Japanese release title: Godzilla x Megaguirus: The G-Annihilation Strategy
U.S. release date: August 31, 2003, direct to television on the Sci-Fi Channel.
Japanese audience attendance: 1,000,000
Director: Masaaki Tezuka
Screenwriter: Hiroshi Kashiwabara and Wataru Mimura
Sfx: Kenji Suzuki
Musical score: Michiru Oshima
U.S. version available on home video by Tri-Star Video.
Japan's post-World War II reconstruction received a disastrous setback as a result of Godzilla's 1954 assault that left the city of Tokyo in ruins. After reducing the once great city to rubble, Godzilla casually returned to the depths of the Pacific Ocean (and thus wasn't disintegrated by the Oxygen Destroyer in the particular alternate reality chronicled in this film). Two months after this catastrophic attack on the island nation's capitol, Tokyo was well on its way to being reconstructed. However, as a result of Tokyo's devastation in this reality, Japan's capitol was moved to Osaka, and the country began rebuilding its shattered infrastructure once more.
However, devastation struck the Japan of this reality once again in 1966, when Godzilla appeared in Tokai Village to attack the nation's first nuclear power plant, and it was then determined by the scientific community that Godzilla was attracted to such volatile energy as a source of sustenance for his own atomic-energy powered physiology. In an attempt to give the Kaiju King no further reason to raid Japan to replenish his energy reserves, the Japanese government passed a legal resolution that effectively outlawed the use of nuclear energy being produced by any facility in Japan, or any other kind of powerful energy source that might attract the attention of the beast. Thus, Japan's ever-increasing demands for electricity during the late 20th century forced the Japanese government to allocate funding into alternative energy sources that wouldn't attract Godzilla's attention, including the use of hydro, pyro, zephyr, and even solar-based power sources to meet the aforementioned demands of producing a sufficient amount of electrical power for the Japanese citizens. Although these "cleaner" power sources did indeed keep the Atomic Titan's attention away from Japan, they proved inadequate to meet the vast electrical power needs of the Japanese populace.
As a result of this, Japan's Science and Technology Bureau decided to oversee the construction of a facility that would rely upon a new but far more powerful source of clean energy that wouldn't provide a tempting "food source" for Godzilla. This new energy source was plasma, the fourth, "super-heated" state of matter that made up the substance of stars, and which Japanese scientists discovered could be utilized in large amounts to produce heavy hydrogen molecules as a fuel source. A new plasma-generating facility was constructed in the Nakanoshima district of Osaka by the year 1996 to meet Japan's overall electrically-based energy needs, and the utilization of plasma to produce electrical energy was as successful as the STB had hoped. Unfortunately, it turned out that plasma was a volatile enough energy source to attract Godzilla anew, and shortly after the plant began its operations, the nuclear-powered kaiju appeared in Japan's new capitol, and began heading towards the facility. In order to counter Godzilla's impending attack on the plasma-generating plant, a contingent of JSDF soldiers led by the courageous military commander Takuya Miyagawa were sent to the area. Among those at Miyagawa's side was a young but highly skilled female soldier named Kiriko Tsujimori, who greatly respected the former as her mentor. Despite a valiant effort by the battalion to prevent the beast from reaching the factory, Godzilla shrugged off their attacks with ease, and in the course of the monster's trek to reach the facility, Miyagawa lost his life while saving that of his protégé, Tsujimori. An outraged and embittered Tsujimori was determined to destroy the kaiju and avenge the death of her honored mentor.
When the Japanese Ministry of Defense formed the 'G-Command' unit to deal with the threat of Godzilla following the beast's 1996 attack on Osaka, a now very world-weary and resolute Tsujimori was the head of the Anti-Godzilla Defense (ADF), the military arm of G-Command, by the year 2001. The team of soldiers specially trained to deal with incursions to the island nation by Godzilla were dubbed the 'G-Graspers,' and Tsujimori worked closely with the brilliant quantum physicist Dr. Yoshino Yoshizawa of G-Command towards the end of eliminating the threat of Godzilla forever. It was determined by Tsujimori and Dr. Yoshizawa that since Godzilla's fast regenerative ability made it nigh-impossible to kill the beast, or even to stave off his attacks for any significant period of time, they decided to focus the resources of the ADF into constructing a means to simply eliminate, rather than kill, the atomic-powered creature. The result was the eventual construction of a device known as the Dimension Tide, whose purpose was to briefly create a miniature point singularity, or a "micro-black hole," in Godzilla's immediate vicinity, thus displacing the beast to some alternate dimension, and freeing Japan from the kaiju's predatory assaults on their energy sources once and for all [astronomers and astrophysicists in the "real" world have hypothesized that such micro-black holes may indeed exist in various locations in the universe, though none have actually been observed approaching a planetary body]. In fact, the Dimension Tide device was made possible in the first place as a result of the incessant scientific exploration into the use of plasma energy by the Japanese scientific community over the past few decades in that timeline.
In order to facilitate the creation of this device as expeditiously as possible, Tsujimori recruits the arrogant young technological genius and computer whiz Hajime Kudo, who has a remarkable gift for greatly miniaturizing small but extremely useful devices, including a large number of powerful mini-robots that he created to perform various tasks (something he would frequently amuse the local children with). Fascinated by the idea of generating a man-made black hole on Earth, Kudo enthusiastically agreed to lend his services to G-Command alongside Dr. Yoshizawa to miniaturize the Dimension Tide construct that the latter scientist conceptualized down to two meters in length, so that it could be utilized to attack Godzilla via a satellite hovering in upper Earth orbit.
