Japanese and international release title: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.
U.S. release date: 1999, direct to home video by Tri-Star Video.
Japanese audience attendance: 3,800,000
Director: Takao Okawara
Screenplay: Wataru Mimura
Sfx: Koichi Kawakita
Musical score: Akira Ifukube
Available on home video by Tri-Star Video.
To respond to the threat of Godzilla more effectively, the United Nations has created G-Force, an international military task force, whose sole purpose is to devise effective countermeasures against the atomic kaiju. To this end, their first creation was the flying warship called Garuda, named after a bird-like god from Asian mythology, due to the ship’s vague resemblance to a pterodactyl. The ship was designed by inventor and aviation expert Kazuma Aoki, who has a profound interest in pterodactyls. However, computer tests have demonstrated that Garuda would most likely be no match for Godzilla, so the mecha is put on the back burner, much to Aoki’s consternation.
Instead, the G-Force team salvages the bionic head of Mecha-King Ghidora that has been lying in the ocean for the past two years. By analyzing the 23rd century technology, the G-Force technicians manage to construct the Mechagodzilla, a 120 meter tall robotic version of Godzilla that has immense, ultra-sophisticated firepower, and which is to be piloted and controlled by a G-Force crew, including Aoki.
The most formidable feature of the Mechagodzilla is the armor’s Nt-1 coating, which will not only resist melting by Godzilla’s atomic breath, but will also absorb, store and amplify the radioactive energy and project it back at the monster through a Plasma Grenade, a spherical shaped energy discharge of immense power.
Meanwhile, a paleontology expedition is being conducted on Adonoa Island, an atoll that had been devastated many years ago by atomic bomb tests in the nearby ocean. The expedition was made to search for dinosaur fossils, which were said to be present there. When the task was carried out, a surprising discovery was made...a pterodactyl nest was found near a cave that had two intact eggs in it, obviously revived by the atomic energy infusion (albeit very slowly, perhaps over the course of decades). One of the eggs had hatched and its shell lay in shards, but the second one was still gestating, and gave off both radioactive and psychic emissions.
The expedition decided to take the egg back to civilization, when they were suddenly attacked by the first hatchling, a 70 meter tall pterodactyl, obviously mutated into such an enormous creature by the atomic radiation. Naming the kaiju "Rodan" as an etymological permutation of the word "pteranodon', the scientists struggled to get out of the flying monster’s path.
Suddenly, however, Godzilla mysteriously appeared, apparently attracted by the egg’s psychic emanations, and he attacked Rodan. Determined to defend himself and his territory, Rodan ferociously counterattacked, and as the two towering dai kaiju battled each other, the expedition members managed to get to their helicopters with the egg, and returned to Japan safely. Although Rodan put up a very good fight, he was ultimately defeated after taking several hits from Godzilla’s atomic breath, and then stomped into oblivion. Leaving his fallen foe behind, Godzilla returned to the sea and headed towards Japan in search of the egg.
The egg was taken to a research facility in Kyoto and placed under the care of scientist Azusa Gojo, and she has several children with psychic abilities under the care of telepath Miki Saegusa come to the facility and probe the egg to discover the nature of its psychic discharges. Later, the egg hatches in a near-explosive surge of energy, but what emerges is not a baby pterodactyl, as they had expected, but an infant Godzillasaurus. Evidently, the Godzillasaurus species laid their eggs in other dinosaur species’ nests, just as the modern day cuckoo bird does with other avian species. The small creature, who is named Baby Godzilla, or simply “Baby,” appears harmless and quickly becomes attached to Azusa.
The infant Godzillasaurus is studied by the G-Force team in an effort to find any weaknesses in the adult Godzilla.
Godzilla himself then appears in Japan, obviously following the psychic energy of the baby member of his species. As he attacks the Yokaichi industrial complex, Mechagodzilla is launched to intercept the beast on his path to the Suzuka Mountains. Upon arriving, the Mechagodzilla operates flawlessly, blasting Godzilla with its rainbow hued Mega Buster beam and its shoulder launched Paralyzer Missiles. After absorbing several blasts of Godzilla’s atomic breath with its Nt-1 armor, Mechagodzilla fells the Kaiju King with a lethal Plasma Grenade. It then fires retractable metal Shock Anchors from its wrist gauntlets into Godzilla’s body, and begins electrocuting the beast severely.
