Previously, a couple of years ago, I had the privilege of reviewing Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, and it was a hilarious romp through a key aspect of Japanese film culture. One of the first movies to come to mind when I think of Japanese cinema is the Godzilla series. Okay, that would be just about the only thing that comes to mind, unless you include any of those Pokémon films that plagued the theatres years ago. Anyway, the DVD I own that contains Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster actually has a second Godzilla movie on it, entitled "Godzilla vs. Megalon" (or "Gojira tai Megaro" in Japanese). Eventually, I knew that film would come back to haunt me, and today is the day. In this film, Godzilla bears no malice against the human race, just as it was in the previous film. This is contrary to the original premise, when he was considered a menace to the world and needed to be destroyed. He has changed his ways since then, becoming more of a heroic figure to mankind. Now, instead of trying to squash major metropolitan centres, he just spends his time goofing around on Monster Island, watching reruns of "I Love Lucy" and snacking on renegade vermin, until he is summoned to fight against some other equally massive monster to save Tokyo. Considering the total number of times Tokyo is attacked, they must have had a strong economic system there to rebuild the city over and over again... Anyway, enough of my rambling. Let's see what this movie is about.
In a similar vein to the Godzilla movie two years earlier (Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster), this film has a strong environmental message to back it up. Nuclear testing is at fault here, and it's going to cost the humans dearly... perhaps more than they bargained for! And considering that they bargained for nothing at all to happen, my statement is true. The Japanese government has been testing nuclear weapons by detonating them in the Pacific Ocean. Little did they, or anyone for that matter, know, that there was actually a civilization living underwater called Seatopia. Peeved that a third of the Seatopian population has been annihilated due to the effects of the Japanese testing, the emperor of Seatopia has vowed to destroy Tokyo by awakening one of their hidden weapons: the buried sea creature, Megalon! That's going to be rather annoying to deal with. But all the while, a Tokyo inventor, Goro, is having his own set of problems. After successfully building a robot, which he so ingeniously calls "Jet Jaguar", he, as well as Rokuro, his little brother, and Jinkawa, his less-handsome buddy, are attacked after burglars from the Seatopian kingdom ravage the laboratory. They steal Jet Jaguar and use him to guide Megalon to Tokyo. Have no fear, though, because Goro regains control of Jet Jaguar and sends him off to get Godzilla. This is a very confusing story, isn't it? Heck, I didn't even mention that Seatopia finds out about Godzilla's eventual arrival and summons Gigan, another weird creature, to help out Megalon. It's a tag-team melee, but the winner is clear: nuclear testing personnel. Oh yeah.
Take that in. But also take in this little tidbit: this originally was going to be a movie about Jet Jaguar and Megalon only, but Toho decided that Jet Jaguar couldn't fill a movie on his own. So they brought in Godzilla and Gigan to fill in time...and theatre seats! (Didn't quite work as they planned, but oh well. It's too late to complain about THAT.)
The first thing I noticed about this movie is that they brought back that annoying, pain-in-the-ass kid from Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster for another round of incessant whining and useless "Okay" lines. All they did was give him a different name. Oh, don't think for one moment that you have fooled me, Toho! I can tell that it's the same boy. He has a few new lines of interest, though not as many as in the previous film. His best acting moment is when he slides inside a large metal container and hits his head. Classic. Awesome Rokuro quotes include:
"Hey, look! I found some funny powder!"
*various high-pitched struggling grunts*
Rokuro is amazing. The funny thing is that whoever dubbed his voice (and pretty much any other voice in the movie) was speaking through their nose. It's really hard to criticize the Japanese actors, though -- perhaps their acting abilities are quite excellent, but muffled by the practically braindead voiceover work of the American dubbing team. I can, with much justice, proclaim that the actors could not get a chereographed fight scene to look realistic if they tried. When burglars break into the laboratory near the beginning of the film, the others pretty much take the beating with no desire to defend themselves. Even I could rob them. Maybe I should, just to steal a creepy robot. The underwater acting is no better. The leader of Seatopia, pretty much the only person in the movie who is not Japanese, just shouts in short bursts to get things done, followed by throngs of dancing aqualadies boogie-ing down to his every whim. Plus, he wears a toga and sure is hairy.
