Yonggary [Reptilian] (1999)

Yonggary is every Daikaiju Eiga movie you’ve ever seen.


Aliens use Giant Monsters to destroy the World [Monster Zero, Destroy All Monsters].

Yup. Got that.

Ancient ruins, mystical powers and powerful artifacts [Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth].

Yup. That one, too.

Inanimate version of the creature comes to life [Daimajin and its sequels].

Yup. Right here.

The Big…ummm “Y” turns on the aliens and fights for us when he throws off his mind control [Monster Zero, Godzilla: Final Wars].


A fleet of helicopters carry the monster into battle [King Kong vs. Godzilla]. Surely they can’t have that one!

Yup, yup, yup.

The original Yongary was a Korean attempt to copy Godzilla, complete with a lot of Godzilla’s technical staff on hand to create the monster. It isn’t as good as the real thing, but then, its better than most of the copies, and not too many Kaiju Eiga films not made by Toho can say that much.

In the U.S., the Heisei era Yonggary generally went under the name “Reptilian” because the average American had no idea who Yongary was. In fact, only a few obsessive Giant Monster movie fans (like myself) have seen the original.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this one is that Hyung-rae Shim directed. He made quite a few Korean comedies (including Tyranno’s Claw) in which he plays a hapless idiot loser, beset by everyone around him but who triumphs in the end. He even made a Kaiju comedy, Young-gu and Princess Zzu-Zzu, in which his stock idiot character finds a dinosaur egg which hatches and turns into a giant monster. It is even called “Yongary 2” in a lot of places.

Not that there is any connection between the two.

Nor does this version of Yongary bear much resemblance to the original as he now has a new origin:

An archaeologist discovered a monstrous prehistoric skeleton but before he can catalog his find, aliens bring it back to life and Yonggary starts the usual city-stomping rampage.

We do need to note three rather curious things about this film: one, despite being made in Korea, by a Korean, it is in English — and most of the cast are apparently Europeans as well. As far as I can find out there is no other version of the film, other than the original premier version from 1999 which is apparently the same but lacks a lot of the special effects, which were completed for the International release.

The second is that the inspiration here (and the 1999 release date should be a giveaway) was the 1998 American Godzilla film, no matter how many references there are to other Daikaiju films.

The third is that, despite being made by a director who specialized in comedy, and despite having quite a few funny bits, Yonggary is played mostly straight, and is a knowing homage, not a parody.

While the film has some impressive model effects — including Yonggary’s skeleton, an absolutely beautiful alien ship, and the large and detail city which gets destroyed — the monsters themselves, well…

Their designs are quite good, with a very impressive Yonggary who is distinctive enough that you’d never mistake him for Godzilla and a truly alien alien monster. But unlike the other things — the ship, the skeleton and the city — they’re CGI.

And not particularly good CGI, not even for a movie made in 2000.

At least Yonggary has a bit of expression, even if it is mostly snarling and growling.

But then, of all the Kaiju, only Godzilla has ever really shown much emotion, like that single tear in Godzilla vs. King Ghidora.

I like this one. A lot. Yes, it is severely flawed, hampered by CGI monsters that look almost transparent, and by a jarring switch about a third of the way in that eliminates most of the main characters from the story. But there are some reasonably impressive sequences, like Yonggary’s resurrection, and the monster battles are actually pretty good — if you can ignore that CGI.

But all this ignores the best part of the whole movie: Yonggary is attacked by a squadron of soldiers flying on jet packs!

And that’s something that never happened to Godzilla, no matter how many of his films you watch.

Oh, well. I guess they had to get at least one original idea in this one.

Yes, Yonggary is familiar most of the time but somehow that just makes it seem more comfortable, like a well-worn pair of forty foot long sneakers.

It may not be as good as any of the adventures of his Japanese rival, but, if you can accept the limitations — and those CGI monsters — then you should have fun with this one.

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And check out our new Feature (Updated June 11, 2020):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!

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