Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is the fourth Godzilla film in the "millenium era" that started with Godzilla 2000. It is the second Godzilla movie by director Masaaki Tezuka, after his previous (and relatively unimpressive) GODZILLA X MEGAGUIRUS, and this entry retreads a lot of ground covered by that movie. So much that it's plot could be considered a remake of GXMegaguirus only with Mechagodzilla. After the first Godzilla that attacked japan in 1954, there have been attacks by other giant monsters prompting the formation of the Anti Megalosaurus Force (AMF), an elite tactical unit given sci fi technology and tasked with fending off such attacks. A failed sortie against a new Godzilla in 1999 had prompted Japan To use the bones of the previous Godzilla to create Kiryu, a titanic robot in the form of Godzilla: a Mechagodzilla.
Equipped with missiles, beam weapons and the dangerous "absolute zero" freeze cannon, Kiryu is a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately their first battle awakens the memories of the Godzilla whose remains form a part of Kiryu and the giant robot causes just as much damage as the monster it was designed to stop. While awaiting the next attack, the AMF scrambles to ensure Kiryu is able to remain in control.
It's similarity to GXMegaguirus comes in not just the setup of a deadly uncontrollable new weapon that leads to more trouble than it is worth, but also the characters. The 2 main characters are Akane Yashiro, a soldier and survivor of the failed 1999 sortie racked with guilt and vowing revenge against Godzilla, and Tokumitsu Yuhara, an optimistic jokey scientist who helped with the creation of Kiryu.
Both of them are rehashed from the characters in GXMegaguirus Kiriko Tsujimori and Hajime Kudo, complete with the scientist trying to get friendly with the cold and distant soldier. Fortunately, the character development here is more gradual and the characters themselves more likable than Director Tezuka's prior efforts.
The addition of Tokumitsu's daughter and her bond within Akane gives the soldier an emotional anchor to slowly warm up to. Akane's character arc of at first being looked down upon by fellow teammates but slowly winning over their respect to be treated as an equal mirrors a very real challenge women in male dominant professions continue to face.
The overall tale is much more focused on the human characters with a very pro-humanist slant. Godzilla himself is devoid of personality, reduced to merely being "generic threat to humanity", an obstacle that a country can overcome through unity, dedication and ingenuity.
It is decidedly more in the "feel good" category as compared to the more nihilistic GODZILLA, MOTHRA, KING GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL OUT ATTACK. Depending on one's taste, this could be seen as an improvement over something that was too dark or as a step backward into more idealistic "happy and kid friendly" territory.
A more objective improvement is in the special effects. Miniatures of the buildings, vehicles and city are breathtakingly detailed. Green screen effects are also more polished than what came before.
However with detail comes a trade off, and that can be seen in the monsters themselves. The well crafted giant monsters move very stiffly; melee fights consists of awkward flailing or pushing or hugging each other while pyrotechnics go off behind them.
Director Tezuka tried to get around these limitations by enhancing the footage with CGI and filming in a certain style involving over the top feats. This all only adds to the often cartoony feel of the battles like one scene when Mechagodzilla flies at full speed to tackle Godzilla away. Mechagodzilla comes to a complete stop upon hitting Godzilla and just stands there while Godzilla is sent careening into the distance. It is like something out of Looney Tunes!
Like Kiryu of the story, GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA is not without some kinks. For all it's good special effects, characters and themes, you have the cartoony battles, the often over the top acting, and the cliche ridden story that we have seen twice already.
For me, I found it very entertaining despite its shortcomings. It is a competent movie and while I did prefer something darker, I do appreciate the entertainment value of this one.
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