Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)

Class: Staff
Author: Miles Imhoff
Score: (2/5)
February 18, 2005 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Run-of-the-mill, mediocre, and sterile are the three words that best describe Godzilla vs. Megaguirus. It is a movie that attempts to be creative and edgy, but somehow fails, leaving one wanting with futility to really try to enjoy the film. This is a film that many fans dislike for a variety of reasons, but in an odd and polarizing twist of fate, there are many fans that like or even love this film. This forces one to step back and look at the film as a whole. One comes to realize that there are reasons to hate it or love it, with each reason oddly intertwined harmoniously in this movie. Fans who hate it will point out the unoriginal design for the enemy monster, the flat plot, and a wide number of terrible special effects. Fans who love the movie will point out the creativity in the ultimate weapon, the brilliant fight with the Meganula, and the ferocity of the final fight. Looking at the plot, it's easy to see where people from each side of the debate anchor loyalties.

The story begins with either the most brilliant, or the most confusing scene in a Godzilla film. The scene reworks the millennium Godzilla into the role of the 1954 Godzilla, and destroys the plot about the oxygen destroyer. The special effects, pyrotechnics, and matting are superb, and the scene is well done. What about the confusion? Well, unlike Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999), which leaves continuity to the original movie to the imagination, this movie completely cuts all tethers to Ishiro Honda's classic. It really waters down the effect of the original movie, and serves to confuse the casual moviegoer more so than Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999).

The story continues to tell the tale of how Godzilla attacked Takai in 1966, feeding off a nuclear reactor, and forcing Japan to find other means of energy. Godzilla returns to Japan in 1996, in search of plasma energy, a technology still in its infant stages. The military comes in to intercept the creature, but alas people die... including the commanding officer of this story's heroine. Now, the heroine, Kiriko Tsujimori, has a personal vendetta against Godzilla.

In order to finally destroy Godzilla, the terrible weapon known as the Dimension Tide is commissioned to be built in 2001. The machine's purpose would be to form a black hole and have it plummet to earth (from a satellite) in order to annihilate Godzilla. Unfortunately, a test run creates a dimensional portal that releases a giant dragonfly that lays a mysterious egg. The egg, through a course of events involving an insect-loving boy, finds itself in the sewers of Tokyo. The egg splits apart, and the individual cells begin to hatch! The horrifying larvae, known as Meganulon, start to emerge and attack humans. They transform into the winged Meganula and fly out to sea. The Meganula meet Godzilla on the tiny island of Kiganjima, where Godzilla had been led for extermination. The insects attack and absorb energy from Godzilla, but most are defeated. The Dimension Tide fires, but Godzilla is only buried slightly underground. It emerges and leaves the island.

Meanwhile, the remaining insects return to their queen, whom they instill with enough energy to create a monster large enough to face Godzilla. Megaguirus, the massive dragonfly, begins to wreck havoc. In Tokyo, Godzilla and Megaguirus meet, preempting the planned Dimension Tide firing. Godzilla and Megaguirus exchange blows, each one appearing at one point or another to gain an advantage. The ferocious battle sees Godzilla often sent to the ground. Godzilla, however, scores many successful blows as well, and even manages to rip one of Megaguirus' giant claws from its socket. Finally, Godzilla tears Megaguirus' stinger from its tail and it annihilates the creature with its pale yellow breath. Godzilla lumbers on, heading for secret plasma experiments that aren't supposed to exist. This reckless secret on the part of the government is the bane of the recent attacks.

As Godzilla continues to make its way through the city, the Dimension Tide is found to be fraught with errors. In fact, it loses its fuel and begins to descend toward the planet! Kiriko flies into the sky and manages fix the last problem by having the Dimension Tide lock onto her craft, the Griffon. She flies the Griffon into Godzilla (she ejects first) and the black hole collides with Godzilla's beam and seems to destroy him!

The government learns its lesson about the reckless continuation of plasma experiments, but the terror is not quite over. An epicenter looms under Tokyo, and the worst is feared. Godzilla may live to ravage Japan another day.

The plot sounds more interesting in words than it manages to manifest itself on screen, and it isn't at all helped by the acting performances. Misato Tanaka's character is so dramatic and so unbending to humor or softness that it is very hard to get close to her as a character. On the other hand, Shosuke Tanihara's performance is so over-the-top at times, you expect him to break into song and dance when his character makes another successful achievement.

