Friday, March 20, 2009

The Great Unwatched: Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)

Director: Masaaki Tezuka

Runtime: 88 minutes

I must be in a kaiju state of mind. Actually, I was having a really craptacular day yesterday and I needed to clean the apartment (partly as therapy, but mostly because my place would embarrass a college freshman in its squalor), so giant monster fights were good for checking in and out as I worked. One of the nice things about the so-called "Millenium series" of Godzilla films is that they tend to be standalone stories, sequels to the original 1954 film but no other Godzilla films (although they are also occasionally connected a few of the non-Godzilla films from the 1950s and 60s). Without a lot of heavy continuity to worry about, you can jump right into the story, such as it is, something you can't really say about the Heisei series of the 1990s.

I picked Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, despite the fact that it wasn't on this month's list, because it has the second-highest rating of all Godzilla films on the IMDb, bested only by the original Gojira. It's easy to see why. I actually didn't get that much cleaning done, because I was really drawn into the story here. For one thing, they admit (as not every Godzilla movie has) that the original monster who trashed Tokyo in 1954 was definitively killed; the Big G here is an entirely different creature. In fact, the utter destruction of Original Flavor Godzilla is a plot point. The Japanese government has retrieved the skeleton and built a weaponized Godzilla robot to deal with the giant lizard threat. The mecha, named "Kiryu," is piloted by Akane (Yumiko Shaku), who is trying to prove herself after a moment of panic in an earlier battle with Godzilla caused the deaths of several of her fellow soldiers. Her second chance is made more difficult because Kiryu's bones seem have a memory -- a memory of rampage.

The effects, while cheesy, were still light years beyond the standard "suit-mation" antics of the 1960s. Godzilla's still a guy in a lizard costume, but it's a fairly intricate rig now, with extra work put in to make it look very very menacing. The monster battles are backed by CGI (kaiju movies are one area of film where CGI support is more than welcome) and although it's not completely dazzling in terms of technical prowess, it's used fairly effectively.

Action sequences are fairly kinetic for the most part, with a bare minimum of "monster standing still in order to accept attack" moments that have been hallmarks of past kaiju flicks. Tezuka doesn't let the film drown in the human element -- it spices up the non-Godzilla scenes, but he knows why we're here. We want to see giant monsters destroy things and there is plenty of that. As Godzilla movies go, this is one of the best.

Worth the Purchase: Yes.

Stats: 26/401 movies watched in twenty-three days.
Currently Projected Completion Date: February 13, 2010
Completion Date Goal: February 25, 2010

1 comment:

Robert Ring said...

Have this in my Netflix stack at home. Can't wait to watch it now. Will do so tonight.