Tokyo S.O.S. (Save Our... Sity?) commits perhaps the worst offense that a piece of entertainment can, tragically... it is unmemorable. It has probably the weakest character set in the Millennium series- in that they're the only forgettable bunch. And the monster action is, by far and large, formulaic and dull.
It's a definite letdown that the one sequel in the series is such a snore- though I will give it this: the opening with the clouds is pretty cool (though even that, as eabaker points out, kinda botches the reveal in a strange, tension-less way when it should've been a big moment; the sequence leading up to that is just visually striking, 'climaxing' with the pilot hearing music. It's all downhill from there...), and the last half hour works well.
From about the (ultra-depressing) moment of Mothra sacrificing herself for her children, the story picks up tremendously, with Chujo's struggles to reach and repair Kiryu (or 'Mecha-G,' as the dubtitles render it, despite everyone very audibly saying 'Kiryu') and noble self-sacrifice to allow it back into battle... and a particularly thrilling, dazzling effects showcase for his escape. So the film is not without merit, it's just... mostly without merit for 2/3 of its runtime.
The biggest flaw is the tone; gone is the comic-book charm of Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. While that film seemed to be a step up in maturity from its predecessor, this film seems to try and notch up the maturity again by eliminating some of the silly, over-the-top stunts of its forebearer (such as the repeated mega-throws and high-speed tackles)... but in the process, its too-serious battles have nothing to recommend them, and both the battles and the plot come off as by-the-numbers. Any film featuring a robot the size of a skyscraper built to fight a giant lizard requires some craziness in its universe to make it work, and this film excises it entirely, leading to a tonal mismatch... a crazy, silly, pulp-adventure concept being played straight in a universe far more 'down to Earth' than it belongs in.
Yoshito Chujo as a character isn't a great protagonist in part because the story is so thin; he simply doesn't have that much to DO, and his wavering introspection on whether the warning about Mothra should trump his own pride in his work does not make for compelling viewing. Sure, he becomes noble and engaged in an exciting plot in the last half-hour, but he hasn't been built into a character we care about by then. He's just a cipher, a blank slate, dropped into an interesting situation. But who is he, really? We know almost nothing about his personality- to the point that his self-sacrifice and shocking statement that he's ready to die seem to come out of nowhere; we have no character context from which to view them.
Similar things could be said about Dr. Shinichi Chujo (although I dig the return of a veteran actor as a Showa-era character, just as with Emiko in vs. Destoroyah), and Shun Chujo; we really don't get enough of them to make any impression- except perhaps that the good doctor is a likable, philosophically-musing sort of character that we'd like to know better.
And don't even get me started on Azusa and Kuosuke... really, don't get me started, because I'll have nowhere to go with them. The film certainly doesn't. (Okay, there's a hint of a 'notice me' unrequited romance for Yoshito on Azusa's part, but beyond that singular trait and some nicely enigmatic looks- the actress selling the heck out of a paper-thin part, to her credit- we get almost nothing about her. Also, does the military typically let one of its members lounge around with their shirt off, chatting with a pal, while the rest of the squad drills? Because that didn't strike me as a thing they would do...).
I think the film's approach to characters is summed up by the single brief appearance of Shun's mother, Shinichi's presumed... niece? I think? (I got a little mixed up with familial relations in this film). She just shows up, out of nowhere, with only the context of her concern about Shun to imply her identity, and after delivering three lines or so of exposition, vanishes entirely from the rest of the film. That's it. We have no idea of her personality, her name, the status of her relationship with anyone (her son included, since we never see them together)... she is just there for a scene to fulfill a role in the plot. The same can be said of pretty much anyone in this film; honestly Akane gets about as much development in her cameo as any of these people.
(Honestly, though, I want to see a movie about that girl in tech support who looks exasperated when the boss steals credit for her idea. She looks like a fun, enthusiastic, underdog protagonist that I would totally accept in a center-stage role. And hey, one more compliment to a movie generally lacking them- the whole 'Apollo 13' roll-out the charts, find-a-way-to-make-it-work scene was a lot of fun.)
