Marvel Cinematic Universe: From Worst to Best

 

 

I think it’s safe to say that no one has had quite an impact on the film industry at the moment like Marvel studios. Since 2008, they’ve now released twenty movies in their shared universe, typically releasing three movies every year, with each film building off the the events of the last to make a shared cinematic universe that everyone is trying to copy now. They’re films are some of the highest grossing movies of all time, and they’re single-handedly keeping superheroes as the most popular genre at the moment.

Everyone has seen their movies and eagerly wait for their next entries to see where they’ll take their dramatic, funny and always entertaining movies next. So now that Marvel studios has released exactly twenty of their own movies, I feel now is a good time to look back and countdown all of them from their worst to their best.

Keep in mind that I’ll only be looking at the entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not every movie Marvel had a part in. Which means no X-Men movies, Spider-Man movies with Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield, and unfortunately no Deadpool films. With that said, these are how I would rank all of the MCU movies.

 

 

Number 20 – “Iron Man 2”

As a direct sequel to the first film in this cinematic universe, “Iron Man 2” takes everything that made the first film likable and charming and makes it obnoxious. This film is loud, irritating, makes the least amount of sense of any Marvel film and has the worst pacing of any film in this series. It doesn’t really have a lot going for it, especially when the lasting image of this film are the annoying conversations between Downey Jr. and Paltrow talking over each other. Easily the worst film in the series.

Number 19 – “Thor: The Dark World”

Not as annoying or irritating as “Iron Man 2,” but this films’ crime is that it’s so boring. The characters are dull, the plot is forgettable, the way it uses the other nine realms of Asgard is lame, and it feels like nothing is accomplished. The only saving grace of this film is Tom Hiddleston’s always great performance as Loki and how he’s given a chance to do way more than he did in “Thor.” Speaking of which…

Number 18 – “Thor”

Like “The Dark World,” this one is just forgettable. It is better due to the heroic character arc of its lead, and many of the scenes with Thor learning to live on Earth are funny in that “fish out of water” style. Beyond that, there is nothing worthy to be seen in “Thor.”

Number 17 – “The Incredible Hulk”

This one now feels like the black sheep of the cinematic universe and is often forgotten among the many other super heroes. It also didn’t help that Ang Lee’s “Hulk” was always on people’s minds and that Edward Norton didn’t want to keep playing the Hulk after this movie. For the time, this film had great special effects and it made good use of the Hulk’s size and scope. But there was really nothing else going for it.

 

 

Number 16 – “Doctor Strange”

In the grand scheme of this universe, “Doctor Strange” doesn’t really have much going for it outside of its stunning visuals and the odd journey its title character goes through. It is impressive at times, but other moments are just so bland and predictable that it makes for an average blockbuster.

When the best character in your film is a piece of clothe, you know you goofed on a few things.

Number 15 – “Iron Man 3”

Some people really hate this one because of how it mistreats the comic origins of its villain. I always overlook that and instead remember “Iron Man 3” for making me laugh so hard. For a long time, it had the best sense of humor of any Marvel film and loving most of the film as a result – it basically sent the standard for how comedy in Marvel would be handled in the future. But beyond this, the plot is nonsensical and full of holes, and the climax leaves a lot to be desired. Not the strongest Iron Man tale, but far from the worst.

Number 14 – “Ant-Man”

Now we’ve reached that films that are just…fine. Perfectly serviceable summer blockbusters that were a lot of fun while I was watching them, but had no reason to watch them again after my initial viewing. “Ant-Man” did everything right, especially in scale and storytelling, but didn’t leave much of an impact on me. The film did it’s job and gave us a unique superhero with a very similar personality to many of the other Marvel leads. It wouldn’t be until his next film that we would get a better taste of his personality.

Number 13 – “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

The best way I can describe “Age of Ultron” is that it is a sequel to an experience. Rather than being it’s own thing, it tries to replicate something that cannot be topped and captured again. Even though “Age of Ultron” is, in many ways, an improvement over “The Avengers” in terms of storytelling, tension, dialogue and character dynamics, everything it does tries to be “The Avengers” all over again. It just doesn’t feel as genuine this time around.

