I hear a lot of criticism regarding the 90’s Kaiju film, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, and I can’t quite sympathize with this notion. I hear everyone say it has a thin plot, crappy effects, a stupid atmosphere, blah blah blah, but what more could you ask for? It’s a Godzilla movie, and it embraces the fact, unlike some that are considered apexes of artistry. (A certain depowered Space Dragon comes to mind) One can’t infringe on another’s opinion, but I feel this movie doesn’t get enough credit for what it is, and I think it deserves more.
We should begin with the characters of the story, focusing on the humans first. Yes, they’re just throw-away people in a monster film, but the series was trying to give the people more of an impact, and as such developed them more. Yuki is a vengeance driven soldier, almost like a vigilante, though of course he’s more comparable to Captain Ahab in Moby Dick. His brother was killed by Godzilla in an earlier movie, and he wants a personnel revenge for him, going so far as to develop a special chemical bullet that would kill Godzilla. Why something like that would work when planes and tanks don’t is beyond me, but perhaps it can be inferred he’s been driven mad by his quest for blood. Next we have the two space pilots who arrive on Monster Island to set traps for Godzilla. They develop as fun, likeable characters who want to joke around, while protecting humanity. Lastly, there’s Miki Segusa, a lay-over from the previous films, and of course the only character to appear in numerous Godzilla films. One of the main criticisms of her character is that she doesn’t seem to remember he resolutions from the previous movies, in that she swears to protect Godzilla…and then agrees to help kill him. This is used to show that she is torn between an emotional response, and a logical need for action. Ultimately, logic overcomes emotion, and she prevails in the desire to save herself and her people.
But all that’s peripheral; no matter how much they try to imbue to these people, the heart, soul, meat, potatoes and gravy to these movies is now and shall always be the monsters. We of course have Godzilla, the King of the Monsters, the tragic figure of man’s arrogance made real. He’s as he always is in this film, though perhaps a bit angry because his son is threatened. (Though not nearly as angry as in the film to follow) He’s determined and rough, ready to kick ass and take names. When his child is locked away, he knows exactly what he has to do, and does it. He plods his way through Japan, killing anyone who gets in his way, and saves the day as only he can. There were a couple of deleted scenes of him watching Junior’s cage, and even thinking about the battle after it happened. While these would have been great introspective into the mighty monster king’s mind, it’s best to have left them out as they would have diminished his single-minded fury. There’s also Little Godzilla, a throw-back to the classic Minya, who many characterize as “too cute” and detracting from what makes Godzilla cool. This can be true, but then you can’t ignore the fact that it pays homage to the little munchkin of the 60s, who could even talk when he felt like it. (Besides, I’ve used Little Goji to get a lot of chicks) Lastly there’s Moguera, a remake of a classic Toho robot from the 50s in the film the Mysterians. Here he’s a government super weapon, made from the scrap of Mecha-Godzilla, who was made from the wreckage of Mecha King Ghidorah. (Godzilla sure blows up a lot of their stuff…They must put the Crap in scrap) He’s cool, in that he’s a new take on an old character, and provides a golden special effects opportunity, with his lasers and missiles and even his flying about. Of course he was originally supposed to be Mecha-Godzilla, which would have made it a more symmetrical three-way brawl, but this idea was scrapped. Lastly, there’s the big kahunna himself, Space Godzilla. This is one of the most intresting creations in all of Toho, not merely for how powerful and imaginative he is, but also because he seems to have a vendetta against Godzilla, wanting to kill him specifically. It’s implied that this will help him take over the world, but I don’t think so: I think it might be the genetic memory in Biollante’s DNA driving him towards revenge. There’s also the idea that he doesn’t have a definite origin, in that he could have been constructed from either Biollante’s cells, or some from Mothra. It is of course more logical to assume the giant clone of Godzilla, (How many cells could be on Mothra?) and that could imply he’s almost like a “nephew” to Godzilla, if you ignore the statement that Biollante isn’t his sister. Many fans may criticize the film as a whole, but Space Godzilla has gone down a fan favorite, and is regarded as a classic. Also, it’s interesting to note how every monster in this is a Godzilla of some sort, (considering Moguera was reconstituted from Mecha-G) emphasizing that it’s very much Goji’s movie, and that his struggles are the central focus.
