Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)

Class: Staff
Author: Miles Imhoff
Score: (3.5/5)
February 19, 2005 [Review May Contain Spoilers]

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is a movie whose title could, for those who have not yet seen it, turn stomachs. From the title alone, it appears as though it is a sub par remake of one of the former Mechagodzilla movies. Upon viewing this movie, however, it is clear that this is not the case. Not only does the movie sever the memories of an uninspired 1993 Mechagodzilla, but it really makes Mechagodzilla into a new creation, unlike its predecessors. Not only is this true, but the handling of Godzilla, the human plot, the pacing, the creative continuity, and the special effects place this movie a few notches above some of the traditional favorites. To beat an old clich? firmly into the ground, don't judge a book by its cover.

The story starts in Tateyama, Japan in 1999. The coast is suddenly struck by a typhoon. Hidden under the tempest waves, boiling mist, and inky darkness is a shadow from the past. A member of Godzilla's species awakes and attacks. The Anti-Mega Losses Force, created in 1966 to contend with monsters such as Godzilla, Mothra, and Gaira, is dispatched. This force arrives with Type 90 Maser Beam Tanks. During the battle, tragedy suddenly strikes when heroine Akane Yashiro accidentally shoves a jeep into a ravine with her maser cannon vehicle. Godzilla steps on the disabled jeep, and Akane's personal vendetta against Godzilla manifests.

To deal with the revived threat of Godzilla, a robot built around the bones and spinal cells of the first Godzilla (which attacked in 1954) is commissioned for creation. It is finished in three and a half years, and in that time Akane (who had been punished with a mediocre position) trained to make a come back. She is chosen to become one of the pilots of Kiryu, the name for the new Mechagodzilla. She is to pilot the robot remotely from the AC-3 "Shiragasi".

Finally, the world is shown this new creation, and coincidentally, Godzilla emerges simultaneously. Kiryu is sent on its first mission, but Godzilla's roar sets off a memory recorded deep in Kiryu's spinal tissue. Kiryu, in essence, becomes the 1954 Godzilla. It runs amok until its power depletes, at which time it shuts down.

The future of the Kiryu project comes under scrutiny, but when Godzilla once again attacks, the Prime Minister is convinced that Kiryu is Japan's best chance. Kiryu goes into battle! It fights with unmatched ferocity and finally disables Godzilla long enough to ready and hopefully fire the absolute zero cannon, Kiryu's ultimate weapon. Just before the beam can fire, Godzilla shoots his breath and knocks Kiryu over. The cannon fires and destroys three buildings. Kiryu's energy is depleted, and it is realized that all of the power from local power plants must be fed into Kiryu in order to revive it. It becomes necessary for Kiryu to be controlled manually, and Akane is dropped off to pilot the disabled robot from within. When Kiryu is back to full power, Akane manages to ram Kiryu into Godzilla, shut the monster's fire-breathing mouth, and use the absolute zero cannon. Godzilla survives the attack and retreats. Kiryu's energy is depleted, and the cannon cannot be used right away. The battle ends in a stalemate.

There is no true victory, but despite it all, Japan now knows that it now has a weapon to contend with Godzilla: the bio-robot Kiryu.

In text, the movie almost sounds like a live-action anime. On the screen, this observation is not too far from the truth. The fast pacing and stereotypical characters are somewhat similar to an anime. There's the morose, main character that is fighting for a purpose. There's the goofy, lovesick scientist who tries at every angle to woo the main character. There's the placid little girl with multiple emotional dimensions and philosophical musings. The prime ministers, both old and new, each have a deep personal drama in decision-making. The brother of the Hiyama (whose jeep Akane accidentally pushed into the ravine) shows a blind hatred that works as a side-conflict that helps to strengthen the honor of the main character. Altogether, these anime-esque acting styles tend to make the human plot so filled to the brim with fluff, that the resulting lightness of the film ironically becomes an appealing and likeable aspect.

As far as how well the actors handled the characters, there were no real acting flaws. Each actor brought to each character what was needed and required. Yumiko Shaku brought a deepness to her role, but still managed to come out as a warm and likeable character after all. Shin Takuma brings an innocence to his role that increases his likeability right from the get go. Kana Onodera's ability to flawlessly transfer from mood to mood helps to magnify the dimensions of her character. Yusuke Tomoi brings a quality to the screen that gives the illusion that he could have actually lived through the events of the movie, due to the fact that his ability to muster animosity came to him so well. As for the other characters, there are no real excellent or terrible performances; however, it should be noted that Kumi Mizuno's return to a Godzilla movie is a treat for the fine connoisseur of the series.

As far as the monsters faired, the use of the Godzilla and Kiryu suits were done with some superb sophistication. Maybe the suits weren't as sophisticated as those in Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), but they easily beat out the suits in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000). Godzilla was stiff at times, but it was obvious that it was only meant to truly illuminate his defensive strength. Godzilla's eyes were more birdlike in this movie, and there were some excellent scenes with organic facial expressions. As far as blending in with the scenery, the use of highly detailed sets, lighting, and matte effects really gave a noteworthy illusion of size and power. Kiryu was handled with excellence as well. The organic, yet technological look of the suit, combined with the CG weaponry, bred a mechanical masterpiece. much superior to the 1993 Mechagodzilla.

Kiryu going berserk was a unique moment in the film as well. Though the casual moviegoer may miss this, the die-hard fans know the truth. This was an excellent way to bring back the original Godzilla without actually bringing back the original Godzilla. This impressive scene should really be adopted as a paradigm for future Godzilla subplots.

Interestingly enough, Godzilla and Kiryu aren't the only monsters to make appearances in this movie. One of the most intriguing and enjoyable moments in recent Godzilla movies are the flashbacks to Mothra (1961) and The War of the Gargantuas (1966) in this movie. This film manages to work both Mothra and Gaira into the plot, by explaining the need for the Anti-Mega Losses Force, and the birth of the maser cannon. The flashbacks to these movies, each which never bred a direct sequel, can easily garner applause from the serious kaiju fan.

The special effects as a whole were superb in this movie. From the buildings that crumbled under the absolute zero cannon, to the flight of the "Shiragasi", this movie is indeed a notch ahead of similar Godzilla movies in computer graphics.

However, all of the CG, all of the special effects, and the plot would be second-rate if it weren't for the brilliant musical score. Like much of the film, it has an anime-esque quality that has a very upbeat sound. Some of the score is revamped from Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000), but this time around it is improved greatly. Expect earworms after you finish this movie.

In fact, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla draws a lot more inspiration from Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) than simply music. From the heroine with a vendetta, to the similarity of the weaponry, to a similar suit, to the similar jets, it takes inspiration and provides it in a much more enjoyable fashion than in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000).

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is a triumph for the millennium timeline. It combines likeable characters, a fast-placed plot, great special effects, and interesting monster drama all to form an exciting new entry in the series. In fact, it's one of the few movies that were actually given a direct sequel. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla beats the stereotype for remakes and brings to the table one of the most memorable and enjoyable Godzilla movies in recent years.