The 1970s was such an odd decade for Japanese entertainment. Super hero special effects shows really took a boom thanks to people like Shotaro Ishinomori, who created Kamen Rider and Super Sentai. As such, Godzilla also became more of a child friendly hero than he had ever been previous. Two of the movies had Godzilla rescuing people from his enemies while a third had a statue of him built for a children’s amusement park. It seemed like Godzilla’s days as being a monster were numbered, at least until the fourth movie in this decade came out.
“Godzilla vs. Mecha Godzilla” is a movie that many people adored, but at the same time, it started to show that Toho’s pool of ideas was draining. Over the years Godzilla had faced an anklosaurus, a pteranadon, a three headed dragon type flying monster, a giant moth, lobster, spider, mantis, a cyborg creature with hooks for hands, a giant walking piece of poop, and an enormous cockroach. This time, Godzilla faced none other than a robot version of himself. Whether or not this was the best idea Toho could come up with or not is unknown, but in concept, it is just very cliché. Japan always tends to have their heroes fight an evil robot counterpart and Godzilla was no exception to this. Fortunately, it did not take away from the movie at all, and in fact, is one of the better Godzilla movies from the Showa era.
The plot starts out with a priestess making a prediction that a monster is going to attack Japan and then Godzilla shows up to fulfill that prophecy. As it turns out, this Godzilla is actually a robotic clone in disguise and after brutally battling Anguirus and Godzilla, his windows programming stops working and he is recalled. The movie centers around six main characters, but only half of them are really developed while the rest are just there out of circumstance. There is an archaeologist, a mysterious man in black, an all knowing professor, his daughter, and two brothers, one who finds a strange metal and the other discovers the cave with that tells a prophecy about two monsters saving Japan from destruction. None of them are bad characters at all, it is just that there seem to be too many for a movie that is as fast paced as this one. It also seems like someone at Toho watched Planet of the Apes too many times, as the aliens turn into apes when they die. At least it is a step up from cockroaches.
Now what does not make sense is the Azumi priest. At the beginning of the movie, he is distraught that a monster is going to attack Japan. Later, he is upset that they cannot find the key to awakening King Ceasar but then immediately praises the destruction of Japan by Godzilla. At the end of the movie, he is blaming Saeko and Masahiko for taking the key out of its resting place as they were unable to wake King Ceasar up to save Japan. If they did not know where the key was, and he was happy to know Godzilla was going to destroy Japan, why was he mad for Saeko bringing them the key that was recently dug up and wanted King Ceasar to save Japan? This just does not make sense. Either he suffers from multiple personality disorder or this is just a bad translation of everything he says throughout the movie.
Nevertheless, the pacing is pretty good and keeps the movie rolling at a fast speed. It knows when it needs to give the viewer time to breath and when it is time to bring in the action. The story itself is straight forward, but has a sense of mystery about it as it contains elements of espionage and those of sci-fi. The villains may be aliens, but that seems to just be the reasoning behind them being able to create Mecha Godzilla more than anything else as we are never quite clearly told as to why they want to destroy Japan, they just do. Unfortunately, this also makes them hard to even care about as they aren’t likable, but there is no reason to hate them either. They just exist, simple as that. Either the writers were too lazy to come up with a backstory for them or they just figured it would get in the way of the pacing. Hopefully it is the later.
Four monsters make their presents known throughout the movie, two of which are brand new. Anguirus feels out of place here, as the movie starts off with him under the ocean and then when he does appear twenty minutes into the movie, he is beaten with ease and never heard from again. While the reasoning for him to be here is lost on me, it is cool to see this monster again, even if it is just to watch him get beaten again. It seems like Toho really hated this guy during the 70’s, but since it seems to be the same costume he has had since “Destroy All Monsters,” it must have been easy to just throw on and use for a few minutes of the movie. Maybe Toho’s intention was to shock the audience as to why Anguirus is attacking Godzilla just like it did with Professor Miyajima, but when your movie is called “Godzilla vs. Mecha Godzilla,” the watcher is going to know that this monster is NOT the real Godzilla. Speaking of Mecha Godzilla, his design is well done. He has a nice gray finish that makes him look like a robot, the face is done well, and he is full of details. The problem is, he is a little too busy. There is too much going on with him that it makes it hard to focus on one part of his body. He does a have good arsenal selection, and from an effects point of view, it is pretty cool to watch him shoot off everything he has at one time. Unfortunately, it doe still detract from his overall design.
Surprisingly, the highlight monster of the movie is King Ceasar though. He is something new and interesting, and it is a shame Toho never did anything him again after this. King Ceasar should have gotten his own film at least once after this. His design is well done as he looks like a Chinese lion and there is quite a bit of mythology surrounding this character and the Azumi. Finally, there is Godzilla, who still has the awful costume from the previous movie. Thankfully they fixed his face. The face is still far from what it used to be in the earlier movies, but the new eyes do make him look a little bit meaner like he is supposed to be. I just love the scene when he enters the final battle against his robotic doppelganger as he has this look that he is going to kill anything that gets in his way.
The effects of the movie are decent, but are obviously rushed as wires are easily noticeable, especially on Anguirus and King Ceasar, and shadows can be scene against the backdrop during the first battle between Godzilla and Mecha Godzilla. They do weaken from the immersion of the movie as a lot of times, they are something that could have been hidden if more care was put into it. The other piece of distraction is the blood in this movie. Gore just seems to gush out of the aliens like it is lava coming out of a volcano. It also does this again when Godzilla is bleeding during the final battle. The movie’s effects are at its best when it is Mecha Godzilla shooting off his weapons.
Overall, this movie is pretty good because it does have a lot of monster action, some good character, a rocking soundtrack, and decent effects. I give it a 6/10 as there are things that do not make sense and there is a lack of character development. Nevertheless, this movie is easily the best Godzilla movie the 70s have to offer.