Friday, January 19, 2024

Goji Watch: Godzilla against Mechagodzilla (2002)

Watched:  01/18/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Second
Director:  Masaaki Tezuka
Selection:  definitely me

Mostly, I watched this movie because, for Christmas, my brother gave me a MechaGodzilla which has been staring at me all day, every day, from below my work monitor since Jan. 2.

also, his lil' friend Gad gave me, and the Super 7 Shogun G

Anyway, somehow, inexplicably, I'd had MechaGodzilla on the brain of late.  

At the start of the COVID lockdown, Jamie and I settled into watching Godzilla movies on a regular basis.  We blasted through them in no particular order, and with minimal context.  Back in May of 2020, we checked out Godzilla against Mechagodzilla (2002).  My memory, without re-reading the post first, was that we'd liked it a lot.  And, upon a revisit, that was still true.

There's an oddly mournful tone to the movie.  As part of the Millennium series, it ignored the prior films except Gojira from 1954, an events that had taken place decades prior and was remembered well in Japan, especially as Mothra and other films were in continuity - the Japanese privately feeling that perhaps Japan was cursed.  

Our focal characters are a member of the military who is being held responsible for the deaths of multiple people during a Godzilla's first re-appearance in 45 years despite the fact she is actually not responsible anymore than she's responsible for Godzilla at all - oh, and she's a friendless orphan.  The other two are a widowed scientist and his charming, precocious daughter who lugs around a houseplant she thinks carries her mother's spirit.  

By the way, there's no explanation for why there's a second Godzilla, there just is.  So stop asking.

Following the attack, Japan's government scoops up the bones of 1954 Godzilla from the sea floor and uses them as an armature to build their Mechagodzilla upon, and to create essentially a quantum computer using OG-G's DNA to run the thing.

Turns out our sad orphan is the best option to drive MechaG, and is key to the team.  However - whoopsie - upon Godzilla's next rampage, we find that Godzilla 1954 is now a ghost in the machine who takes over MechaG, and goes on a rampage through Tokyo.  

It's fantastic.

Somehow, no one loses their jobs, and they try again, rerouting the whatzits so the ghost can't take over again.  Our hero needs to take manual control of MechaG, climbing into a cockpit, and speaks to the ghost of OG-G, and, thus, together they beat NuGodzilla.  Sort of.  Enough so that we get a loose sequel in Tokyo S.O.S., which is also super fun.  

There's a lot here about "hey, maybe we need to respect all lives, and all lives matter, including monster ghosts and orphan pilots".  

The practical FX are top notch and the digital FX have their charm, clearly a product of lower budgets, and barely TV worthy by even 2003.  But it lends to a certain texture in the film that 100% works.

I'd be remiss not to mention the Goji suit here, which is the Millennium style, which I think is Jamie's favorite as she wants to tell me quite often how adorable Godzilla is as he's knocking over skyscrapers.  I don't disagree, but I also marvel at the jump in suit quality once you're in the 1990's and especially this era.  Those suits are amazing, and work super well with the VFX overlaid on them, tied to practical lighting, etc...  Ie:  the final fight absolutely kicks ass, delivering on what you were hoping for when you signed up for a movie called Godzilla against Mechagodzilla.

There's some nice camera work - which seems deeply trumped by Godzilla Minus One and Shin Godzilla, but for the era, it's solid, featuring two shots in the denouement that I think are just lovely.

a pilot and her giant ghost-inhabited robot friend

bye, buddy!

The movie stars Yumiko Shaku as Akane Yashiro, our hero.  But most notable to longtime Goji fans are the inclusion of Kumi Mizuno as the Prime Minister of 1999 - who eagle-eyed fans will recall as Miss Namikawa from Invasion of Astro Monster and Daiyo in Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, and  Akira Nakao, who has one of those faces you assume is in every movie you've ever seen.   But you may recognize or remember as the Premier in Tokyo SOS as well, after getting elected in this movie.  And, he's a second Goji alum, appearing as Commander Takaki Aso in three Hesei-era movies, and then as a commander in Godzilla: Final Wars.  

And, because who doesn't love baseball?, the movie has a cameo by Hideki Matsui, whose nickname is "Godzilla".  Fun fact:  I thought Matsui was only with the Yankees, but he played for four MLB teams during his tenure.  Anyway, it's cute and not distracting.  I dug it.

The movie manages to be kid-friendly while also carrying some heavier themes.  Godzilla is definitely the heel in this one, and that's always a good time.  

I wish there were more in the way of JXSDF movies and merch, but I'll take what I can get, I suppose.

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