 

 

Number 12 – “Captain America: The First Avenger”

Now we move onto the ones that I thoroughly enjoy, starting with quite possibly the best superhero origin tale. Right from the beginning, our lead shows us his charm, compassion and likability that would become his defining characteristics, with some of the best scenes being little moments to prove that he’s not trying to be a great soldier, but a good man. This whole movie is like if Captain America made a movie, cutting out the nitty-gritty and leaving only that which the filmmakers feel is important. Certainly one of the more underrated Marvel films.

Number 11 – “Ant-Man and the Wasp”

We come to the most recent Marvel film, one that won me over with its charm and likability. I appreciate the smaller-scale character driven piece, especially since it was a palette cleanser after “Infinity War.” I ended up loving every character in this film, which is a testament to the writing and acting throughout.

Number 10 – “Iron Man”

For a long time, this was my favorite. It was the one to start it all and introduced us to Robert Downey Jr.’s unparalleled acting abilities. But then time passed and we got better made superhero movies. Tales that had better character arcs, and much better climaxes. It showed that “Iron Man,” while still a solid entry in the shared universe with great acting and writing, is weaker compared to films will see later on this countdown.

Number 9 – “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

The most realistic and authentic of the Marvel films, “Homecoming” was more of a treat than I initially gave it credit for. The comedy felt genuine, the dialogue was fresh and witty without being over-the-top, and Tom Holland plays the best Spider-Man to date, perfectly balancing the line between the comedy and drama of being Spider-Man while still learning how to be the best hero possible. It is as refreshing and honest as we’ve gotten from Marvel.

 

 

Number 8 – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

While I initially thought of this one as little more than a funny summer blockbuster that was another sequel to an experience, I thought more about “Guardians Vol. 2” and how it blurred the line between really funny scenes throughout with very intense and emotional moments. This thread is forever connected because of the theme of family and how each character has a different interpretation of it. This is far more than a funny summer blockbuster and it deserves all the credit it gets.

Number 7 – “Black Panther”

I know this one is special for a lot of people, and for very good reason. It is a game-changer in terms of what it is saying and what it represents, while still remaining as thought-provoking as a superhero film can get. For me, watching “Black Panther” was like a gateway to vast and diverse culture that I wanted to see even more of. I respect this film for what it accomplished and what it was trying to say, while still being a whole lot of fun.

Number 6 – “Thor: Ragnarok”

Speaking of fun, here is the most balls-to-the-wall insane entertainment of any Marvel movie. It is uproarious, thrilling, charming and so crazy that it’s hard not to crack a smile just thinking about it. The whole film never takes itself too seriously, unlike the previous Thor films, and just has as much fun with Asgard as it possibly can, leading to some of the coolest sequences of any superhero movie.

 

 

Number 5 – “Avengers: Infinity War”

The most ambitious and epic movie out of this universe. Everything about this film felt big without sacrificing the smaller character driven moments. The pacing is stellar and everything about it felt satisfying while keeping the fun-loving Marvel style. This film is what ten years of development leads to, and it did not disappoint.

Number 4 – “The Avengers”

When I think of Marvel movies and what they’re capable of doing, “The Avengers” is typically the first thing that comes to mind. It was an event when it came out and felt like more than just a normal film-going experience. No body have ever made a movie quite like “The Avengers” at the time, and it still hasn’t been topped by anyone except by Marvel. This has become the standard for summer blockbusters now with it walks that tight rope between tense character-driven drama and witty comedy. It may seem small now compared to “Civil War” and “Infinity War,” but “The Avengers” is still just as mind-blowing today as was in 2012.

Number 3 – “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Now we get the truly great Marvel movies, the ones that transcend being just summer blockbusters. I wish I could say all three of these last ones are a tie for number one, but instead I’ll place “The Winter Soldier” here because it not only works as a wonderful political thriller, with some of the best action sequences in the entire cinematic universe, especially the highway fight scene, but because of struggle to find the difference between right and wrong in a world that is constantly evolving. The fact that it’s Captain America that undergoes this struggle makes it even more interesting as we watch him personally struggle with his beliefs against the rest of the world. A simple yet highly effective movie.

