Okay, I'm about to sound blasphemous to some of you, but I think Godzilla X Mechagodzilla is one of the best Godzilla movies of any era of the series. Every time I watch this movie, like GMK, I have to go from start-to-finish because I'm intrigued by what I consider to be a fast-paced, well-constructed science fiction yarn, with all the bells and whistles of what a classic Godzilla story should be, which is fast and loose human drama that is strong enough to stand on its own, but does not function in any other way than to service the monster drama.
Consider a few points, if you will:
a) After the dissmal box-office receipts of Godzilla X Megaguirus, Toho atleast acknowledged that in first-time director Masaaki Tezuka, they had a man with a genuine passion and respect for the Godzilla legacy, who was willing to adhere to the basic formula of that legacy with zest and youthful exhuberance, if not with a totally original concept with which to move the series forward. GXM is imperfect, to be sure, but it still shows promise. Still, Toho had to get the series back on track at the box-office. Enter, Shusuke Kaneko (and Hamutaro, but let's not go there lol!), a well-practiced and renowned filmmaker of Japanese fantasy features who had always wanted to make a Godzilla movie. Giant Monsters All-Out Attack is almost universally regarded as technically one of the better Godzilla movies in the series, and there's no doubt that Tezuka was atleast aware of what he had to compete with, in the event that Toho would call upon him in the future. Anyway, GMK was a hit (or what Toho considers to be a hit), but producer Tomiyama feels that Kaneko's take, while still really good, is just a bit too...not what he was looking for. Enter, Masaaki Tezuka.
b) Over the past two decades, Toho has considered it a tradition to release all of their kaiju eiga every December, in an effort to cash in on the holiday movie season (are the holidays the prime releasing season for movies in Japan?). One movie a year, every year, and have it done by December. Now, that's nothing compared to the Toho of the sixties, where Honda, Tsuburaya and co. were bangin' out 3-4 monster movies a year, but I digress. For the most part, the filmmakers tapped to make Toho's Godzilla films are either talented amateurs (Kazuki Omori), old-school professionals with no mind for newer technologies (Koichi Kawakita) or contract company men, who are only counted on to follow the basic formula, make Godzilla and the other monsters the main attraction, a produce popular entertainment (Takao Okawara). Best case scenario, they all "stick to the script", while still remaining in awe of Godzilla and friends. Worse case scenario, they're all hacks. In any event, Toho's "tradition" of time and budgetary constraints doesn't help them any, and while I still enjoy the Heisei series for what they are, I think all of us here are in agreement that they leave much to be desired.
Now, against that kind of back-drop, I say again, "Enter Masaaki Tezuka". If nothing else, you have to give this guy credit for holding the classics in such holy reverence, because it shows in all three of his Godzilla movies. I think he was really motivated to make one hell of a Godzilla movie, and atleast to me, the proof is in the pudding. The opening prologue is absolutely incredible, and one of the finest showcases for Godzilla that I've ever seen. The homages to Showa movies are all handled affectionately, they're well-integrated into the story and the effects sequences, and if you're not a fan of the series, you wouldn't know the difference anyway. You can tell that Tezuka had a hand in framing the script here, because all of the human drama elements are molded in such a way that you care about these characters and their situations, but before they're allowed to bore the hell out of you, we're on to the next scene. Tezuka gets you in, establishes the basis of their plight, and then gets you out with great economy. This if, afterall a monster movie, and everything works in service of that. I love how this story is framed and paced. To use a quote by film critic, Rudy Belhmer "the thing moves like gang-busters".
The special effects and specifically the cinematography in this movie are, I think, the best in any Godzilla movie. I am by no means a fan of this Godzilla suit, but it photographs really well, and the overall execution is almost second-to-one. The scene were Godzilla is perfectly still while Kiryu fires on him is extemely odd, and doesn't work, I admit. I don't know why Eichi Asada thought that was a good idea, but it's so fleeting, I'm willing to over-look it. Godzilla retreating from his first encounter with Kiryu, however was a HUGE gamble on the part of the filmmakers. The only two explanations I can come with are these: Even though Godzilla is still this destructive force of nature, perhaps they were still trying to convey that he is also, afterall, just an animal that doesn't want to fight all the time (it doesn't gell). Secondly, I think Tezuka was just looking for a way out of that part of the sequence, so he could get to the real point of it, which was Kiryu going on a rampage, which I must say I always get great joy out of seeing. this may not be Teruyoshi Nakano's original bad-ass of a Mechagodzilla, but it's still an inspired creation, and seeing any incarnation of a mechanical Godzilla lay waste to some serious real-estate is a treat, and in this instance, it's capped off by a brilliant shot of Kiryu walking through a building before his energy supply is depleted.
I could go on-and-on about Godzilla X Mechagodzilla, about how in Michiro Ooshima, they finally found a composer who gets it, the way Akira Ifukube did, how some of the more stylized cgi work, such as the "tail-spin" during the final battle is in keeping with one of the most basic traditions of the "tokusatsu" method of effects work (make it believable, but also make it fun to look at) and how even though Godzilla pretty much gets his a** handed to him in two of Tezuka's three outings, I respect his courage in doing so. But unfortunately, I have to get to work. So I'll leave you with this: in Godzilla X Mechagodzilla I see a creative burst of energy from one, Masaaki Tezuka that, even if it doesn't advance the series in any new directions, it atleast reinforces the fact that the films it draws its inspiration from where that much more incredible, and subsequently deserving of the tribute they receive here. This is one that I think would make the founding fathers of Godzilla very proud.
Yeah, I like it THAT much.
"EVERYONE FORGET YOUR TROUBLES! ENJOY YOURSELVES!THERE'S NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT!" - Gigantis The Fire Monster
"It was HUGE...It was...IT WAS LIKE A MONSTER!!! Suddenly the rocks rose...ALIVE!" - Godzilla 1985