1998 turned out to be a sort of reverse 1967. A lot of monster movies came out, partially inspired by Godzilla, or more likely by the money it brought in. Kraa! the Sea Monster seems to be of the latter stripe. Produce Charles Band got the band back together, writer and directors, to make the second and last Monster Island Entertainment film. But I'm not going to lie. Kraa is even less interesting and more proposterous than Zarkorr. Again, the miniatures were shot by one director, the rest of the film by another. Again, the plot is riddled with cliches and nonsense.
The basic plot is that the Planet Patrol, essentially a sentai team, watch over the Earth. Lord Doom is evil, and therefore hires spece mercenary Kraa (who is therefore a space monster rather than a sea monster), to flatten Earth cities. The Planet Patrol's base is disabled, scrapping their ability to teleport, so they have to deploy Mogyar, who looks for all the world like a D&D flumph. And talks with Mario the Plumber's stereotypically Italian accent.
Structurally, the plot is similar to Zarkorr. A monster shows up, and then its bane drops from space. Again, the monster segments, short as they are, are the best part of the film. It doesn't help that directors Aaron Osbourne and Michael Deak both worked on Zarkorr. There's simply no comparison between the two directors. Kraa's scenes are well filmed, even overceanked, and although the budget it clearly tight, it looks reasonable. The same cannot be said for the rest of the film.
The Kraa suit is well made and finely detailed. Unlike the lumbering suits of Toho and even Zarkorr, it's tall and slim, hugging the contours of the individual inside. Kraa has large teeth and some rather pretty gills. The skin is like fish scale, the tail oddly stubby. Kraa has a breath weapon, because all kaiju need a breath weapon, which projects a line of visual distortion and blows things up. Its one drawback is its vocalizations, which are two screams I've heard a dozen times in various video games.
The miniature sets it destroys are also quite good. Although they didn't manage to get the cars moving on the set the way Eiji Tsuburaya did in later Godzilla films, the quality of the miniature sets is excellent, with small cars, lights in buildings, and even moving lights in small signs.
Kraa! acknowledges its influences by having its monster punch through a billboard advertising the 98 Godzilla, as subtle a slam as when director Noriaki Yuasa did much the same thing in Gamera Super Monster. Come to it, the two films share a lot. Both merge, unsuccessfully, the Japanese sentai genre, like any number of Japanese television shows from Dynaman to the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, with the kaiju. In another small acknowledgment, this one to 1954 Godzilla, or possibly Gorgo, a reporter stands amid the rubble, talking about the onslaught of Kraa before he is forced off the air by a shower of stones. It's a small thing, but it makes me think that the writer may have actually seen the original Godzilla. Kraa also tangles with some high-voltage wires, something Godzilla hasn't done since Mothra vs Godzilla.
The human stories swirling around Kraa are barely worth talking about. The government men in black complain about Washington's inability to act, the biker is a surprising omniscientist, and no one believes in Curtis's psychic powers until she can save everyone with them. The final twenty minutes of the film are agonizingly slow, throwing up one tension-raising cliche after another. The least that can be said is that the film doesn't rely on idea that the monsters can be dealt with by conventional weapons, which is all over Godzilla 98. Instead, the alien makes a weapon that the humans fire, which solves everyone's problem. Lord Doom is put in his place, and we end the movie laughing. There's very little original or worth the viewer's time in Kraa! The Sea Monster. Even the name is taken from Marvel's Tales of Suspense. The same place they found the name Zarkorr.
Next up, the year turns to 1999, and I get to look at good movies again, because the Big Guy is back.