Number 2 – “Captain America: Civil War”

Now take what “The Winter Soldier” said about the difference between right and wrong in an ever evolving world and add in a personal yet passionate conflict between its leads, and you have the most human portrayal of superheroes I’ve seen in a long time. It is amazing how well this film works on so many levels and never stops being entertaining for even a moment. The acting, the writing, the pacing and tension is solid throughout, but the relationships are the star of this film, especially with how brutally real they feel. It’s one of the few Marvel films that made me think about what these heroes were fighting for and what they were doing to the world at large, all while still being thoroughly entertaining.

 

 

Number 1 – “Guardians of the Galaxy”

This may come as a surprise to some, since I wrote off “Guardians of the Galaxy” as little more than a dumb popcorn flick in my initial review. But the more I thought about how different this film is from every other Marvel film, and as they released more superhero tales, the more I looked back on this film and realized how smart, witty, emotional and stunning this film can be. On paper, this film should not work – every one of these characters are assholes, while four of the five main cast members aren’t human, one of which can only say three words. Yet through clever writing, unbelievably captivating performances, an unparalleled soundtrack and the best world building of any Marvel film, we get a gem amongst some already awe-inspiring movies.

But the main reason “Guardians of the Galaxy” is my number one is because it was a risk. Marvel had no idea if this film was going to win people over. Unlike their other products with heroes that everyone knows about and could turn a profit even if they made a bad movie, only die-hard comic book fans knew who Star Lord, Rocket and Groot were. Marvel took a huge chance by doing a story that, not only didn’t contain any previously established characters, but was filled with characters that were far from heroes. Hell, two of it’s characters were a CGI raccoon and living tree! But despite all of the odds, this is the most memorable, fun and heartwarming film that Marvel has ever released.

With Marvel dominating the film industry at the moment, as well as how many companies conduct their business, it’s safe to say that their movies aren’t going anywhere, especially since “Black Panther” and “Infinity War” are in the top ten highest grossing films of all time while still being critically praised. These films keep finding new ways to tell fascinating and surprisingly complex stories that seem to keep getting better over time. As long as people enjoy people becoming more than what they are, Marvel will always have a special place in our hearts.

 

 

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Movie Review – “Gamera: The Brave” (2006)

 

 

I didn’t think it was possible to hate another daikaiju movie almost as much as I despise “Godzilla: Final Wars,” but then along came “Gamera: The Brave,” a film so insufferable and insipid that it makes me weep at how bad mid-2000s monster movies were. There is no joy to be found in this film, nor any love for Gamera’s past. It doesn’t even feel like a monster movie most of the time, just a slow and forgettable Japanese drama that relies way too much on terrible child actors.

I’d rather watch the cheesiest and most obnoxious 1960s Gamera film ten times before I watch “Gamera: The Brave” again. At least those movies are fun in a “so bad, it’s good” way, especially when they think traffic safety is as big of a problem in the world as war and pollution. There’s a certain charm to those movies, especially with their light-hearted and carefree tone – they’re perfect for rainy day monster fun. “Gamera: The Brave” on the other hand, rams its message of children saving the world down our throats to the point that it is poisonous to this film, all while forgetting that the audience is here for Gamera.

The film follows a young boy named Toru (Ryo Tomioka), who lives in a small Japanese village and is mourning the death of his mother. Toru eventually swims out to a nearby island and finds an odd egg, which hatches into a baby turtle that he takes in and names Toto. He falls in love with his pet turtle and shows him to all his friends, especially when Toto starts to fly and grow very fast.

Toru learns from his friend that Toto might be a reincarnation of Gamera, Japan’s favorite fire-breathing flying turtle, after Gamera sacrificed himself to stop a flock of murder birds thirty years ago. Toru refuses to believe that his friend is Gamera, because that means he’s a monster and apparently monsters always have to sacrifice themselves? Either way, things get more complicated for Toru and Toto when a giant man-eating monster shows up to terrorize their town, forcing the growing turtle to step in.

 

 

A big problem with “Gamera: The Brave” is that it is slow and takes far too much time and effort to set up these kids that we have no reason to care about. The film spends about 25 minutes setting up Toru’s life in his town with all the passion of a bad after-school special, all of this before introducing the monsters. Even after Toto shows up, it follows the same antics of a kid trying to hide is new pet from his parents, all while Toru shows as little emotion as possible. This goes on for more than half of the runtime before the idea of Gamera is even brought up.

