GODZILLA X MECHAGODZILLA
AKA: Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla
Directed By: Masaki Tezuka
Written By: Wataru Mimura
American Distribution By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
A rather unique film in the Millennium series of Godzilla films, Godzilla x Mechagodzilla has the unique distinction of being one of the few films to, technically speaking, be a sequel to the original film with other films taking place in the timeline. In this film’s case, the movies Mothra and War of the Gargantuas, both of which are used to explain the rise of anti-kaiju weaponry in Japan.
Following in the trend of other earlier Millennium era films, this movie also follows a female protagonist, Lt. Akane Yashiro who is a member of the Anti-Megalosaurus Force in the Japanese Xenomorph Self-Defense Force. Taking a moment aside here, I should mention that the Megalosaurus, while indeed a real species of dinosaur, is one that as of the time of this post has not had its full skeletal remains found.
It is typically considered to be as its name suggests, a gigantic lizard and is, oftentimes, used as a placeholder for recently discovered species of large, carnivorous dinosaurs. As to xenomorph it’s Greek for “strange shape,” which considering how most kaiju tend to look isn’t that much of a stretch…
With that random trivia now made clear, let’s move on to the actual plot shall we? The year is 1999, 45 years after the first Godzilla’s attack, another of the species, appearing quite different than the original, appears once more to rampage across Japan. This new Godzilla proves to rightfully earn the name and title of its predecessor as it is swiftly proven as he withstands direct blasts of the maser energy cannons.
Another side-note, because really this is too interesting not to mention, though such a thing has yet to be turned into a weapon, and hopefully never will be, maser energy does actually exist in our world. Maser, short for Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, and… honestly the science of it flies right over my head but in the case of the Godzilla franchise, the method is used to create highly volatile lightning.
Back at the plot, though she survived the sortie against Godzilla, Akane is left with the blame for the deaths of her fellow soldiers and is given a desk job as a result. Frankly, compared to previous films, I fail to see how she could in any way be at fault considering that said deaths were the result of a bunch of smucks thinking it was a good idea to go in reverse and fail to remember the giant maser tank right behind them. Heck, it was more Godzilla’s fault than anything else as the resulting crash sent the car tumbling down the mountainside to land right beneath Godzilla’s descending foot.
Military intelligence in monster films is next to nonexistent, I swear…
Oh but it does get better, dear readers. For as the film’s title suggests, the military has the brilliant notion of creating a mechanical duplicate of Godzilla but go a step further than previous incarnation of the mecha. See, in the years since Godzilla’s first attack, the government had found and recovered the monster’s skeleton and want Japan’s best scientists to utilize them in the robot’s creation.
They quite literally build the mechanical parts around the skeleton and use the inherent DNA in the bones within to build a quasi-organic computer meant to control subconscious actions of the robot such as balance when walking while overall control of the machine would be handled from afar.
When the robot is completed in 2003, Godzilla emergences from the ocean to rampage across Japan once more and though the MechaGodzilla, nicknamed “Kiryu” or “Metal Dragon” by most in and outside the film, is sent out to confront him something strange occurs. In the case of Godzilla, the monster king is stunned at the sight of his mechanical double but whereas previous incarnations were either enraged or confused by simulacrum, this Godzilla is not.
For though he does not comprehend the why or the how of it, Godzilla knows that the bones of one of his own kind reside within the machine and though it attacks him with a burst of maser energy, Godzilla does something I’ve yet to see him do before.
He gives a loud roar and swiftly returns back to the ocean.
Gentlemen and ladies, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the franchise let me make one thing perfectly clear here. For as long as I’ve known him in all of his various incarnations, Godzilla has never, not once, retreated as he had in this film. Especially not when he is attacked. If there’s one defining point to Godzilla, any Godzilla, is that he is driven further forward at any signs of hostility aimed towards him. That he actually turned and left was nothing short of surprising…
Though this hardly compares to what happens next.
For you see, in that moment when Godzilla roared, something stirred within the mechanical processors of Kiryu’s systems. Whether by a fluke of science or something beyond human understanding, the images of the first Godzilla’s attack and death come to the fore of the machine’s mind. A metallic hand clenches tightly before Kiryu’s golden eyes flash red as it unleashes its entire payload all around it and begins to rampage.
Though the Kiryu Squadron, a trio of specialized air jets meant to transport and control the mecha, try to distract it as headquarters tries to shut it down remotely, nothing can be done until Kiryu’s power eventually runs out, a whole hour later.
Repairs are made and though the cause is discovered and measures are taken to ensure that Kiryu does not run berserk ever again, the machine is benched even as Godzilla reappears some time later with a fury unlike anything ever seen before. Eventually though, Kiryu is sortied and the confrontation between machine and monster is one of the best fights I’ve ever seen in the entire series bar a few notable exceptions.
However, though things start out looking good for Kiryu, Godzilla manages to damage it just enough that it can no longer receive remote commands and Akane takes it upon herself to enter Kiryu and control it from within despite the inherent dangers of doing so. In the end, the fight between Godzilla and Kiryu ends in a stalemate with Kiryu surviving with a lost arm and severe damage to its main and most powerful weapon while Godzilla departs with a massive wound across his chest.
This movie… there is just so much amazing in this film I can’t even begin to count them all. On the monster side of things, as I’ve said previously, the Millennium era is one where all the stops are made to bring out the special effects to their full potential. While there are some glaringly bad moments with the occasional CGI bit, both Godzilla and Kiryu are surprisingly alive and emotive. This was one of the few versions of Godzilla where his eyes were actually expressive, widening and narrowing at the appropriate moments to further emphasize what he’s feeling.
As to the human side, if there’s one thing that the Millennium era has done better than its predecessors it’s give us human characters that we actually can care about and hope to see succeed even if it means Godzilla’s downfall in some fashion or another. Akane’s journey throughout the film is one of redemption for her so-called dishonor and mending the rift between her and her fellow soldiers who are either don’t trust her to outright hating her in the case of one soldier whose brother had died via Akane’s actions, or lack thereof. As to the main scientist Tokumitsu Yuhara and his daughter Sara, while it is funny to see the scientist try and win Akane’s heart, I just didn’t get the need for Sara or her inclusion in certain scenes.
Overall, this film is one that may not have a truly believable story, but then what manner of giant monster film is, the action alone makes up for it in spades. If you want to see a film with a giant monster fighting an equally gigantic robot, I’d recommend this one out of the entire franchise.