Direction: Takao Okawara
Screenplay: Wataru Mimura
Music: Akira Ifubuke
Special Effects: Koichi Kawakita
Producer: Shogo Tomiyama
Executive Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka
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
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.
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.
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.