Japanese release title: Godzilla X Mechagodzilla (i.e., "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla")
U.S. release date: March 24, 2004 by Tri-Star Video.
Japanese audience attendance: Approx. 1,500,000
Director: Masaaki Tezuka
Screenplay: Wataru Mimura
Sfx: Yuichi Kikuchi
Musical score: Michiru Oshima
U.S. version available on home video from Tri-Star Video.
In the year 1999, following a violent typhoon, Godzilla comes ashore at Tateyama, in the Chiba Prefecture. This is Godzilla's second appearance in Japan [on this timeline], having attacked and decimated Tokyo back in 1954 until the kaiju was annihilated by Dr. Daisuke Serizawa's deadly weapon known as the Oxygen Destroyer (whose workings are now lost forever due to Serizawa's suicide). This "new" Godzilla appears to have re-formed himself from the radioactive cellular material left over from the skeletal remains of the "original" Godzilla over the course of the past 45 years.
As later revealed in the film, Japan was attacked by other dai kaiju between 1954 and 1999, specifically by Mothra in 1961 and by Gaila in 1966. To deal with these periodic but highly destructive kaiju incursions, the Japanese government worked on developing highly advanced energy-based weaponry, which included the Atomic Heat Cannon used (unsuccessfully) against Mothra and culminated in the invention of the maser tanks, which were used (successfully) against Gaila a few years later. By 1966, the maser tanks were part of an elite military unit known as the Anti-Megalosaurus Force (AMF), exclusively designed to defend the island nation against dai kaiju, and the unit successfully defeated Gaila during its initial outing that year [in the English dialogue from the American version, Mothra was incorrectly explained as having been spawned by atomic radiation and destroyed by the atomic heat weapon; instead, she simply returned to Infant Island upon recovering the Shobijin as recorded in Mothra (1961), much the same as in the Showa timeline, as would be revealed in the next G-film; it was implied in both the Japanese and American versions of the film that the events of the movie War of the Gargantuas (1966) occurred somewhat differently in this timeline than in the Showa timeline, as the second Gargantua, Sanda, apparently never appeared to rescue his "brother" Gaila from the maser tank attack in Chiba].
Due to Godzilla's reappearance in Tateyama in 1999, the AMF was mobilized once again. However, Godzilla proved considerably more resilient than Gaila, and the full spectrum of the formidable military unit's weaponry proved incapable of neutralizing this newer version of the Atomic Titan (partially due to the difficulty of battling the kaiju in the midst of a typhoon). Godzilla roundly defeated the AMF in battle (not helped by the fact that it was determined that the incessant rain of the typhoon weakened the power level of the maser beams by about 70%!), and one of the maser tank pilots in the unit, Akane Yashiro, blamed herself for the death of her commanding officer, whose vehicle was knocked into the path of Godzilla's crushing feet. After causing great destruction in Tateyama, the kaiju returned to the darkness of the sea.
Hoping to prevent another such costly failure on the part of the AMF, the Japanese government resolved to construct the most powerful and advanced anti-Godzilla weapon that their present technology could muster. This project progressed rapidly over the following four years with the discovery of the skeletal remains of the "original" Godzilla…it was decided to combine advanced AMF military and robotics technology with Godzilla's own DNA and skeletal structure to create a greatly powerful cybernetic dai kaiju version of Godzilla himself, who would be under the control of the Japanese government. This was known as the Mecha G Project, and the cyborg kaiju Mechagodzilla, also called MFS-Kiryu, was completed by the year 2003. This project was hastily expedited in anticipation of another attack by the "second" Godzilla, all at the command of Prime Minister Machiko Tsuge.
The technology to cybernetically combine organic material with a robotic exterior was invented by Dr. Tokumitsu Yuhara, who first demonstrated his technical skill on a small scale by building an animated, remote-controlled cybernetic trilobite (this is the second time a trilobite appeared in a G-film; one also appeared in Godzilla, King of the Monsters …those critters who ruled the primordial seas of the Devonian Period have always been quite popular!). Dr. Yuhara was encouraged by his young daughter Sara to take the job with the Japanese government, since he was initially resistant to using his new bio-technology to build a cybernetic weapon of mass destruction. However, the ever-introspective Sara was saddened by the fact that her father's technology and scientific skill with genetic engineering could create a new, bio-mechanized version of Godzilla, but couldn't revive her deceased mother (she died during her second pregnancy, when Sara was four, and Dr. Yuhara was unable to save either his wife or his second child [thanks to correspondant Ken Arromdee for this tidbit of info]).
