Here we have 1974’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, one of the most well-known battles of the Godzilla franchise. But before I comment further, I’d just like to say that this movie looks fantastic for 1974! All the special effects are far ahead of their time and the picture quality is really quite impressive. I must have stumbled across an HD release or something because I was fascinated with the overall design of the—
…What’s that? This isn’t Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla? How is it not? I mean the title… wait. Against? Does that really make a difference? I thought it was a translation decision! Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and Godzilla against Mechagodzilla are two different movies? Really? They are? Ah, fuck. I went through the entire film thinking it was the film from 1974. Turns out, I was watching a separate movie from… 2002. Now I really feel stupid.
In any case, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is the third of four movies to feature the mechanical Kaiju in some major form. I hear in the previous installments that aliens were responsible for the creation of Mechagodzilla, but I haven’t seen the movies so I couldn’t tell you. In this version, Mechagodzilla is created using the skeleton of the original Godzilla from the 1954 movie and incorporating DNA inputs into a mechanical exoskeleton… or something. They don’t go into vivid detail with it. They also manage to create this gigantic specimen in only four years! Yeah, uh, I call bullshit! Four years?! That’s it?! The Titanic took just over two years to build with 3,000 workers and that’s just a god damn boat! This is a high-tech machine being grafted onto the skeleton of a monster who’s been dead for fifty years that you had to fish out of the water and… and… ugh. This movie partakes in the standard Japanese story-telling of explaining the what and the why, but not the how.
In any case, the construction of Mechagodzilla is seen as a defensive maneuver to combat Godzilla whenever it should come ashore. Godzilla shows up once before the four-year span that it took to create his metallic replica, and it conveniently shows up once again right as Mechagodzilla has been completed. Oh, another thing I neglected to mention, but the humans in this movie don’t refer to Mechagodzilla as Mechagodzilla, but Kiryu (pronounced “key-you”). I read after watching the movie that this was attempted to make this version of Mechagodzilla stand out from the previous forms, but the way I see it, it’s just “the humans’ Mechagodzilla,” assuming aliens were responsible for the first one. The construction of Kiryu itself is hardly shown, but rather showcased through various (and vague) passages of time through the central human character of this movie: Akane.
Akane was present when Godzilla intruded upon Japan’s shores prior to the humans’ plan to build Kiryu. She tried to shoot Godzilla in the eye with a laser cannon mounted on top of the vehicle/tank she was riding in, but that only pissed Godzilla off as he stomped on another squad vehicle/tank, killing a good portion of her comrades. Setting up the future conflict between Akane and her conscience, Godzilla fucks off into the ocean, never to be seen until the end of Kiryu’s construction. Akane begins to blame herself for her comrades’ deaths, because clearly she was responsible, I guess(?). It shows quite a few scenes of her sitting alone in a gym where her fallen comrades were being honored, showing her running alone in the snow, being alone everywhere. Can you tell she feels like an outcast? It also doesn’t help that she seems to be the only female member of the organization dedicated to combating Godzilla. I can’t help but feel that was intentional. Bunch of men ganging up on a woman and making her feel like shit for killing other members? Well, it’s just one guy, but that one guy is the “asshole” of the movie. It’s dumb.
Aside from Akane are a good number of characters the movie tries to make serious and relatable, but end up making them one-dimensional. There’s a scientist who ends up working on Kiryu who is constantly making advances at Akane and saying stupid shit. Hahaha, humor. The scientist’s daughter is supposed to represent the morality of humankind, as she’s constantly bitching about how all life is precious and everyone’s being a doodoohead to Godzilla. She also talks to a plant that supposedly houses the soul of her mother. Godzilla vs. Biollante, anyone? There’s the asshole who makes Akane feel like shit all the time (it’s as hilarious as it sounds), and the random people who make up the organization against Kaiju. It’s more about Akane and the scientist’s daughter, to some degree, than anyone else. Akane’s personality is like a teenager taken straight from the lyrics of a Linkin Park song. She’s moody, quiet, misunderstood, the underdog, edgy, depressing, desperate for affection, crawling in my skin, and all that. All of it stemming from her supposed involvement in her comrades’ death at the beginning of the movie. And because she’s a woman in a man’s world. Probably. Maybe. By movie’s end, she becomes what one would expect: not as moody, quiet, misunderstood… you get the point.