I want to say that “Gamera: The Brave” was trying to replicate the tone of the first Gamera film, which spent a considerable amount of time setting up a little boy and his pet turtle, but even that film gave us some good old-fashion monster action that was interjected throughout that film. For the first half of this movie, it doesn’t do anything with its monsters, instead giving us a tepid melodrama that is hindered further by bad pacing and even worse acting.

 

 

Even when it does get to the monster scenes, they’re just as slow and low energy as the rest of the movie that they come across as uninspired. The movement of the monsters is janky and the color palette ranges from gray to dark brown. This gets even worse when the film tries to shoe-horn in as many children as possible into the finale to preach its cringe worthy message about the power of children and their connection to Gamera.

The filmmakers somehow make their children worse than the 1960s Gamera films, where the kids always seemed to have military clearance and the approval of the Japanese government, by showing they are more powerful and important than any adult in this movie, and doing so in the most over-the-top manner possible. This movie loves kids, but can’t understand why they’re so great.

I hated “Gamera: The Brave” from start to finish. If it wasn’t confusing about it’s “monsters always sacrifice themselves” message, it was boring me with its horrendous pacing and acting, all while never embracing its monster heritage. It hurts to see so much potential after the 1990s Gamera trilogy wasted on such a disrespectful movie. There is nothing fun or enjoyable to found here and it is best left forgotten and alone.

Final Grade: F

 

Movie Review – “The Pianist” (2002)

 

 

Making a film about the atrocities of World War II is like walking a tight rope – one false move or overplayed gesture could cause everything to go wrong, but if you play it expertly and with grace then it is a work of art. This is especially true with portraying those affected by the ruthless and beyond barbaric acts of the Nazis. While there’s a certain strength to a film that doesn’t shy away from the terrible things that happened throughout Europe during that time and that is absolutely something to respect, there does come a point where it is too much and enters the realm of depressing and almost unwatchable.

Take for example films like “Schindler’s List” and “Life is Beautiful,” both films that put themselves in the thick of the struggle and show every excruciatingly painful and horrifying things the Nazis would do to any one they considered less than superior. But at the center of it all, there’s a heart to these films – a reason to life beyond the struggle to survive. The main characters in these films put everything they have on the line so that others will live on, because they realize that people should live and not just survive.

To me, that makes those films watchable. They’re not just gruesome tales about those who lived through the war against the Nazis, but morality tales about how the good and kind in men will always outshine and prevail over the evil and darkness. If you take out that moral center and leave only the fight for survival in the face of these monsters, then you’re left with “The Pianist,” an unbelievably depressing movie that I respect but would never watch again.

 

 

The film is based off of the memoirs of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish-Jewish concert pianist at the beginning of WWII. Szpilman (Adrien Brody) lives in Warsaw with his family as the Nazis invade their country and delegate a specific ghetto area of town for the Jewish, as he and his family fight to stay together and survive despite everything the Nazis throw at them, while Szpilman never gives up on being the best pianist he can possibly be.

“The Pianist” is unforgiving, unflinching and honest about the fight Szpilman had to contend with for over six years. Every violent act is given the stunned silence it truly deserves without anything ever losing its weight. But as Szpilman witnesses all these horrible acts and merely does what he can to survive, that tight rope walker starts to overplay his movement and starts to fall off that rope.

Watching a man hopelessly cling to life while it is being extinguished around him is only watchable for so long before it becoming daunting. Watching this for over two and a half hours, like all faith and hope is gone from the world, makes it a bleak and unpleasant experience. Even though Adrien Brody’s performance is hauntingly beautiful as he just gets more desperate and ragged over time, the film doesn’t give us anything to grab onto. While I don’t think that hurts the film, it does hurt the experience.

I would recommend “The Pianist” to those who are curious, but only believe it is worth one viewing. It is a respectful film for its brutal honesty and is worth watching for Adrien Brody’s performance, but the onslaught of bloodshed is a massive weight to carry without some form of morality and humanity.

Final Grade: C+

 

Number 6 – “Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack” (2001)

 

 

With this review, we’ve officially moved into the final category of the Godzilla films – the “Great” ones. From this point on, every movie left in the franchise is not just a great monster movie, but a great film altogether. You do not need to know a lot about Godzilla or giant monsters to appreciate these six remaining films. With that said, let’s look at the only worthwhile film in the Millennium series – “Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.”

