Friday, May 15, 2020
Kaiju Watch: Godzilla - Tokyo SOS (2003)
Viewing: second or third
Director: Masaaki Tezuka
This Godzilla film is a direct sequel, sort of, to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. But in the tradition of Godzilla movies, the humans in the foreground are not the same as those in the prior film, minus a cameo and a return of the same Premier of Japan.
This one follows up, basically, with the rebuilding of Kiryu - the Mechagodzilla built by humans to protect Japan - smartly made from the bones and DNA of 1954 Godzilla. The flight team from the prior film is shipped off for additional training and so we get a new flight crew.
Mothra appears for the first time in 40 years, followed quickly by the Faeries tagging up with Dr. Chujo, who was in the 1961 Mothra film. The Faeries, who pretty much always lay out what has to happen for a Toho movie to end, appear and say Godzilla 1954's bones must be put back in the sea and not mucked about with. Mothra will protect Japan is Japan will please return Godzilla to the sea.
They do not. Which, of course, draws New-Godzilla out of the ocean to stomp around.
For my dollar, this is a pretty solid Godzilla film and it makes so. much. more. sense. once you've seen Godzilla Against MechaGdozilla. I understood the movie on my previous viewing, but a lot of it felt like shorthand. The two together make for a better whole, if not entirely a challenger for best movie ever.
The plot of young Chujo going from true-believer in MechaGodzilla (even in the face of magical faeries and Mothra in his backyard) is a simple enough line to follow, and actually works with the overall plot in a way that Godzilla himself can ignore Chujo (sort of) but the Godzilla plot meshes with the human plot of the film, making the whole more satisfying. And, it all leaves plenty of room for the Godzilla battle to rage across Tokyo while the balls set in motion, character-wise, play out.
The FX on this one are interesting. As it takes place in Tokyo, we're back to models of streets and cars, and you can understand why many of the films try to place Godzilla fights in less densely populated areas. CG was coming in at this point, but the puppetry is also very good, so it's a fascinating mix of what was going on at the time. Example: Godzilla's atomic breath is really pretty cool looking here as it catches and then blasts from his mouth. But you can simultaneously feel the sense of "man in suit" from time to time with the high quality lenses and film grade.
I sort of wish they'd kept on with this line of films and the JXSDF to keep some focus, but it wasn't meant to be.