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21) GODZILLA VS. SPACEGODZILLA (1994)

U.S. release date: December, 1998, direct to home video by Tri-Star Video.
Japanese audience attendance: 3,400,000
Director: Kensho Yamashita
Screenplay: Hiroshi Kashiwabara
Sfx: Koichi Kawakita
Musical score: Takeyuki Hattori
Available on home video from Tri-Star Video.

Synopsis:

While traveling in deep space, Mothra psychically detects an object moving towards Earth, and realizes that it bodes ill for the giant insect’s home planet. Since she cannot alter course herself, she releases numerous tiny ‘Fairy Mothra’s,’ each carrying a psychic distress call from her twin priestesses the Cosmos, in the hope that at least one will successfully reach Earth.

Meanwhile, back on Earth itself, G-Force, the international Godzilla countermeasure agency, has just completed work on a new giant robot known as M.O.G.E.R.A. (Mobile G-Force Expert Robot Aerial-type), which is to replace the destroyed Mechagodzilla as a weapon against Godzilla. In addition to possessing a considerable arsenal of powerful weaponry, the Mogera robot is capable of space flight, and can split into two separate vehicles, the Land Mole, which travels over the earth on tank-like threads and has a large drill for burrowing underground, and the Star Falcon, which is a flying war machine.

Simultaneously, G-Force is also working on the T-Project, an attempt to combine technology with psychic Miki Saegusa’s ever increasing psionic powers in the hope of controlling Godzilla’s actions through telepathy. This would entail attaching a psionic amplifier to Godzilla’s skull, after which Miki Saegusa would then utilize her telepathy, via a specially designed helmet she would wear, to transmit her thoughts directly to the monster’s brain, thereby overriding his thought processes with her own.
Saegusa was asked to be the participating psychic since she was the most powerful telepath in G-Force’s esper division, but she displayed severe reservations to the project due to its violation of Godzilla’s rights as a living being. Since the T-Project was a means of eliminating the constant danger Godzilla posed to Japan without actually killing the kaiju, however, she ultimately relented and agreed to participate.

Soon afterwards, an experimental NASA space shuttle designed for space travel in the outer reaches of the solar system (possibly also invented due to studying the 23rd century technology left over by the Futurians in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorahh) is attacked and crushed by what appears to be a space faring dai kaiju.
As the Japanese government begins its own investigation, Miki Saegusa is visited by a Fairy Mothra, which transmits a psychic message from the Cosmos to her. They warn her that a huge monster that has already ravaged many worlds is now heading for Earth, and will soon arrive there. Alerting G-Force, they decide to send Mogera into outer space to intercept the monster.

In the meantime, two G-Force observers, Kohji Shinjo and Akira Yuuki, are on the tropical atoll known as Birth Island, where it is believed that Godzilla has taken up residence since last leaving Japan. Their orders are to find Godzilla and attach the T-Project amplifier to the beast’s skull, but Yuuki has other plans. Because his best friend, Colonel Gondo, was killed several years ago in battle with Godzilla, Yuuki has designed a chemical which will theoretically kill Godzilla by freezing the monster’s blood, and he has placed the chemical in a special bullet that he calls a ‘Yuuki Special’ to be fired into the kaiju’s skin. While on the island, the two men encounter what used to be Baby Godzilla, who has now grown into a 30 meter tall toddler they call Little Godzilla, whose comical appearance is indicative of the creature’s gentle nature.
Miki Saegusa arrives on the island soon afterwards, and she develops romantic feelings towards Shinjo.