Yeah I know, extremely long title. From this point on, I’ll simply refer to the film as “GMK.”

To appreciate GMK fully, here’s a quick history of the film’s director, Shusuke Kaneko. From a young age, he was passionate about giant monster movies and would end up leading the wave of the next great daikaiju filmmakers. Kaneko is mostly known for revitalizing the Gamera series in the 1990s with a trilogy of serious and good-looking monster films with everyone’s favorite giant turtle, with each film being better than the last. This trilogy got the attention of Toho and in 2001, they asked Kaneko to be the director of the next Godzilla film, which he happily accepted.

The unfortunate backstory of GMK is that the final product is much different than Kaneko wanted it to be. In this film, Godzilla fights ancient guardian spirits of Japan, but he wanted the spirit monsters to be Baragon, Anguirus and Varan, since their earthy and more bestial designs worked better for Kaneko’s vision. Toho thought the film wouldn’t turn a profit if it had monsters the general didn’t know, especially odd kaiju like Varan. Instead they replaced the roles of Anguirus and Varan with Mothra and King Ghidorah and removed Baragon from the title.

This has rubbed some Godzilla fans the wrong way, since this means that King Ghidorah, the monster that’s always trying to destroy humanity and the planet, is now a guardian monster that fights alongside other kaiju like Mothra. I don’t have that big of a problem with it since this happened due to Toho’s interference and Godzilla and King Ghidorah are still natural enemies in this movie.

One final thing to understand what GMK wants to say is that it, like the first Godzilla film and “Godzilla vs. Hedorah,” is a reflection of its time. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a growing consensus that Japan’s youth had little to no respect for their elders, in particular those who fought in World War II. The older generation was becoming worried that the young generation would grow up to resent the sacrifices that were made to keep Japan a live and the past would be easily forgotten.

As such, a lot the dilemmas of GMK revolve around the past coming back to haunt the newest generation. Things that they believed were just “myths” or “legends” turn out to be real. In particular, this Godzilla is different from any other version of the king of monsters. Instead of a symbol of nuclear destruction, this Godzilla is a symbol of anger and resent, possessed by all the souls of those who lost their lives in WWII, and has returned to Japan now because the Japanese people have forgotten about their sacrifices.

The film is set nearly 50 years after the events of the first Godzilla film, with the world enjoying a long peace from giant monsters. But so much time has passed since Godzilla’s initial attack that the younger generation thinks he’s just a legend, a scary bedtime story you tell your kids. Things change though when an American nuclear submarine is attacked off the coast of Guam and we quickly giant claw marks on the sub, along with glowing blue spines nearby.

Our two main characters are a father and a daughter. The father, Taizo Tachibana (Ryudo Uzaki), is an admiral in the SDF. He lost his parents in Godzilla’s first attack on Tokyo, but unlike other protagonists in the Millennium series Taizo doesn’t hold a grudge against Godzilla, and instead is just devoted to his work. His daughter, Yuri (Chiharu Niiyama), is a reporter for third-rate digital group that only makes fake reports on supernatural events such as Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster…or in this case, Godzilla. The two butt heads on their vastly different ideologies, but still come across as loving each other when Yuri finds an ancient book about the Guardian Monsters.

 

 

After Yuri’s first assignment, she sees a creepy image of an old man in the woods just staring at her. Later that night, some disrespectful punks are driving their motorcycles through the Japanese countryside, terrorizing the locals and vandalizing everything they can get their hands on, including an unsuspecting statue. But while they’re going through a tunnel, it collapses in on itself, killing all of them, though a bystander does briefly see a giant red monster as the tunnel is destroyed. The bystander, in a moment of utter shock, says the monster is Godzilla.

Yuri looks into this matter a bit deeper and finds an ancient book from her closest friend and colleague. The text tells the tale of the three Guardian monsters Baragon, Mothra and Ghidorah. These are supposedly thousand year old creatures that will be awakened when the world is put in grave danger, sleeping inside of the Earth until they’re called upon. The text says that the Guardian monsters are more interested in protecting the planet, like the forests and mountains, and not necessarily humanity. And seeing how one of them was awoken due to some people’s arrogance, it is possible they see humanity as a threat.

