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Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla - Review

A Review by Mike Bogue

3½ Stars - Very Good

(Released in Japanese theatres in 2002; officially available on North American DVD in 2004)





Direction: Masaaki Tezuka

Screenplay: Wataru Mimura

Music: Michiru Oshima

Special Effects: Yuichi Kikuchi

Monster Suits: Shinichi Wakasa

Producer: Shogo Tomiyama




Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla Still. 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.

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla Still.

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 monster scenes.

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 Against Mechagodzilla Still.

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 than ever.

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.



DVD NOTES

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.



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