Review:
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)

Class: User
Author: Tim85
Score: (3.5/5)
Published:
March 17, 2006 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Thanks to the box office hit of Shusuke Kaneko's juggernaut known as Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), the Millennium Godzilla Series was given the green light to continue. Masaaki Tezuka was offered another chance at the director's chair (due to Kaneko's conflicting schedule with another film) despite the poor performance of his 2000 movie: Godzilla vs. Megaguirus. Since the success of Kaneko's film was partially attributed to the return of Mothra and King Ghidorah, it was decided another popular monster would return: Mechagodzilla. While one might think after reading the title of the film that it's yet another remake; upon viewing the film, one will realize that is far from the case.

In 1999, a typhoon strikes Tateyama, Japan. During the raging storm, another disaster rears its ugly head: another Godzilla. To counter the creature, the Anti-Mega Loses Force (a military founded in 1966 to tackle giant monsters) is sent out with its prized weapon: the type 90 maser tank (which proves to be ineffective thanks to the rain). During the battle, Akane Yashiro (a talented tank operator) crashes into a jeep, knocking it into the path of Godzilla. The soldiers within are killed when Godzilla crushes the vehicle with his foot.

When the grim situation subsided, Prime Minister Machiko Tsuge and the Minister of Science and Technology Hayato Igarashi discuss the troubling situation. When Godzilla appeared in 1954, he was killed by the oxygen destroyer, but the inventor, Dr. Serizawa, killed himself to prevent the weapon from falling into the wrong hands. Since then, Japan has been plague by monsters. In 1961, Mothra was repelled with the atomic heat ray gun and when Gaira attacked in 1966, the maser tank was invented to fight the creature. Now a new weapon would have to be be created to fight Godzilla.

After the accidental deaths of her colleagues, Akane was transferred to a desk job at the Data Center. Because of the incident, she was looked down on by her fellow soldiers, except by Lieutenant Togashi.

To counter the threat of Godzilla, Igarashi proposes building a giant robot out of the bones of the '54 Godzilla, which causes an uproar both nationally and internationally. After receiving permission to let his daughter Sara live at the complex, DNA computer scientist Tokumitsu Yuhara agrees to work on the project. During the building of the robot, Igarashi becomes the new Prime Minister… as Akane trains for her comeback.

Four years later, the robot, known as Kiryu, is complete. Lieutenant Togashi asks Akane to join the Kiryu Squadron. In the locker room, Hayama (whose brother was killed when Akane knocked the jeep in front of Godzilla) makes a commotion about her being on the team until Togashi tells him to can it, and that if he doesn't, he will be replaced. Symbolic of her being an outcast, she leaves the Squadron cap in her locker.

Days pass; in the mess hall, Akane meets Sara and orders some coffee. Takuma appears and starts to hit on her. Hayama starts to harass her for her being chosen as the pilot of Kiryu, and though Takuma tells him to stop, Hayama shoves him. Akane pins Hayama and tells him he's going too far. Later Akane explains why she's considered an outcast because of the jeep incident to Takuma and Sara. She notices the sleeping grass that Sara is holding and mentions she had one when she was little to ward off loneliness. Takuma then makes a bet whether Kiryu can handle Godzilla; with the outcome of both being their going out for dinner. She artfully ignores him and tells Sara not to keep the plant forever.

Kiryu is finally shown to the world. It's explained how Kiryu functions through the DNA computers that allow speedy calculations. The planes, Shiragasi, carry Kiryu to its destination, and it is revealed that the robot is controlled from these jets. They also provide power through microwave transmission. Finally, Kiryu's ultimate weapon is revealed: the Absolute Zero Cannon. A beam of light is fired at the temperature of absolute zero (-273º C) that freezes the target. When the test fire is shown, the world stares in shock. During the press conference, Godzilla suddenly shows up. Kiryu is launched to counter the threat. The Shiragasi bring Kiryu to the battlefield. The missiles launched from its shoulder pack have little effect on Godzilla, but the maser cannons from the mechanical monster's maw do. Before Akane can fire the Absolute Zero Cannon, Godzilla roars, setting off memories deep in Kiryu's bone cells from 1954, and it goes out of control. Godzilla takes his leave. When the Shiragasi attempts to transport Kiryu back, it fires its wrist laser cannons at the airships. Kiryu begins to rampage through Japan like it's the 1954 Godzilla. When Hayama attempts to distract Kiryu, it shoots down the plane. Akane rescues him before it explodes. An hour later, Kiryu runs out of power and shuts down.