Soon afterwards, Godzilla rose to the surface of the ocean in the Japan Trench for the first time in three years, alarming the ADF as a result. This prompted the G-Command to push for the complete construction of the Dimension Tide ASAP. Haphazardly pushing for a testing of the Dimension Tide prototype, the ADF conducted the aforementioned testing of the device in a rural area of Japan. The test was inadvertently witnessed by a young boy who was in the woods near the test area of the Dimension Tide searching for insect specimens to add to his collection [oddly, this boy's name was never mentioned in the dialogue of the film, and since I never saw a copy of the script for this movie (where it was likely revealed), I'll simply refer to him henceforth as "Kenny" for reasons that will be familiar to all devout American fans of the dai kaiju eiga genre; Tsujimori nicknamed the boy "Dr. Insect" due to his hobby, but I figured that "Kenny" would be an even more amusing appellation for the boy, considering its historical connection to the genre in America]. After the boy was discovered by a G-Grasper soldier, Tsujimori gently extracted a promise from the boy not to tell anybody what he saw [and since so many other G-fans have made this observation in their various reviews of this film, I feel obligated to address that observation in my own review: since the testing of the Dimension Tide was conducted in a rural but still sparsely populated area of Japan, and a peri-pubescent boy strolling through the woods looking for insects could walk into the "off limits" testing area completely by accident before being noticed by a soldier guarding the location's borders, perhaps the word "haphazard" didn't quite do justice to the haste that Tsujimori conducted the testing procedure under, not to mention the lax attention by the Japanese government in regards to this operation; that boy should also thank his lucky stars and ancestral spirits that he wasn't caught witnessing such a test conducted under the supervision of the CIA!]
Though the initial generation of the miniature aperture in the space/time continuum appeared to be successful, what the ADF was unaware of [in addition to how easy it was for a civilian to bungle into the area, of course] was that the disruption of dimensional "space" in the area continued after the G-Graspers left the vicinity.
Later that evening, Kenny woke up in the middle of the night to investigate an odd noise and unknown flying object he glimpsed via shadowy sillouette outside his home, and upon doing so, he noticed that a second dimensional portal had somehow opened due to the aforementioned disruption of the space/time continuum in the immediate area, and an enormous flying insect-like creature over two meters in length had emerged into the Earth dimension. Moreover, before leaving the location, the creature left an object that resembled a large egg in a moist area within the woods. Overcome with curiosity, the boy brought the egg home with him, and hid it under a cardboard box in his room.
A very short time later, the boy moved to the Shibuya district of Tokyo when his father had a job transfer there. Realizing to his horror that something began to stir within the egg, the boy dumped the object into a sewer grating in the street. This proved to be the wrong thing to do, since it deposited the egg into the very type of water-rich environment that the deadly extradimensional insect-like species needed to thrive in its larval stage. Now that it was immersed in water, the egg-like object actually began spawning numerous embryos, who quickly began growing to their full two meter larval (i.e., non-flying) stage, where they were later named Meganulon. Worse yet, some of the Meganulon 'insects' began crawling out of the sewers and into the streets of Shibuya, where they presented an extreme hazard to the citizenry there, and an adolescent boy and his girlfriend were brutally slaughtered by one of the 'insects.' The Meganulon 'insect' then crawled atop a building where it shed its outer chitinous shell, to emerge in its Meganula (i.e., flying) stage (resembling the manner in which a cicada does the same thing), where it now resembled a gigantic dragonfly, complete with a long tail that ended in a stinger [contrary to the beliefs of many people, real dragonflys, including the relatively common darning needle species, do not actually possess stingers on the ends of their tails].
Once again waking up in the middle of the night, Kenny looked out the upper story window of his apartment complex, and he was once again the sole living human to witness the flight of a Meganula in the Earth dimension [is he simply lucky, or the victim of being part of a screenwriter's plot contrivance? You decide!]
The next day, Tsujimori renews her acquaintance with Kenny in the middle of the city, where the boy discusses what he saw the previous night in Shibuya, along with his Meganula sighting and the story concerning the egg that occurred back in his rural home. During this conversation, the boy blamed himself for the Meganulon infestation of the city since he was the one who brought the egg there, though Tsujimori was quick to inform the despondent youth that it was actually the fault of the ADF for the presence of these creatures in the Earth dimension in the first place, and that they would utilize all of their formidable resources to end the infestation. Kenny was the individual who first named the insects 'Meganulon' and 'Meganula' as a result of comparing them to two types of extinct prehistoric insects he read about in his various books on insects [these two stages of the extradimensional 'insect' (along with their ultimate "queen" stage of Megaguirus), were described later in the film by an ADF scientist as being of prehistoric Earth origin entirely, but this is preposterously incorrect, and the statement made later in the film by an ADF biologist that a Meganula fossil was found in China may either have been another story error, or a hint that one of these otherdimensional insectoid beings may have been accidentally admitted to the Earth dimension in ancient times through unknown means; see the Review/Comments section down below].
When ADF Central Headquarters detected the first Meganula flying out over the Pacific Ocean, Tsujimori traveled there to intercept it in the Gryphon war plane specially designed for aerial combat maneuvers against Godzilla. Upon descending into the water on a flotation raft, Tsujimori discovered the carcass of the Meganula, where it was first definitively identified by the ADF. However, minutes after discovering that carcass, Godzilla suddenly made an appearance there. Due to her obsessive desire for revenge against the beast, Tsujimori adamantly refused to flee, and when the monster partially rose from the water and began heading towards Japan, the intrepid solider actually dove into the water and hitched a ride on the kaiju's dorsal plates, all for the purpose of securing a small tracking device designed by Kudo on the Big G's back, which would enable the agency to easily locate Godzilla and thus use the Dimension Tide device on the beast all the sooner. Hence, Tsujimori became the first human being to make physical contact with the monster and survive the experience! After diving back into the water, the remaining crew on the Gryphon managed to divert Godzilla's attention from Tsujimori, thus enabling her to escape successfully.