The next day, Godzilla finally arrives on the island himself, and Yuuki goes out of his way to fire the poison projectile into Godzilla’s system, only to learn that the bullet won’t penetrate the kaiju’s ultra-tough hide. The psionic amplifier is successfully attached to Godzilla’s head via a long-range rifle, however, and Miki finds that she can indeed control the beast through the device.
Later, Mogera rockets into space and confronts the monster flying towards Earth somewhere past the orbit of Mars...the creature has a dinosaur-like head visible inside a crystal shell with several spike-like protuberances. After a frenzied battle, Mogera is easily defeated and badly damaged, and the space monster continues his trek towards Earth.
The monster soon lands on Birth Island, seemingly out of instinct, and metamorphoses into a bipedal, 120 meter tall Godzilla-like form with two enormous crystals protruding from the creature’s shoulders. As Little Godzilla investigates the crystal shards lying about after the impact out of curiosity, the space beast begins attacking the hapless creature with his deadly corona beams, blasting the ground about the panicking little kaiju. The little creature’s screams of terror catch Godzilla’s attention, who somehow manages to short out the psionic amplifier and rush to Little Godzilla’s aid.
Godzilla attacks the space monster, only to be overpowered by the creature’s incredible firepower. Trapping Little Godzilla inside a crystal prison, the alien beast transforms into his flying form again and leaves the island. The enraged Godzilla follows the space beast on his projected course to Japan via the ocean.

Scientists studying the debris from the space shuttle uncover cellular material from the monster, and scientific analysis yields a surprising discovery. The genetic material of the stellar kaiju is a hybrid of Godzilla and an unknown form of living alien crystal. A theory is then formulated that one of the radioactive G-cells from Godzilla that was carried into space by either Biollante or Mothra years earlier, was sucked into a black hole to a distant area of space, where it combined with an alien crystalline life-form. Mutated by exposure to cosmic radiation in space, a hybrid creature developed, which feeds on cosmic energy in the same fashion as Godzilla feeds on nuclear energy.
Since the kaiju feeds on cosmic energy, which it appears to absorb through the crystalline structures that it grows from its own body, the beast is a more powerful version of Godzilla himself, and is thus christianed 'SpaceGodzilla,' which the scientists believe found his way to Earth through sheer genetic instinct.

Further disaster unexpectedly strikes when G-Force member Susumu Ohkubo, who was on Birth Island with the rest of the team, turns out to be an agent of a crime cartel described as the Japanese 'Industrial Mafia' (presumably a techno-savvy branch of the Yakuza, which is the official name of the Japanese Mafia). Ohkubo engineers the kidnapping of Miki Saegusa, who is brought to the Mafia’s hidden headquarters where sophisticated computers are kept. Using these computers along with the captive Saegusa’s telepathic powers, the Mafia hopes to enhance the effect of the psionic amplifier, and thus gain control of Godzilla themselves. The plan initially proves successful, and the Mafia incites Godzilla to attack and destroy opposing G-Force military units.
However, Godzilla’s sheer animalistic determination to find and destroy SpaceGodzilla enables him to break from Mafia control, and to continue pursuit of his extraterrestrial counterpart.

Shinjo and Yuuki then locate and invade the Mafia base, and Ohkubo is killed in the ensuing shootout. When Shinjo’s life is threatened by an armed Mafia agent, Miki’s growing love for the man enables her to save him by utilizing a new manifestation of her psionic powers, telekinesis.

SpaceGodzilla then arrives in the city of Fukuoka, and the alien kaiju erects several crystalline tower-like structures there as energy transmitters, devastating much of the city in the process. Ultimately, the beast utilizes Fukuoka Tower as an antenna to attract and channel vast amounts of cosmic energy to feed himself.

The repaired Mogera is then sent to battle SpaceGodzilla, with Shinjo aboard and Yuuki at the controls. However, once again overcome by his desire for revenge, Yuuki diverts Mogera’s path and instead attacks Godzilla. Shinjo knocks Yuuki unconscious and takes the controls himself, bringing the towering robot back on its proper course. After returning to consciousness, Yuuki changes his mind against wanting to kill Godzilla, realizing that SpaceGodzilla is a greater threat to his country, and he agrees to behave and cooperate with his fellow G-Force members.

Arriving in Fukuoka, Mogera attacks SpaceGodzilla with a combination of Spiral Grenade Missiles, Plasma Masers, and laser blasts, but still proves unable to seriously injure the space beast. Soon, Godzilla himself appears, and joins Mogera in battle against SpaceGodzilla, but the cosmic powered kaiju holds his own against both of his foes. Godzilla senses that his enemy’s power source derives from the crystal antenna on Fukuoka Tower, but he is unable to penetrate the crystalline shield around the structure, even with his atomic breath.