Upon the completion of the Mecha G project, the result was the powerful cybernetic replica of Godzilla as intended, which would be remote-controlled by a crew in a nearby AMF warplane known as the AC-3 transport craft, and the cyborg would be armed with a variety of advanced missile and maser weaponry, as well as his most powerful weapon, the freeze-producing Absolute Zero Cannon that was mounted in the cyborg kaiju's chest region.
Akane was to be part of the Mecha G crew, but she still hadn't recovered emotionally from her perceived complicity in the death of her commanding officer in the AMF battle against Godzilla a few years earlier. Worse, one of her new teammates was her late commanding officer's brother Hayato, who castigated her for the death of his sibling, thus worsening her feelings of guilt.
However, during the course of the Mecha G Project, Akane met and worked closely with Dr. Yuhara and Sara, and the two provided her with much needed support and encouragement (when Hayato pushed Dr. Yuhara, who tried to defend Akane from the man's taunts, she demonstrated her fighting skills by putting him in a painful jiu jitsu hold). Soon after this, Mechagodzilla was unveiled to the public, and presented as the ultimate answer to protecting Japan from Godzilla. Kiryu was able to battle for up to two hours on stored power, after which he could be remotely recharged.
No sooner was the Mecha G project completed, than Godzilla reappeared and began moving towards Tokyo Bay (talk about precision timing!). Kiryu was promptly launched to counter the Kaiju King's arrival on Japanese soil, with several large cities near Tokyo also being evacuated. As Godzilla came ashore and began wreaking havoc on Tokyo's mainland infrastructure, the AC-3 finally towed Mechagodzilla into the vicinity. Upon first confronting his cybernetic duplicate, Godzilla appeared so taken aback by the confusing sight that he stood transfixed. Taking full advantage of this, the AC-3 crew programmed Kiryu to assault Godzilla with his shoulder-mounted, computer targeted missiles and the cyborg's extra-powerful oral maser beam. Though Godzilla seemed resistant to this barrage, the Kaiju King suddenly turned and began to retreat back to the Pacific Ocean. As Akane, piloting the AC-3, attempted to program Kiryu to strike the retreating Godzilla with his Absolute Zero Cannon, Godzilla suddenly turned and roared in protest. For some strange reason, this roar triggered an extreme autonomic response in Kiryu, summoning memories of his organic predecessor being obliterated by the Oxygen Destroyer as if it was imbedded within his genetic "memory."
Immediately afterwards, Kiryu suddenly broke from the control of the AMF and began attacking their warplanes, as well as striding into Tokyo and beginning a devastating assault on the metroplex, unleashing the full gamut of his weaponry on the hapless city's infrastructure (which included the cyborg's shoulder missiles and the rapid fire laser weapons mounted in his wrist gauntlets). The AMF was then forced to begin a military assault on the rampaging Mechagodzilla, who was now acting as savage and bestial as his fully organic predecessor. However, Kiryu easily knocked the warplanes out of the sky, and continued his assault on Tokyo undaunted. When the plane piloted by Hayato was downed, Akane pulled herself out of the wreckage of her own plane, and courageously extricated her late commander's brother and his co-pilot from their plane before its ruptured fuel tanks could explode, saving both of their lives. This later resulted in the crew insisting that Hayato cease and desist his bitter attitude towards Akane.
AMF Central Command decided that they had no choice but to simply allow Mechagodzilla to run rampant through the evacuated city for the next two hours, until his power supply ran out, and he became immobile. Once this occurred, the cyborg was retrieved and returned to AMF headquarters for a full systems diagnostic, to determine why the cybernetic kaiju ran amok. In the meantime, Godzilla appeared to have vanished from sight.
