Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. : 80% / 100%
Review by MistoNinja
In a sentence: The conclusion to the visually-dazzling Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla follows suit with exciting action sequences and scrumptious special effects, though the story disappoints."
It's been two years since Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla arrived in Japanese theaters. While its visuals far surpassed anything previously seen in a Godzilla movie, save perhaps America's monstrosity known to hardcore kaiju eiga fans only as G.I.N.O. (Godzilla in name only), it's story was a tad on the shallow side. The best Godzilla movies are those that provide an entertaining experience with a side of deeper meaning conveyed through strong symbolism, such as the original Godzilla versus Mothra. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla left off on a semi-cliffhanger: While Kiryu (aka Mechagodzilla) was able to repel Godzilla, it had not won the battle, and Godzilla retreated back into the ocean to recuperate.
Tokyo S.O.S. picks up soon after the first film's conclusion, leaving enough time for Kiryu to be mostly repaired. We learn in the first film that Kiryu was constructed through the bones of the original Godzilla, defeated in the mid-1950s by Dr. Serizawa's oxygen destroyer. At Tokyo S.O.S.'s beginning, we learn that Mothra has decided to involve herself once again in Tokyo's kaiju affairs, and its twins, now known as fairies despite an utter lack of fairy-like characteristics, contact Dr. Shujo. They bestow upon him a warning that Mothra will not stand for the bones of the deceased being used, citing that nature's laws are to be obeyed. Mothra promises to do battle with Godzilla, but only under the condition that Kiryu is dismantled and returned to the ocean. Naturally, the Japanese Defense Force will not sacrifice its prime kaiju-battling monster, and the warnings go unheeded. Despite this, Mothra does battle with Godzilla, even along side Kiryu at one point. Talk about empty promises.
This is only one dissatisfying gliche out of several in this movie, however. Perhaps the worst of which is the film's characterization: It insists on introducing several characters that have relationships with each other, but all of them are about as deep as a puddle. This is even more frustrating as most of the cast of Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is completely discarded without any reason whatsoever. That's not to say that those characters were particularly interesting either, but they were quite a bit more developed by the film's conclusion, unlike the stale cardboard cutouts we get in Tokyo S.O.S. In fact, Tokyo S.O.S. takes a little piss in our eyes when it dangles the previous movie's Kiryu pilot - a much better character than any of the new ones - in front of us, only to pull her away to go for "special training" in the U.S. Compounding this problem, they ruin the character by giving her a single incredibly awkward scene that exemplifies a not-so-subtle attraction to Mechagodzilla. The new characters in Tokyo S.O.S. are utter garbage that dance relationship waltzes that have absolutely no impact on the audience. Why oh why didn't they bring back the cast from the previous movie (Save for the Kiryu-fetish pilot)? It should also be mentioned that for unfathomable reasons, there are a couple of Japanese-produced sequences involving English actors. These scenes go far beyond abysmal, with each of these actors falling well under the Keanu Reeves line, and the consistancy is appalling. For instance, various sailors on a battleship all have different accents, setting off a wild question mark in audience's minds.
As previously mentioned, the high-powered special effects are the movie's crowning achievements. In the first 10 minutes of the film, we're treated to a very well-done minature chase sequence in the clouds between two fighter jets and Mothra, a mere foreshadowing of things to come. Every action sequence is charged with dazzling effects, especially for a kaiju movie. But for once, save for the man in the rubber suit, these effects actually equal some finer CG-effects in other movies. One standout scene occurs when Godzilla lays absolute waste to a certain monster with his trademark breath attack, causing it to burst into brilliant flames. Delightful, to say the least.
Yet even with strong effects supporting them, the action scenes are not without flaw. Apparently, the rubber suits are none too acrobatic, and it shows. There are several points in the movie where Godzilla or Kiryu are knocked down, yet the movie cuts awkwardly from a standing-up shot to being straight on the ground, a flaw that is both jarring and unprofessional.
While Tokyo S.O.S. does an immense job of cleaning up the action sequences - a flaw that often plagues kaiju cinema -, it loses sight of perhaps the most important aspect: symbolism. Godzilla was originally created as a big ol' symbol for atomic weaponry, though such an idea has fallen to the wayside in this movie. Instead, Tokyo S.O.S. rehashes Mothra's trademark "Don't mess with nature," message to an incredibly shallow degree. Instead of letting audiences discover such ideas for themselves, Tokyo S.O.S. hits you over the head with obvious dialogue that gives you a hurl in the right direction rather than just a slight nudge. The movie dabbles in a slight cautionary message in regards to technology as Kiryu once again flies off the handle, though in the end it amounts to very little.
Still, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is by no stretch of the imagination a bad movie. Rather, its just a bit typical of kaiju cinema. It harkens back to the late Showa series of Godzilla films with its blatant disregard for decent characterization and shallow plot, focusing instead on cash-in action sequences. Yet in this regard, Tokyo S.O.S. succeeds: its action sequences are very well-done for the most part. It proves to be an entertaining though empty experience; a Rush Hour compared to a Hero.
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