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DIRECTOR: Masaaki Tezuka RELEASE DATE: December 15, 2002 RATING: PG
CAST: Yumiko Shaku, Shin Takuma, et al.
// review by Jeff

Godzilla is back... to fight a robot... again!

What's all this? ANOTHER Godzilla movie review? Aren't we all tired of these yet? Shouldn't we be discussing some of the greatest films of all time? Citizen Kane! Casablanca! The Wizard of Oz! Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls! Those are the ones worth checking out, not these rehashed plots with men in rubber dinosaur suits! Should I abandon my B-movie roots and head to the big leagues? ...NO WAY! We're here to once again honour that almighty creature from Monster Island, Godzilla! And, after all, Citizen Kane could have been much better with a giant lizard crashing through Charles Foster Kane's Florida resort.

But we are here today to talk about Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, also known as "Godzilla x MechaGodzilla" in Japan. This is not the first film to feature Mechagodzilla; the character first appeared in "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla", which also illustrates that this is not his first encounter with the legendary Godzilla. In fact, they had already grappled twice before Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla came along. But (and this is where I was starting to get a bit confused) this is also not the same Mechagodzilla. Unlike previous ones, this Mechagodzilla was made using actual DNA extracted from the skeleton of the original Godzilla, who had been killed in the first Godzilla movie. Here, Mechagodzilla is a sort of biomechanical experiment called Kiryu. The project succeeds, but during his first battle with Godzilla, Kiryu, being of similar enough genetics to the "new" Godzilla, goes berserk upon hearing that classic roar and realizing what it really wants. He soon starts raging all over Tokyo with missiles flying like mosquitos. Thank goodness he had a short battery life...

The bioengineering team soon find the solution in altering the base DNA so that he forgets all about his (or his DNA's) past. It seems so simple in this movie; they don't spend more than a couple of minutes figuring out how to fix this major flaw. They simply CAN. Heck, there was barely much attention paid to the actual construction of the new Mechagodzilla. It just sort of... happened. Need a giant metal dinosaur? No problem. Can it fire a laser that causes its target to freeze to absolute zero? Yeah, we can do that. Just give us an extra couple of hours... Anyway, once they fixed Kiryu, it was ready to go... until it locked up again and its operator had to hop out and then control the big hunk of junk manually. Might as well use a BlackBerry to fend off Godzilla.

There was a solid amount of Godzilla brawl sequences in this one, much like other movies in the series. Even after almost fifty years, they never fail to excite with a fight. They can even still shock me, such as when Kiryu revealed a sword from its hand (which we never knew it had) and jabs it right into Godzilla. Youch! Painful! The art of creating a Godzilla suit must have improved over the years, as this one is far more menacing than the googly-eyed laughingstocks of the 1970s.

What I didn't like were the flat subplots that filled up time while they built or rebuilt Kiryu. The first involves Kiryu's operator, Ayame Yashiro. She is first shown in a 1999 combat sequence against Godzilla where, in a fit of panic, she accidentally sends a van filled with a couple of innocent passengers into a ravine, where it is crushed by the foot of Godzilla. She is subsequently demoted to a lousy desk job, but later brought back for her former partner and now commander to join the Kiryu Squad. One of her fellow teammates was the brother of a passenger in the van, who berates her and warns everyone else that she is dangerous. She ends up saving his life later on, and they end up accepting each other. All that, I can handle. But the fact that she drones on a lot about being alone and having nobody, as well as BEING nobody, that doesn't really add anything to the story. Of course, the head scientist keeps trying to get her to like him, but he's really awkward. Not as awkward as we feel watching him come up with ridiculous pick-up lines. "So, do you like children?" Oh, you might as well just stop right there, pay for your coffee, and walk away, never turning around for one moment.

Even more irritating is the scientist's daughter, Sara Yuhara. She has some serious range, from being overly happy about coming to stay with her dad at his laboratory base to sitting and moping face down in her only friend, a plant. She spends the vast majority of her appearances in the film doing the latter. After having lost her mother, she's very contemplative about life and worries greatly about what will happen to Kiryu, the mechanical dragon beast. But she spends way too much time being overemotional, and it really slows down the pace of this movie. "Awww, feel sympathy for me." Well, I don't, really. Blame the movie for not setting it up well, but that girl's character was an unpleasant complement to the remainder of the film. She wasn't happy at the end, either. Child depression is assuredly real, but it doesn't belong in a Godzilla movie.

Or maybe I am horribly unfeeling.

Still, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is really entertaining, especially now that we've entered the 21st century and Toho's cinematic prowess has significantly improved. Aside from the occasional unnecessary drama, this is quite an enjoyable experience, though moreso to fans of Godzilla or of monster movies in general. It's definitely one of the more professional-looking films of the series and one that ought to be sought out.


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