Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)

Class: User
Author: Adam Striker
Score: (4/5)
July 23, 2009 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla was my very first "daikaiju" movie. Everything in this film seemed quite magical to me as a child, leaving me hungry for more. Over the years, Godzilla has fought several versions of his mechanical nemesis, but the Showa Mechagodzilla was the only one that was used for purely sinister purposes. Mechagodzilla stands among the Showa-era Godzilla series' greatest and strongest enemy monsters.

Nami, a descendent of the Azumi royal family, dances ceremonially while a small crowd of people look on. She suddenly receives a startling vision of what is to happen in the near future. This vision is so intense that she falls to the ground, and her grandfather hastily runs to her side to make sure she is all right. When asked what is wrong, Nami predicts the coming of a horrible monster. Not long after the incident, a cave is discovered in Okinawa. Within the cave, there is a statue of a creature (resembling King Caesar, the guardian of the Azumi royal family) and a mural painted on the walls. The mural depicts a prophecy left behind by an ancient Okinawan civilization: the appearance of a black mountain in the sky will be the forebear to the coming of a destructive monster. It continues to predict that when the sun rises in the West, two monsters will appear to save the people.

Soon after the "black mountain" (a dark cloud) is seen towering over the other clouds in the sky, Godzilla appears at Mount Fuji, with its hatred toward mankind seemingly rekindled after many long years. However, it becomes apparent that this is not the true Godzilla when Anguirus attacks and chips off a piece of its synthetic skin, exposing a metallic interior. Anguirus fails to stop this powerful foe, and Faux Godzilla continues onward to Tokyo, where it encounters the real Godzilla. A group of extraterrestrials, the Simeons, are controlling this monster, and order the imposter to discard its masterful disguise. It's true identity is revealed: Mechagodzilla. Godzilla is swiftly defeated in their first bout, but Mechagodzilla comes under considerable disrepair and returns to the alien base. Meanwhile, a mysterious creature slumbers offshore, awaiting a song that will summon him to aid Godzilla in an epic battle with this new, powerful foe.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is rather detailed. Aliens, King Caesar, the civilization who summoned the aforementioned guardian, the unfolding prophecy -- there is a daunting amount of information poured into this plot. Ideas that had never been executed before in a Godzilla entry are utilized in this film, such as a "Fake Godzilla" or even Godzilla's magnetic powers. There are a lot of clever devices at play that are often executed to near-perfection.

Effects in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla were probably a major step forward when compared to other contemporaries. Cunning tricks were used throughout this film, such as the subtleties behind the manipulation of the sparks. More specifically, the magnetic Godzilla scene featured a dazzling pyrotechnic display. The significant amount of blunt pyrotechnic mastery made Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla literally the most explosive Godzilla movie of the Showa era! Special effects didn't end here, however. The Simeons were truly simian, very apelike, while sporting an off putting greenish tinge (except when donning their human guises). The reverse transformation sequence upon their demise was actually a rather solid effect. Rotoscoping was pretty much flawless here. The typical effects in this category included the animations for Godzilla's atomic breath, the numerous lasers and beams fired by Mechagodzilla, and Mechagodzilla's energy barrier.

Music-wise, Masaru Sato brought a very different approach to the Godzilla franchise Normally, the soundtrack for a Godzilla film is very slowly-paced; but the score for this one was very lively during intense sequences. Unlike Akira Ifukube's heavier methods, Sato introduced a big band style that had more pizzazz. Occasionally, there were slow tunes, but for the most part, Sato established a new genre of music in the Godzilla franchise and pulled it off with aplomb!

If a weak aspect had to be chosen, it would be the acting. Common sense was lacking in a few parts of the script, which is most apparent during one scene in particular. Just before Anguirus and the Fake Godzilla fought each other, Masaaki Daimon (as Shimizu) was driving nearby while commenting about how Anguirus shouldn't be attacking his ally, Godzilla. As he said this, he was erratically steering the wheel as if he were wrestling with it. Fortunately for him, this would be his only obvious error. Beru-Bera Lin (given the role of the character "Nami") similarly committed one glaring mistake at the beginning of the film. Nami was supposed to be severely distraught after receiving the disturbing vision; but she did not display a believable portrayal of her fright. Still, she did make up for her error by performing well later in the movie, especially when she sang to King Caesar. There are other actors who were spot on: Goro Mutsumi, who played the Black Hole Leader Kuronuma, stuck to the role he was given flawlessly. Kuronuma was a civilized character -- evil, yet very casual and rarely upset to the point of mania. Professor Miyajima, played by Akihiko Harata, was a more serious character. Miyajima was forced to repair Mechagodzilla at gunpoint, and especially during this moment, Harata looked worried in a way that was solemn and believable. Shin Kishida (as the Interpol Agent Nanbara) also receives an honorable mention. Kishida's acting was smooth, sweet, and he played well with the mysterious background of his character. Despite all the pluses, there were several areas where the acting was too fake or overdone, even during some of the battles between the monsters. An example occurred during the moment that Godzilla used his newfound magnetic powers to draw Mechagodzilla in. Godzilla forcefully drew his hands back like a mime, pulling an "invisible rope." It was quite a cheesy moment, really.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is quite a memorable addition to the Showa Godzilla series. I will be the first person to acknowledge that some people may not enjoy it; of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. In spite of weaknesses in the acting category, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is a landmark for Toho because it introduced new things mixed with the natural elements endemic of a solid Godzilla film. Sometimes change is a positive thing; Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla stands as a perfect representation of this fact.