Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)

Class: User
Author: Godzillawolf
Score: (4/5)
November 4, 2009 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla may be the third incarnation of Godzilla's mechanical doppelganger, but it could be said that the third time's the charm. In truth, the plot may be similar to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), but fixes a lot of the flaws, as well as adding some interesting subplots and characters. It also takes a page from Godzilla, Mothra, & King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) and forms a deep connection to the original film.

By the year 1999, it has been many decades since the assault of the original Godzilla on Tokyo, but many other monsters, such as Gaira and Mothra, have attacked in the interim. A massive typhoon strikes Tateyama, but that is the least of Japan's problems; a new Godzilla erupts from the depths and cuts a path of destruction through the surrounding area. The Anti-Mega Losses Force, a branch of the JSDF specifically assembled to counter such disasters, is sent into battle against the monster king. but his unstoppable strength is too much for them. During the confrontation, maser cannon pilot Akane accidentally knocks a jeep into a ravine. Godzilla's foot smashes the vehicle, along with its hapless passengers.

It is soon realized that a new weapon must be constructed to combat the King of the Monsters. Using spinal cells from the bones of the original Godzilla (slain in 1954) and state of the art technology, they construct a “Mechagodzilla”, dubbed Kiryu. Akane, due to her proficient skills, is chosen to be one of Kiryu's pilots.

As Kiryu is unveiled to the entire world, Godzilla is once again detected on a collision course with Japan. Kiryu is deployed. After assaulting Godzilla with Kiryu's mouth-mounted maser cannons, Akane prepares Kiryu's ultimate weapon, the Absolute Zero Cannon, to finish Godzilla. However, Godzilla's iconic roar disturbs something deep within Kiryu's organic circuitry. Kiryu refuses to respond as Godzilla retreats. Suddenly, Kiryu's eyes glow an ominous red and he emits a roar identical to Godzilla's. Kiryu proceeds to unleash his entire arsenal on the city around him, destroying everything in his path. Unable to regain control, the only thing that can be done is to simply wait for Kiryu's power supply to drain.

As repairs are underway in an attempt to prevent Kiryu from going berserk in the future, Godzilla once again appears in Tokyo Bay. Japan's only hope lies in Kiryu, but with the spirit of the original Godzilla sleeping deep within the machine, will this cyborg help or hinder the escalating situation?

The characters are most entertaining in this film. Akane (Yumiko Shaku), the main heroine, is cold and reserved at first, a result from the mistake she made in her battle with Godzilla, but gradually grows warmer with time and understanding. Tokumitsu Yuhara (Shin Takuma) is another interesting character; an emotionally effective scientist role (gasp!). Comical to a fault and loving to his those around him, his affable nature is an electrically-charged foil to Akane in the beginning. His daughter Sara (Kana Onodera) is also a charm. Though her connection to her plant may seem strange at first, her backstory and her innocence gives her a certain defining quality and wisdom beyond her years; she tends to pick up on things the other characters don't. In some ways, this unique quality harkens back to the days of Miki Saegusa (Megumi Odaka). Hayato Igarashi is another interesting character (played by Akira Nakao, a veteran of Heisei fame for his role as Commander Aso). He shows true emotion, and acts like one would expect a leader who is faced with the difficult task of weighing the risks of Godzilla with the risks of Kiryu.

Of course the monsters also had a huge role in the film. Godzilla is a force of nature, and his appearance is well fitting for the role, lifelike and feral. The flashing of the dorsal spines leading to the gradual energy build-up is an interesting effect, as is the fire bursting into his mouth before he finally unleashes his attack. This particular Godzilla is meant to be an indestructible juggernaut. No weapon that is used against him can do any lasting damage until Kiryu's ultimate weapon is unleashed, and even that fails to put him down. Godzilla also shows some degree of intelligence in the final battle, taking advantage of Kiryu using ambush strategy. Although, it should be noted that the impetus to belligerence doesn't lie solely with Godzilla. During their initial battle, Godzilla doesn't attack Kiryu, and one could argue that he displayed more of a reserved curiosity which ultimately erupted into raw emotion when Kiryu made the first damaging move.

As for Kiryu, he's quite simply one of the best suits I've ever seen. He's truly a sight to behold, appearing mechanical, but also organic enough that his fluidity isn't out-of-place. While his missiles aren't effective against Godzilla in the least, they're a great effect and look amazing. The mouth-mounted Maser Cannon is also an excellent visual; a true electrical blast (which is exactly what it's supposed to look like). The wrist-mounted beam cannons are wonderfully-rendered, as is the electrified blade. Although the Absolute Zero Cannon is a stunning effect, it does prove to be more interesting to have Godzilla interrupt the charging sequence (instead of standing in there and getting blasted like an Ultraman villain). The limber tail is also a plus, as opposed to the stiff and useless ones attached to past Mechagodzilla's. Ultimately, Kiryu is a perfect balance between firepower and mêlée skill. He also tends to have quite a bit of character, and this aspect isn't mentioned as often as it should. He seems to be alive in places, the “Godzilla” side of him a more obvious aspect than others. The glowing red eye and Godzilla roar were great ways to show the original Godzilla manifest. Kiryu is also an interesting character for the fact that he was given a name of his own (being a mix of the Japanese words for “mechanical” and “dragon”) instead of simply donning the default moniker, Mechagodzilla. This sets him apart.

As for the musical score, Michiru Oshima is wonderfully skilled. One prime example is Kiryu's excellent theme, which has an heroic sound that works well in contrast to the classic, ominous Godzilla theme. This provides a bit of symphonic exposition, characterizing Kiryu as the mechanical protector of Japan and Godzilla as the living natural disaster.

Ultimately, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla proves to be one superb thrill ride from beginning to end. Great characters, a fun plot, and an amazing Mechagodzilla suit all make this an A+ adventure. While it doesn't manage to top its predecessor GMK (2001), it is still a strong film. And, at the risk of sounding biased, I must admit that Kiryu is one of my all-time favorite monsters (err… mech).