After returning the Meganula corpse to the biologists employed by the ADF, it was there that it was discovered precisely how these creatures reproduce, as well as their various life stages, which they determined were geared towards culminating in the formation of a massively huge "queen" incarnation.
Meanwhile, the many Meganulon larvae in the sewer systems beneath Shibuya smashed the underwater pipe systems so as to flood that section of Tokyo, thereby creating a thoroughly aquatic environment that would allow their embryos to spawn much more quickly, and causing a severe panic amongst the human populace in the process.
In order to use the Dimension Tide on Godzilla, however, the ADF needed to drive the beast onto land. Using Kudo's tracking systems, Godzilla was located traveling underwater in the Ogasawara Trench, and since it was discovered that a small uninhabited atoll known as Kiganjima was in his direct path, the ADF began orchestrating a plan to drive the kaiju onto the island. Despite the fact that various scientists from G-Command warned Tsujimori that the Dimension Tide still hadn't been adequately tested to their satisfaction, the revenge-driven commander of the ADF insisted that the plan be moved ahead regardless (but hey, at least this time she was planning on using the device in an uninhabited area, so there may be hope for her yet!). When Godzilla's underwater path finally took him near Kiganjima, an ADF aerial force, led by Tsujimori in the Gryphon, attacked the kaiju with powerful Dragon-arrow missiles and various depth charges, all designed to force the beast to the surface. Once at the surface, the Gryphon began attacking Godzilla with bolts of energy from its photon guns, which successfully drove the kaiju towards the intended landmass.
Meanwhile, a battalion of JSDF soldiers back in Shibuya were called to deal with the eerie sight of thousands of Meganulon 'insects' pupating atop a skyscraper, where they began emerging from their chitinous shells into their nearly five meter long Meganula stage. Though the military began firing upon the insects, killing many of them, there were far too many of the creatures to completely annihilate this way, and the vast majority of them succeeded in emerging in their Meganula stages, where they promptly took to the air, leaving the city behind entirely. As it turns out, the Meganula feed upon powerful energy sources just as Godzilla himself does, and require such potent energy supplies in order to spawn their queen, which represents their ultimate life stage. Upon sensing the vast nuclear energy stores within Godzilla's own body, the Meganula swarm swiftly headed towards Kiganjima, and upon arriving there, began attacking the Kaiju King in vast numbers, draining his bodily stores of atomic energy via the stingers on their tails in the process. Desperate to be free of the debilitating attack by the Meganula swarm, Godzilla fought back furiously, obliterating large numbers of them with his atomic breath while they were still airborne, and crushing large numbers of them that were perched upon his body with his claws, and by smashing his massive form against a mountainside over and over again; nevertheless, there were far too many of them for the Atomic Titan to completely destroy in this fashion. Using his legendary cunning to formulate another instinctual "strategy," Godzilla succeeded in using his internal nuclear furnace to heat the skin of his body to the point where the numerous Meganula attached to him were either disintegrated or forced to flee their perch on his body immediately. As the confused insects flew about him in disarray, the Kaiju King torched hundreds of them with his atomic breath, thus greatly reducing their number, and forcing the rest of them to flee. Once the Meganula swarm departed the environs of the island, Tsujimori gave the order for the ADF Central Headquarters to initiate the Dimension Tide weapon against Godzilla.
As the Dimension Tide "fired" the reality-warping beam from its location in the satellite far above the planet, a singularity aperture in the space/time continuum successfully opened directly above Godzilla, but not close enough to displace the beast from his native reality. As a result of the misfire, Godzilla remained in the Earth dimension, and as a result of so much of his internal nuclear energy reserves being drained by the Meganula swarm, he quickly began moving in search of a means of replenishment. Nevertheless, despite the fact that volatile energy-generating sources were outlawed in Japan since 1966, a readily available source of such energy was illegally running on the island nation. As it turns out, a new type of volatile energy source described as "neutron" energy (probably also conceived as a result of many years of study into plasma as an energy source, and quite possibly a variation of the latter type of energy generation), was secretly in use in the Institute of Science located within Shubiya, and administered by the nameless bureaucratic head of G-Command itself, with the blessing of the Prime Minister. Thus, these particular Japanese politicians, with the secret permission of the Prime Minister him/herself, had been endangering Japan with the possibility of another attack by Godzilla as a result of their covert use of this energy source to meet the disparate needs of various government organizations, and as a source of personal wealth for the ruling class of Japan.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the Meganula swarm had evidently absorbed a sufficient amount of energy from Godzilla to create their ultimate "queen" incarnation, and each of the giant insects dove into the ocean near Japan and sacrificed their lives by injecting the energy they stole from Godzilla into an enormous egg-like husk underneath the water. Hence, the 60 meter long "queen" of these extradimensional insect-like creatures known as Megaguirus was now born, and she quickly began a destructive flight through Tokyo in search of more energy in which to spawn the next generation of Meganulon, thus posing a major threat to the entire human race.
