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Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2 - Review

A Review by Mike Bogue

3 Stars - Good

Japanese release: Dec. 11, 1993

American release: Summer 1999 (released direct to video by Columbia Tristar)

Direction: Takao Okawara

Screenplay: Wataru Mimura

Music: Akira Ifubuke

Special Effects: Koichi Kawakita

Producer: Shogo Tomiyama

Executive Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2 Still. Any movie that features a serious battle between Godzilla and Rodan can’t be all bad.  In fact, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2 is mostly good.  Godzilla fans often rank it as the best of the Big G’s “Heisei” series, but the movie is not without its problems.

The film’s script wastes little time getting down to business.  Using the technology found in the remnants of Mecha-King Ghidorah, the UNGCC creates Mechagodzilla, an automaton meant to defend Japan against Godzilla and other monsters.  Technician Aoki, who created Garuda, a flying vehicle now supplanted by Mechagodzilla, becomes a member of G-Force.

Meanwhile, a scientific team journeys to Adonoa Island and discovers two eggs – one still intact, the other empty.  Rodan (called “Radon” in the film, the actual Japanese name for the monster) quickly appears, and the scientists surmise that radioactive waste has caused the pterodactyl to mutate to immense proportions.  Godzilla next appears, and he and Rodan engage in combat.

The scientists manage to get the still intact egg aboard their helicopter and make a getaway.  Back in Japan, the egg hatches an infant Godzilla, which Azusa, the scientist assigned to the egg, names Baby.  Godzilla meanwhile surfaces near Kyoto, and Mechagodzilla is dispatched to stop him.  Godzilla triumphs, but mysteriously retreats back to the sea once he reaches the building that Baby inhabits.

The UNGCC then decides to use Baby as bait to lure Godzilla into a trap.  The plan goes awry, however, when Rodan wings its way over Japan and makes off with the cargo vessel containing Baby and Azusa.  This sets the stage for the spectacular finale in Chiba City in which Mechagodzilla, with the help of Aoki’s Garuda, appears to kill both Rodan and Godzilla – but of course, all is not as it seems.

The story is compact and straight-forward, but it stumbles when trying to make thematic statements.  For example, the film’s supposed theme of “real life vs. artificial life” seems artificial itself.  It isn’t demonstrated anywhere in the “human” plot, and apparently only refers to Godzilla trouncing Mechagodzilla.

Also, in this film we see monster psychic Miki’s sympathies turn towards Godzilla.  One scene observes that because of Baby, Miki now realizes that Godzilla is an intelligent being with as much right to live as any human being.  But Baby’s cuteness and apparent docility seem like weak reasons to give the adult Godzilla a pass.  The authorities who disagree with Miki are shown to be cold and calculating – one of them refers to Baby as an “asset.”  It would have been far more satisfying for someone to have confronted Miki with the simple truth that though Godzilla might be an intelligent being, he has also killed and injured thousands of Japanese citizens and scores of JSDF members.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2 Still.

Indeed, it might have been effective for one of the UNGCC characters to take Miki to a “Godzilla ward” in which victims of the monster’s attack are convalescing – some of whom will never recover.  This would have given more substance to Miki’s internal conflicts and wouldn’t have made the “anti-Godzilla” characters “bad guys,” but would rather have added a thoughtful tone to the debate over what to do with Godzilla.

And now for a dissenting word or two about the special effects.  Yes, most of them are quite good.  But I’m afraid I have to respectfully disagree with G fans who consider the effects the best of the Heisei series.  Actually, Koichi Kawakita’s work is somewhat erratic here.  For example, the military attack on Godzilla is less convincing than similar military attacks in Godzilla vs. Biollante and Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.  The jets in particular are poorly detailed and are obviously models on wires – they appear to have come right out of one of Godzilla’s sixties adventures.

In addition, Garuda looks nice, but it too is an obvious model that rarely convinces.  In fact, the Super X-2 in Godzilla vs. Biollante was far more realistic in design and execution.

Now granted, the scope of the effects work attempted in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2 is vast.  And there are plenty of pleasing scenes.  For example, the battle between Godzilla and Rodan on Adonoa Island is a standout.  The mists and dark topography give the island itself a sort of prehistoric ambience.  Also, Godzilla and Rodan are clearly locked in mortal combat, an animalistic conflict recalling the more serious aspects of the two monsters’ battles in Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster.  A particularly imaginative touch is giving us a Godzilla point-of-view shot as Rodan mercilessly pecks at The Big G’s face.

Kawakita chose to use an animatronic Rodan rather than the traditional suitmation/puppetry approach.  The results fare well, though the flying monster does sometimes lack flexibility.  Cute but not overly cute, Baby’s design looks fine, and its shoulders-up articulation is first-rate.  Godzilla offers a few interesting facial expressions of his own, especially after his first battle with Mechagodzilla.

The movie features plenty of urban destruction, of course.  Probably the best such sequence is Godzilla’s torching of an ocean-side refinery.  This scene clearly recalls Godzilla’s demolition of the Nagoya refinery in Godzilla vs. The Thing.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2 Still.

The battles between Godzilla and Mechagodilla entertain, though they mostly consist of Mechagodzilla firing different kinds of rays at his biological doppelganger.  The “plasma grenade” effect is a triumph for Kawakita, as the weapon appears truly overwhelming – it’s easy to see why it “kills” Rodan.

As others have noted, the ending, during which Godzilla is revived by Rodan’s life energy, is contrived.  Godzilla and Baby wading off into Tokyo Bay is, of course, a direct swipe from Gorgo’s finale – but maybe “homage” would be a better word for the sequence, as it is the story’s natural outcome.

The English dubbing is a bit careless, though that comes as no surprise.  For example, the characters refer to Rodan as “Radon.”  Radon is the actual Japanese name for the flying monster, so maybe the dubbers were trying to be accurate.  More than likely, they neither knew nor cared that this monster has always been known in the West as Rodan.

Akira Ifubuke’s music score soars, as always.  His theme for Mechagodzilla is majestic and resonant, and he revives Rodan’s theme for the flying monster’s various exploits.  Baby also receives a theme, a quiet, dignified melody that serves as a nice counterpoint to Godzilla’s familiar thundering marches.

Though it stumbles in the areas of both story and special effects, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2 is a good, solid entry in the Godzilla series, if not the classic many fans deem it to be.

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