Direction: Masaaki Tezuka
Screenplay: Wataru Mimura
Music: Michiru Oshima
Special Effects: Yuichi Kikuchi
Monster Suits: Shinichi Wakasa
Producer: Shogo Tomiyama
FFor this G fan, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla
ranks among the best of The Big G’s post-seventies adventures. Almost all
the major set pieces are beautifully done. Take the opener, in which
Godzilla surfaces at night during a fierce typhoon and regally strides through
town and forest as though neither is of any consequence; this sequence
evokes terrific atmosphere, paying careful attention to lighting and art
direction. Indeed, the scenes somewhat recall the Odo Island sequence
in the original Godzilla.
Mechagodzilla (or Kiryu) looks impressive, far
more wicked and machine-like -- and far more convincing -- than its 1974, 1975,
and 1993 predecessors. The notion of this quasi-Gbeing a cyborg run
by DNA computers is interesting, and lays the foundation for Kiryu's
out-of-control carnage. Apparently, Kiryu is genetically and
"spiritually" attuned to Godzilla, making the mechanical kaiju's
behavior somewhat unpredictable.
Kiryu's march through a large high-rise is spectacular
and well-detailed, andbathing hisrampage in golden sunlight was a
nice touch. Especially pleasing is the moment in which Kiryu comes to a halt
after his energy is depleted, and we see the sun settling on the horizon behind
his massive robotic profile.
Indeed, the special effects are, for the most part,
quite good -- often up to Hollywood levels. The only effects that don't work at all
involve CGI. The obviously computer-animated Godzilla effervescing to death
due to the oxygen-destroyer appears cartoonish, and the two frogmen swimming
next to the Godzilla skeleton are less convincing than plastic action figures
would have been.
On the other hand, most of the visuals do
work, and show how far the series has progressed in terms of effects skill and ingenuity.
For example, another striking scene displays Kiryu in free fall, a huge full
moon looming behind his metallic silhouette.
In terms of realism, the crashing of White Heron 3 is
first-rate. And how about that Absolute Zero Cannon?
Godzilla and Kiryu's final clash puts to shame all
previous G bouts against his robotic counterpart. As they fight, the monsters
employ a variety of battle tactics -- ray beam warfare, fisticuffs, and
evena bit of wrestling. Kiryu's tail-swinging of Godzilla appears
to be a deliberate homage to a similar scene in King Kong vs. Godzilla.
In fact, this moment almost goes over the top, but is ultimately reined in by
the serious monster battling before and after the event. Besides, as a
nostalgic reference point, it shows that director Masaaki Tezuka knows and
enjoys Godzilla’s movie canon.
Speaking of Godzilla’s movie canon, for us
“baby-boomer” G folk, it’s good to see Kumi Mizuno again. She appears radiant
and authoritative in her role of Prime Minister Tsuge. It’s hard to believe
that she hasn’t appeared in a G film since the mid-sixties (she made a
beautiful space siren in 1965’s Monster Zero, as well as a fetching
islander in 1966’s Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster).
Plotwise, Wataru Mimura’s storyline proves
satisfactory. Once again, we see a woman warrior in the lead. Named
Akane Yashiro, she is blamed for the inadvertent deaths of some of her
comrades-in-arms, and retreats inside herself out of intense shame. Much later
she is hand-picked to pilot one of the White Heron aircraft that spirits
Mechagodzilla into battle against Godzilla, and this important purpose helps
her regain her self-worth. Akane’s depiction is believable, and actress
Yumiko Shake handles the part decently. The other human dramatics, while
perhaps lacking real depth, offer pleasant and credible diversion between the
Akane’s saving the day by having to manually go inside Kiryu seems a bit contrived, and
you can’t help but feel that you’ve seen this sort of thing before. But this
bit of plot business is handled well enough. It’s certainly interesting seeing
the satellite view of Tokyo as the city goes dark, the great metropolis’s power
being beamed into the inert Kiryu.
Godzilla’s threatening of a hospital is interesting. Usually, Godzilla smashes through
Japanese cities without any particular edifice being in danger. Having a
specific and sympathetic target such as a hospital about to suffer Godzilla’s
rampage makes the Big G seem more villainous and the need to halt his wrath
more compelling. One could overdo this and become maudlin, but this is an idea
Toho might explore in the future.
The idea of the Anti-Megalosaurus Force, or AMF, is a good one. I like the way the
AMF is shown to have a history of battling monsters; the clips from the
original Mothra and War of the Gargantuas were most welcome.
It’s also enjoyable to see the Maser tanks back in action, and looking better
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla represents the quality work Toho filmmakers can turn
out even when given a paucity of time and budget. Nostalgic but clearly
anchored in the present, the film showcases the best the Millennium Godzilla
series has to offer.
Like Sony Tristar’s other recent releases of current Godzilla films, the Godzilla Against
Mechagodzilla DVD sports a diamond sharp picture. In addition, there is an
English dubbed track and a Japanese track with English sub-titles; the latter
sports actual subtitles and not just the dialogue of the English dub.
Surprisingly, the English dubbed track isn’t too bad,
though it does resort to a few profanities not found in the English subtitles.
This is unfortunate, but typical of modern-day dubbing since 1991’s Godzilla
vs. King Ghidorah. However, most kids will have heard much worse in
American PG-rated movies.
Regrettably, the DVD doesn’t offer any Japanese
trailers for Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. But just having the
movie available in widescreen and with English subtitles is more than reason
enough to purchase this DVD, and to hope that Sony Tristar gives Godzilla’s
other movies the respectful treatment they deserve.