 

This continues as the next guardian monster awakens, when another group of teens rob a gas station up in the mountains, vandalizing the area and breaking the statue sealing Mothra away. As they go out onto the lake to party, they’re thrown into the water and taken under “Jaws”-style by Mothra and killed.

At this point, Yuri becomes convinced that the guardian monsters are real. She tries to tell her father about them, but he remains skeptical, saying the true monster here might be the return of Godzilla, especially after he sees actual footage of Godzilla’s attack on the American sub. The admiral preps the defense forces for a battle against Godzilla, including sending out battleships to track down and find him.

Meanwhile, Yuri meets with the old man she saw earlier in the movie, who now only talks ominously about Godzilla’s return. He says that modern weapons will have no effect on him and that he’ll destroy all of Japan. The old man says Godzilla is filled with the souls of those who died in World War II, including both Japanese and non-Japanese souls. The foreign souls want to avenge their deaths at the hands of the Japanese, while the others wish to punish Japan for their attempts to forget about the wartime atrocities. He finishes by saying the only way Godzilla can be stopped is to awaken all of the guardian monsters.

The idea of this in a Godzilla movie is fascinating to me. Every film the franchise up to this point was typically based on science or technology to create its monsters. Even in its most ridiculous moments, with monsters like Space Godzilla, Biollante, Jet Jaguar and Megalon, you could trace all of their origins logically back to either being abominations of science or creatures older than humans. Suddenly, all of that goes out the window and we’re left with monsters steeped in mysticism and mythology. Godzilla is filled with the souls of the dead, while the guardian monsters are literal legends created to protect the planet.

This makes GMK a one-of-a-kind film because it feels more like a modern-day fantasy instead of a daikaiju film.

After some more strange incidents, including a trip to Japan’s infamous “Suicide forest” where Ghidorah is buried underground, two major events occurred nearly simultaneously, as the giant red monster from the tunnel, Baragon, reveals himself to the rest of Japan, and Godzilla rises out of the ocean to terrorize the countryside.

There’s something I’ve felt that was terrifying and off-putting about this Godzilla’s design. Maybe its his bubbly spines that look like claws reaching out from hell, or it could be his stance that feels more like a return to the original Godzilla’s body movements. But, who am I kidding, it’s all about his eyes. Pure white, soulless eyes, as if they’ve been glazed over with hatred and anger, only adding to his inhuman qualities.

Godzilla is often at his most chilling when the filmmakers change up his eyes. It is true what they say about eyes being the gateway to the soul, and it is especially true with film characters. So when you give Godzilla eyes that don’t have any color or pupils, or eyes that are ridiculously small compared to his body, it is just jarring enough that you feel uneasy around those kaiju.

 

 

This leads to one of the nicest looking rampages from Godzilla, as he thrashes his way through a coastal city, destroying an oil refinery with Mt. Fuji in the background and the town’s people more confused than upset, since they thought Godzilla was just a legend.

One of the great things about Shusuke Kankeo’s monster movies is that they take their time to slowly build up the strength and let everything sink in for a moment. There’s a brief scene in this rampage of a woman watching Godzilla walk by her window, shaking with fear because she’s convinced she is about to die. But Godzilla simply keeps on walking and everything looks fine, only for his tail to swing back around and destroy the hospital. Little moments like that add so much to the scope of this movie.

We also get a taste of Godzila’s atomic breath in this film, which might be his most powerful beam yet. One blast of his signature weapon caused this explosion.

 

Since both Godzilla and Baragon showed up at the same time, the entirety of Japan is confused and ends up calling Baragon the “Red Godzilla.”

While this does go a long way to show how out of touch this modern world is with its history of monster attacks, I can’t help but feel bad for Baragon. This monster has had a long and sad history. In Japan, Baragon is one of the more popular kaiju, mostly because he looks like a cute giant red dog. But for some reason, Toho hates Baragon. In his first appearance in “Frankenstein Conquers the World,” he gets his neck snapped and body thrown off a giant cliff. Then we had “Destroy All Monsters” where he was supposed to attack Paris, but they ended up using the Gorosaurus suit instead. In the first “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla,” it was supposed to be Baragon that attacked the fake Godzilla but they changed it to Anguirus at the last minute. Baragon was also supposed to be in the title of this movie, but Toho thought it was too long and so they cut him from it, making him a glorified guest star in this film.

