Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)

Class: Staff
Author: Anthony Romero
Score: (3/5)
June 30th, 2004 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Masaki Tezuka's last Godzilla film, and a direct sequel to the previous entry in the series: Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002). In terms of set up, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is very similar to its predecessor, except this time Mothra and her two larva have been thrown into the mix. The movie, like other films from Tezuka, is an uneven effort. To sum up the film: the story is rather meager, the pacing is break neck, the character development is pretty poor, and the acting from the cast is only decent; however, the kaiju are handled very well, while the special effects are the best seen in a Godzilla film to date, and the movie features another amazing score from Michiru Oshima.

The story is set a year after Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), with repairs on Kiryu's severed arm and damaged chest area already underway. However, the two Shobijin, descendents of the ones from Mothra (1961), confront an old acquaintance, Doctor Shinichi Chujo, who warns that the dead should not be disturbed and that the bones of the 1954 Godzilla inside Kiryu should be returned to their watery tomb. The request is scoffed at by the Doctor's son, Yoshito Chujo a mechanic on Kiryu, who protests that Kiryu is Japan's only defense against the King of the Monsters. The Shobijin assure him that Mothra will come to Japan's aid against Godzilla in Kiryu's stead; however, if the request is not fulfilled Mothra will once again be forced to become an enemy of humanity. The Shobijin take their leave, and Shinichi attempts to warn authorities about the consequences of Kiryu's origin. Japan's Prime Minister agrees that there is a moral issue behind Kiryu's creation; nevertheless, the Prime Minister feels that the mechanical monster is Japan's last line of defense against the nuclear menace and Kiryu will remain in service as long as Godzilla lives.

Meanwhile, Godzilla sinks a US submarine as he makes his way toward Japan, as it's discovered that the creature is attracted by the bones inside Kiryu. As Godzilla arrives on Japan's shore, Shinichi's grandson recreates Mothra's insignia, using desks outside a school, to summon the giant insect. Mothra responds to the call for help and does battle with Godzilla, as the Prime Minister decides that Japan's savior, Mothra, needs their help and deploys Kiryu to aid in the battle. Godzilla appears to be holding his own against the two adversaries though, until an egg hatches on a nearby island and two Mothra larvae emerge. Ready to do battle with the nuclear menace, the two larvae arrive to help their mother. Unfortunately, Godzilla prepares to attack the two distracted larva forcing the mother to fly into the monster's radioactive ray in order to shield her young, killing the imago Mothra in the process. Enraged by the death of their mother, the two larvae join Kiryu in battle. Together, Kiryu manages to punch a hole in Godzilla using his new drill hand as the two larvae bind the King of the Monsters in webbing. Uttering a cry for help, Kiryu goes berserk once more, grabbing Godzilla and carrying him off to the Japan Trench, sinking both of the monsters into a watery grave.

In conclusion, the story is merely an excuse to set up the epic final battle. Although it sounds rather complex on paper, the plot is actually given very little screen time to develop. The idea of Kiryu being to blame for the attacks by Godzilla in 2003 and 2004 is a nice angle though. Also, the ending sequence, where the DNA of the 1954 Godzilla is shown to be being researched on, is a great cliff hanger to end Tezuka's "Kiryu saga" on.

Tokyo S.O.S.' pacing feels, to put it bluntly, rather rushed. The film moves quickly to develop the beginning story in order to get to the meat of the film: the final confrontation with the three title monsters. The movie employs a couple of tricks in order to speed up the process, using the continuity behind Kiryu from the film before and using the Doctor from the 1961 Mothra film in order to quickly explain Mothra in the new film, and reaches the final battle rather early in the film. There is no rematch in this film, as the lengthy battle stretches on to almost the end of the film once it starts. Although, at least the pacing makes it so the film is never boring, even if the film does move a little too fast.

Character development, like in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), is rather weak here. Come the film's closure, the audience really doesn't end up caring for any of the human leads, even when the protagonist is faced with being buried at the bottom of the sea. However, at least we see the film's lead character, Yoshito Chujo, evolve over the course of the movie, as he comes to terms with Kiryu's immoral creation and that the creature is best left at the bottom of the sea undistributed. The only other character really worth mentioning in the film is Akane Yashiro, portrayed once more by Yumiko Shaku. Not so much for the character in this film, who is leaving for America, but because Tezuka doesn't cop out here as Akane is actually given a surprisingly decent amount of screen time in this sequel.

