
- Tennis boss: Godzilla and Rodan briefly engage in this with Mothra humorously watching from the sideline.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Naoko and Selina, depending on which personality the latter has, can go each way. Selina can do it in one body with her natural personality being quite feminine, even not so assertive, and her ancestral possession being a bit tomboyish and also suddenly very independent and assertive.
- What happened to the mouse?: That guy who went down into the volcano just before Rodan busted out. It's never shown whether he made it out alive.
- Worf Barrage: Godzilla's ray proves all but useless against Rodan. This is especially notable when taken into perspective, as back in 1964 Godzilla's ray was a one-hit kill weapon.
- Not exactly. While the previous two movies had King Kong and Mothra having to dodge the beams Angiurus from Godzilla Raids Again shrugged it off.
- Averted in Mothra's case, as her silk spray, once used from a proper vantage point, defeats the invincible Big Bad. Again.