Godzilla soon surfaced in the Omaiba section of Tokyo in order to attack the neutron power station that he sensed not very far from the area. Tsujimori and her crew were befuddled, as they still believed that no more sources of volatile energy production were active in Japan. The Gryphon was promptly sent to the area to defend the island nation against Godzilla, but the kaiju's battle with the aerial warship was cut short when Megaguirus suddenly arrived and attacked Godzilla for his internal stores of nuclear energy. The two monsters then engaged in a savage battle that threatened every human life in Tokyo. Megaguirus's insect-like speed, reflexes, and evasive maneuvers initially enabled her to evade all of Godzilla's attacks, and she was eventually able to move in and grapple in close quarters with the Kaiju King in order to puncture his body with her stinger, and thus begin feeding off of his internal nuclear energy stores. When she finally did so, Godzilla found himself unable to utilize his atomic breath against his foe due to the severe energy depletion he was suffering, and this only ended when the Big G managed to forcibly remove her stinger from his skin, but the insect queen responded to this reversal of fortune by promptly lifting him in the air and smashing him into a skyscraper.
Godzilla finally succeeded in turning the battle against his seemingly untouchable foe in his favor by cunningly maneuvering Megaguirus into accidentally severing one of her front pincer-like claws on his sharpened dorsal plates during one of her aerial swoops on him, thus delivering a severe injury to his foe. Nevertheless, Megaguirus still managed to regroup and began attacking her saurian adversary with a new tactic, which was firing the reserves of nuclear energy in her system in the form of atomic bolts of energy from her tail, and this was successful in temporarily toppling her foe. However, the tide of the battle was turned entirely when the insect queen attempted to puncture the thrashed King of the Monsters with her stinger for the third time, as upon her attempt to do so Godzilla managed to catch the stinger directly between his jaws and rip the lethal appendage in half, thereby completely crippling his insectoid nemesis. When the weakened insect queen took to the air, obviously in shock, Godzilla finished her off completely with two blasts from his atomic breath.
His adversary now utterly defeated, Godzilla headed towards the neutron power-generating facility located within the Institute of Science in Shibuya, which he destroyed for its stores of energy, thus alerting the rest of the ADF as to what brought the kaiju to Tokyo in the first place. It was there that Tsujimori and Dr. Yoshizawa confronted the bureaucratic head of the ADF about the new power source that attracted Godzilla to Japan, and he utilized common political cloak and dagger excuses to justify the personal wealth-accruing reasons for green lighting the use of neutron energy in defiance of the governmental ban ("every country has a secret or two," the smug politician stated). Unimpressed with the politician's typically self-serving rationalizations for risking the lives of thousands of people, the soldier quickly started an argument with her political superior over his duplicity, and the bureaucrat ended up being knocked off of his feet by Tsujimori's famous right hook for his troubles.
However, during the distractions Godzilla received during his lengthy battle with Megaguirus, and his subsequent "feeding" of the neutron energy as he destroyed the Institute of Science, Kudo and the rest of the scientific crew managed to correctly calibrate the computers controlling the Dimension Tide mounted in upper Earth orbit. Nevertheless, the faulty systems of the malfunctioning satellite continued to fail, and the spatial object began falling towards Earth's atmosphere, thus gradually burning up in re-entry. As a result, Kudo and the rest of the scientific crew realized that they would have to act quickly. Swiftly taking the Gryphon to Earth's upper atmosphere, Tsujimori hurriedly used the targeting computers in the warship's systems to lock the Dimension Tide on the air vessel itself. Hastily nose-diving the flying vehicle itself towards the still "feeding" Godzilla, Tsujimori bailed out of the Gryphon, and the rapidly descending aircraft struck Godzilla at high speed, exploding upon impact and stunning the Kaiju King into standing in place. The Dimension Tide generator was then successfully fired from the rapidly melting satellite a split second before the latter device exploded, and a dimensional aperture was again opened directly above Godzilla.
Although the King of the Monsters defensively blasted the epicenter of the dimensional portal with his atomic breath to seemingly inconsequential effect, Godzilla appeared to have been successfully dimensionally displaced out of his native Earth's reality when the portal opened completely, and he was gone when the singularity finally collapsed in upon itself and "closed." A triumphant Tsujimori removed her flight helmet and glared at the horizon in honor of the memory of her fallen mentor, whom she had finally avenged.
Finally, for the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that the film contains an epilogue where it was shown that the government's continued use of plasma-like energy resources in defiance of the legal ban was revealed to the public via a media scandal, and the ADF members were called to the Diet Building to serve as witnesses to the charges brought against the Prime Minister.
This was followed by an extremely silly and unnecessary sequence where Tsujimori semi-humorously attempts to recruit Kudo into the ranks of the ADF once again "just in case" Godzilla happened to escape his fate in the Dimension Tide, due to an "epicenter" discovered underneath Tokyo.
Further, as soon as the title credits ended, there was another brief sequence featuring Kenny putting away his insect collection in the science lab at school, only to suddenly be taken aback by an unexpected earth tremor, and then looking out the window and gasping in shock with his eyes widened in horror as the viewers heard Godzilla's distinctive roar [these needless and largely inexplicable sequences should have been completely dropped from the final cut of the film].
This slick but flawed second entry into the Millennium Series took the thematic concept of this particular G-film series a step further than the last one did, by displaying a reality in which various historical events in Japan, at least in regards to its scientific development, were altered due to the presence of Godzilla in that timeline. This was seen in the past two series as well, in the form of maser technology, but that was more the result of alien technology (in the Showa Series) or future Earth technology (in the Heisei Series) being left behind than a direct result of the existence of Godzilla, and this time history and technological development went in an entirely different direction as a result of the Big G being around.