Upon investigating the apparent design flaw in Kiryu, it was determined by Dr. Yuhara and his team that the reason the cyborg ran amok at the sound of Godzilla's roar was due to the identical genetic similarity between the two, something that the sound of his fully organic duplicate could somehow influence. It was then decided that by changing part of the base DNA of the cyborg, as well as altering how the computer interacted with the DNA in their interface, this loss of control could be avoided in a rematch. Nevertheless, Sara roundly protested the use of Kiryu in battling Godzilla, since she felt that the Kaiju King was created by no fault of his own, and so was Mechagodzilla; both were life forms with the right to exist, as she was quite sensitive and respectful to all life due to the situation involving her mother's death. Sara also continued to be a big help to Akane during their conversations, reminding her that all life has inestimable value, and that she was fully capable of redeeming herself.
Godzilla soon resurfaced in Tokyo Bay one evening, and easily ploughed through the attempts of the JSDF and the AMF to stop him with their various weaponry, resisting even the full power of the maser tanks, and soon arrived on land in the Shinigawa district. When the AMF realized that all of its weaponry was ineffective in stopping Godzilla's rampage through the city, Central Command once again resolved, with much reluctance, to send the reprogrammed Kiryu against his fully organic counterpart.
This time, when the two kaiju titans confronted each other, Godzilla wasn't taken aback, and Mechagodzilla remained under the control of the AC-3. An extremely grueling battle between the two ensued, with Kiryu proving a formidable opponent, but ultimately falling before Godzilla's might following an exhaustive battle.
After the cyborg fell and became inoperative, Akane, once again acting with great courage and audacity, entered the mechanized kaiju's form herself through a specially designed hatch, activated the cyborg's secondary power unit and effected repairs with Dr. Yuhara's guidance via commlink, and began piloting the cybernetic kaiju manually. Thus, with Akane now directly in control, Mechagodzilla returned to battle, despite the great risk to the intrepid pilot's life. Because of Kiryu's greatly diminished power level, the AMF initiated a plan to have the cyborg's mechanical systems tap into all available electrical power in the city of Tokyo, not only to recharge to full capacity, but also to enable him to fire his Absolute Zero Cannon, the weapon that the Japanese government hoped could truly defeat Godzilla, at maximum power.
The resumed battle resulted in severe external damage to Kiryu, and the mighty cyborg was again laid low by the Big G. Hayato, who was piloting an AMF warplane, was determined to not only avenge his brother, but also to prevent Godzilla from fully defeating Kiryu with his atomic breath. Thus, in an extremely audacious maneuver, Hayato decided to sacrifice his life by deliberately attacking Godzilla with his warplane, and lodging the flying vehicle in the great kaiju's maw, thus temporarily preventing him from firing his atomic breath at his recovering cyborg opponent. The still living Hayato then yelled into his commlink to Akane, telling her to blast the Atomic Titan with Kiryu's Absolute Zero Cannon while Godzilla was still unable to fire his atomic heat beam. Akane activated the weapon, but she could not bring herself to kill the brave Hayato, her former detractor, as she refused to allow him to be killed as occurred with his equally brave sibling a few years earlier if it was in her power to prevent it. Hence, she deactivated the freeze cannon, and instead activated Kiryu's shoulder-mounted rocket launcher harness, and flew at Godzilla at high speed, tackling the Kaiju King and wresting what was left of Hayato's warplane from the creature's maw, ensuring that the pilot was able to eject safely. Akane then programmed Mechagodzilla to hold Godzilla's jaw shut to prevent him from firing his atomic breath, and to fly him into the water of Tokyo Bay, where she planned to conclude the battle.
Once the flying Kiryu, carrying Godzilla, crashed into the bay, Akane had the cyborg fire the Absolute Zero Cannon at the Big G underwater at point blank range. A huge mountain of ice appeared above the surface of the water to announce the usage of the cyborg's ultimate weapon. Moments later, the mountain of ice was shattered from within, and Godzilla arose from the ocean, albeit with a nasty red wound visible on his chest area. The great beast then turned and casually headed away from Japan, back into the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
Immediately after this, Mechagodzilla likewise rose from the water, visibly damaged but still operating. Akane, at the controls, contacted Central Command and informed them that the Absolute Zero Cannon was wrecked, and Kiryu's power cells were depleted. She then apologized for her failure to destroy Godzilla, but Dr. Yuhara begged to differ, telling her that though she didn't kill the monster, she nevertheless drove him from Japan and ended the conflict in a draw, thus proving that humankind could indeed resist the power of Godzilla. She had also fully redeemed herself from her previous failure, having saved both her country and the life of Hayato for a second time.