Something that disappointed me as the impact Godzilla’s old body had on Kiryu about halfway through the movie. During their first of two battles, Godzilla roars and Kiryu suddenly begins to malfunction and rampage throughout the city. It’s almost as if the DNA implanted into Kiryu’s systems responded to the new Godzilla’s roars, which I thought was interesting (yet illogical). I wish they would’ve incorporated more into this, but after a few minutes of being a walking death machine, Kiryu simply shut down and it never happened again throughout the whole movie. This made it feel more like an excuse to lose the fight against Godzilla to lengthen the duration of the movie to me. And, of course, add more riveting conflict between human characters. I recall one scientist claiming that Kiryu wouldn’t malfunction again if they “built new computers for it.” That’s… awfully convenient, huh? Just build new computers and then it won’t malfunction again? How do you know that? What evidence makes you think that’s a probable solution? You’re still grafting things onto Godzilla’s old skeleton, right? So what makes you think… ugh, forget it.
The final fight between Godzilla and Kiryu is predictably melodramatic. Akane risks her life on multiple occasions to control Kiryu against Godzilla and when all hope is lost, she struggles with her last ounce of strength to keep things moving along. There’s an obvious focus on
THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!
in these final scenes that, frankly, I don’t care for. I understand already that these Godzilla movies aren’t really known for their revolutionary deepness or thought-provoking themes, but c’mon, at least try. In any case, Godzilla gets hit by Kiryu’s ultimate weapon “Absolute Zero,” which is essentially a cool name for a freeze ray, and doesn’t die. Akane and Kiryu don’t die either, but they lose all power after the attack. Godzilla decides it’s had enough and fucks off again. The humans celebrate knowing they can now adequately defend themselves against Godzilla and everything ends on a happy note. Akane even takes up the scientist on his (constant) request(s) to take her out to dinner. How feel-goody.
The plot is dumb, but it’s an enjoyable kind of dumb. The dub is still afflicted with half-assed actors and choppy translation, but it provides unintentional humor that actually adds to the enjoyment. I feel the movie is better when it tries to be serious, but serious in the scientific sense, not the emotional sense. The emotional scenes in this movie made me laugh. That’s how effective they were. I recall at one point Akane remarking to the ten-year-old girl daughter of the scientist about how no one would care if she died and she was useless and all that. I found that hilariously inappropriate, especially to open up to some brat who talks to a plant pot all day. And the content matter! Oh, how lovely these movies are with dialogue. They don’t hold back.
The fight scenes between Godzilla and Kiryu were also fairly entertaining. I think my favorite part was when Kiryu was swinging Godzilla around by his tail like it’s Mario trying to throw Bowser into a boundary of bombs. That looked hilariously off. In fact, a lot of the fight scenes looked hilariously off. The effects that would’ve been a spectacle to see in 1974 suddenly become about average for 2002. I still appreciate the amount of effort put into the choreography of the battles, but then there are times when it’s somewhat uncreative. A couple minutes of the fight in this film were spent having Godzilla and Kiryu hug, or at least that’s what it looked like. The two Kaiju simply held each other and roared. Truly exhilarating.
In a sense, this movie is strengthened by unintentional comedy and creativity in its progression. But that’s really all it has going for it. The plot, while interesting, doesn’t make any sense. The human interaction accentuates the unintentional comedy, but is lacking in all other emotional regard. Characters are hardly developed, and are outright ignored, typically, in favor of Akane, who isn’t really that great of a character in her own right. Basically, the movie looks cool and is fairly entertaining for some right, and some wrong reasons. Kind of like a superhero movie. If I were to rank this film, I’d probably put it around or below Biollante, while Destoroyah is still on top of the three. If I had to give it a number score, I’d probably say 5.5 or a 6. Even so, any Godzilla fans would find this movie a delectable treat, while those unsure of their allegiance probably wouldn’t find this movie to be of any help.