Of course, often the most important element of a film is plot. If you’re reading this, you should know how it goes: Space Monster lands, kidnaps baby Godzilla, Big G goes and destroys the bad guy, everybody’s happy. (There’s also something about the Japanese mafia and some super-Mario pipes, but forget it) Yeah, it’s formulaic, but what Godzilla film isn’t? Well, there are some that aren’t, but they go so bizarre that you can’t relate to them. (*coughhedorahcough*) It does have its brilliant scenes though, like the sunset where Miki and Kinjo are talking about love, or Yuki’s ass in the shower. Also, the mad scientist is interesting in how he dreams of power, when ultimately he is killed by what he wanted. Naturally, the whole thing wraps up in one of the greatest fight scenes ever filmed, comparable to Godzilla’s duel with King Kong, or the greatest Monster Mash ever at the climax of Destroy All Monsters. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading because I’d hate to spoil it for you. Godzilla and Moguera corner SpaceG in a field of crystals around Fukuoka tower, and blast him with lasers and weapons for a good half hour. It has everything: screw attacks, shell bombardment, tooth and claw, back and forth beams, transformers, rekindling of friendships, bazookas, electric eyes…if it only had Godzilla’s flying drop kick, it would be utterly complete. They completely destroy Space Godzilla and Moguera with Godzilla’s spiral-beam, an awesome concept introduced in Mechagodzilla II, and thankfully re-used here.
Now, the special effects are truly a marvel. On the one hand, you have excellent scenes like the final battle, SG landing on Monster Island, Moguera as a whole…but then you have the infamous asteroid scene, where Moguera duels Spacegodzilla in…space, dashing around the absolute fakest asteroids ever put to film. Styrofoam must be pretty intimidating, because even Ro-Man or the Giant Claw wouldn’t be able to face up these rocks, oh no. Of course, there are some other problems, like one scene where Godzilla’s tail flies off, and a stock footage sequence of him attacking the navy, really discredit the rest of the film. It’s a shame that this drags down the otherwise stellar special effects.
So what is the appeal of this movie? Why does it succeed where so many others fail? Well, part of the reason is its simplicity: as where other Hesei films try to be realistic and mythical in nature, giving a greater emphasis on the monsters and their inhuman struggles, this one takes a step back, and embraces its campy roots. This approach can kill something, like how the Shcumaker Batman films destroyed their predecessors, but here it just works. It takes such classic elements, like Space Monsters and Giant Robots, and blends them together in the style of a ‘60s monster mash. It does have some forward thinking ideas, about Miki’s struggle and the heroes’ perspectives on the monsters, and this serves to unite the old ideas with the new, and create something truly unique. The Little Godzilla serves to further this style, as his feud with SG harkens back to Minya’s fear of Gabara in Godzilla’s Revenge (Of course, that’s often considered the worst Godzilla movie EVER) Most people seem blind to this, like they want an overly melodramatic tale of impossible beings that can’t possibly exist. Godzilla hasn’t been political since his first movie (Well, maybe in Hedorah, but that’s a whole other animal) and he’s been mostly a comic book character. The majority of the Hesei movies were like comic books, but more contemporary comics, like Spawn and The Death of Superman, which in-turn inspired several other kill-offs at DC and Marvel. (Not to mention the cross over, and LOBO!) But this movie is more like The Justice League’s first appearance, or when Superman raced the Flash, or any other mindless tale from the ‘50s-‘60s that allowed you to forget about life for a while, and lose yourself in a fantasy world of fun. If you’re a kid, you can watch it unhindered; if you’re an adult, you can be reminded of when stupid things like this made you happy; if you’re a hardcore-fan (Like me!) You can appreciate the complexity it displays with its idiocy.
It’s escapism, and isn’t that what everybody wants: A chance to get away?
Before it can be filmed, drawn, acted or programed, it must be written.