The young woman then stoically stood atop the immobile standing form of Kiryu and watched the mighty Godzilla slowly wade into the horizon, away from the shores of Japan.
This entry in the Millennium G-Series marked a change in the series' direction, which would last for a total of two films (ending only prior to the final G-film released in 2004). The first three entries in the Millennium Series were all stand-alone films, each occurring on a completely different timeline that shared the general series of events from the first G-film only (i.e., Godzilla's initial attack on Tokyo in 1954). These initial three G-films in the Millennium Series would serve as a "showcase" for different ideas and permutations on the Big G, with Toho hoping, by the fourth film in the series, to choose their favorite interpretation on the Atomic Titan and begin producing films occurring within a single consistent timeline again. Of the three initial G-films in the Millennium Series, the Toho execs were most impressed with the concept and box office take of director Masaaki Tezuka's Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000), so it was decided that this more or less traditional "evil" version of Godzilla would be used for the new continuing timeline, with Masaaki back in the director's chair (it should be noted that J.D. Lees, long-time publisher of G-FAN magazine, considers the latter movie to be the best G-film of the Millennium Series; personally, this author preferred both the film being reviewed here and GMK).
This time around, Tezuka and screenwriter Wataru Mimura (who did a competent if not spectacular job) were set with the task of constructing a timeline that occurred between Godzilla's original 1954 appearance and the year 2003 (when most of this film's post-prologue events took place). It was decided to incorporate some of the Showa Era Toho films into this particular chron, which included most (if not all) of the events from Mothra (1961) and at least some of the events from War of the Gargantuas (1966), with Gaila's attack on Chiba included, but with no evidence or suggestion of his "brother," Sanda (Mothra herself would turn up in the next film, which continued this timeline). Mothra and Gaila both appeared in cameos taken exclusively via stock footage from the two aforementioned films, and some very welcome stock footage from the first G-film (particularly including the "original" Godzilla's demise via the Oxygen Destroyer) was also included in these flashback sequences. This G-film also featured some stock footage from the 1975 Toho disaster flick Conflagration to simulate some of the explosion effects.
In 2002 and 2003, two filmbooks on this new G-continuity were published, which together purported to detail precisely what was and what was not included in this particular timeline. Among many interesting tidbits included about this timeline in the first filmbook was the implication that the events of King Kong Escapes (1967) occurred in this continuity, though due to legal reasons, they were unable to include stock footage clips of Kong in the movie (which makes including this film in the chron rather pointless, other than the cool fact that it brings Gorosaurus into this universe). Unfortunately, and rather inexplicably, other fan faves like Rodan, Varan, and Anguirus evidently weren't incorporated into this timeline according to the first of the two filmbooks (backed up by evidence in the two films themselves), more's the pity…though had the Millennium Series…and this timeline…continued past the next G-film, more may have eventually been included. In fact, the next G-film, which also takes place in this timeline, made it clear that a turkey like Yog, Monster From Space (or at least some of the events therein, along with its three kaiju) were a part of this universe. In fact, it may have been a good idea to include the events of Godzilla Raids Again (which would have brought in Anguirus) and Godzilla vs. Mothra (one of the best G-films ever), both of which retained Godzilla's destructive nature, into the chron, and also including other select Toho kaiju-films into the mix (for the same reason, I would love to have retained the events of King Kong vs. Godzilla, though that would probably not be feasible for legal reasons). But alas, this wasn't done.
The second of the two filmbooks published on behalf of Toho to coincide with the release of the next G-film (Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.) went so far as to suggest that Rodan, Dagora, Varan, Manda, and the events of Frankenstein Conquers The World (1965) all occurred on this timeline (which would combine to bring in Meganulon, the daidako, the giant Frankenstein Monster, and Baragon, and possibly the ancient civilization of Mu), but these were never referenced in either film from this timeline, so I would opine that these now moot questions are debatable. For more on the continuity of this timeline, you may want to check out this article by Anthony Romero posted on the Toho Kingdom web site.