But if the human actors are unfortunate to watch and listen to, the monsters are pretty damn weird. The suit star of the show, Godzilla, looks like his costume was pasted together in the course of a few hours. Oh, my mistake -- a whole week? That's still pretty sad, considering they already had a plan to follow from the previous movies. Why don't they just keep the costume and re-use it?! Godzilla is really lumpy (in a bubbly way, not as in obese), and his eyes don't move. He always possesses that stunned, "Teacher, I ate all the paste" visage. I guess it doesn't matter much, since he doesn't even really appear until the last quarter of the film or so. I don't need to be impressed with rubber mutated dinosaur suits anyway. Then there's Jet Jaguar. He's a typical poorly-built orange and gray robot with a face as ugly as sin. Now the interesting thing about Jet Jaguar is that the character was actually designed by some elementary school students who submitted a winning entry to a character design contest held by Toho the year prior. The character was set to star in his own film, but again... Jet Jaguar isn't charismatic enough to warrant that. Anyway, Goro seems to have programmed in about twenty thousand functions into this contraption. He can fly, he will always evade humans when they cross paths, he is able to program himself for survival (why would anyone make that a robot function?), and he can GROW to be 50 feet tall (thus defying the laws of just about everything). Goro even made a miniature control transmitter made in case the main computer fails, although it can only be used when in line of sight. Okay, that's probably a wise move. I think the movie would have been a bit better sans Jet Jaguar, but this is something that shall forever plague me.
All is not good in the land of the rising sun, though. On the side of evil is Megalon, and he (or she... as in sheesh) is one seriously ugly crustacean, although I think he may have a bit of roboticism in him or her. He must be some super-deformed prawn, except he has claws... and wings. So basically, it's a creature that has been warped by the hands of nuclear testing, or so I assume. He has a couple more tricks up his sleeve as well. He can fire beams from some crazy crystalline rod in his head, he can hop around (defying gravity in the -- he can catch some wicked air, dawg), and he can spit out crimson rocks that eventually explode. To sum it up, Megalon is your run-of-the-mill psychotic beast on a rampage to destroy Tokyo. Hooray. And as for Gigan, well, that thing is a huge metallic bird with talon claws. I don't know how these fellows get through the day with their lack of hands. How will they pick up a sandwich? I suppose this may have contributed to their eventually downfall; claws do not beat hands. Well, it's also difficult to win when fighting scenes are so ridiculously overblown. Jet Jaguar takes a heck of a lot of punishment and still survives fully intact: they beat him up, set him on fire, and kick him a distance (which causes him to fly off again in a gravity-defying float). What a courageous and easily self-healing robot! If I get poked in the stomach, I'm down for the day, but he takes quite a beating. The quick fight scenes are often far too up-close, so I can't see exactly what happens all the time. There's too much slow motion fighting, which is unusual and unbelievable (as if any of it was). Godzilla movies -- or at least ones made in the 1970s -- can't get good battle scenes down. I've come to one simple conclusion: the brawling in this move is just like wrestling, except that this is more real.
There is some other weird stuff in this movie, too. (This may become more like a brief miscellaneous rant.) You would think, for example, that a high-speed chase would require serious music. On the contrary, my friend! Instead, it has the most upbeat background music in the entire movie: trippy hippie rock! That's how I want to drive during a chase: sounding stoned like a wall. I guess it's a welcome change, considering how forgettable the rest of the music is. At least when music is playing, the damn kid isn't saying much. The final theme song, dedicated to Jet Jaguar, is also pretty irritating. It's entirely in Japanese (that's not the undesirable part), but they call him "Jet Jagar". Get it right, or don't get it at all. I also enjoyed when Megalon started thrashing through Tokyo. The camera cuts to Megalon smashing a highway... and you can tell it's made of cardboard, not to mention the Hot Wheels car on there. Way to go, special effects crew! You screwed up THAT shot. Finally, when Jet Jaguar goes to get Godzilla from Monster Island, how do the two communicate? Jet Jaguar doesn't speak any human language... was he programmed with mutant lizardspeak instead? Oh, that Goro...
I also could have sworn that one of the main characters was drinking Fanta...
Although the visual and audio quality is poor (at least on my DVD version), there is definitely some entertainment value to be had here. If you like big budget, Hollywood-style films like the ones you can easily find in any theatre nowadays, don't bother with Godzilla vs. Megalon. You'll find it cheesy and uninteresting. This movie is for people who actually ENJOY cheesy and uninteresting movies. I guess I qualify under that title, because there's a childish charm that very few movies possess. Godzilla has warmed my heart, just as he did in Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster. ...Okay, the film's not perfect, but it beats anything with the title "_____ Movie". Awww.