For the production of this movie, Millennium Series film producer Shogo Tomiyama finally began making a few good business decisions, such as replacing the previous director Takao Okawara, who directed three G-films in the past and gave the series nothing to show for it, with newbie and longtime G-fan Masaaki Tezuka. Despite his lack of experience as a director, Tezuka did a basically admirable job, at least as well as any of the G-film directors outside of Ishiro Honda. This movie was very similar in tone and action to many of the G-films we saw during the Heisei Series, and though it's certainly no standout in the entire decades long history of G-films, it did give Godzilla a rather formidable foe in Megaguirus, and also paid many respectful nods to the G-films of yesteryear. For example, in the brief historical outline of this particular timeline's history during the opening sequence of the film, Godzilla's initial 1954 attack on Tokyo was redone in black-and-white footage, duplicating some of the scenes from the first film, but utilizing the modern design of the monster. Even better, and something that Tezuka should be roundly commended for, was the final part of the prologue, which contained the sequence depicting Godzilla's 1996 attack on the plasma-generating power plant in Osaka. The confrontation with the JSDF soldiers, including the important protagonist Tsujimori, was extremely suspenseful, and it very realistically portrayed the extreme terror and anxiety that one would actually experience as the result of attempting to stop such an incredibly powerful and implacable foe at all costs, particularly when all of your allies are being casually obliterated around you, and it was quite reminiscent of how the various fictional soldiers who had to face down the rampages of the savage Hulk within the pages of Marvel Comics must have felt had they really existed (though it was the summer of 2003 before we actually got to see the military's battle with the green-skinned goliath in spectacular fashion on the silver screen, even if the latter film was less than stellar in many ways). A similar comparison would be the predicament experienced by the many heroes who desperately attempted to stop Doomsday during his similar destructive rampage through the classic (if gimmicky) "Death of Superman" storyline that ran through the four Superman titles from DC Comics in 1992. In fact, this sequence was done so well that it all but overshadowed everything else that followed in the main body of the film, and the aforementioned fear and anxiety experienced by the soldiers in their gallant but futile attempt to stop Godzilla from reaching the power plant was almost palpable to the viewers, many of whom will wince on the inside with every soldier who is struck down. This sequence also set the stage well for Tsujimori's Ishmaelesque quest for vengeance that would color her motivations throughout the rest of the film.
Interestingly enough, however, despite the above allusion to MOBY DICK, whose main protagonist's actions are so closely mirrored in this movie by Tsujimori, the central theme regarding the folly of vengeance that was presented so well in the pages of the latter classic work of literature (and in its two film versions), the screenwriters and director never followed up on it within the context of the film, nor did they bring it to its logical and tragic conclusion (as was the case with the novel in question).
Tsujimori's obsession for revenge against the big green saurian did indeed cause her to make a few mistakes, manifesting early on with the haste of her desire to test the Dimension Tide technology, as well as utilizing it before it had fully passed muster in the eyes of the scientists who designed it, and this led to the deadly Meganulon infestation in the first place. And as many reviewers of this film are quick to point out, her idea to test the device in a rural but populated area where it could be easily witnessed by a young boy hiking through the woods was irresponsible to the point of being idiotic. This was perhaps best exemplified by scribe Ed Godziszewski (and editor of JAPANESE GIANTS) in his review of this film that appeared in G-FAN #49: "…the one unforgivable blunder in the story is the plan to test the Dimension Tide in a rural, yet still inhabited part of Japan. Given the catastrophic implications of a possible failure, a test even remotely near a populated area is a ludicrous idea." Well said there, Ed. In fact, this sequence appeared to be woven into the plot simply to give the young actor who played "Kenny" (i.e., "Dr. Insect") a small bit of screen time (was this boy a relative of one of the movie's creative team? I smell the rotten stench of nepotism here). Since the problems with this sequence of the plot has been pilloried numerous times by many different film critics, there is no need for me to expound upon it any further, except to opine that this incident may be interpreted by some not as a mere story blunder, but simply as an example of Tsujimori's dangerous impatience with getting the Dimension Tide working regardless of the risk, an attitude that would appear elsewhere in the film, as well.
However, with that said, as I pointed out above, it's a bit interesting that screenwriters Hiroshi Kashiwabara and Wataru Mimura, along with director Tezuka, didn't take this theme to its expected conclusion by depicting the vengeance-ridden soldier leading both herself and her crew to destruction in her maniacal attempts to kill Godzilla no matter what the cost, just as the ill-fated Captain Ahab of MOBY DICK did against the great white sperm whale. Instead, Tsujimori emerges as a hero at the end of the film, and her desire for vengeance is sated. This is partly a result of the differing cultural values which the Japanese possess that contrast with the "love thy enemy" and anti-vengeance values that are so prominent in the Judeo-Christian influenced mindset of the West. Of course, probably one of the best attempts by an American genre film to elucidate the timeless Western theme regarding the folly of vengeance is the memorable direct to video horror flick Pumpkinhead (the first one, that is, and not the god-awful sequel that followed it).
Also, the small amount of social commentary in this film regarding political corruption that subjects thousands of innocent civilians to danger so that a privileged few can grow ever wealthier and more powerful is sure to anger all of the shameless flag-wavers out there (in both America and Japan), and it also adds a metaphorical but chilling real life analysis of the present global system that displays exactly how a world doesn't need a Godzilla in order for the constant specter of doom to hover over the vast majority of the international population at all times. Very courageous of you, Mssrs. Kashiwabara and Mimura, and don't listen to all of the human sheep out there who will accuse you of being "preachy" or "heavy-handed" for including that theme as part of the plot in the course of their reviews (especially after you failed to deliver on the "folly of vengeance" premise that you set up so well in the early part of the script).
