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, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack

Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack ~ 2001, Shûsuke Kaneko – Japan


Poor Godzilla seems to be in a constant state of reboot. That’s apparently how it’s gonna be here in the Millennium era, just reboots as far as the eye can see. In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (Which shall henceforth forever be abbreviated as GMK because I never want to type that nightmare of a title again) we have again abandoned all previous Godzilla continuity save for the original 1954 film, with one surprising exception; the 1998 American made Roland Emmerich film. They keep that in cannon simply so that they can explicitly clarify that that fucking monster was NOT Godzilla. Awesome. Anyway.

The story is as follows: Godzilla hasn’t been seen since ’54, but Japan remains spooked. Apparently, they’re right to fear Godzilla’s return, because lo and behold- here he is, back, and hellbent on stomping Japan off the map for good. The fate of the country rests on three ancient guardian monsters who come to save the day; Baragon (who apparently wasn’t worth a spot in the title,) Mothra, and King Ghidorah. No idea where these asshole guardian monsters were in ’54, but in the end they can’t really get the job done this time either, so mankind is forced to step up to the plate at the eleventh hour with some sort of new super weapon and take out Big G forever, just like they did last time. You can’t rely on Guardian monsters for shit these days.

GMK carries along with it a reputation of being one of the better recent entries in the Godzilla franchise, and to a point, I agree. The production is mostly very competent, the monster effects are well done, especially Baragon, but occasionally Godzilla’s rubbery hide will fold in a way that seems too puppet like for the new millennium, and we should be doing better than that by now. If we had better costumes way back in The Labyrinth, then I really can’t pardon this today. Also, there are composite shots and CG effects all over the place that look like complete garbage, so as usual, Toho needs to put more of an investment in it’s digital effects department if they want to use them so friggin’ often.

Anyway. The tone is fairly consistent, and there is a clear attempt to recapture the grim menace Godzilla used to exude, which I can get into. Toho really seems interested in getting our big green boy back to his Atomic Bogeyman basics, so this time around they really make it a point to highlight human deaths as a result of Godzilla’s rowdiness. Unfortunately the tone is kept fairly light so these causalities don’t feel tragic enough to really get that point across. By and large, the Heisei era managed to communicate that particular message a lot more effectively, but GMK is still superior to those films by a wide margin.

What GMK does best, I think, is balance fun monster battles with grounding scenes of human drama and exposition, which is a phenomenal achievement. We spend just enough time with our humans on the ground to pull the narrative together, but not enough that we feel bored. In general, this balance is extremely difficult for kaiju films to strike, so I theorize that for this reason GMK stands out as being especially good, even amongst viewers who aren’t film savvy enough to recognize that this balance is what they’re responding to.

It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, however. GMK is a competent and enjoyable movie, but as a Godzilla film, it’s struggles in weird ways. It’s kinda like the Jason Goes To Hell of the Godzilla series, strong for casual viewers, but potentially difficult for longtime fans. We see in GMK new ideas that I would argue are playing too fast and loose with these characters, and Godzilla himself is stretched, conceptually, to the point of nearly coming apart at the seems. Essentially, this time around, all these monster are fueled with spirit energy, because from the looks of it, Toho has completely lost faith in science altogether. That’s fair enough, but while the Guardian Monsters are all gassed up on your run of the mill, ordinary Japanese spirits, Godzilla’s monster engine runs exclusively on pissed off Japanese World War II ghosts, who have possessed him with the intent of getting revenge on a modern day Japan which they feel has betrayed the values they fought for, and it totally has. I’m really not sure how I feel about any of that, especially since there is at least some evidence to suggest that Godzilla is, in effect, a zombie in this film, which I am absolutely not down with. Worst of all: (SPOILER ALERT) The film climaxes with Godzilla being blown up, and after victory is declared, we see a large, still beating Godzilla heart sitting at the bottom of the ocean, just waiting to like… Grow a new Godzilla, or something? I don’t know, but it’s very much reminiscent of Jason Goes To Hell’s most objectionable component, and also it sucks and I hate it.. (END SPOILER ALERT)

