War God is splendid fun! This Taiwanese Kaiju film by director Hung Min Chen is a testament to how giddily entertaining the genre can be. It's premise alone gets the brain rolling. It pits Guan Yu - an ancient Chinese general from the ending days of the Han dynasty whom after his death became venerated as a God - against the Giant Aliens of Mars! What more natural foes can you ask for?
The story has surreal edges -- as the film begins with the laws of physics being broken in broad daylight. Time moves in reverse, gravity losses its stranglehold, sudden heatwaves boil the water! Earth is definitively amiss! Unlike so many Japanese Kaiju films -- there won't be any schoolboys around in disturbingly short shorts to solve this mystery. The role of protagonists instead falls to a family. We have an elderly sculpturer who works on his masterpiece, a statue of Guan Yu. His son is a revered scientist, whose empiricism prevents him from following in his fathers faith. There is also a much younger daughter, whose hard-partying ways ends with her being abducted by flying saucers!
The true stars of the show for me though, are the Giant-Men from Mars. Their introduction is like something out of Rene Laloux's "Fantastic Planet", smeared with hilarious surrealism. Needless to say their intentions are to conquer earth and vanquish its inhabitants. But once they arrive they strut around like a bunch of New York pimpsters, breaking buildings and acting like they own the place! What's so fun about all of this is that the Martians doesn't so much come across as evil imperialists as they do mischievous bullies whom says "ops" with an evil grin when a skyscraper collapses. The quality of their costumes are quite horrible. But that adds to their comical effect.
The plot revolves around how to defeat the aliens. The son proclaims science as the defender of mankind. While his father delves deeper into his veneration of Guan Yu in response to the invasion. Conflict erupts from their different approaches. I think the very though of a Kaiju film tackling the question of science and religion is hilarious enough on its own.
We get a lot of carnage out of the Kaiju duels. When the ending credits roll it seems like the entirety of Hong Kong lies in ruins. These miniatures do not possess the same meticulous quality that is the standard of the best Godzilla films, but they are quite cool and atmospheric.
As I said in the beginning -- War God is splendid fun. It definitively surpasses it's budget.
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