Saturday, 1 July 2017

Godzilla against Mechagodzilla (4 Stars)

This film was made in 2002, the fourth Godzilla film in four years, but as far as continuity goes it has nothing to do with the previous three films. In fact, none of the four films share anything, except that they all refer to 1954 as the year that Godzilla first appeared. This is an unusual way to make a film series. Each film is a re-imagining of Godzilla from the ground up.

On a positive note, this is the first Godzilla film to feature a powerful female lead character. The official film poster shows Akane Yashiro, played by Yumiko Shaku. Yumiko began her career as a photo model before turning to acting. This was only her second film, after "Princess Blade" a year earlier. I like the way she's put in the foreground of the poster, as if she's as big as the two monsters. Akane Yashiro is the only woman in an anti-Godzilla squadron, but her commander chooses her as the leader. At first she's not accepted by the other soldiers, who accuse of her of being chosen over them because the commander likes her as a woman, but by the end of the film they all stand behind her when she proves to them that she's the best.

Now to the background of the Godzillaverse Version 4. In 1954 Godzilla attacked Tokyo, but he was killed by the oxygen destroyer gun, a prototype which was destroyed after being used because the creator thought it too deadly to exist. That all happened in the first film. After that Godzilla wasn't seen for 45 years, which means that the last 24 Godzilla films never happened. In 1999 Godzilla, or rather a new Godzilla, came back and attacked Tokyo. There was no particular reason, except that he enjoys trampling on Japanese buildings. Godzilla returned to the sea after having his fun, and the Japanese government knew that they had no weapons capable of harming Godzilla if he ever returned.

A university professor, Tokumitsu Yuhara, has discovered a way of reviving extinct creatures. He can build a metal robotic shell around their skeletons and animate them with a mixture of artificial intelligence and remote control. The army anti-Godzilla task force hires him. They have retrieved the skeleton of the original Godzilla from the sea bed and want the professor to build them a new mechanical Godzilla. I'm not sure why. If the army wanted a Godzilla robot they could build one. Why do they need a skeleton? Nevertheless, by 2003 the giant robot is built, and it's operated by Akane. It's called Kiryu, a Japanese word that means "machine dragon", but the professor's daughter calls it Mechagodzilla.

Look how polite Mechagodzilla is. He bows like everyone else in Japan!

Mechagodzilla isn't just a giant robot. He's equipped with a variety of weapons, including rockets, missiles and taser rays. I don't understand the logic in this. These are exactly the same weapons that were ineffective against Godzilla in 1999. Mechagodzilla does have one new weapon in his arsenal. It's a cold ray that can reduce the temperature of anything it hits to absolute zero.

There are two problems that neither the army nor the professor reckoned with. First, Godzilla is attracted to the factory in Yokohama where Mechagodzilla is built. Second, when Godzilla screams the personality of Mechagodzilla, still present in his skeleton, is reminded who he is. He no longer lets himself be controlled, and he reverts to his Godzilla personality. He sees Japanese buildings all around him and he can't control his urges. "Must... trample...". Trampling isn't enough, so he fires his weapons in all directions to create as much devastation as possible. I told you it was a bad idea to use Godzilla's skeleton!

I enjoy this film. So much about it is ridiculous, but the Godzilla films were never meant to be taken seriously.

A small note about the availability of the Godzilla films. In Japan they've been released on Blu-ray, but in America they've only been released on DVD. In Germany they've been released on Blu-ray, because Germany is always at the forefront of film technology. In England the Godzilla films haven't been released at all, but they can be imported from America or Germany.

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