Though some may say that Tezuki and the two screenwriters may have avoided taking the above tack with Tsujimori's character because it would be too derivative of another popular work of fiction, a casual glance at this film by any well-informed kaiju-fan will quickly make it clear to all concerned that the movie was derivative of another story in a considerably more profound manner. The nature of Godzilla's insectoid nemesis in this film bears an astonishing resemblance to Gamera's similarly insect-like adversary from the popular Gamera 2: The Advent of Legion (1996). In the latter film, the titular kaiju antagonist of the Flying G started out as a group of two meter insect-like creatures who spawn underground and attack and slaughter human beings, then evolve into a flying form, in which a swarm of them attack and nearly kill the film's kaiju title character, only to later spawn an enormous and formidable "queen" insect (Legion, in the latter case) who then proceeds to give the main kaiju an even bigger problem. Of course, there were some differences between the two insectoid kaiju, but the similarities far outweighed the distinctions. I'm actually amazed that more G-fan reviewers haven't pointed out the cinematically plagaristic aspects of this film, considering they are not that difficult to spot upon an even cursory observation. For this reason, there are some who may consider Godzilla vs. Megaguirus to be a rip-off in many ways of the second movie in the Heisei Era Gamera film series (I sure do!).
The human direction in this film was handled well, with a particularly fine performance turned out by actress Misato Tanaka as the embittered soldier Kiriko Tsujimori. Despite being "only" 23 years old at the time this movie was made, Ms. Tanaka does herself proud here, much more so than any of the other actors or actresses in the film, though the performance by G-film veteran Yuriko Hoshi as Dr. Yoshino Yoshizawa was also very polished and professional. The fact that virtually no women serve anywhere in the "real" Japanese military, let alone in a command position, this was a very bold and open-minded move on the creative team's part, though it should be noted that powerful female protagonists of this mold are a common component of the genre of sentai films in Japan, and it has been said that the renewed popularity of the latter genre from the 1990's to the present inspired many other things in this film, from the costume-like uniforms worn by the G-Graspers to the inclusion of technology based upon penetrating dimensional barriers, which was a major plot element of the recent and very popular Ultraman Tiga film in Japan. Hence, once again it appears that the creative crew of this movie actually have no problem whatsoever with their product being shamelessly derivative of others' work.
The rest of the actors in the film, once again, were adequate though nothing spectacular, and though a youth actor was included here, this particular "Kenny" didn't get enough screen time to annoy anyone, he didn't wear micro-shorts that were painful for any male viewer to even imagine wearing, he wasn't friends with Godzilla, and he never needed to be rescued in any sense. In fact, after his brief conversation with Tsujimori in Shibuya after the Meganulon infestation was revealed, he vanished from the film completely! (Unless you include the very brief sequence following the title credits, which should have been left out of the completed film anyway, and seemed to have been filmed as nothing more than an afterthought by the director.)
The fantastic elements included in the movie, such as the Dimension Tide technology and the photonic weaponry wielded by the Gryphon, detracted from the more "logical" technology seen in the Heisei Gamera film series and in Godzilla 2000 (the inaugural entry in the Godzilla Millennium Series), and producer Tomiyama reportedly answered this criticism to the Japanese media thusly: "Our films do not attempt to create a believable realism like the new Gamera. They are more fantasy, so we can do something more outrageous." This, of course, is like saying that the atmosphere of Jerry Springer's talk show is superior to the one that was seen in Phil Donahue's show prior to its final years after "trash TV" came into vogue on U.S. television, but I digress. Of course, the better reception given to the second Gamera film series by kaiju-fans in general should speak volumes to Mr. Tomiyama and his creative crew. Instead, they are more than happy to borrow various plot elements from the recent Gamera films while simultaneously ignoring the aspects of the movie series that actually made it so popular among kaiju-fans in the first place.
I'm not saying that Godzilla films should always be as "realistic" as possible (I would hate to see all the maser weaponry gone, for instance). Rather, I am simply saying that too many deviations from "reality" can ruin the suspension of disbelief that is so important for viewers to truly enjoy and "get into" a movie.
Despite Tomiyama's wise change in the directorship for this film, he still retained the same Kenji Suzuki as director of the sfx, and though the inclusion of CGI appears to be here to stay in the G-films, the still-utilized suitmation monsters continue to appear clunky in many ways, even if they retain their established "charm" over that of the much more recent CGI creations. Godzilla's look in this film seemed less definitively "reptilian," as was the case in the last film, and more malevolently demonic this time around, with a decently evil suit that looked suitably (pun intended) vicious.
The suits, props, and various CGI effects used to depict Godzilla's insectoid adversaries onscreen were a mixed bag, however. Many kaiju-fans were excited to hear that the savagely brutal two meter long Meganulon insects who gorily dispatched hapless humans up close and personal during the first half of the Toho kaiju classic Rodan (1956) would get the official update treatment in a G-film, though sadly, the initial non-flying Meganulon form that wreaked so much havoc on the denizens of a small mining town in the aforementioned Rodan (until the title dai kaiju took over from them in the second half of the movie) would be used so sparingly in their second film appearance, where they underwent the "modern" revamp treatment. Realized onscreen by stiff full-sized props in the close-up attack scene on the two doomed teenagers and one brief earlier scene, and with CGI via long-distance shots when thousands of them were seen atop a skyscraper pupating into their Meganula incarnation, the new version of Meganulon resembled giant locusts, replete with six legs and two nasty front pincers, rather than the awkward but undeniably terrifying and fearsome looking Showa version, which looked like a nightmarish fusion of a scorpion and a caterpillar (at least the new version didn't make those annoying squeaking sounds that their Showa Series predecessors did, however). The new version of Meganulon, unfortunately, displayed their trademarked savagery in only one scene, where the two adolescents lovers are butchered in a rather graphic manner by one of them; however, those would be the only victims of the Meganulon to be seen onscreen, and since the new versions (like the original versions) didn't actually feed on human beings, they appeared to be killing people simply because they instinctually perceived them as some sort of territorial rival. Oh, and the Meganulon also inexplicably spit a tar-like fluid on its human victims before butchering them, which looked much like the brownish goo that grasshoppers often spit all over your fingers when you pick them up.