Beyond that... the Kiryu saga Godzilla may be the weakest Godzilla of the series (or ANY series made by Japan, potentially, though I suppose that's for the Fantasy Matches to decide). I mean, five months and his chest isn't fully healed? Organizer G-1's lying down on the job! His look isn't fantastic (if it's the same as less film, then it is certainly shot far more poorly), his tactics are pathetic, his motivations unclear (he's attracted by Kiryu... only ignores Kiryu as soon as he's down...?)- he is a sham of an uninteresting Godzilla, a walking prop- worse than the last film, and far less forgivable in the context of this plot.
Mothra is... well, second to her portrayal in GMK, this is her second-best appearance for me, in terms of lifelike believably. On the other hand, the Shobijin/Cosmos/Elias- no, wait, they're actually Shobijin again in this film, at least by the dialogue- are perhaps the worst performers for that duo that I've ever seen. Strangely revealing costumes that don't seem to fit the characters (appropriate for tropical environs, I suppose, though strange when shown in context of a clip of 'themselves' from the first film, yet looking so different) and a black hole of charisma- never have tiny twins speaking in unison been so devoid of personality.
(As an aside, it as during this movie that I was finally able to articulate my issue with the continued Mothra vs. Godzilla battles. To my mind, Mothra fighting Godzilla is like a guy with a spear fighting an Abrams tank. No matter how enthusiastic or charming or underdog-y or dedicated he is, he can stab with that spear all day and never make a dent (and indeed, I don't think Mothra has ever defeated Godzilla by herself)- and I don't get why people would want to keep seeing him try. Or to put it in Pokemon terms, to me, Mothra only has Sand Attack and Tail Whip- and you can't actually win a battle with status-changers. You need to damage the HP to defeat Godzilla, and from my perspective, Imago Mothra has never been equipped to do that. (And even added beam weapons barely help; they're not particularly powerful).)
It's nice to see the dual grubs again (though why do we never get to see the resultant dual Mothras?), and though the Mothra clan's story is basically a remake of their original fight with Godzilla, the larva are at least treated with a tenderness and expressiveness that gives them a rare relateability and character. Definitely a high-point for the grubs (maybe they absorbed the Shobijin's charisma in-utero?)
Kiryu is... basically himself, but lamer. The explanation for Absolute Zero's disability is well-handled, but the hyper-maser is a pathetic replacement. Kiru's feats are overall far less impressive, without the comic-booky over-the-top-ness of the last film; about the only improvements are the 'get-up' jets on the chest, and the exploding missile-magazines (which was a nice response to the last film, where I was indeed thinking as Godzilla grappled with it 'if only they could rig that blue thing to explode right now, that could really do some hurting'). Still, for his apparent swan song (even if it was not necessarily meant to be one), it's a pretty sad showing. One nice shoulder-throw, but otherwise... Kiryu just didn't have much going on- like the rest of the film.
The effects, at least, were quite good. Jets in the sky looked better (and less lazy 2D-cutout), the suits looked good, the aforementioned opening and finale spectacles were impressive- this is probably the most consistent FX quality we've had in the Millennium series. It was well-realized... just, sadly, in service to an utterly mediocre plot.
The score is largely unremarkable when it's just reprising themes from the last film or filler battle music, but anything Mothra-related was nicely executed, with a nice mystical theme- and an excellently-creepy slow rendition of the Mothra song underscoring the Shobijin delivering Mothra's threat. (Good plan, sending via an old man that possibly no one will believe, with no corroborating evidence, Shobijin! That's the way to make things happen!)
Maybe I'm being too hard and nitpicky on this film. The production values were solid, after all. But after such a great preceding entry, this one was such a letdown- full of potential, but doing almost nothing with it. The plot in particular was especially thin, with almost no development... the same thing that could be said for the arc-less characters. It is my second-least favorite of the Millennium series after Megaguirus (for those who hate Final Wars, perhaps third place would be more appropriate)- still, perhaps that's too generous. Each of those films, whatever their flaws, at least have claim to an oddball memorability; this one commits the sin of just being dull.[/quote]
It’s part of my secret plan to create a fifth column in the US, pre-emoting our glorious conquest and the creation of the Canadian Empire, upon which the sun will consistently set after less than eight hours of daylight.
Winner of the last-ever(?) TK Fantasy Match tournament.
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