Changing tactics, Mogera is split into its two component vehicles, and as the Star Falcon attacks and distracts SpaceGodzilla, the Land Mole burrows underground and severs the tower’s link with the surrounding crystals, and Godzilla finally manages to topple the structure, thereby depriving SpaceGodzilla of the cosmic energy that was constantly being absorbed and fed to him by the tower up to that point.

SpaceGodzilla nevertheless continues to battle his two foes with fierce vigor. Ultimately, however, Mogera manages to shatter the space beast’s energy absorbing shoulder crystals, but the giant robot was then itself skewered and severely damaged by SpaceGodzilla’s enormous spiked tail. Somehow absorbing the huge amount of residual cosmic energy released by the destruction of Fukuoka Tower, Godzilla manages to transform into his Super Godzilla incarnation, and his enhanced Uranium Power Breath soon completely obliterates SpaceGodzilla, as well as the remains of Mogera (Shinjo, Yuuki, and the rest of the robot’s crew all manage to escape with more assistance by Miki Saegusa’s new power of telekinesis).

The crystal prison entrapping Little Godzilla then collapses, and the freed creature happily frolics about projecting energy bubbles. Miki then uses her telekinesis to remove the psionic amplifier from Godzilla’s head.
Satisfied with his triumph, the Kaiju King quietly enters the ocean and heads back for Birth Island.

Review/Synopsis:

This highly uneven G-film received much criticism from disappointed G-fans, and I am forced to agree with most of it. With the exception of sfx master Koichi Kawakita, all of the working staff was new and inexperienced with creating a dai kaiju eiga epic, and the finished product clearly shows their inadequacy. Kensho Yamashita is best known for his directing of the ever popular teen idol films in Japan, and he attempted to impress the tone of such a movie onto a G-film. The result was a highly inappropriate overall thematic atmosphere for the movie.

The acting was substandard, the cast was rather dull if somewhat likable, the pacing was drawn out to the point that the audience falls asleep through a third of the film, and the movie had much more running time than plot. The screenplay by Hiroshi Kashiwabara had more than enough plot holes, such as the poorly scripted love story between Shinjo and Miki (who thankfully abandoned that hideous boy short hairdo she sported here for the next and final film in the Heisei Series, which was also her swan song), and the oft-criticized Industrial Mafia subplot that suddenly appears and is resolved all within the space of ten minutes of screen time.

The increasing prominence of psychic phenomena and Miki Saegusa’s role in the Heisei Era G-series was sorely played out by Kashiwabara in the screenplay, and although the idea of controlling rather than destroying Godzilla was an interesting one, attempting to do so through psychic means was a rather uninspired and just plain terrible idea (in fact, the idea of humanity controlling rather than destroying Godzilla was the theme of some of the more popular G-video games, including Super Godzilla, where the Kaiju King was controlled via the technology of the Super X; in Marc Ceracini's novel GODZILLA 2000, the Big G is mystically controlled by Mothra into helping her defend the Earth against the arrival of King Ghidorahh).

The musical soundtrack by Takeyuki Hattori was mediocre, and many G-fans mourned the retirement of master maestro Akira Ifukube, claiming that Hattori’s score was much more appropriate for an anime flick than a live action film; the music certainly did nothing worthwhile for the movie. However, his later score for Godzilla vs. Megaguiras (2000) was much improved over this one.

Kawakita’s sfx was typically breathtaking, but once again we see the monsters rely far more on their respective beam weapons in battle rather than physical brawling. Also, the movie shamefully utilized some noticeable stock footage from Godzilla vs. Biollante.