Surprisingly enough, even though Suzuki Hiroyuki's character is given a poor role as the child performer whose curiosity and recklessness causes chaos, he actually does very well with what he's given. You can empathize with him in those moments where he knows he has something terrible that he just wants to rid himself of, no matter what. Then, like many dark secrets, it just keeps getting worse. The remaining actors really don't deserve any big complaints or exemplary marks. They did well with what they were given. Yuriko Hoshi's acting does deserve some high marks, but her "solemn scientist" role limits any real exploration into the character as a whole.

Of course, the real stars of the film were the monsters. Unfortunately, the monsters were sometimes handled unskillfully. Godzilla's body movements were quite stiff and lacked an organic quality, and its facial expressions were at a minimum. Despite these flaws, the scene where Misato Tanaka's character rode on Godzilla was executed brilliantly. It really appeared as though she was riding Godzilla. This was one of the major high points of the film special effects-wise, but with every tall peak, one can expect a low ravine. Godzilla's true low point in the film was the body slam in the final bout. It was quite unequivocally one of the most bizarre and blatant attempts to turn the battle in Godzilla's favor, at the expense of any quality of realism.

As far as the enemy monsters are concerned, the Meganulon props were wonderfully designed, and the Meganula proved to be an intriguing opponent against Godzilla. Megaguirus was the most interesting of the three stages of the insect, but unfortunately (and though some fans will disagree) Megaguirus looks like an obvious attempt to revamp Battra. As far as the execution of this monster is concerned, Megaguirus was at her best when her wings were buzzing at sonic speeds. This increased the realism of the creature by adding what appeared to be an acceptable amount of lift. When her wings weren't flying at high speeds; however, her flight was very unrealistic, and reminiscent of the flight woes of Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992). Her energy weapon was a nice touch, even though she used it only once.

The special effects in this film were a mixed bag, to say the very least. It is unfortunate to see so many frame rate errors in the final battle, and these moments are probably the most jarring moments in a Godzilla film, ever! The backdrop scenes weren't done any better. The shots of Griffon flying were done with little more sophistication than the flight backdrops of some of the latter Heisei movies. This film did excel in Godzilla matte effects. They were pretty flawless, for the most part, and they really gave the illusion of a gigantic monster swimming toward Tokyo. Another noteworthy special effect triumph is the Meganula. Even though there were many dozen in a scene at once, none of them were deprived of an ample amount of realism.

Despite a few special effects triumphs, this film was at a downfall when it came to a much less sophisticated form of special effect: atmosphere. All the scenes seemed to be very sterile, using very neutral colors. The colors and scenery gave little warmth, and in many cases they somewhat repelled the audience from forming an emotional attachment with the film.

The score of the film made up for what the movie lacked in visual atmosphere. The score is reminiscent of Akira Ifukube's themes, while adding a modern touch. Godzilla's theme is an earworm theme, most definitely, but one that is highly doubtful to become obnoxious. The music wasn't without its grimace-moments. The final battle between Godzilla and Megaguirus has one of the odder themes in the movie. There's almost a Spanish quality to it, and one highly expects a bullfight to break out. While it does work with the battle, its unprecedented quality simply jars the ears.

The better themes would translate to a future Godzilla movie, and this topic brings up one of the more intriguing aspects of this movie. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, two years down the road, took many important aspects from this movie and incorporated them into its own plot. From the heroine with a vendetta, to a technologically-exotic ultimate weapon, to the music, to the special jet planes, to a similar suit, and even to the scenery at the end of the movie, inspiration can be seen to have been pulled from Godzilla vs. Megaguirus and fed directly into Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002). Why would so much be borrowed from a movie that did so poorly at the box office? Well, the same director directed both movies, so perhaps that question just about answers itself. Perhaps it's merely a directing style of Masaaki Tezuka. Ironically, the recycled aspects of the Godzilla vs. Megaguirus plot work out to be far more enjoyable in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002) than in the movie from which the inspiration was pulled.

It is true that this movie did poorly at the box office, and for many good reasons. However, it did introduce a popular monster, a musical theme that would carry through to future movies, and plot devices that would be recycled successfully in the future. Overall, the movie can boast that it has left an indelible mark. Whether that mark is attractive or repulsive is, of course, up to the audience.