Y’know what? Godzilla can do whatever it wants as long as it all looks fantastic. Godzilla, “Kiryu” (MechaGodzilla), and Mothra all look extravagant as can be here—almost breathtaking. I’m biased, though: I love these creature designs.
To spoil it right away, Tokyo S.O.S. has become my favorite Godzilla film to date. While I can’t say it’s the best Godzilla film I’ve seen (many re-watches are necessary), it delivered almost everything I’ve come to expect from a film in the legendary franchise and rarely had me bored. The practical effects were fantastic; every creature looked great and Mothra looked gorgeous. Characters of the human variety were somewhat developed, albeit not splendidly. Moral situations took place in the form of whether keeping Kiryu would be more of a detriment to society than otherwise, which resonated with me personally, being an American and the storied “Do I need a gun for protection?” question looming over me.
Even with all that, there’s a lot this story—and that aspect specifically—kind of glosses over for the sake of it. The central plotline is that Mothra urges humanity to take MechaGodzilla back to the sea to rest, or else she’ll wage war on humanity. No reason is given as to why, but the only thing I can gauge as a valid reason is that necromancy is bad and people should leave dead things dead. Stick to one’s limits. Something along the lines of Jurassic Park. As reasonable as that is, it’s only emphasized in vague moments of realization by characters, and right at the very end when people spout sappy lines over it. This kind of cheesy, in-your-face dialogue is something I wish this franchise would do less of (because they do it often), as if the audience is too dumb to figure it out.
Characters are a little better overall, though still suffer somewhat from a lack of appropriate screentime. Some characters, such as the male lead, have an adequate amount of detail to their perspectives and motivations to be worth watching or caring for. Others, such as an implied romantic interest for the male lead and her cocky friend, are kind of there. Like, yeah, they do stuff, but they could literally have any character replace them and nothing would change, except maybe a comment by the woman about how the male lead has no interest in women. Y’know, ’cause indirect signs of affection? I think even “serviceable” would be too much to describe the cast as a whole; perhaps “average” would suffice.
And yet, I hardly cared until all was said and done, because Godzilla was stomping around Tokyo like a big playground. Kiryu was shooting lasers from its eyes and mouth, and drilling holes in Godzilla’s chest. Mothra dusted up whirlwinds and looked graceful in the sky. A majority of the battle between these monsters was a great treat, and more than made up for the inadequacies of the film’s whole for me… although…
Kind of like the final battle sequence in Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, it did drag for some time. This might be the longest final sequence in a Godzilla film yet for me. I don’t recall the exact length, but something close to thirty minutes was probably accurate—that or it felt like it. Part of it due to a back and forth thing between humanity and Godzilla standing around for the hell of it, another from the circumstances surrounding Mothra, which have been [redacted] due to spoilers. It was a bit of a dull spot in an otherwise fulfilling battle sequence that thrived on flashing lights, property destruction, and weird stuff. I adore weird stuff.
On that note, Tokyo S.O.S. has a wonderful balance of serious and weird, exactly how I like my Godzilla fare. Godzilla is a threat to Tokyo, serious. Mothra sends two fairies down to talk to random citizens, weird. Keeping Kiryu is a means of elaborating on one’s desire to have an ultra-dangerous weapon for the sake of protection, serious. Some kid drags about a hundred desks outside of a school to the adjoining playground to make out a symbol to attract Mothra to Earth, hilarious. The best Godzilla films, I feel, are the ones that are serious about the symbolic nature of Godzilla’s origins, but are kooky enough to know that it’s basically a giant lizard facing a giant butterfly in a screeching war. Tokyo S.O.S. does this wonderfully, and embodies a lot of the spirit I like in these films.
Prior to this, I re-watched Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (my opinion barely changed, hence not part of this post). At first, I was watching the English dub (always a bad move), then switched after I couldn’t take how fucking abysmal the performances were. Upon switching, I realized that not only the voices changed, but the music changed, too. When I got back to the original, I realized just how much more I preferred the booming, cathartic score of the Japanese version, especially when showing Godzilla. Tokyo S.O.S. keeps on with the tradition of bass-y, deep instruments for the soundtrack, as well as some mystical whimsy attributed to Mothra’s character, which I enjoyed. Such a small thing, which I normally disregard, made a great emotional shift. It’s almost like sound is important.
Technically, it could be much better, and it’s messy in some regard, but I enjoyed myself quite a bit watching this. I liked the return to the underlying political message, regardless of how well it was executed. I liked the inclusion of Mothra and her importance to the film’s plot (though it kind of felt like fan service). I liked the battle sequence, sans the length. As you can see, there’s a lot of asterisks attached to these positives, which unfortunately brings down the score more than I’d like it to, because I had such a blast with this film. Overall, it’s among my favorite Godzilla films, if for nothing else than great practical designs and fierce battles.
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
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