Toho also decided to improve upon the sluggish box office take of the previous year's GMK (whose income was artificially augmented by pairing it with an animated film about the popular hamster Hamaturo) by bringing in a sure fire fan fave opponent of the Big G, Mechagodzilla, and to update him for the '00's. Though I still personally prefer the sleek elegance and malevolent appearance of the Showa Era Mechagodzilla, I still consider Kiryu, the Millennium Era version, to be an improvement over the Heisei version seen in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2 (1993). Here his weaponry was almost completely altered, leaving him much less firepower overall than his Heisei counterpart, but still making him one formidable killing machine. Further, the mecha-kaiju's speed and agility were increased dramatically (he could leap directly over Godzilla), and now, instead of having a tail merely used for balance, Kiryu could use his mechanized tail as a powerful striking weapon much as Godzilla himself can. Although much of Kiryu's newest array of weaponry was rather standard, including a souped-up maser beam, missiles, and laser blasts, this time he came equipped with the more unusual Absolute Zero Cannon, as it's well known that severe cold has spelled trouble for Godzilla in the past. And this version of Mechagodzilla engaged in plenty of tooth and nail brawling with his fully organic counterpart, rather than the near-constant back-and-forth barrage of beam weapons that we saw in the Heisei Era battle between these two old friends.
Also interesting was the fact that this time around, Mechagodzilla was actually a cyborg rather than a robot, as he was given a special connection to Godzilla outside of his phenotypical design…he actually had the "original" Godzilla's skeleton and DNA incorporated into his interior.
The sfx used to portray the monster battles varied wildly, mixing suitmation with CGI effects to a great degree, and ranging from the truly spectacular to the borderline sloppy. Some of the film's worst moments in this regard include Godzilla standing as immobile as a statue when first confronted and attacked by Mechagodzilla, and not to come off as a petty nitpicker, but the skeleton of the "original" Godzilla laying on the ocean floor looked barely more sophisticated than one of those plastic, snap together model kits of dinosaur bones you can buy in any Toys 'R' Us store.
The G-suit used in this film (despite the complaint by several G-fans that the head was too small) was suitably menacing looking, but the Big G, IMO, came off as moving too stiffly and looked overly "plastic," just as he so often did in the Heisei films and previous Millennium films, lacking the fairly smooth grace and realism he exhibited under the hand of Eiji Tsuberaya in the '60's Showa Era G-films, such as Godzilla vs. Mothra, which may have been the Atomic Titan's finest hour. G-suit designer Shinichi Wakasa may not be entirely to blame, however, because it must be noted that the man was under a very tight schedule due to Toho's recent insistence on churning out a new G-film every year, and with as low a budget as possible. I fully agree with J.D. Lees's complaints in recent issues of G-FAN that such a tight schedule and relatively small budget combine to result in scripts, sfx, and monster suits that are nowhere near as polished as they could be with a better budget and a lengthier production schedule. Note how director Sam Raimi insisted that Sony give him an extra year than previously planned to produce Spider-Man 3, and he was actually given until 2007 to have the third Spidey flick ready for release. This will give the man the time to use his big budget to create not only stellar special effects, but a great screenplay and storyline. Toho could learn a lesson from this methodology.
Don't get me wrong; the sfx people at Toho, this time under the supervision of Yuichi Kikuchi, are resourceful geniuses when it comes to doing surprisingly good work given the time and budget constraints allotted to them. Moreover, screenwriter Wataru Mimura (who also handled the screenwriting chores for Godzilla 2000 and Godzilla vs. Megaguirus) seemed as if he tried to come up with a good script, and the characters were indeed engaging and likable, with Akane's quest for redemption and her conflict with Hayato being quite well done and impressively touching, as was her growing relationship with Dr. Yuhara and his daughter, Sara. Some G-fans have noted that this was too similar to the plot and human drama of Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, with director Tezuka and screenwriter Kikuchi apparently recycling plot elements from the previous G-film they worked on together, which also involved a female soldier who blamed herself for the loss of a commanding officer whom she admired as the main human protagonist of the story. The similarities are indeed there, but IMO the plot was handled better this time around, and Akane seemed more focused upon redemption and vindication rather than the blind, Ishmaelesque vengeance that Kiriko appeared set upon. And another strong woman character in a Japanese film, particularly a fighter, is always a welcome sight.
