Film Review: Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (dir by Jun Fukuda)


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The Godzilla marathon on Chiller is continuing.  Immediately following Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah, we were treated to the 14th film in the Godzilla franchise, 1974’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.

There’s no way that I can start this review without pointing out a mistake made by Chiller.  In both the programming guide and at the start and end of each commercial break, Chiller insisted that they were showing a film from 2002 called Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla.  However, from the minute the film started, it was obvious that we were watching something from the 70s.  Between the jazzy score and unfortunate male hair choices, this film was so 70s that it might as well have been snorting coke and listening to progressive rock.  Mind you, that’s not a complaint on my part.  In general, films from the 70s are a lot of fun.

And that’s a pretty good description of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.  It’s a fun movie, especially if you’re watching it with a group of snarky friends.  Some movies were specifically made to be watched with a group and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is one of those films.

When, in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Godzilla emerges from Mt. Fuji, he is greeted by his armadillo friend from Godzilla vs. Gigan.  Godzilla reacts by savagely attacking his armadillo friend.  “No,” I shouted at the TV, “bad Godzilla!”  Seriously, it may just be because I live in Texas and I always feel bad whenever I see one of his relatives laying dead in the middle of the street but I love that giant armadillo!

Anyway, Godzilla decides to live up to his new identity as Jerkzilla by going on yet another rampage through Japan.  Suddenly, Jerkzilla is confronted by … Godzilla!  That’s right, it turns out that Jerkzilla isn’t Godzilla at all.  Instead, he’s a giant robot named Mechagodzilla!

Mechagodzilla!

Mechagodzilla!

As you may have guessed, the blame all lies with aliens.  In Godzilla Vs. Gigan, the trouble was the result of intergalactic cockroaches that had taken on human form.  In Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, the villains are space monkeys who have taken on human form.  And I do have to say — and I mean no offense to the space cockroaches — but the space monkeys seem to have a much better shot at conquering the planet than those roaches ever did.

However, Mechagodzilla is not the only new monster to be found in this movie.  There’s also King Caesar, an ancient creature who, if you believe prophecy, is destined to rise out of the mountains.  (And, as we all know, one of the first rules of cinema is that prophecy always comes true!)  Through the efforts of a group of typical Godzilla movie humans, King Caesar does wake up.  Will he work with Godzilla or Mechagodzilla?

King Caesar

King Caesar

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is a strange one and, judging from some of the comments that I’ve read online, that’s exactly why it’s a personal favorite of a lot of Godzilla fans.  Myself, I enjoyed it.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone who isn’t already a fan of the franchise but those of you who enjoy a good Godzilla movie will find a lot to appreciate here.  The monsters are silly but charming, the story moves quickly, and the film even has a big musical number for no particular reason.

Seriously, is a world that can’t appreciate a big robot Godzilla a world that any of us want to live in?

Other Godzilla Reviews:

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Godzilla”


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Here’s the thing when it comes to any and all Westernized takes on Japan’s most famous movie monster — Hollywood’s just never going to “get it” because, frankly, it can’t. Oh, sure, Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla is head and shoulders above Roland Emmerich’s 1998 abomination of a film, but the simple fact is that the Big Green Guy and all of his scaly, serpentine brethren that came to us courtesy of the venerable Toho studios were, at their core, celluloid manifestations of a deep-seated atomic angst that only a country that had been on the receiving end of, as Sting put it, “Oppenheimer’s deadly toy” could ever really give birth to. And while Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ichiro Serizawa character does, in fact, explicitly mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki in this flick, it’s pure window dressing — Edwards and screenwriters Max Borenstein and Dave Callaham didn’t actually live through a time when they had to actively wonder what sort of nuclear fission-induced mutations were lurking beneath the waves just a few miles offshore, so they just can’t communicate that sort of unease with the same authenticity that the original Godzilla did.

And to those who would argue that a young Japanese filmmaker wouldn’t be able to imbue a project such as this with any more immediacy than Edwards does because they wouldn’t have lived though those horrific final days of WWII either, I’ve got one word for you : Fukushima.

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There’s also something about CGI in these flicks that always has, and always will, suck, no matter how “good” it is : you know, in the back of your mind, that it’s just not there. To be sure, Edwards and his visual effects crew do a bang-up job of realizing their monster once they do, finally, reveal him, but no matter how “unrealistic” watching the original Godzilla smash cardboard miniatures of buildings may be by today’s standards, it still feels more “real” than the essentially flawless computer graphics of 2014 can ever hope to. But maybe that’s just me —-

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Still, don’t get the wrong idea : I’m not so much “down on” the new Godzilla as I am completely indifferent to it. To be sure, Edwards’ heart seem to be in the right place here, and he’s very likely doing the best job that he can do — it’s just that his best is nowhere near good enough. A slow-burn plot doesn’t help matters much, either, and while I’m all for a prolonged buildup that leads to a big payoff, frankly the “character arcs” of all the principal players are so dull and uninvolving that when Compu-Zilla finally does make the scene, it feels more like a relief from soap opera-style tedium than anything else. Thankfully, there’s some effectively-realized mass destruction to bump up the “wow” factor a bit, and Godzilla doesn’t turn out to a solo act (that’s all I’ll say about that), but it’s still definitely a case of “too little, too late” as far as excitement here goes and a smorgasbord of good performances (Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins, and the aforementioned Ken Watanabe) and bad (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen) find themselves having equally gone, more or less, to waste when the proverbial train finally leaves the station.