The scene where the first Meganulon molts its outer shell and emerges in its flying Meganula incarnation was done very well, with a combination of animatronic prop and CGI effects. Unlike the greatly neglected Meganulon incarnation, the Meganula receive a very good degree of screen time prior to the emergence of the final, "queen" stage of Megaguirus, and most of their scenes are accomplished entirely via CGI, particularly their flying scenes. While much of the CGI utilized to portray the Meganula onscreen is spotty in several places, and by no means 100% convincing, the beating of the wings was done quite realistically, and truly resembled the ultra-rapid wing movements of real flying insects. It's quite obvious, however, that these creatures are not truly insects as we know them on Earth, not only because of their physiologically prohibitive size, but also because you will note many outright mammalian characteristics on the ultimate Megaguirus incarnation.
The Megaguirus was realized onscreen mostly by a large prop, though the beating of her wings when she unleashes her destructive vibratory waves were accomplished by CGI (with mediocre results; this was done much more effectively with Mothra in the following year's GMK). Despite the creature having the basic contours of a dragonfly-like insect, her wings were actually bat-like rather than insect-like in appearance, her large red eyes didn't appear to be multi-faceted (as is the case with many insects, including real dragonflies), and her jaws didn't consist of the mandibles common to Earth insects, but instead resembled the maw of a mammal, complete with a series of razor-sharp teeth that aren't familiar features of the insects we knew and grew up collecting as kids. Thus, the true nature of Megaguirus and her spawn are clearly of an otherdimensional nature in terms of physiology.
And to all intelligent, thinking people out there: please do ignore the comments from a scientist in the film who described Megaguirus, along with the Meganulon and Meganula that proceeded her, as actual prehistoric insects from Earth's past. This was simply either a case of terrible sloppiness on the part of the screenwriters (something that Mssrs. Kashiwabara and Mimura are hardly unknown for doing, as anyone who saw any of the three Rebirth of Mothra films could attest to), or some sort of unwelcome homage to the "bad" science often used to explain the origins of the various creatures that inhabited the American sci-fi films of the '50's and '60's, which included a rich amount of fictitious prehistoric species far larger than anything that actually existed, or a complete rewriting of the evolutionary history of life on this planet in order to accomodate the creatures who comprise the film's plot. What may have been considered entertaining during an earlier cinematic era, however, comes off as simply stupid and insulting to the intelligence of the modern viewer, especially when you consider the great interest and knowledge that even many young children have of prehistoric animals, as well as insects. This was just as bad as a scene from the exclusive American footage shot for King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), where a scientist describes Godzilla as a hybrid of a Stegasaurus and a Tyrannosaurus rex, two dinsosaurs that didn't even exist during the same period of time in the Mesozoic Era of Earth's prehistory! And a herbivore and carnasaur mating with each other? Pu-lease!
Also, the screenwriters should have kept in mind that even though there actually were very large insects that existed in the Pre-Cambrian Period of the Paleozoic Era in Earth's prehistory, the largest of them (which included an actual prehistoric dragonfly considerably larger than any insect living today), were only about 1.5 feet in length, and nothing as tremendously huge as the Megaguirus could possibly have been part of the natural prehistoric insect bestiary of this planet. Further, we must keep in mind the utterly unearthly nature of the creature's reproductive process, and also the fact that the Meganula and Megaguirus herself feed upon powerful sources of energy, such as nuclear, which would have been impossible to come by in prehistoric times!
[Okay, yes there was volcanic energy in the form of super-heated lava to be found, but it's still a far cry from nuclear or plasmic energy, and the attempt to explain volcanic energy as a substitute for something on the order of nuclear energy was already tried in the American version of Godzilla Raids Again (1955), and the result sounded as ridiculous as you can possibly imagine.]
The Meganula swarm attacking Godzilla was actually done better than its forbear in the form of the Legion swarm attacking Gamera in Gamera 2: The Advent of Legion, and was quite suspenseful to watch, even if the Meganula attacking Godzilla in close up shots weren't depicted precisely to proper scale. Further, Godzi's climactic battle with Megaguirus was very well done, even though the Megaguirus prop (like many of Toho's flying monsters) was quite stiff while in flight, though the distinctly insect-like manner in which she darted and flitted about, near-impossible for Godzilla to hit, was exectued quite well.
One big problem with the sfx during the climactic monster battle, however, was special effects director Kenji Suzuki's use of slow motion (and in one case actually speeding the film up) to depict various of Godzilla's movements. This was an unwise choice, as it looked rather silly and even distracting onscreen during the particular segments of the battle in which it was used. Nevertheless, at least we got to see a good degree of close-quarters physical sparring between the two kaiju combatants, and thankfully the great overuse of the monsters' beam weapons in combat that was a regrettable staple of the Heisei Series G-films appears to be a thing of the past, especially in lieu of the fact that the current version of Godzilla takes a few seconds to build up his internal nuclear energy before firing his radioactive beam, which prevents him from using it near-constantly, as he did in the previous film series.
It should be mentioned that although Kenji Suzuki is a competent artisan in regards to special effects, some of the techniques he utilizes are a bit bold regarding the limited budget he generally has to work with, and this sometimes results in very messy effects. In fact, it should be noted that because Godzilla 2000 was only a modest success in Japan, Suzuki was expected to create the sfx with a smaller allotted budget this time around. The limitations were quite evident onscreen, but one thing you can credit the Japanese creative teams for in terms of product execution is their willingness to take chances and to push the envelope, even if the results aren't always entirely satisfactory.
