Godzilla: Toyko S.O.S.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. – 2003, Masaaki Tezuka – Japan
tokyosos Wow! I had some low expectations for this one, but Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is actually pretty solid!

The formula is good; Toho said “Hey, let’s make a Godzilla movie, but let’s have it be more like Top Gun, only without all the blatant homo-eroticism.” So they did. And it was cool! The air force setting really helps to keep our human characters interesting, they all have something going on that feels less stale than characters from other films in the series. We also have a dude from the original Mothra movie popping in as a secondary character in this one, which is done pretty well and helps the movie feel connected to the Showa era in a fun way.

As is tradition with post Showa era Godzilla flicks, Tokyo S.O.S. picks and chooses which film continuities it observes, this time serving as a direct sequel to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, but also acknowledging Gojira, and Mothra. In this continuity, Mechagodzilla is a man made weapon designed to take down Big Daddy G, and constructed partially from the skeleton of the monster from the original Godzilla film. Mothra and her tiny, magical, unison speaking fairy girls are not cool with this. Apparently, using the corpse of a slain monster to create the world’s most fearsome war machine is kinda pushing it, from an ethics standpoint, and Mothra wants a proper burial at sea for Godzilla senior, pronto. That’s trouble for we humans, though, because it would mean dismantling Mechagodzilla when we still desperately need him to defend our oh, so stompable human bodies from all the beast rampages we keep experiencing. Mothra respects that, so in order to sweeten the deal, she promises to protect mankind from Godzilla if we comply with her wishes, but also to kill us all if we fail to comply. Mothra is not good at negotiating. But anyway, it’s a good thing we called her bluff, because later in the film Godzilla kicks Mothra’s ass and without Mechagodzilla to save us we’d have been totally f’ed.

So, it’s pretty good. The monsters are well done, the human stuff is cool, and the whole movie is well made. There is an apparent desire to rely on practical effects and costume monsters over CG this time, and damn, keep it comin’, Toho, because Godzilla and Mothra look great. Probably the worst effect in the movie is the composite job used to make Mothra’s envoy look tiny, but even that is fine. We’ve seen that effect suck for 50 years now. We’re used to it.

Tokyo S.O.S. is yet another solid achievement for the Millennium Era, and, like it’s immediate predecessor, I’d call it one of the best post-Showa Godzilla movies yet made.  recommended for fans of the series.


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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!

GodzillaVsMechagodzilla_B1_photostyle_Japan-6-500x573THE 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!


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Godzilla Vs Megaguirus– 2000, Masaaki Tezuka – Japan


Now, two movies into the third established era in Godzilla’s film history, Toho churns out Godzilla Vs Megaguirus, and in all honesty, this feels like one of the least noteworthy entries in Godzilla’s entire cannon. It doesn’t possess extreme highs or lows, I’d call this one Godzilla at his most monotone. Oh well… At least there aren’t any aliens. Here we go.

THE PLOT~ Toho again rewrites the history of it’s most beloved franchise with Godzilla VS Megaguirus; this time around the events of 1954’s Gojira played out a little differently. Apparently, the Oxygen Destroyer; the machine which was used to kill Big Green back in his first big screen appearance, was never invented, and so in this timeline, the original Godzilla is still around, stomping, smashing, and generally causing a ruckus. Luckily, his raids on Japan appear to be very few and far between, and are concentrated only on areas where nuclear, or other mass power operations, are being conducted. Japan is therefore able to minimize Godzilla’s rampaging by doing away with it’s more dangerous energy based projects, which it does begrudgingly. Anyway. Whatever. Moving on;

So, still not happy with the situation, Japan mounts numerous efforts to kill Godzilla; the most recent of which is the G-GRASPER unit. Yes, G-Grasper. It sounds, to me, somehow creepily sexual, but I’m not really sure why. No matter what, it’s a stupid name, although it might suck less in Japanese. Couldn’t tell you. Anyhow. So, these folks develop a new weapon meant to destroy Godzilla forever, essentially, they create a miniature black hole, into which Godzilla can be pulled, never to return, hooray. I guess the black hole then disappears? There’s conflicting information on that, so I’m not really sure, but it freaking better disapear, if the damn G-Graspers that it was totally cool to just have a friggin’ Black Hole in the middle of Tokyo then they all should be thrown in jail. But again, I digress;

Logically, the first time they test this new weapon, they instantly create a swarm of horrible, giant dragonflies completely by accident. Wonderful! many people are killed. These dragonflies are a huge problem, and they couldn’t have come at a worse time, because check it out, Godzilla’s active again! So, of course, the kaiju big bugs attack Godzilla and like, suck his radioactive dino blood or something, and then return to feed that blood into the gnarled carapace of their even more horrible monarch insect; which then mutates into Megaguirus, an even bigger, even worse dragonfly. I wonder where this is going?