The mediocre script was improved somewhat by the performance of the actors involved, including the role of Prime Minister Tsuge played by Kumi Mizuno, who last appeared in a G-film in 1966 (Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster), and Yumiko Shaku did an admirable job as Akane…the fact that she is quite easy on the eyes certainly didn't hurt, either. Kana Onodera did a fine job as Sara Yuhara, and unlike many child actors who have appeared in kaiju-films, she didn't come across as annoying, but rather central to the plot, and she was handled with a high degree of respect (it's a shame that Kana's acting skills and aptitude with dialogue was largely obscured by the horrid dubbing her character received in the American and international versions).
Here, the theme of this film, and the next one, centered upon Godzilla as an evil, destructive monster who had to be opposed by a heroic dai kaiju opponent (in this case, Mechagodzilla/Kiryu, though the latter briefly became an almost anti-heroic villain at one point in the film). Godzilla was portrayed in a deadly serious manner, with little humor or campiness appearing anywhere in either the plot or the battle sequences.
The musical score by returning maestro Michiru Oshima was fantastic, quite different but every bit as effective for a war march as one of the way cool symphonies composed by Akira Ifukube in the past. In fact, Oshima's score was quite unlike anything ever produced by Ifukube, as distinct from his numbers as was the ominous score of Ko Otani in the previous G-film, and in fact this marks the first G-film ever where none of Ifukube's classic motifs were heard anywhere in a G-film, not even over the closing credits. So it would appear that those who called for the complete exclusion of Ikukube's great scores from the G-films of today (I wasn't among them, btw) actually got their wish here.
For the most part, this movie was basically a solid entry in the Millennium Series, and a good G-film overall. It certainly wasn't the best ever produced, and it was visibly indicative of the budget and time constraints that Toho forced its creative people to work under (though the problems with the budget weren't overly noticible in regards to the sfx much of the time, to the creative crew's credit). Nevertheless, with the return of Mechagodzilla in a satisfying fashion, this G-film commanded greater box office earnings than the last G-film, but not significantly so, and it was clear that the Millennium G-Series was in as much trouble in the early '00's as the Showa Series was in the early '70's. However, it grossed just enough to convince Toho to greenlight another G-film for the following year, which would be a direct sequel to this one, as they finally settled on an ongoing, consistent timeline in which to focus upon (though this would change with the final G-film in the Millennium Series).
Due to its modest earnings at the Japanese box office when it opened on Dec. 14, 2002, Tri-Star, who owned the American distribution rights to the film, decided not to give it a U.S. theatrical release, much to the chagrin of many hopeful G-fans this side of the Pacific. The movie went direct to video, with the American version differing in no way from the Japanese version except that it included the often poor dubbing commissioned by Toho (contracting out to an Australian company on the cheap, as usual) for the international version. Unlike past U.S. distributor American International, however, Tri-Star has not seen fit to have the American versions of these films professionally re-dubbed for their release on these shores.
As in the past, a quality, affordable Japanese version of this movie is available from Video Daikaiju. However, since the American version doesn't differ in any way from the Japanese version (as was also the case with Godzilla vs. Megaguirus and GMK), and the DVD released by Tri-Star Video in March of '04 has options for hearing the dialogue spoken in English and Japanese, with the usual array of sub-title options in different languages, along with the fact that the Tri-Star DVD is reasonably priced and in stereo, there is no valid reason not to purchase Sony's DVD release of this film. The Japanese version is better only because of the typically cheap-ass dub job done for the international version (and carried over into the American version by Tri-Star), which takes the quality of the production down a few notches, as usual. Actress Kana Onodera, as noted above, suffers particularly in this regard, as the morons who dubbed the film in English had an adult woman do the voice-over for the child actress, the former failing in her best attempts to imitate a child's voice, and it comes off as distracting and unintentionally humorous to anyone who happens to view the English language version of the flick.
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