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  Godzilla x Mechagodzilla Him again?!
Year: 2002
Director: Masaaki Tezuka
Stars: Yumiko Shaku, Shin Takuma, Kana Onodera, Koh Takasugi, Yusuke Tomoi, Junichi Mizuno, Akira Nakao, Kumi Mizuno, Takeo Nakahara, Yoshikazu Kano, Koichi Ueda, Akira Shirai, Midori Hagio, Naomasa Musaka, Shinji Morisu
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: On the rampage in 1999, Godzilla wipes out an entire platoon leaving gutsy soldier girl Akane Yashiro (Yumiko Shaku) the sole survivor. Three years and one disciplinary hearing later, Akane is drawn back into the “Anti-Megalosaurus Force” (who is Megalosaurus? I thought this was a Godzilla movie?) when Prime Minister Machiko Tsuge (Kumi Mizuno) initiates a project to create the ultimate anti-Godzilla weapon. Brilliant scientist and struggling single parent Dr. Tokimitsu Yuhara (Shin Takuma) fuses DNA drawn from the bones of the original Godzilla, killed in 1954, with a new cyborg design creating a weapons-laden, titanium titan his precocious daughter Sara (Kana Onodera) dubs “Mechagodzilla”, although the military men prefer the codename: Kiryu (which means “machine dragon” or “mechanized dragon” in Japanese). After clashing with Lieutenant Hayama (Yusuke Tomoi), who blames Akane for his brother’s death, our heroine has something to prove as she joins the crew aboard Kiryu. But when Kiryu goes into action, Godzilla’s mighty roar stirs primal memories causing the robosaurus to run amuck.

For their second reboot of Godzilla’s robotic rival Toho studios teamed Masaaki Tezuka, director of the flawed but enjoyable Godzilla x Megaguirus (2000), with screenwriter Wataru Mimura who scored a series highpoint with Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), for a gung-ho monster mash somewhat along the lines of Godzilla meets Top Gun (1986). Pouty pinup idol Yumiko Shaku - star of Princess Blade (2002) - is our stand-in from Tom Cruise, alienated from her peers owing to her reckless ways until she proves herself in battle. Instead of Kelly McGillis we have Shin Takuma while Yusuke Tomoi plays Val Kilmer, though disappointingly he never quite gets around to assuring Akane she can ride his tail anytime. One problem with the so-called Millennium Godzilla series was that once Toho established a formula they seemed loathe to deviate from it. Thus Godzilla x Mechagodzilla (available on DVD as Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla) recycles plot points from earlier entries including the plucky female soldier with a grudge against Godzilla and the single father struggling to reconnect with his child.

After the usual half hour of halfhearted melodrama the film kicks into high gear with scenes of outstanding robot rampage and monster mayhem. The special effects prove more spectacular than ever, reviving the splendidly spiky Godzilla suit seen in Godzilla x Megaguirus while the redesigned Mechagodzilla is sleek and super-cool with its awesome arsenal of anti-monster weapons: lightning breath, laser gauntlets, shoulder mounted missile launchers and a chest cavity housing a superweapon dubbed “Absolute Zero.” Longtime kaiju eiga fans will appreciate the return of those ever-ineffectual maser cannons, as well as flashbacks incorporating footage from Mothra (1961), War of the Gargantuas (1966) and the original Godzilla (1954), plus a cameo from Japan’s most popular monster movie actress Kumi Mizuno. She would return to the series in the endearing Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).

Masaaki Tezuka proves himself among the most inventive action directors the series ever had, but all that military bonding falls flat. Time and again Toho failed to realise stoic military types make dull protagonists. Yuhara is rather more winning, with a line in self-deprecating humour and a nicely drawn relationship with young Sara, although his goofy attempts to woo Akane, a woman young enough to be his daughter, are slightly embarassing. By far the film’s most intriguing element comes from Kiriyu’s conflict in having to battle his organic half-brother Godzilla. It is Sara who reminds everyone it was human beings testing the H-bomb that first drew Godzilla’s wrath and now another man-made superweapon has done the same. But Tezuka drops this interesting moral dimension like a hot potato while Sara echoes the feelings of young G-fans across Japan, looking rather glum while she watches Godzilla take a battering from his robot rival. Not that the end result could be interpreted as anything more than a draw. Anyone interested to learn whether Yuhara gets to take Akane out on a date should keep watching after the end credits, but Tezuka explored the underlining themes rather better in his superior sequel: Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003).

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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