Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla – 2002, Masaaki Tezuka – Japan
Not Godzilla VS Mechagodzilla, or even Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla II, nay, this here is Godzilla AGAINST Mechagodzilla, a rad Kaiju jam coming out of the heart of the Millennium Period. This little movie is one of the best post-Showa era Godzilla films yet, and maybe the best movie of any era to feature Mechagodzilla, although most Godzilla fans would probably count that as some form of weird, monster movie blasphemy. I stand by my statement, and I accept your ire.
Controversial Mechagodzilla claims aside, this is indeed an excellent flick that takes time to focus on the little things, and it’s also the only Millennium era Godzilla film to establish a timeline which wasn’t totally abandoned immediately; this movie actually has a direct sequel, the also excellent Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.! Right on, guys!
THE PLOT~ Akane is a determined, but emotionally damaged woman who channels her dismissive outlook on the sanctity of life into an successful career in the armed forces. Tokumitsu is a brilliant scientist, and a pioneer in the field of DNA computer technology, which will probably be instrumental to Skynet when the Machines rise up to kills us all. Hayama is his daughter, and her mom is dead, so naturally she’s going to make a big deal out of that. The three are brought together as part of a project to create Kiryu– the modern day Mechagodzilla, using the recovered skeleton and DNA of the original Godzilla, which was killed by the oxygen destroyer back in 1954.
See, in the world of Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, Japan has indeed been plagued by various monster attacks throughout the years- Mothra and one of the Gargantua monsters are singled out as having existed within this continuity, and additionally, the original Gojira is, as always, cannon here as well, but unlike in the Showa era, after the first Godzilla is defeated, a second one does not turn up for many, many years, not until now, as a matter of fact. Much to the government’s shock and horror, this big ol’ lummox proves to be resistant to the various lasers and anti-monster weaponry which has been developed over time to defend Japan, and so in desperation to save their skins, the idea to create Mechagodzilla is hatched by the top minds in the country.
Evidently, someone thought this would be a good idea.
But it’s a rocky road- this giant, Godzilla shaped W.M.D. is highly controversial when it’s proposed and unveiled, and it does go haywire and decimate a city or two at first- but that’s all part of the game when you work with skyscraper sized, cybernetic war machines, you really have to do it baby-steps style. In the long run everything is ironed out, and most exciting of all, Tokumistu may actually end up getting laid out of this deal, which is colossal. Plus, while they don’t really defeat Godzilla at the end of the film, Japan does manage to successfully run him out of town for the first time ever, which is a real turning point in the crusade against giant monsters everywhere… Win!
Like Godzilla S.O.S., Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla balances a nice Top Gun vibe with it’s monster mayhem, and they do a really good job on both fronts. This is, in every way, a far cry from the lame G-Graspers and purple spikes of Godzilla Vs. Megaguirus, which was also directed by Masaaki Tezuka. Damn, dude, what happened? Your last movie totally sucked! Well, this guy has clearly learned a few things since his last foray into the Godzillaverse, and it shows, GAMG is filed with editing and photography that feels much more artistic and effective than the bland craftsmanship we sometimes see in these films, and honestly, it’s appreciated. Godzilla deserves to be treated with respect, and a talented director behind the camera goes along way in making this film feel worthy of the legacy.
Another great touch that helps push this film up over the hill is how well scripted it is. When watching a film in a language you don’t understand, you have to accept that the nuances of the social relationships you see on screen are going to mostly be lost on you. Additionally, you can’t really fault the dialogue on the basis of what you read in the subtitles, but you can still kind of get a feel for when things are being done really well, or exceptionally poorly. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla takes extra time to put small details in place and invest in dialogue where most recent Godzilla films don’t. The exchange between Tokumitsu, his daughter, and the representatives from the anti-monster bureau (or whatever it’s called) where they keep referencing Professional Baseball is an excellent example of what I’m talking about. It’s such a nice little detail, and it shows care where other movies may have just assumed that these relationships didn’t matter. It’s the ease with which we can invest in these more established personalities and relationships that really helps to make the world of GAMG one worth revisiting, and I wish more kaiju films took the time to nurture these small details.
The cast in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is also excellent. The acting and characterization is great, particularly Akira Nakao’s turn as the Prime Minister and Kou Takasugi’s stern, authoritative performance as Colonel Togashi. Again, I don’t speak Japanese, so a lot of this shit is gonna remain shrouded forever in mystery for me, but in the case of these two actors in particular it feels pretty apparent that they’ve done a great job. The rest of the cast is also good from what I can tell, but even without a grasp of the spoken language, the physicality of Nakao and Takasugi sells their characters in a way that would be hard not to praise. They’re assets to the film without question.
The effects are, as is maddeningly typical at this point, a mixture of fantastic practical effects, and humiliatingly poor CG. The worst offender, in so far as digital effects are concerned, is probably Mechagodzilla’s lame ninja flip in his last battle with Godzilla- it’s embarrassingly lame both in concept and execution. However, the suits look just fantastic, and these digital fails tend to roll off the back of a viewer who has waded through a decent number of these pictures by now. Even so, it’d be nice to see a decent investment in CG from Toho, either that, or a film which just didn’t use computer generated effects at all. This middle ground is undesirable.
Overall, I’m very, very pleased with this one. It’s an excellent effort from the studio behind almost fifty years of kaiju classics, and it further establishes the Millennium era Godzilla films as superior to the much troubled Heisei era series. Recommended!