Thoughts on Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (Spoilers)

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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.

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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.

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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


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.

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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.

Thoughts on Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (Spoilers)

I’ve always known the Godzilla films were campy. They don’t have the benefit of a big budget, despite their popularity. Though perhaps they choose to keep it low-budget on purpose in an effort to make it feel more realistic. I don’t know. I’m just theorizing. If so, I can definitely appreciate it. Sure, it makes some of the action cheesey and the models for the monsters aren’t exactly high-grades in the university of monster sculpting. But there’s a certain appeal to knowing that something was made earnestly and without the “spectacle” of cutting edge computer graphics. Somewhat like comparing Ping Pong The Animation to Arpeggio of Blue Steel.

I was actually somewhat surprised by how well the story was set up. It wasn’t the immediate “Oh, here’s Godzilla!” pandering that I expected to see. There’s a good chunk of movie time dedicated to setting up the “plot” (more on that later) and introducing the audience to the characters who will inevitably make an impact on the story. Even so, the monster time vs human time is about a 2:1 ratio. This is about Godzilla, after all. No need to spend so much time on human development.

Godzilla, Jr. and Godzilla.
Godzilla, Jr. and Godzilla.

Speaking of human development, I feel there were a few moments within the movie that hindered my experience as someone who isn’t very experienced with Godzilla movies. There’s this female character, who I assume is a recurring character within the films, who laments at the death and supposed death of Godzilla’s son and Godzilla himself, respectively. She mutters, “My work with Godzilla is finished,” near the end of the film. Again, as someone who’s inexperienced with the franchise, this empathy on her part is lost on me. It makes me feel like this film would be better off as a grand finale to the Godzilla series… which is kind of felt like, actually. It was the last movie to involve Tomoyuki Tanaka, a co-creator of the original franchise, before he died of a stroke two years after. It felt somewhat like an homage to older movies of the franchise, with a few flashbacks and the revival of a weapon humanity used to kill the original Godzilla. Not that this is a bad thing, as it made the movie more emotionally-charged in context, but I tend to like when a film focuses more on being its own individual movie, rather than a continuation from movies that came before it.

The characters served well for their purpose, but again, this is about Godzilla. None of the humans get enough treatment for us to really care about them; not from a lack of effort, but a lack of screentime. There’s a reason I don’t remember any character’s name. The acting, aside from a few flat faces, I thought was tolerable enough to make it believable. Then again, it’s not like they had much to work with. Godzilla and monster are fighting. Look scared and anxious, if not screaming and running in terror. Ahhhhh. It’s a good majority of the film. If civilization was wiped out right now, and an ancient alien race discovered traces of our remains in the form of this movie, they’d probably conclude that we couldn’t smile.

This is the plot of our feature film: Birth Island, which I assume is Godzilla’s home, has mysteriously disappeared in a wasteland of smoke and desolation. Somewhat later, the humans discover that Godzilla has absorbed a great amount of radiation into his body, making him unstable and a threat to cause a world-impacting explosion… maybe. To combat this, they decide to recreate the Oxygen Destroyer, a weapon used to kill the original Godzilla, but things go haywire when it starts to mutate aquatic creatures, birthing into the little husks that would go on to create Destoroyah. Now, humanity has to worry about both a monster they inadvertently created and Godzilla’s nuclear implosion.

A destroyed Birth Island.
A destroyed Birth Island.

The battle itself was so up and down. I could’ve exclaimed “Surprise! I’m not dead!” multiple times throughout the last hour of this movie and it would’ve applied. Destoroyah has multiple forms: a little crab thing, a bigger crab thing, and his final form. He achieves these forms by multiplying (there are six or seven of him in all) and combining with his other selves. Godzilla, on a few occasions, breaks him down into his previous forms, only to have Destoroyah randomly convert back to his final form when everything seems calm. There are many moments in the battle where everything seems calm, when all of a sudden Destoroyah or Godzilla show up and shoot their laser beams at hyper speed and the battle rages on again. It’s almost like the director wasn’t sure when the battle should end, so he kept throwing surprise attacks in for good measure.

There are also a lot of explosions. Michael Bay would be jealous of all the explosions that happen throughout the film. Some things that don’t even warrant explosions explode. Godzilla is being assaulted by multiple second-form Destoroyahs when he falls over… and explodes. And then he gets up and he’s fine and Destoroyah is supposedly dead… until he comes up in his final form and blasts Godzilla with another laser beam. Alright. There are too many moments of shifting tones in the battle. It feels very grating. At one point, Godzilla walks over to the corpse of his son (which is still moving, for some reason) and sad music is playing and the humans are grieving and empathizing and everything’s sad. Then Destoroyah pops into focus and shoots Godzilla in the back. Whoop! Back to action-packed fighting and roaring! Woooooo! It does this twice.

This isn't even my final form.
This isn’t even my final form.

Something else worth noting: how do the humans know so much about Godzilla? There’s a scene where Godzilla is coming into Tokyo, where his son already is, and he starts roaring. Godzilla Jr. starts roaring, too. One of the humans see this and goes, “They’re calling to each other.” How the hell do you know? Maybe Godzilla and his son are just roaring because they want to. Maybe they’re trying to intimidate each other. There’s another scene sometime after Godzilla Jr. dies when Godzilla randomly starts roaring. The same person before remarks, “Godzilla is crying.” Again, how the hell do you know? He just finished (not) fighting a giant monster that shot at him with laser beams, along with the excess radiation of his body causing him to physically melt. Maybe he’s just roaring because he’s in massive pain? Maybe he’s roaring because he roars after he defeats a powerful enemy? Godzilla’s roars hardly sound any different at all throughout the movie. Where are they basing this shit off of? Why are you trying to humanize Godzilla? Do you even know if he’s capable of intellectual thought? Of feelings? Have you researched him? Their only explanation for this is because these two women have “abnormal powers” that allow them to sense Godzilla’s kind and emotions or something. What?

But hey, how much logic should we supplant into a movie about giant fighting monsters, right?

To continue along with tone, there was a scene near the end of the movie where Godzilla was being frozen by weapons the humans used to try and cool him down. When Godzilla’s core temperature reached 1,200° C, he started to melt rapidly into a shell of his former self. This death scene was accompanied by a soft set of angelic music, somewhat soothing and a tad melancholic, as Godzilla’s degradation took place. For what it was worth, and the history Godzilla had with the country and its people, it was pretty impactful. To know that Godzilla was dying and his son was dead before him, this being the last that they’d see him was a little heart-breaking… if not for the millions he had killed in the process of his destruction, but that’s besides the point. And I know that I said earlier that I prefer when movies try to focus on being a standalone than coasting on the ideas of previous entries, but I feel this can be looked past in the case of Godzilla as opposed to some random character who likes Godzilla. I understand the importance of Godzilla even if I haven’t seen the other movies. I don’t give a shit about some girl.

At the end of the movie, it reveals that Godzilla is still alive. “Surprise! I’m not dead!” God damn it.

The "death" of Godzilla.
The “death” of Godzilla.

Overall, the movie harmed itself by constantly trying to rope the viewer back into the battle when the tone didn’t call for it. These battles of atmosphere and mood are as prevalent as the battle between monsters. The humans weren’t all bad, but a few didn’t really seem logical or know how to act. I appreciated the random flashbacks to previous Godzilla installments in an attempt to catch up those who may not be familiar with the franchise, or to pay homage at the same time. And, for the most part, the music enhanced the experience of what was going on. Though, they tend to really overplay the brass. If I had to give this movie a rating, it would probably be three dead Godzilla Jr’s. out of five. It has enough logic to remain tolerable, but it’s also a lot of fun to watch.