In terms of the acting, it's adequate considering the roles that the actors are given. Noboru Kaneko, playing Yoshito Chujo, churns out the best performance here, but then his character was also given the most to do in the film. Akira Nakao's performance is, as always, imposing as Nakao appears pretty comfortable in his role as Prime Minister. Hiroshi Koizumi turns in a nice performance as the elderly Shinichi Chujo, although it's a shame he wasn't given more to do. Miho Yoshioka, playing Azusa Kisaragi one of Kiryu's pilots, appears to be most in need of refining her acting skills from the cast, although her role in the actual film is very small; in fact, it's amazing that she is even one of the top billed actors here.

Despite a rather weak human cast, Tezuka more than makes up for this fact with a very strong showing of all three of the title monsters in the film. Some have scrutinized Mothra's role in Tokyo S.O.S., mainly because she is a common character in Toho films and seems a little out of place alongside Kiryu; however, she fits in very well in this story about honoring tradition. The imago's battle with Godzilla is also impressive, better than anything seen in Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992) in fact. It's nice to see the wind blasts put to good effect here, and Mothra's scale attack has never looked better; furthermore, it's nice that Tezuka even provided some background information on this attack to explain how it works. The larva are more interesting here than usual, and are surprisingly durable in Tokyo S.O.S. as they are able to take Godzilla's ray with no visible damage, although they are flung through the air. Kiryu, equipped with the Hyper Maser Cannon in its chest as the resources weren't available to repair the Zero Cannon, returns in this film looking better than ever, as his redesign is very impressive on film. His new wrist mounted laser rail guns are improved this time around, and steal the show in terms of the mechanical monster's arsenal. Kiryu once again goes toe-to-toe with the King of the Monsters though, and lands in a very memorable shoulder toss, taking a page from the famous shoulder toss King Kong gave Godzilla in 1962. The film is, however, really about Godzilla. The King of the Monsters is a force to be reckoned with here, as he fights back both Mothra and Kiryu. Godzilla inhibits shadows of the ruthless persona he had in Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), although his defeat is more satisfyingly left at the hands of Mothra and Kiryu here. Rounding out the monster cast is a dead Kamoebas. The kaiju is merely a carcass in this movie, washed ashore after a fatal neck wound from Godzilla, but still gives the film a nice feeling of nostalgia. Some will be disappointed that the kaiju doesn't have a substantial role in Tokyo S.O.S., although I suppose some would be just grateful to know that Anguirus was not given this role as the director had originally envisioned before Shogo Tomiyama stepped in (citing the fan outrage Anguirus' undignified role in the film would cause).

The special effects in Tokyo S.O.S. are what really steal the show though. In fact, it would be safe to say that, overall, this film has the best special effects of any Godzilla film to date. It's no wonder that newcomer Eiichi Asada, who first worked as an assistant special effects director on Magnitude 7.9 (1980), was signed on as the special effects director for the next film in the series as well: Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). The opening sequence, where Mothra is chased by two jets through the clouds, is a real testament to how far the series has come since the Millennium series started four years ago. The sequence even surpasses a similar scene with Iris in Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999) in terms of making the scene look credible. The SDF attacks are also done very well, as the audience is given shots of battleships actually deploying their entire arsenal against the King of the Monsters with no effect. The aerial SSM-1 bombardment, where a fleet of SSM-1 vehicles launch missiles at Godzilla from a distance as their bayload shower down on Godzilla, is simply stunning. However, the film's special effects are not without fault, although the only real noticeable blemish in the film is Mothra's wings, a problem reminiscent from the Koichi Kawakita days of special effects. The wings look great while Mothra is creating her hurricane winds, or using her scale attack, but in terms of general flight there is a problem with how frequently the wings flap. Aproblem which was nearly non-existant from the Imago Mothra in Godzilla, Mothra & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), but rears its ugly head here once again. Still, the scene where Mothra flies with a sunset background and the incredibly realistic, and articulate, legs more than make up for frequency in the wing flaps.

The music found in Tokyo S.O.S. is one of the better scores for a Godzilla film, composed once again by Oshima. Like Oshima's previous work, there is some repetition here in the music; however, like Akira Ifukube, Oshima can get away with this as her music works so well even as a stand alone experience. Her opening main title, as Mothra is pursued by jets in the clouds, is particularly good; arguably one of her best cues from her work on the Godzilla series, as it transitions in from her excellent Godzilla theme.

Overall, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is one of the more entertaining Millennium Godzilla films, if nothing else. As to be expected, the film will unavoidably be compared to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), a comparasion that will have to be given to the 2002 offering. Tokyo S.O.S., at heart, is simply one lengthy kaiju brawl between the three title monsters, who are entangled in a battle that lasts most of the film, something which hasn't been seen since 1972's Godzilla vs. Gigan.