I think the worst thing about GMK, however, is the K. King Ghidorah, in this film, is like, the ultimate Earth Guardian Monster, the last champion for the human race, standing against Godzilla in a battle to save us all, and that, my friends, is horse shit. Maybe I’ve missed something, but I grew up with the Godzilla films, and in my day, there was no more sneaky, evil, treacherous asshole of a monster that King Ghidorah, alien dick head sent from Planet X to screw us all. Every time he shows up, he’s like, Godzilla’s ultimate nemesis, and he’s always the baddest of bad guys. Are you now, GMK, expecting me to do a complete 180 and root for this slimy, three headed douche bag? Oh, think again. I am not prepared to for that. I’d rather Godzilla kick his ass and then eat every human on Earth than flip flop on my staunch Anti-Ghidorah stance. That, in a nut shell, is the biggest problem with GMK, it’s just taking a lot of liberties with a pretty concrete and established universe, and not all of the ramifications are going to sit well with you.

That having been said, most fans seem to be pretty much fine with it, for whatever reason, so maybe these things don’t matter so much after all? What do I know, I guess. It’s still a pretty solid entry at the end of the day, and it beats the hell out of Godzilla Vs Spacegodzilla.


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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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Godzilla 2000 – 1999, Takao Okawara – Japan


The world of Godzilla 2000 is one where the debate over whether or not Godzilla exists is over. Here, he has become an accepted part of life. Researchers study Big Green the same way they might study earthquakes, tornadoes, or really any natural phenomena, and while there remains a strong urge to destroy him, there is at least some portion of the scientific community eager to contain Godzilla somehow, for scientific purposes. Neither side seems to get their way, however, as always, he remains unkillable, and uncontrollable.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, mankind has unwittingly awakened an ancient, extraterrestrial life form that had been snoozing at the bottom of the ocean for millennia, and when this advanced life-form gets hostile, we again find ourselves totally unable to fend off our would-be destroyer. We’re basically worthless, when you get down to it, so once again it falls on the rough, greenish shoulders of Godzilla to bail our asses out, even though we launched like, a thousand rockets at him just yesterday… And that’s the movie!

Up until about the halfway mark I was pretty convinced that I was watching the best Godzilla movie in a very long time. This one marks the beginning of the Millennium Era, the third recognized period in Godzilla film continuity, and It starts out very, very strong, with many of the regrettable traits brought into cannon during the Heisei absent completely. Which is awesome, I love Godzilla, and I want to like the Heisei era films, but they made it pretty difficult sometimes. This film, on the other hand, is much easier to get behind, it feels higher budget and more serious than what we saw out of Big G’s last several escapades, and I feel like the spirit of the Showa era is felt ever so briefly here and there, although that could have been the hysterical relief brought on by not having to deal with any more psychics or hard, shiny, plastic monsters.

G2000 opens with a pretty neat scene; we have some Godzilla tracking enthusiasts hoping to catch a sight of the big guy in their custom outfitted Kaiju jeep, and guess what; they totally do. The whole sequence is cool, and very well done, even if it does try to borrow a bit from Jurassic Park, and even Twister. It somehow feels so fresh and real, and the way this movie tries to sell you a world where there is an apparent attempt to adapt to and understand Godzilla is just so different from what we’ve seen before. This is one of G2000’s many positive qualities, however, it ain’t all waterslides and puppy dogs, this movie has some serious flaws that really begin to gang up on you over the course of the film. The single worst problem out of the whole batch is a debilitating lack of balance, which is probably the most common flaw in all of Kaiju Cinema; as is so often the case, we end up spending way too much time with characters that we just don’t care about, and even when we finally get to the good bits, it somehow feels boring because of how little we give a shit about this world to begin with. It’s just too little too late, and the giant alien monster that Godzilla has to fight is also decidedly lame. That doesn’t help.

Regardless, the strength of the first half of the movie is enough to make this one stand out in my mind, and overall, I like the film. It’s a good enough start to a new era, and Godzilla fans will likely have a pretty good time with it.


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