Pre-Ramble Ramble This was the second film in the Millennium Series I saw, after Godzilla 2000. I don’t remember how I got the DVD, whether it’s something I bought for myself or if it was given to me as a gift. I do remember my first impressions of this movie when I watched it for the first couple of times. It felt refreshingly modern, in story, in special effects, and in execution. While I’ve never been a huge fan of Mechagodzilla, I like what they did with him in this story. While this film has aged rather well, I don’t think I like it as much now as I did then. I guess as I get older, I my tastes change and I find that some things ruin stories for me more than others. The one thing that really drags this one down for me is the characters, which I’ll talk about in a minute.
So while this is the second film in the Millennium series directed by Masaaki Tezuka, this isn’t a sequel to Godzilla v Megaguirus. It’s another stand alone film, but there are some similarities between the two, with this film ratcheting things up a bit. Once again, the Japanese military has a special unit dedicated to fighting monsters, but instead of being called G-Force or G Grasper, this time around it’s called The Anti Megalosaurus something or other. Look, I don’t remember. The phrase was used once in the entire film. Anyhow, this force was made to protect Japan from threats like Mothra, Gaira, and of course, Godzilla. Unlike G-Grasper, which very much feels like a Skunk Works division of the military, here the anti-Godzilla Force is peopled by the elite of the elite, from military personnel to the top minds of Japan. Money is no object. It’s a nice change of pace, cause it feels a bit more realistic, and it allows some existential questions to pop into the movie (but never be resolved, mind you) like “How can the Japanese government pay for all of this?” or “Isn’t Mechagodzilla just another weapon of mass destruction? How is this okay?” That these questions aren’t really addressed doesn’t nag at me anywhere near as much as the thought of everyone just being okay with a Black Hole Cannon, but I still wish the topics were explored. Oh well.
So plot wise, this movie is a bit of a mixed bag. The overall plot is great. To defeat Godzilla, the Japanese military builds a Godzilla of their own from the bones and DNA of the ‘54 Godzilla. They load it to the teeth with conventional weaponry, maser and lazer beams, and an Absolute Zero Cannon (which as the name implies, freezes things to absolute zero). The main character is Lieutenant (man, that’s a hard word to spell) Yashiro, a soldier/pilot who is out to redeem herself for being quasi-responsible for the deaths of her comrades in an encounter with Godzilla back in 1999, as well as get revenge against Godzilla himself. Then we have Professor(?) Tokumitsu, a scientist who is one of the main people responsible for building Mechagodzilla and who has an awkward crush on the previously Yashiro. Finally, we have Tokumitsu’s little girl, Sara, who’s brought along for the ride and is a bit of a moral anchor for this film. To make a long story short, Mechagodzilla (called Kiryu in this film) is programmed with the DNA of the original Godzilla, he goes rogue during the two’s first encounter, destroys the city, he gets fixed, Godzilla comes back, the two fight, both survive, the end. It’s a simple plot and for the most part, it works. Where it suffers is that like a lot of plots, a large part of it is driven by the characters. While the actors themselves did a great job in this film, watching this again, I hate almost every single character in this film because almost every last one is weighed down by forced melodrama and the fact that they’re given the emotional maturity of your average high schooler. It gets tired fast, because it’s forced and predictable, and therefore it’s unwelcome and uninteresting. A few times I just wanted to yell at the TV and tell these people to just grow up.
I really enjoyed a lot of the design work in this movie. Godzilla himself, after taking a design departure in the previous year’s film GMK, is more or less back to the design used in Godzilla 2000 and Godzilla v Megaguirus. The suit looks a bit more detailed this time as well as a bit more animated, which is a plus. Kiryu looks great for the most part. His design is exciting and full of detail giving you a lot to admire, but never so much that he feels overly busy. There’s a bunch of exposed wires and other mechanical bits in between plates of armor, which on the one hand gives the whole monster a very mechanical feel, but at the same time doesn’t feel realistic because they’re just tons of areas that could easily get damaged in combat. Whatever. I loved the fact that starting out, he’s controlled remotely by Yashiro who’s viewing events from inside a jet (the three jets in this film, Herons, are also awesome by the way) because it makes you realize that if there’s another option to sitting inside a mech whose sole purpose is to fight giant monsters, maybe that’s the safer way to go. The military uniforms look great. The scenery looks great. Pretty much everything in this movie feels well thought out and very cohesive.
For the most part, the special effects in this movie are pretty decent. Each consecutive film in the Millennium Series is an improvement in the realm of CGI and this one continues the trend. Some effects, like when buildings collapse after being hit by the Absolute Zero Cannon, still look rough, but others, such as the CGI missiles and beam attacks look quite good. Like I said already, Godzilla and Kiryu both look great, but the set pieces where battles take are equally good looking. The buildings, while still obviously models, are very well detailed, trees look like real trees, the smoke and water effects feel substantial, the models for military vehicles actually look like they’re made materials with real weight and density, on and on it goes. I think the one big drawback on this film is that it’s not as explosion heavy as some other Godzilla entries, and that’s not necessarily bad because I’m not asking for a Michael Bay quantity of explosions here, but the ones here are pretty sparse and they don’t feel as impactful either, so they just kind of feel underwhelming even when they do show up.
Choreography wise, this film is better than some but not as good as my favorites. One of my biggest complaints about Tezuka’s previous Godzilla film was that the fights were slow and awkward. Here, they’re not slow, which is a plus, but there are still a few awkward bits. There’s two different instances where Godzilla takes an opening salvo attack in this film and both times he stands there, not reacting. He doesn’t try to get out of the way, he doesn’t react in pain or frustration, he just stands there motionless. It’s odd. There’s also a point where Godzilla and Kiryu duke it out up close and instead of looking like an intense melee battle, it’s more aggressive hugging than anything. Again, it’s odd. Finally, there’s a point where Godzilla knocks Kiryu off his feet and Kiryu goes flying headfirst into a building, but Kiryu is moving parallel to the ground in a very unnatural to physics kind of way. It’s disorientingly odd. But there are great parts. At one point Kiryu is just hammering Godzilla with blows, really wailing on the guy, missiles go flying repeatedly in this film, the military vehicles feel potent despite being powerless against Godzilla, and they do a great job of contrasting Godzilla’s slow, leviathan like movements with Kiryu’s super robot, mega jet bursts agility. Like I said, it’s not amazing, but it’s better than some films, and the good still cancels out the bad.
All in all, it’s an alright film. I don’t like it as much as I used to, and it’s got some very obvious flaws, but I still enjoyed it. I give it a 3.5/5. It’s not a must see, but if you’re a fan of Mechagodzilla or if you’re up for a viewing cause you’re curious, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.