In the early 2000s, Toho got scared of having non-big monsters battle Godzilla on the big screen, so they decided to go back into a comfort zone, and the 2002 release of “Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla” definitely shows this. While there is nothing truly wrong with using MechaGodzilla again, as the mechanical titan was definitely used cleverly, it just went on to show how Toho was more concerned with a profit than originality.
In fact, that is the whole problem with this movie, it is quite unoriginal. Yes, it does have original pieces in it, but taken as a whole, Toho played this one safe. The plot revolves around a female officer who accidentally causes the death of her team mates and she blames herself for it. She acts like an outcast and turns off all emotions she has in her acting ability, creating a robotic bland character that we just saw done two years prior. That is right, there seems to be no difference between Akane and “Godzilla vs. Megaguirus’” Tsujimori outside of one looking more famished than the other. Even the plot of the movie feels like they were redoing Megaguirus to make it a better movie and replaced the Dimension Tide with MechaGodzilla, or Kiryu as they call him, and removed the pointless insect monsters. On the positive side, they did a much better job of building up this movie’s universe in the beginning as instead of making it is own thing. We learn that other Toho kaiju movies are part of the time line here, and that really helps establish it to make it familiar rather than foreign. It makes Godzilla’s resurgence in 1999 feel more realistic even though the movie could have spent a good 20 minutes building up to the monster’s attack. Nevertheless, the first quarter of the movie does a great job introducing the rules of their world and what the problems are. It is also interesting that they want to use the skeletal remains of the original Godzilla as the basis for developing a brand new super robot to defeat Godzilla. There is a lot of potential brought to the table here and unfortunately, the second half of the movie fails to deliver on it.
The plot itself is not bad, it is just a seen it before scenario. The characters are good, but again, we have seen these characters done before, but better. The father/daughter relationship between Tokumitsu and Sara feels like they were trying to recapture the one done in “Godzilla 2000,” but it feels forced here. Sara hardly emits any emotion that does not feel like she is just reading her lines while her father is just another stereotypical nervous scientist type. The romantic subplot between Tokumitsu and Akane just seems to come out nowhere, as there is never anything to establish why Tokumitsu is in love with her. Like always, there is also some impetuous brat character who hates Akane but then has a change of heart when she rescues him. Feeling grateful for her saving him is one thing, but for his entire personality to change towards her in mere seconds is just over done. There should have been some type of build up with him moving on with his grudge, but the movie is too short to even care. In fact, that is this movie’s biggest problem, it is trying to tell too much in too short of a running time. The movie either should have focused on the pilots OR the scientists, not both.
Another issue with the plot is Godzilla. As previously mentioned, Godzilla is just thrown onto the screen too quickly and then gone before anyone could really get a sense of dread the monster is supposed to represent. Yes, they use the original’s attack as the backbone for the story, but that does not help establish why this new Godzilla is that big of a deal. It also feels convenient that Godzilla appears that one time and then never comes back for another three and a half years when Kiryu has been completed. There just seems to be something missing. Of course, given that this Godzilla will just stand still like a statue as he is being pummeled by missiles and things, he does not seem to be as intelligent as those portrayed in the previous movies. In fact, that is the main problem with this Godzilla, he is too artificial. The bones used in Kiryu’s body has more life than this Godzilla. The costume used for Godzilla is fine, as is a newer version of the 2000 suit but with the bone colored spines we are used to and the blue atomic breath. There are really no complaints to be had on his overall design.
Kiryu’s design is well done with the piping, wires, fossilized teeth of the original Godzilla between all of the metal work. This is actually my favorite design between the three versions of MechaGodzilla. The Showa era’s one is a little too busy while the Heisei one was too bulky with not enough details. Here, they seemed to have finally found a perfect balance between the two to create a monster that looks ferocious and efficient. The Absolute Zero Cannon was a good idea in concept, but vastly over powered, hence why it was used on twice during battle. Another good idea, but also used sparingly, was the weapons pack on Kiryu’s back. This was obviously designed off of the idea from the Garuda in the Heisei era, but it seemed like wasted potential as it was destroyed with ease and barely used. Finally, the best part about Kiryu was the idea of using the original Godzilla’s skeleton as the base for his creation. It was nice to see something done with the remains of the original rather than it just being talked about.
The effects in the movie are also a mixed bag. The sets the monsters battles on are really well done, as is the military weaponry. However, the CGI in this movie is terrible. I do not understand why Toho did not just show the footage of the original Godzilla being destroyed by the Oxygen Destroyer, as I bet it had cost more to produce that ugly CGI scene. Speaking of bad scenery though, as I mentioned above, there are times when Godzilla just stands around as he is being shot at. It looks bad and I just don’t understand what was going on. Did the suit actor fall asleep while those scenes were being filmed? I have seen videos on Youtube that have more realistic effects than that. Thankfully, the movie’s score is done incredibly well as a bad score could have made the movie unwatchable. The Godzilla theme from “Godzilla vs. Megaguirus” is back, which is a good thing as I really enjoy Oshima’s Godzilla theme.
Overall, there is so much to love about this movie, and yet, there is so much to hate. The plot is cookie cutter, but the concepts surroundings it are well done. The characters are unoriginal, and yet, their motivations are there. The effects are bad, but the monster battles themselves are fine. Past movies build upon this universe, while the dread of a new Godzilla has little impact. Godzilla stands around like a lifeless doll, Kiryu moves around like an organic monster. Everything this movie does positively has a negative counterpart to go with it. The positives gets a 10, but the negatives get a 0, cutting the score in half. As such, I have no choice but to give this movie a 5/10.