“Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla” (2002)

The previous film in the Millennial Era of Godzilla films, “Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack” saw the narrative and history of our favorite kaiju savagely rewritten with favorable results. It, however, wasn’t the first film to rewrite Godzilla history. It seems that every film in the Millennial Era, after “Godzilla 2000,” rewrites the history of the King of Kaiju keeping the pieces the filmmakers want and discarding everything else. In “Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla” once more the origin film’s events are kept, everything else is discarded.

After Godzilla savages Japan for a second time the Prime Minister enacts a bold new plan. Retrieving the bones of the original Godzilla, killed in 1954, they construct a strong mechanized opponent called Kiriyu to fight Godzilla. However, when you build a mech around the bones of old Godzilla and imbue it with Godzilla’s own DNA one should foresee problems and vicious ones do arise.

Kiriyu is an impressive MechaGodzilla, outfitted with a powerful weapon capable of rendering anything immaterial. This leads me to the first of several questions: you have a powerful, game-ending weapon like this and you don’t lead with this? No reason is given for why they wouldn’t, like it needs to charge, or it is a huge drain on resources, but I would think a protracted fight with the all powerful Godzilla would a much bigger drain on resources. Now, to be fair if they led with this weapon and were successful then we wouldn’t have an epic fight. There is just something frustrating when filmmakers create uber-weapons like this and don’t offer evidence that they have completely thought them through.

One aspect that sets the Millennial Era films apart from the other two eras, aside from the redesign of Godzilla, is the use of computer effects to a higher and more successful degree. Instead of just giant clunky mechs, like in the past which were always suits, here Kiriyu, which is also a suit, is augmented by CGI. The use of CGI comes across as hokey sometimes, but allows Kiriyu to move more fluidly and vault the way the boosted machine should. So, even if it comes across as a bit dated sometimes, it still works and conveys the excitement and wonder of humans finally having something that can stand toe-to-toe with the might of Godzilla. When they are grappling muzzle to muzzle and Kiriyu fires off its multitude of rockets it is an impressive sight.

The story works as well, for the most part, as the humans struggle to build and then control what they truly believe will save them from the destructive force of Godzilla. The little girl is confounding at times for her plant is never truly explained and the way it acted I half-expected it to blossom into a new version of Biollante. At times she is the inspiration for her father and Akane (Yumiko Shaku) to rush forth into danger and do their jobs, while at others she is crying and whining over the validity of all life. I guess both values can be held at the same time in the same person, and maybe the problem was in the way it was communicated. Either way save for this one hiccup the rest of the story worked well.

Godzilla is returned to his epic nastiness. This is the design I like the best. Savage, sharp, pointy spines the size of a state. Two rows of brutal teeth. Sharp, serrated scales. His awe-inspiring atomic breath, utilized more last film and this one, has a significant and visual update: now before he fires his ultimate attack his dorsal spines flash as if charging with the awesome power of the breath weapon he is about to unleash. It adds an extra visual cue that indicates his fierceness and sheer legendary status.

While there were no additional kaiju we were given a great story and a MechaGodzilla that felt like it was an actual threat to the King of Kaiju. Even the aircraft felt worthwhile, not of the scale of Super X-III, but nowhere near a featherweight as Fighter Griphon. Instead what we are presented with are fairly sustainable, maneuverable craft that might survive on the battlefield where giant beings are fighting. What is baffling, and brings me to another question I have, is the lack of seatbelts in Kiriyu. I do understand the realities of how the mech was supposed to be piloted, but obviously the also created a redundancy system with seats and controls, yet failed to add seatbelts or restraints to protect the pilot who would be grappling, slamming around, and bashing into the mighty Godzilla. These are the minute, or not so minute details that really bother me when I’m watching a film. As Kiriyu is knocked down for the third time and Akane is struggling to either find her seat or regain consciousness I’m just left with a baffled sense of “why?” If it is just drum up drama and tension then it is a piss-poor decision by the filmmakers, don’t cheat your audience like that, it is a terrible way to create suspense and what you ultimately end up with is a frustrated audience going, “SEATBELTS YOU DAFT IDIOTS!” instead of buying into the drama of the scene.

“Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla” (2002) is a fine entry into this era of films and an important one for it sets up the events of the next film, “Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.” It has legitimate excitement, suspense, and a decent human story. The use of computer effects works for the most part and doesn’t detract when one considers both budget and era. A successful Godzilla film that adds to the franchise despite some puzzling decisions to eradicate over 50 years worth of excellent history.


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