The Millennium era gets back up again after a severe stumble, all thanks to the glories of everyone’s favorite pimp, Mechagodzilla. #29: Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.
The continuity between the films in the Millennium era is unclear and dodgy at best. They rarely make reference to one another, and they each seem to think that only certain random films in the series count as continuity; GMK for instance insisted that the only two previous movies were the 1954 original and 1966’s Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is the first of the Millennium films that acknowledges other films within its own era. That alone makes it the strongest Millennium film, although it’s also awesome fun, contains one of the best of all the Godzilla fights, and features my own personal favorite, Mechagodzilla.
Mechagodzilla serves a similar function here as he did in the Heisei films. He is essentially a piloted super-tank that was constructed to take down Godzilla once and for all. In this film he is called Kiryu, and was constructed by wrapping a cybernetic super-armor around the skeleton of the original Godzilla salvaged from the ocean floor. That’s why it looks like Godzilla. He is also equipped with thousands of missiles, lightning breath, and something called an Absolute Zero ray, which freezes stuff. Kiryu is to be piloted by remote by Akane (Yumiko Shaku), a plucky and capable young woman. There are many capable women in the Godzilla films, you’ll find. Indeed, that’s a feature of Japanese films in general.
Since Mechagodzilla is made with the bones of the original Godzilla, it has somehow absorbed Godzilla sense memories. When the robot hears Godzilla’s roar, it seems to develop its own intelligence, and begins behaving independently. That’s pretty dang cool, I must say.
The approach to filming Godzilla’s fights (with the notable exception of Godzilla Raids Again) is to film actors in suits, and then to slow the film slightly to show their lumbering scale and the extent of their destruction. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla manages to convey that sense of scale and destruction, but all while allowing the monsters to move quickly and fluidly. Plus, thanks to Mechagodzilla’s arsenal, we have a great variety of fight visuals to keep our eyes perky, including that Absolute Zero ray. The fight in this film is, as I have said, perhaps the best in any Godzilla movie.
A fear of mine when I was watching all the Godzilla films for the first time (an epic project that took an entire summer – also an experience I recommend) was that, as we got closer and closer to the modern day, and movie special effects lilted ever closer toward the digital, that Godzilla would eventually be replaced by CGI animation. Toho, however, has been keeping a close eye on their famed monster, and they seem to have a calm, traditional eye on the way their monster looks. And since Godzilla has traditionally been a guy in a suit, that is the way he’s largely remained. I appreciate this.
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla ends with Akane bidding farewell to Godzilla as he slinks off into the ocean. I imagine he has an underwater den somewhere, where he wears a red velvet robe, smoke cigars, and drinks really classy beers. To repeat: This is the best of the Millennium films, and may be the only one to establish a continuity. The next one’s not bad either.
Up next: Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)