Despite the program bugs being fixed, Igarashi contemplates against continuing the Kiryu project, and also whether to remain in office. The Squadron now accepts Akane after her rescue, (something that Hayama isn't too thrilled with). After an outburst from Sara, Takuma explains why Sara's so sensitive, for her mother died while pregnant and the baby was also lost. That night Godzilla appears in Tokyo Bay heading towards Shinagawa. All the military forces thrown at the monster fail. Togashi pleads with Igarashi to launch Kiryu but is still hesitant. Finally he gives the order. Kiryu is ordered to go into battle!

Kiryu arrives in Shinagawa to engage in combat with Godzilla. During the back and forth battle, Kiryu's laser guns and rocket launchers are destroyed. Finally Kiryu ditches the back unit and gets physical; pummeling the King of the Monsters. Godzilla is finally brought down for the count. Akane attempts to fire the Absolute Zero Cannon when Godzilla trips up the mechanical monster with its atomic ray. The cannon instead takes out three buildings, and to make matters worse, Kiryu hardly has energy left and can't be remotely controlled. Akane agrees to control Kiryu from inside while the power companies black out Tokyo in order to give enough power to revive the downed robot. When Akane gets Kiryu back up, Godzilla knocks it back over with his atomic ray. She makes a second attempt to get the robot on its feet. Hayama spots Godzilla charging another ray. He opens fire on Godzilla, causing the monster to turn its wrath on the Shiragasi. After the ray takes a wing off, he crashes the plane into Godzilla's mouth; preventing the monster from using its ray. Hayama calls for Akane to use the Absolute Zero Cannon but she refused to kill again. She rams Kiryu into Godzilla, pulls the plane out of the King of the Monster's mouth and clamps it shut with the right hand. Kiryu then takes Godzilla out to sea and uses the Absolute Zero underwater. Godzilla is not killed, but is considerably wounded in the chest. Godzilla retreats to heal its wound. Kiryu rises out of the water unable to finish the battle, due to no energy, the loss of its right arm, and a damaged Absolute Zero Cannon. Despite the inability to kill Godzilla, Japan now has a weapon to repell Godzilla.

After returning to the dock, Akane tells Takuma that because it was a draw, she will take him to dinner. She also notices that Sara no longer has the sleeping grass. As she leaves, Akane salutes Kiryu for its service in fighting Godzilla.

The characters are handled really well. Supermodel Yumiko Shaku plays Akane Yashiro, a soldier who is an outcast among her colleagues because of an accident the resulted in death… and she holds a grudge against Godzilla for causing said death (a plot device from Tezuka's Godzilla vs. Megaguirus [2000]). Shaku gives a deep, but likable, persona to her character. Tokumitsu Yuhara (played by Shin Takuma who was last seen in The Return of Godzilla [1984]) is a single father who works with DNA computers that becomes the foundation for Kiryu's functioning (and he also becomes attracted to Akane). Takuma's blend of comic relief (which is never unbelievable and is quite hilarious) and caring father is dead on. Kana Onodera (Sara Yuhara) gives a multi-dimensional performance despite her age. Lieutenant Togashi (Koh Takasugi) never fails to see Akane's potential, despite her being an outcast by others such as Hayama (Yusuke Tomoi) who pulls off a believable performance as someone who has lost a brother.

Akira Nakao (Commander Aso from the latter Heisei series) plays Prime Minister Hayato Igarashi, the man who pushes the Kiryu project and who faces inner conflict concerning the fate of the project after Kiryu's rampage. A familiar sight plays Prime Minister Machiko Tsuge in 1999. Kumi Mizuno, who's well known from Toho's Golden Age, still looks amazing. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is somewhat of a family affair with Mizuno's son, Jun'ichi Mizuno in the role of Sekine, part of the Kiryu Squadron. Chief Hitoyanagi (Takeo Nakahara) and Dobashi (series frequenter Koichi Ueda) appear in the Kiryu control room and while both will return in Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003), Dobashi receives a bigger role in the sequel. Out of all the scientists in the movie; only Gorou Kanno (Naomasa Rokudaira), the man responsible for the Absolute Zero Cannon, will return in the aforementioned movie.

