Here comes Godzilla with … Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla (2002)
For my final Godzilla review, I watched Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla (2002),another modern Godzilla movie that tries to deliver something familiar, but also fresh at the same time. This movie is fun. The introduction is pretty darn good and has some great monster designs, including a revised version of MechaGodzilla, the robotic Godzilla who first appeared in the 70s. This is the last in my Godzilla review series and I think I’ve gotten a good idea about what they offer. This movie, in particular, appeals to me more than most Godzilla sequels because it seems to have a generalized tone, without complicating itself with numerous sci-fi elements.
The introduction throws us right into the action, gives us a military perspective, and shows how the media might react, as well. One reporter is surprised that Godzilla appears up out of the water behind him and he freaks out. It is well-done, like something out of Jurassic Park, where the dinosaurs are close to the human characters and scare them. The intro is given a moody backdrop as some rain pours down on everyone and obscures many of the visuals, which is a good thing. I say that because we are used to fully seeing Godzilla stomp around, but when he is lurking in the shadows of the dark, it is much more dramatic. Yes, he still stomps stuff and creates havoc, but the explosions and weather effects just look great. I mean, you still get the full view later on, but this is good too. I wish they could have done more moody, atmospheric stuff like in this introduction.
The military doesn’t look any more competent than in any other Godzilla film, but they certainly do a good job selling us on their struggle, at least. One thing I didn’t get was the part where they explain that it wasn’t Godzilla who attacked the city, it was Fake Godzilla, a member of the same species. Why do they call it Godzilla then? Anyway, they didn’t explain it, so I assume it is the same Godzilla from earlier sequels, just not the original.
They flashback to 1954 and actually keep to some sort of continuity, using the original Godzilla movie as a starting point. They build up the strength of Japanese society, which has endured each monster attack, one after the other. The Prime Minister seems to question if they were ready this time, after the military failed to blast the Fake Godzilla with a laser thing.
I was happy to see some social commentary included in this film. Much of it revolves around the environment. As one professor or scientist instructs his class, he rambles on about how humans are destroying the environment. He looks at his students, but they are busy looking in a fish tank, and he comments that no one is listening, which is the sentiment of many environmentalists. The main point of the anti-Godzilla military force set up in the movie is to protect the environment. The theme is very focused. There is also some comment on cloning later, when they create MechaGodzilla.
The movie builds good anticipation for the fight. There are some scenes showing the construction of MechaGodzilla, a briefing summarizes its capabilities and the military crew trains on MechaGodzilla operations. They wear their MechaGodzilla hats and they chant their MechaGodzilla victory song. Well, maybe that part is a little cheesy, but showing expert, military training is an original concept in a Godzilla movie. We’ve never seen any preparations for the operation of MechaGodzilla, so this movie goes in a different direction than I would have expected. How do tank operators train? Hike and do pull ups? Apparently so.
Can man control monster? The movie tries to answer this question in the creation of MechaGodzilla, which uses some of Godzilla’s DNA from its bones. The answer to the question also implies some human control over cloning and science in general, which scientists in the movie don’t achieve at first. They do get it right in the end, so the themes reinforce human perseverance and knowledge.
Unfortunately, Fake Godzilla is completely immune to the big bad weapon that was built up over the course of the movie. Godzilla shrugs it off and walks away, which is somewhat of a let down. Overall, the fight had a lot of back and forth barrages, missiles, guns, and lasers; Probably way too many for my taste. The two monsters did engage physically, but it looked a little stiff.
This movie draws a lot of inspiration from Japanese anime. The “pilots” of MechaGodzilla aka Kiryu act like characters in Gundam or Mazinger Z, even throwing poses and using superpowered attacks to match. The battles fling the opponents around in typical fashion and other elements imitate the anime style. I liked that the movie had the spirit enough to be stylistic.
All in all, this is a big improvement over Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991), not just in special effects, but in characterization. The characters seem developed and the painful dialogue is kept to a minimum. The thing about this movie though, is that it doesn’t put over Godzilla as the real Godzilla, being that his bones are at the bottom of the ocean. Given that, Fake Godzilla still comes off strong, but maybe they could have added a little more dialogue putting Fake Godzilla over as a bigger threat. I mean, if the 1954 Godzilla was so badass, why should we care about Fake Godzilla? Also, this particular Godzilla suit design doesn’t remind me of old-school Godzilla much at all, which might be the point. All in all, this is one of the better Godzilla movies and right up my alley because it keeps the camp and sci-fi to a minimum.
Godzilla movies (click movie title for review)
1. Godzilla (1954) – 9/10
2. Godzilla vs King Kong (1962) – 4/10
3. Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla (1974) – 5/10
4. Mothra vs Godzilla (1964) – 6/10
5. Destroy All Monsters (1968) – 3/10
6. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) – 4/10
7. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002) – 8/10