Several G-fans, including myself, weren’t happy with the fact that Toho chose Mogera as the kaiju revival from the company's classic film era, rather than more popular beasts such as Anguirus and Varan, who were both rumored at various times during pre-production to be next for the update treatment. The return of Mogera obviously reflected Kawakita’s love of mecha. The original version of Mogera, the first ever robotic dai kaiju created by Toho, didn’t actually appear in a Showa Series G-film, but in the classic Toho sci-fi epic The Mysterians (1957). However, the original Mogera actually battled Godzilla (and Mothra) in Nintendo’s 8-bit Godzilla, Monster Of Monsters! video game, released in the late 1980's.
Like Mechagodzilla, the original version of the robot was a weapon used against Earth by invading aliens, but the Heisei Era G-series version turned them both into weapons created by the United Nations to use against Godzilla. Mogera was very obviously also created utilizing the 23rd century technology left behind by the Futurians a few years earlier (in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah [1991]), even though this important plot point was evidently considered self-explanatory by the screenwriter, who did not state this explicitly in the film itself (in Ceracini's great novel GODZILLA VS. THE ROBOT MONSTERS, Mogera was the creation of Russian science).
Mogera was considered a letdown by many G-fans who preferred Mechagodzilla as G-Force’s official giant robot avenger. Furthermore, the outer space battle between Mogera and SpaceGodzilla was terrible, and should have been either redone or excised from the film altogether.

I rather not even mention Little Godzilla; the credible design of the previous film was set aside in favor of a somewhat Minya-like creature who was obviously intended for nothing more than a "cutsie" attraction to children, and used solely for comic relief and charm, something Toho was supposed to avoid in the Heisei G-series. The kaiju toddler actually resembled what you would imagine Barney the Dinosaur's love child to look like.

The saving grace of the film was SpaceGodzilla, an excellent and formidable foe for the Big G, and the only bona fide extraterrestrial menace the Kaiju King encountered in the Heisei Series. Even so, the beast’s origins were partly of Earthly derivation, and the monster acted under his own volition, and was not under the control of advanced, intelligent aliens bent on conquest, as we saw so often in the Showa Series. Although SpaceGodzilla’s ‘flying crystal hedgehog’ design was much hated by G-fans, the terrestrial form of the creature was well realized, and the image is much sought after in action figures by die hard G-fans. The creature’s appearance was apparently based on the Big G's ‘Super Godzilla’ incarnation from the eponymous 1992 Super Nintendo video game.

Unfortunately, the first battle was too short, and the second, climactic battle was much too long, and though we learn that Godzilla can metabolize cosmic energy in an emergency situation to become Super Godzilla, this was not adequately explained in the film itself. To make things worse, in this movie Godzilla was portrayed as a hero, and for the first and only time in the Heisei Series, he fought alongside another kaiju as an ally.
This broke the cardinal rule that Toho set up for itself with the Heisei Era G-series, repeating the mistakes of the past that eventually brought the Showa Series to a halt.

As was often said in regards to this film by critics, in attempting to appeal to all audiences, the movie actually ended up being satisfying to none. To make things even worse, this G-film was in direct kaiju competition with Daiei’s revised Gamera series, specifically Gamera, The Guardian Of The Universe, released that same year (1994). Most kaiju-fans seem to feel that the Gamera film was better, hyping up its excellent and literate screenplay, fine acting, and dramatic storyline, and the latest G-film suffered the oft-repeated comment that “the sfx was good, but the story itself was horrid.”

Another reason so many G-fans on both sides of the Pacific were upset by this film was that it replaced the long-awaited, proposed remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla (which was also supposed to feature an updated version of Anguirus), since Toho ultimately balked at the asking price Turner Entertainment, the current owner of the King Kong character, slapped them with for the use of the big ape in their previously planned rematch between the Big G and Kong. Thus, much to the chagrin of many a G-fan across the globe, this project replaced the proposed Godzilla vs. King Kong on Toho's 1994 production schedule. Ditto for a suggested replacement project that would have pit Godzilla against a revamped version of Mechani-Kong, who was to face off with the Kaiju King while a group of G-Force scientists and soldiers rode a mini-vehicle through Godzilla's bloodstream (injected into the beast by the robot), attempting to neutralize the Atomic Titan from within as the robotic simian battled him from without; this proposed project was nixed very quickly as well, since the use of Mechani-Kong was determined by Toho's lawyers to still be in violation of TNT's copyright. Hence, the G-film that was ultimately produced under this schedule seemed doomed to be considered lackluster and unappreciated by the many G-fans from the get-go (and it was).

This movie, like Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, was released by Tri-Star Video a few months after Tri-Star’s American-made G-film departed U.S. theaters in shame, and an excellent sub-titled Japanese version is available from Video Daikaiju.

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