Just when it appears that Godzilla is finished, however, the kaiju titan manages to use the powerful energy in his own body to carry back to Mechagodzilla along the metal cables of the Shock Anchors, thus causing a severe overload in the giant robot’s power station, which results in the metallic kaiju becoming immobile. Knocking his enemy aside, the recovered Godzilla quickly defeats a J.S.D.F. assault, and continues his search for Baby Godzilla, heading for Kyoto in the process.
As Mechagodzilla is brought back to G-Force HQ for repair, Aoki is demoted since he failed to arrive in time for the robot’s departure, and is relegated to parking cars in the lot outside the building! However, after trapping one of the scientists in his own car, he is re-admitted to the team when he explains how his Garuda ship can be attached to the back of Mechagodzilla, thereby increasing the latter’s firepower output tremendously.
Later, the examination of the Baby Godzilla turns out to be fruitful, as they discover the dinosaur to have a mass of nerve ganglia in his lower body (which they refer to as a “second brain”) that provides the beast with his lower body movement and much of his power. By severing these nerves in the adult Godzilla, they can both paralyze and kill the mighty kaiju. Miki Saegusa is very reluctantly coerced into using her psychic powers to locate the nerve cluster for them; she is incensed, because she respects all life, even Godzilla, and she doesn’t want the monster destroyed, but merely to find a means to guard Japan against his attacks.
Back on Adonoa Island, Rodan recovers and successfully metabolizes the extra radiation he acquired from Godzilla’s atomic breath, mutating into his 'Fire Rodan' incarnation, in which he now has the power of atomic breath himself.
The flying monster then heads for Japan, also in pursuit of the Baby Godzilla, which the mutant pteranodon instinctually appears to regard as a sort of sibling in need of protection, doubtlessly due to the strong psychic rapport that he (along with Godzilla) have formed with the infant kaiju. In order to lure Godzilla into a trap with Mechagodzilla, the Baby Godzilla is to be transported to a remote island. Angered by the use of the baby dinosaur in the scheme, Azusa insists on accompanying the small creature in the large metal box he’ll be transported in to help comfort the nervous animal. As the helicopter carrying them flies over Makuhari City, Rodan appears, destroys the plane and captures the metal box, and after landing with it, attempts to pry the cage open.
Hearing of Azusa’s predicament, Aoki takes Garuda and flies to her rescue, while the repaired Mechagodzilla is also sent to deal with the flying kaiju. Arriving first, Garuda engages its organic counterpart in battle, but is soundly defeated, blasted out of the sky by Fire Rodan’s new atomic breath. Aoki survives, however, and he realizes that Garuda is still functional.
Before he can return his mecha to battle, however, Mechagodzilla arrives to challenge Fire Rodan. After a fierce but relatively brief battle, Rodan is defeated and severely wounded by a point blank Plasma Grenade blast.
Immediately afterwards, Godzilla arrives, and Aoki initially gives Mechagodzilla time to recover from its battle with Rodan by attacking Godzilla with Garuda, though the flying mecha indeed proves unable to defeat him. Aoki then merges Garuda with Mechagodzilla, creating the combined robotic entity known as 'SuperMechagodzilla.' Easily defeating Godzilla with its vastly increased firepower, SuperMechagodzilla initiates the Project G-Crusher. Miki Saegusa hesitantly locates Godzilla’s lower nerve ganglia, and the enhanced Shock Anchors are fired into it, emitting vast amounts of electricity and severing the cluster, apparently finishing Godzilla for good.
Just then, however, Rodan recovers, and utilizing his last leaf of strength, attempts to fly to Baby Godzilla’s aid once more. Blasted out of the sky by SuperMechagodzilla, Rodan lands on Godzilla’s “corpse.” Injured too severely to control his internal radiation, Fire Rodan disintegrates into a radioactive fog, which not only dissolves SuperMechagodzilla’s Nt-1 coating, but is also absorbed by Godzilla, rapidly repairing all the damage done to his body and vastly increasing his atomic firepower temporarily, transforming him into the entity known as 'Super Godzilla.' Attacking his metallic foe with his new Uranium Power Breath (which glows a fiery red rather than bluish-white), Super Godzilla soon overpowers and destroys SuperMechagodzilla, reaffirming the superiority of life over technology (luckily, the G-Force crew, including Aoki and Miki Saegusa, managed to narrowly escape through an emergency mini-ship).