A good example of this is the way Suzuki and his sfx crew played and experimented with the new CGI technology they now have to work with, the daring scene featuring Tsujimori climbing atop Godzilla's dorsal plates, and the manner in which Godzilla displays his formidable cunning in battle (particularly the scene in which he causes Megaguirus to sever one of her pincers on his dorsal plates during an airborne attack on him). Also, the CGI-created underwater sequences for Godzilla were fairly well done (but thankfully brief), and the panoramic aerial view of Shibuya after being flooded courtesy of the Meganulon infestation was the first time that a cityscape was fully accomplished by CGI, rather than by physically constructed miniatures in a Toho dai kaiju film, and it looked every bit as good as the CGI used to depict New Gotham City in the short-lived but but rather inspired "Birds of Prey" television series in America. The actually constructed miniatures themselves were done with the usual remarkable and meticulous detail by Toho's sfx crews, and now even more so since Godzilla's height has been reduced nearly to the level he possessed in the first film and throughout the Showa Series.
Oh, and I should mention the one partly amusing, and partly silly scene towards the end of Godzilla's climactic battle with Megaguirus where the Kaiju King downs his insectoid adversary, and then leaps over 100 meters into the air to deliver a full-body smash to his opponent that makes you seriously wonder if the Big G happens to be a devout WWF fan! Should this scene have been included in the final cut of the film? I'll let you be the judge.
The near-obligatory inclusion of mecha in a G-film was satisfied here by the Gryphon aerial warship, which in both design and execution isn't something that is going to get too many mecha mavens excited about, and it fell well behind many previous examples of war-oriented mecha in a G-film, including the three versions of the Super X warship seen within the Heisei Series (which appeared in Godzilla 1985 , Godzilla vs. Biollante , and Godzilla vs. Destroyah , respectively).
The pacing of the film was done rather well, with little obvious padding, and with the tone of a suspense-driven war movie, something not seen in a G-film since Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 2 (1993). Despite some weak dialogue that we are used to seeing in G-film scripts since the 1970's (which is inevitably made much worse once the movie is dubbed in English), most of the characters had well thought out motivations and personalities. The final two epilogue sequences, however, were so unnecessary and silly that it's actually a shame that they were included in the complete Japanese version available by Video Daikaiju, and the American version of this film would actually be greatly improved if these two sequences were snipped out and summarily flushed down the toilet. But I should point out that those little robot creations of Kudo that appeared in two scenes (including one of those awful epilogue sequences) would make wonderful little wind-up toys for someone's office desk.
As for the score of this film by newcomer maestro Michiru Oshima: great job! The military marches played during the excellent prologue sequence featuring Godzilla's 1996 assault on Osaka was breathtaking, as was the theme music for the Meganula swarm's attack on Godzilla, the battle between Godzilla and Megaguirus, and the wonderful orchestration that played over the end credits, which really left the viewers with a dramatic "taste" in their mind for the action they just witnessed (assuming they didn't stick around to see the further silliness with "Kenny" that occurred after those end credits finished rolling). One military motif from the inventory of Akira Ifukube's classic Godzilla themes was played during the film, and though certain renowned G-fans such as J.D. Lees has stated that perhaps in time Ifukube's themes should be totally phased out of the G-films, I believe that the man's close and outstanding contribution to the history of Godzilla should be acknowledged idefinately, and at least one classic motif of the legendary maestro should be on the soundtrack of every future G-film, since they are an important part of the Big G's celluloid roots.
As it turned out, Ifukube's tracks were left out of the next three G-films in the Millennium Series, but one found its way back into the final film of the latter series.
In late 2000, many G-fans were hoping that Tri-Star Pictures, who held the copyright to Godzilla in America from the late 1990's to the present date, would dub and release Godzilla vs. Megaguirus to the American big screen in the summer of '01, but unfortunately, this didn't happen for reasons unknown, possibly because Godzilla 2000 was only a minor success for Tri-Star during its American release. Though most of the G-films released in America during the 1970's weren't huge successes, and most were relegated to the then popular kiddie matinees, they were released during that time period by small film companies who didn't expect a vast profit in those less high-powered days. Today, in contrast, big film companies like Tri-Star (which is a division of the even bigger Columbia Pictures) want a hefty profit even from a foreign film they themselves didn't have to spend huge amounts of money to produce (though they did, of course, have to spend money on "Americanizing" the film, and in advertising the flick). At this time, it appears that Tri-Star's deal with Toho has run its course. An English dubbed version of this film has been made, and was slated to receive a very limited theatrical release in the U.S., confined to the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, CA on August 10, 2003. The film was then sold direct to television, this and GMK (2001) being the first G-films released in America in this manner since Son of Godzilla in 1969, and the U.S. version was slotted to premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel on Sunday, August 31, 2003. The Sci-Fi Channel release was directly preceeded by the TV debut of Toho's Rebirth of Mothra trilogy, and directly followed by the nationwide U.S. release of GMK.
This film was released to home video on April 29, 2004 by Tri-Star video in a high quality, Dolby stereo, widescreen format, and was released on April 29, 2004, the same date (and in the same high quality format) as the following year's GMK.
When or if G-fans in America will ever get to see another G-film on the big screen (outside of film festivals such as the annual summer G-Fest sponsored by G-FAN magazine, that is), remains to be seen.
A high quality English sub-titled edition of the Japanese version is available from the folks at Video Daikaiju. Just ignore the semi-frequent spelling errors in the sub-titles, and you get a product full of numerous "extras" that is more than worth the small and very reasonable sum that Video Daikaiju charges for their videos.
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