Plot recaps probably make as much sense here as they do for a Hulk comic book — sure, the set-up matters on some level, but it’s all about “Hulk smash!” at the end of the day, isn’t it? Suffice to say that the main reason the various intermingling sub-plots here really don’t work is because the film goes from small-scale to so-big-it’s-off-the-scale at the drop of hat, with no transition period in between for either the characters or the audience. It’s all just a bit jarring — but maybe that’s not such a bad thing when I think about it because, truth be told, I was getting a little sleepy.

The “who are the real monsters?” theme that Edwards toys with is frankly a little bit old, too, and honestly represents something of a cop-out ( and here’s where my “Westerners will never get this right” thesis comes into play, by the way) :  sure, humans are bad news, we’re destroying everything, etc. I know that. But some of us are worse than others, and any side willing to drop a nuclear bomb and murder hundreds of thousands of innocent people in order to “win” a war is due for some special criticism, in my view . The makers of the original Godzilla understood that fact, even if they couldn’t say so explicitly, while in the franchise’s 2014 iteration we just all suck. No one, specifically, is to blame, and hey, it’s too late for recriminations anyway when you’ve got an overgrown reptile tearing up the town. Or something like that.

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Still, the film’s third act is enough to make even a hardened cynic like me gasp in awe on numerous occasions, and the “childlike wonder factor,” for lack of a batter term, really does kick into high gear here as events steamroll toward their conclusion. It’s worth the price of admission for the awesome (even if it is computer-generated) spectacle the final 45-or-so-minutes deliver. Sure, I wish we’d gotten nothing but a bad ride on a  bumpy road from start to finish, but I guess I’m still willing to take what I can get. Felling like you’re 12 years old all over again for even a little while is better than never feeling like it at all.

And yet — in addition to being this film’s greatest (perhaps even only) saving grace, perhaps that last act is also its greatest weakness, because it exposes the essential, unavoidable truth at the heart of Edwards’ Godzilla : it’s good enough to make you remember why you love monster movies in the first place, but nowhere near good enough to actually be one of those monster movies  that you love.

Film Review: Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (dir by Shusuke Kaneko)


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In honor of the opening of the new American version of Godzilla, Chiller is showing a marathon of Godzilla films today. While I was out and about during the first few films, I did make it home and turn on the TV in time to catch Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out.

That Godzilla is one moody lizard!  Half of the time, he’s Earth’s protector and you can’t help but love the big guy, no matter how many cities he destroys.  However, whenever Godzilla is in a bad mood — well, that’s when you better start looking out.

2001’s Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack finds him in one of his bad moods but, at least he has an excuse.  He’s been possessed by the spirits of Japanese soldiers who were killed in World War II.  Convinced that Japan has forgotten them and their sacrifice, they are now determined to use Godzilla to get their vengeance.

Fortunately, there are three ancient guardian monsters who, once awoken, can protect the Earth from Godzilla.  Those three monsters are a dinosaur named Baragon, Mothra the giant Moth, and Ghidorah, the three-headed dragon with no arms.  With Godzilla attacking, it’s up to Ghidorah to save mankind and…

Wait a minute!

Isn’t Ghidorah supposed to be like the epitome of pure evil?  In fact, back when Godzilla was still the Earth’s protector, wasn’t Ghidorah the monster that Godzilla was always protecting us from?

Seriously, what the Hell…

Well, it really doesn’t matter.  You don’t watch a Godzilla film for continuity.  You watch them to enjoy all of the rubber-suited mayhem and that’s exactly what this film delivers.  And you know what?  Godzilla is actually a lot better at being a villain than a hero.  Whereas the heroic Godzilla always had to watch his step to make sure that he didn’t actually step on any of his human friends, the villainous Godzilla does not care.  Villainous Godzilla is a force of pure destruction and, as a result, is a lot more exciting to watch than heroic Godzilla.

And, perhaps not coincidentally, Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is one of the more entertaining entries in the Godzilla franchise — a nonstop thrill-ride of monster mayhem that also happens to feature interesting and compelling human characters as well.  Seriously, try not to be emotionally moved by the scenes of reporter Yuri and her father Admiral Tachibana working through their relationship while Tokyo burns around them.  There’s a reason why this movie ends with a close-up of a beating heart!

And, it should be noted, it also happens to have the best title of any film in the Godzilla franchise.

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