Godzilla then approaches Baby Godzilla, and Azusa sadly convinces the little reptile that his place is with another of his kind. The baby then quietly follows the triumphant Godzilla back into the ocean for parts unknown.
Toho truly surpassed itself with this excellent addition to the Godzilla mythos, and this movie has been voted by by the readers of G-FAN magazine as the best G-film ever, many believing it to surpass even the first G-film. I certainly disagree, since the story development in this movie was nowhere near as polished as the script and the direction in Godzilla, King of the Monsters, which was first rate as opposed to simply "good." Rather, it was the non-stop action in Takao Okawara’s direction and Koichi Kawakita’s sfx that made this a G-film of the highest caliber, and the special effects really surpassed any of Kawakita’s previous work.
Again, their fondness for mecha was well established here, although Garuda was rather uninteresting, boasting nothing more than twin maser cannons in regards to offensive weaponry; its only major purpose in this film, other than to hold Fire Rodan at bay for a few minutes when the latter invaded Japan, was to combine with Mechagodzilla at the climax to create SuperMechagodzilla.
Akira Ifukube composed one of his greatest scores ever here, retiring immediately after finishing the soundtrack for this film, and he reputedly handed in the finished product in only one week (he did, however, come out of retirement one final time to do the score for Godzilla vs. Destroyah two years later, the final G-film in the Heisei Era series).
Mechagodzilla’s return and revampment obviously helped gather the Japanese audience into theaters by the bucketful, although Toho radically altered the concept of the bionic kaiju from the Showa Series version, and redesigned his look drastically. While most G-fans appear to favor the new version, I much prefer the original, whose sleek and truly evil appearance made for a highly inspired creation by Toho. Mechagodzilla's subsequent revampment in the two Millennium Series films Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. was an improvement over the Heisei design, IMO (the Heisei Era version of Mechagodzilla was the incarnation incorporated into Marc Cerasini's excellent G-novel GODZILLA VS. THE ROBOT MONSTERS, as he seemed to prefer featuring the Heisei versions of any Toho creation who were revamped in the latter series, rather than their Showa incarnations)
Unlike the previous year's Godzilla and Mothra: Battle For Earth, which had a fantasy-like tone, this movie threw away any mysticism and carried the force of a war film, dealing firmly with humanity’s desperate attempts to rid the world of the malevolent Godzilla.
In regards to the sfx, despite Kawakita’s awesome onscreen display of pyrotechnics, he falls into a certain jeering habit which irks many G-fans (including myself, btw). Unlike the great battles of the Showa Era G-series, most of Kawakita’s kaiju battle scenes have the beasts rely very excessively on their beam weapons in combat, rather than their "tooth and nails" (to quote Anthony Romero's colloquial observation over at Toho Kingdom), and he makes certain that most kaiju in the Heisei Era G-films all have these energy projection powers at their disposal in spades. This comes across almost as if you're watching a battle between heavily armed starships in a Star Trek film, rather than gigantic living animals, and despite the pretty eye candy provided by the onscreen display of the back and forth beam weapons spewed by the kaiju, the battles end up lacking much of the fun and finesse provided by the old tooth and nail variety (luckily, much of the kaiju battle scenes in the Millennium Era G-films, save for the last [Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)], took on a "back to the basics" approach in regards to the combat tactics of the monsters).
In contrast, however, the early battle between Godzilla and Rodan, before the latter mutated into Fire Rodan, was wondrous and very physically tooth and nail, despite Godzilla's usage of his atomic breath at various points during the conflict, due to the fact that Rodan then lacked his uranium breath. Such a battle sequence was a rarity for a Kawakita created dai kaiju conflict in a Heisei Era G-film, and as such this sequence was, IMO, the highlight of the movie and a special treat. Rodan was depicted as being ruthless and very vicious, brilliantly underscoring his formidability, and the audience was left with nothing but respect for the kaiju warrior of the sky. Moreover, the return of Rodan and Mechagodzilla in the same film had much marquee value, and it gladdened many die hard G-fans to see two classic Toho creations revived. Rodan’s appearance was suitably mean looking, much better than the silly suits used for his appearances in the '60’s, and he looked even better than his original classic look in Rodan (1956).