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla has its far share of cameos. Takeshiro Murata (mostly known from Godzilla 2000: Millennium [1999]) appears in the opening as the shop keeper. Two people from Tezuka's Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) appear in this movie. Misato Tanaka (Kiriko Tsujimori in the aforementioned film) plays a nurse during Godzilla and Kiryu's battle and Katsuo Nakmura is interviewed on TV in this film (he was a doctor in his 2000 appearance). Director Masaaki Tezuka appears in the post credits sequence and one almost needs eagle eyes to catch him. Finally the most blatant promotion stunt is the baseball player Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui as himself.

Despite some of the outrageous science and weaponry, Tezuka does add realism to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. When it's announced that a robot will be built, outrage happened both nationally and internationally. The fear of raising taxes and the rearmament of Japan are logical mentions that are strangely never mentioned in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993). And the world's reaction to the Absolute Zero cannon is logical given the magnitude of the weapon.

When it comes to special effects; while they're not as good as 2001's movie, it's still a step up from Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000). The opening with Godzilla appearing in the typhoon was wonderfully done. The lightning striking Godzilla's scales was gorgeous. The sunset scene with an energy drained Kiryu is spell binding. The buildings crumbling from the Absolute Zero Cannon was well done and the ice geyser was beautiful. The Shiragasi aircrafts were also realized well. However, the scene with the CGI 1954 Godzilla was almost too cartoony.

The musical score was absolutely wonderful. Michiru Oshima is a fabulous composer in that her themes can get stuck in your head for hours (which in this case is a good thing), and she is able to blend the themes of the two monsters with excellent results. Her theme for Godzilla revamped from 2000 is great. When it's heard, it really captures Godzilla's presence. Kiryu's fanfare theme was great, and when the mechanical monster goes berserk, it gets deeper... signaling the change in Kiryu. The themes that are played during the battles really help to bring out the mood of the fight sequences.

The kaiju: first up is Godzilla. His design is a throwback to the first two Millennium movies with the classic gray color and blue atomic ray. The eyes allowed more emotion to show through (enough to cause chills in viewers in some scenes). While it does help to show the defensiveness of Godzilla, the stiffness of the suit is at times distracting. At least the Godzilla from GMK showed a reaction when hit. And in the battle when he was body slammed by Kiryu, and later in the battle when he was tossed, the stiffness really showed but the scenes go by quickly enough so as not to distract. The wound after getting hit by the Absolute Zero Cannon looked really painful.

The other title monster, Kiryu is well done. The fact it has a name gives some character to the robot not seen in Mechagodzilla's previous appearance. The look of Kiryu resembles a combination of the Showa and Heisei Mechagodzillas. Kiryu going berserk was an interesting angle. The fact that the eyes were red instead of yellow and the old roar came out really put the point across. The berserk scene allows the filmmakers to bring back the old Godzilla with actually doing it (many a fans' dream). The weapons were interesting. The twin maser cannons that are fired from the mouth are more logical than somehow trying replicate Godzilla's ray (à la the Heisei series). The Absolute Zero Cannon is a down right awesome and a unique weapon. The rocket launcher back unit sort of looks like a throwback to Garuda combining with Mechagodzilla in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993). The shocking blade that shoots out of his right wrist is a neat weapon, and could be another reference to the aforementioned film. While the physical fighting is an improvement (compared to the beam wars of the 1993 movie), the jump was both unrealistic and also kind of cool at the same time.

The other two monsters from the flashbacks: Mothra and Gaira, are a nice addition. The clips from Mothra (1961) and War of the Gargantuas (1966) were a thrill to see and helped explain the development of the maser cannon and the formation of the Anti-Mega Losses Force.

Tezuka definitely learned a lot after working on Kaneko's Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) and he brings his knowledge to this film. While many things are taken from his previous movie, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000), they surprisingly pan out well here. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla does mark a milestone in the third series, and generates the only sequel with the arrival of Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003) the following year (forming the “Kiryu Saga”). Bucking the stereotype of remakes, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is an entirely new spin on the mechanical monster, and despite the claims of being a step down after GMK, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is still a thoroughly entertaining Godzilla movie.