Why, to a giant monster battle, of course! Godzilla and Megaguirus meet up and slug it out, as is their custom, in the middle of the city, and the G-Graspers bumble about making almost no contribution to the situation at all, until the eleventh hour. You see, the damn G-Graspers still seem to think that a black hole launcher is a fine thing to use, even though the only time they have ever tested it they created a race of giant, man-killing dragonflies. “I’m sure that was a one time thing,” the G-Graspers think, as they race to kill Godzilla forever, by using this terrible weapon they have created, but first, they wait for him to save all of their assess by killing Megaguirus, who you may remember they stupidly created themselves by using that exact same weapon a few days ago. Honestly, the G-Graspers are all stupid dicks.

Godzilla VS Megaguirus continues the ‘Zilla tradition of wagging a stern finger at the folly of man’s arrogance by further criticizing our lust for power and violence. This message is not subtle, in fact, it’s painfully overt- the last time we created a monster, it was because we, as humans, dared to use atomic weapons, which were, at that time, the most powerful weapons on Earth. Now, we’ve created a weapon even more powerful than that to try and clean up our mess, and what happens? Boom, more monsters. The statement is pretty cut and dry; we can’t solve our problems by introducing more problems. No more horrible weapons. They further push this message with Godzilla’s zest for attacking Nuclear, and plasma energy reactors, making Godzilla VS Megaguirus a straightforward sermon on the evils of hubris, and that is literally the first lesson these movies ever tried to hammer through our skulls. I suppose that isn’t a problem, really, but Godzilla VS Megaguirus’ retreading of such well worn territory feels like a mark against it because it also fails to do it in a way that feels new or interesting, and it doesn’t really go anywhere else, thematically, either. There are other Godzilla films which are even less dimensional than this one, but most of the time they still managed to have more heart, and remain more likable. Godzilla Vs Megaguirus is hurting for likability. It’s hurting bad.

Firstly, the human characters in Megaguirus are nothing special. They bored me, they’ll bore you, and honestly, I don’t like them. The romance the film offers up feels unnecessary, and I absolutely don’t care about it. Most of the G-Grapsers remain underdeveloped, which is a missed opportunity and the bad guy is never really bad enough, he just kinda made a bad call. I really don’t think it’s fair for the G-Grapsers to hold that against him, considering the fact that this entire movie happened because the G-Graspers themselves are so incompetent that they accidentally created a species of giant, man eating dragonflies. That’s a real “He who without sin cast the first stone” type situation right there.  Also lame; Megaguirus himself. For sure, he’s nothing special, he comes off as sort of a B-Squad Battra, which, damn- a step DOWN from Battra? How undignified.This film is just so disappointingly lukewarm.

Easily, the worst problem with Godzilla Vs Megaguirus is the shittiness of the special effects. Most of the practical effects are fine, the suits look decent enough (Although I hate the Godzilla redesign- especially his purple-for-no-reason spikes) but there is a lot of unbelievably bad CG in this thing. Like, horrible CG. And there’s so much! It’s a real shame to see such inadequate, cheap effects used on what could be called Japan’s most cherished cinematic export. Godzilla deserves better, and the digital effects in this film are not worthy of any movie, let alone a Godzilla film that was made in the year 2000! It’s really disappointing to see him treated so poorly, and for me, this shitty CGI just kills the picture completely.

Of the things Megaguirus actually does well, perhaps its finest accomplishment is that it somehow manages to briefly recapture the spirit of Godzilla’s Showa days, albeit in sporadic, all-too-brief segments, and those scenes are genuinely enjoyable. I felt some of this when the dragonfly swarms made their first assault on Godzilla, but it’s felt nowhere more than during the final battle between Godzilla and Megaguirus. This final confrontation is both brutal, and at the same time, somewhat playful, and even humorous. To me, that felt very reminiscent of Godzilla’s Hero-Phase in the later Showa films, which is awesome. There are parts of the fight that lose me, but overall, it’s easiest to look at Godzilla during those sequences and imagine that this is the same monster you saw clobber Gigan decades ago, which is absolutely the best praise I can give to Godzilla VS Megaguirus. Even so, this is but one positive attribute, and it doesn’t save the picture.

The last thing I want to mention; I think MAYBE they were trying to be funny, but the end of this movie is amazing, in a bad way. It’s a freeze frame cut, and in my opinion, it’s tied with George Romero’s Bruiser for the title of “most lame and akward ending/last frame of a movie ever.” Go watch it, it is puzzling, and it sucks real, real bad. So, whoever directed this; don’t do that, dude. It’s bad. You did a bad job.


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