“. . .all I really prioritize is seeing kaiju fights and great practical effects, while guffawing at the cheesy characters and dialogue.”
— Me, ten days ago.
When I was a boy, I played a game called Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee. I had a lot of fun with it. While I don’t remember anything about the story or the deeper mechanics involved with the fighting styles of the combatants, I remember the kaiju; lots and lots of kaiju to choose from. I remember Godzilla, in two different forms (Heisei or Millenium form). I remember Gigan. I remember Megalon. I remember Rodan, Anguirus, Orga, Destoroyah, and King Ghidorah. I remember so distinctly the aesthetic details of all these wonderfully varied combatants and just how awesome they all were to me. The game may have held my passion for the Godzilla franchise afloat when my access to (or motivation to access) the Godzilla films was insufficient.
It wasn’t until a few years back did I realize that iconic creatures such as Megalon, Gigan, and King Ghidorah were all made way back during the early years of Godzilla’s reign. Y’know, back when practical effects were a lot harder to naturally place into the suspension of disbelief. Today, I decided to look into the film that gave life to Megalon, and featured a cute little cameo from Gigan, who was the kaiju featured in the film directly before Megalon’s. Turns out, this isn’t really a Godzilla film at all. Why’s that?
See, there’s some interesting history behind this film. First of all, this wasn’t even meant to be a Godzilla film initially. The film studio, Toho, planned to make a film showcasing a character that was designed by a child, sent in to the company during a contest they held in 1972. Later dubbed Jet Jaguar, Toho eventually felt that the new character wouldn’t be able to hold the entire film on its own, so they threw in Godzilla and Gigan at (basically) the last minute. The end result is a Godzilla film with a runtime of 81 minutes that features Godzilla for about twenty of those minutes—not just shown, but even mentioned. One could theoretically state that this is a Jet Jaguar film featuring Godzilla and Gigan, and that Megalon is more of an antagonist in the Jet Jaguar universe than it is the Godzilla universe. And let me tell you, it absolutely shows.
To address the quote I started this post with, Godzilla vs. Megalon features a kaiju fight in the last twenty minutes of the film (a large bulk of where Godzilla comes into the frame), has atrocious practical effects (sans some nice military action), and has a cheesiness factor that would make those from Wisconsin cower. With a staunch combination like this, one could predict that I did not care for this movie at all… and they would be correct. Outside of the final kaiju fight, which hovered within the “so bad, it’s good” range ever so slightly, the entirety of this film was boring, poorly acted, poorly paced, and downright bizarre for all the wrong reasons.
Jet Jaguar is a man-made robot that has an undisclosed amount of power, though apparently it can fly, range in size, and open up a can of whup-ass at a moment’s notice. Three random nobodies (including a child with an amazing fashion sense) star as the human protagonists for this film, one of which being the creator of Jet Jaguar. Mysterious figures break into the protagonists’ lab and seize control of Jet Jaguar, and their origins are revealed to be… *reviews script* …a group of underground, yet normal-looking individuals called… “Seatopians” that have survived for some three million years, but are on the verge of extinction because the people on the surface have been conducting nuclear tests that have destroyed their homes. The Godzilla franchise (except this kind of isn’t a Godzilla film) has always had very “out there” plots, but this… yeah, this is overwhelmingly stupid.
Megalon is a creature these “Seatopians” pray to for guidance, as the lead dude in charge begs him to destroy those on the surface so that they may survive. Gigan, as evidenced by the context of its even being in this film, kind of appears out of nowhere, and apparently the Seatopians can call upon it, too. Gigan doesn’t even appear until after Megalon and Jet Jaguar duke it out a little in some isolated wasteland (very convenient), but when it does, the movie goes from kind of dumb to “Dear lord, what am I even watching?”
I watched the entire final fight with my brother, and through our very kind and non-mocking observations, I made the startling discovery that the entire fight sequence is basically a WWE/WWF/WCW scenario involving kaiju. Megalon and Gigan are the heels, beating on the poor babyface Jet Jaguar (literally by kicking him while he’s down and dropping elbows). Suddenly, Godzilla bursts onto the scene (sadly without intro music, which would’ve been fantastic), mocks the two combatants, and promptly kicks the shit out of them for a few minutes, providing hope for good. Godzilla checks up on Jet Jaguar, who thanks him for coming upon his request (by the way, Jet Jaguar personally requested Godzilla’s aid in fighting Megalon, so I guess he’s a hero in this film).
The two teams then duke it out, throwing punches and beating the other while they’re down in a mad frenzy, the tables turning continuously in each side’s favor. At one point, Godzilla throttles Gigan so hard that it decides to just run away, leaving Megalon to face the music. Jet Jaguar and Godzilla use their new handicap to throw out all their signature moves at one time, including this film’s most infamous scene, which I will show following this sentence (fun fact: Godzilla does this twice, one after the other):
Megalon is eventually defeated and Godzilla goes back into the ocean as Jet Jaguar goes home with his family. What a wholesome ending to a horrible film.
The final kaiju fight makes this film enjoyable, even ironically. The rest of it is a giant borefest featuring really dumb scenarios, characters, and sequences that made me finish this film thirty minutes after when I should’ve, because I was constantly browsing other sites to alleviate sheer apathy. When I think of Godzilla films, I think of those from the Heisei era, where Godzilla and foes aren’t just people in giant suits and it isn’t so incredibly over-the-top that it could only be enjoyed as cheesy, b-rate fun.
This film has given me the insight that Godzilla as a callback to my prepubescent fascination with professional wrestling isn’t exactly my preferred taste. It’s fun to laugh at, but I want something more. I want to get lost in Godzilla as a threat to humanity, as a creature whose might is so unreachable that humans can only hope to get in his way whenever he surfaces. Godzilla vs. Megalon isn’t so much a middle finger to Godzilla as it is a middle finger to what Godzilla means to me. For that, I can only give it props for a great dropkick.
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more reviews (and review-esques) on this topic, check out the archive of film reviews!
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.