Monday, 9 March 2015

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974)

After years of lesser budgets, leading to (in my opinion) lesser films and (probably more important to the producers) lesser ticket sales, Toho decided to celebrate Godzilla's 20th anniversary by injecting more cash into the fourteenth entry in the series.  It definitely makes a difference.

This is not to say that Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla is entirely free of the flaws that have plagued the previous few films: we're still lumbered with the rounder, 'friendlier' Godzilla suit of the kid-oriented entries in the series, for one thing.  The plot has some issues, too.  But of course, no-one sits down to watch a Toho Godzilla film for the plot: it's for the kaiju action scenes.  And on that front, this film delivers.

We start on Okinawa, where we hear the legend of King Caesar: an ancient monster that protected the island from outside forces.  At some time, however, the secret of awakening this great defender was lost, and the island came under Japanese dominion.  The descendants of the former Okinawan rulers, therefore, are not exactly horrified when Godzilla appears to revert to his original, destructive ways, cutting a swathe of devastation across Japan.

Something's not quite right with Big G, though.  His roar sounds slightly off, and his atomic breath has a yellowish colour to it.  When Anguirus confronts the rampaging titan - and gets whipped like a mule in the process - we get a hint of the truth: a tear in Godzilla's skin reveals the glint of metal.

Later, the real Godzilla turns up to fight the imposter, which is revealed to be a 'cyborg' (looks more like a robot, to me) under the control of aliens intent on conquering Earth.  Big G gets the worst of this opening encounter, but damages the newly named Mechagodzilla enough that the aliens have it return to base for inprovements.  This sequence is probably the best in the film, with the battle taking place in amidst a rolling wave of explosions.

The plot ties all this into to a prophecy found in a cave in Okinawa: a monster will try to destroy the world, and two other monsters will stop it.  The phrasing of the subtitles are just that: "will stop it".  Probably not the best idea to acknowledge the inevitable victory of Big G so openly, Toho.

Anyway, most of the film is occupied with the human heroes trying to discover a way to awaken King Caesar, and the aliens trying to thwart them.  Given how Godzilla will actually do all the heavy lifting in the final battle against Mechagodzilla, with King Caesar achieving very little, all this activity ends up feeling a little pointless.  That's probably the film's greatest flaw, right there, with the manner of Big G's final victory being the second - it's rather contrived, to say the least.

On the whole, though, if you're at all into kaiju films, this is a solid one.  The action sequences are a big step up from the previous few, with lots of things blowing up, and the choreography of the fights is a huge improvement.  Many of the goofier elements have been eliminated, leading to fights that actually feel like, well, fights.  I approve.

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