As for the rest of the monster battles, if Kawakita made more kaiju without beam weapons, as Eiji Tsuberaya and Teruyoshi Nakano often did for the G-foes of the Showa Series, we might see more varied displays in the inter-monster mayhem, rather than seeing what amounts to little more than an intense "phaser" war between giant organic beings.
The Baby Godzilla suit was nicely rendered and far superior to Minya’s design, actually resembling a baby dinosaur. He wasn’t made nearly as cute or comical as Minya, and a minimum of screen time was devoted to him (his serious appearance was undone in the next film, unfortunately). Psychic phenomena also took a major place in a G-film once more, and the character of Miki Saegusa had her role expanded here, something that would continue further in the next movie.
We were also introduced to Godzilla’s new incarnation as ‘Super Godzilla,’ a mega-charged version of the Kaiju King who first appeared in the 1992 Super Godzilla video game from Super Nintendo. Unlike the video version, however, the movie rendition doesn’t change physical form or size; only the color and intensity of his atomic breath is altered, but the onscreen depiction was fabulous to behold, as the very atmosphere itself visibly smokes and combusts from the sheer intense heat of those enhanced radioactive beams.
The main theme in this movie appeared to underscore the value of life over cold technology, and as a result, the motif of the film (i.e., which side to root for) was very ambiguous this time around. In the past, the theme was evil monster vs. another evil monster (such as Godzilla vs. Anguirus in Godzilla Raids Again  or Godzilla's conflict with King Ghidora in Godzilla vs. King Ghidora ), with Godzilla winning since he’s the main featured character; or a heroic monster battling Godzilla (King Kong in King Kong vs. Godzilla , adult Mothra and the twin Mothra larvae in Godzilla vs. Mothra , Mothra and Battra in Godzilla and Mothra: Battle For Earth , Mecha-King Ghidora in Godzilla vs. King Ghidora , and Biollante in Godzilla vs. Biollante ).
This time, however, the sides drawn were humanity attempting to defend itself with Mechagodzilla and Garuda on one side, and Godzilla and Rodan attempting to protect Baby Godzilla from humanity on the other side. As a result, the audience doesn’t quite know which side to cheer for, resulting in Godzilla more or less achieving the ambiguous status that he had in the late '60’s films of the Showa Series, though he never becomes more than an animal, nor does he ever become an inadvertant protector of humanity, for that matter (as he unfortunately did next time around in Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla). This may be the only major fault of this otherwise superb film. Or, perhaps, the theme was instead intended to convey the message that life in its ultimate form will always conquer cold technology in its ultimate form, a premise which surpasses common notions of good versus evil. If the latter is the case, then the film ended quite appropriately.
This movie was inexplicably released later than any of the other G-films of the Heisei Series by Tri-Star Video, and appeared on the shelves of video stores many months after the premiere of Tri-Star's Godzilla (1998), rather than either a few months before, or during the same month, as was the case with the rest of the Heisei G-films. This is rather surprising, in lieu of the fact that this is often considered the best of all of the Heisei Era G-films.
Curiously, this G-film is also inexplicably absent from the Heisei Era Godzilla movies frequently shown during the G-marathons on the Sci-Fi Channel, especially when you consider how the latter channel specializes in showing some obscure movies, including the recent and very hard-to-come-by 1999 South Korean kaiju film Reptilian, which is the American title of the long-awaited semi-remake of the fondly remembered 1967 Korean dai kaiju film Yongary, Monster From the Deep (the film was slightly reworked and re-titled Yonngary 2001 for its 2001 international theatrical release). The latter film was one of a small number of mostly obscure but notable dai kaiju movies made in Korea whenever G-films were in vogue; Yongary is probably the most well-known kaiju among G-fans to be spawned by Korean cinema.
A high quality sub-titled Japanese version of this movie is available from Video Daikaiju, and this version certainly surpasses its dubbed American counterpart by Tri-Star Video in terms of quality.
back to Heisei Series list