Things get even more weird when you factor in the Gamera series, which had a kaiju named Barugon that looked a lot like Baragon. The main difference was that Barugon could shoot rainbows out of his back…yeah, I’m still confused by that. My point is that Baragon keeps getting screwed over even though there’s never been any reason to screw him with.

Baragon-rant aside, we quickly learn that Godzilla and Baragon are heading towards each other. They eventually meet up near a mountain-side resort and engage in our first monster fight, which is more-so a beatdown from Godzilla. The only time Baragon gets the upper hand is when he digs around Godzilla’s feet and makes him trip. Other than that, Godzilla tosses Baragon around like a rag doll, stomps him into the side of a mountain and flings him around with just his tail.

But another great thing that Kaneko does with his monster fights is incorporating the innocent bystanders and seeing this battle of goliaths from their doomed perspectives. As Godzilla arrives to the fight, he takes out half of a fairly big hill, and we watch as people try desperately to run away, but are crushed either by the massive rocks or under Godzilla’s foot. There’s a shot of Godzilla throwing Baragon around and we see the red monster flying towards the camera, with bystanders trying to flee but are too late to stop the beast from falling on them.

 

 

The fight ends with Godzilla blasting Baragon with his atomic breath and creating an explosion bigger than the mountain, killing the first guardian monster. But the death of one of them seems to have freed Ghidorah from his thousand-year slumber.

After that, we get some character development for Yuri, as she desperately tries to follow the monsters around to prove her worth to her father. Meanwhile, her father leads the charge against finding a way to deal with Godzilla. After watching Baragon try to stop the giant monster, he’s convinced that the guardian monsters are real and that they can and should be trusted. This begins the lead-up to the final confrontation, as Mothra’s cocoon appears on top of a lake, and Ghidorah has begun moving underground towards Godzilla.

One thing I’ve been steadily talking about in this review is the national identity of Japan throughout the film. It starts out pretty poor with the youths that were disrespectful to the locals and surrounding area, but then we get character’s like Yuri and her father, hard working people who take pride in what they do. We meet a lot more people during this time, like a friendly bicycle shopkeeper who gives Yuri a bike as he’s getting ready to run from Godzilla, as well as Yuri’s boss who is as eccentric as he is passionate about supernatural events.

GMK paints a vast and wild picture of Japan, probably even more than “Godzilla vs. Hedorah” did, and I think the movie is better because of that. We see a country that has personality and flaws, making the entire country look like its own character.

As Godzilla makes his way to Yokohama, Yuri’s father deploys every available ship, tank and soldier to fight the oncoming threat. At the same time, Mothra hatches from her cocoon in a beautiful display in the moonlight, and flies to join in the fight.

The admiral lays out his plan – The defense force recently created D-3 missiles, explosive war heads with giant drills on them. They’re made to burrow into the sides of mountains and then explode, but the admiral is improvising with this. He plans to work in conjunction with the guardian monsters, waiting for them to open up a weak spot in Godzilla’s defenses and then use the D-3 missiles to land a fatal blow.

Just as Godzilla arrives in Yokohama, Mothra is right behind him and the two engage in a short fight that once again highlights the slower moments, letting the audience appreciate how majestic Mothra can be sometimes. While this version of Mothra is far more insectoid than usual, it does have a certain charm to it, like I’m watching a beautiful wasp trying to fight a hopeless battle.

Things get a bit better though when Ghidorah shows up. One point worth mentioning is that this version of Ghidorah is more based off the ancient Japanese monster Orochi, an eight-headed dragon that is all powerful. It is said in the myth of the guardian monsters that Ghidorah would rest for three-thousand years to grow all eight heads, but only slept for a thousand years and only had enough time to grow three heads. Again, contributing to the mythological feel of this movie.

 

 

This leads into a great fight sequence between Godzilla and Ghidorah, as the two are relentlessly brutal to each other, with Godzilla nearly ripping off one of Ghidorah’s heads. But the most brutal part is yet to come, as after Godzilla knocks both Ghidorah and Mothra away, the defense forces launch everything they have at Godzilla and ultimately accomplish nothing outside of pissing Godzilla off. All that’s left for every ground troop is to be disintegrated by Godzilla’s fury and rage.

Of all the scenes that involve Godzilla’s atomic breath, the shots of him unloading this insanely powerful ray on a defenseless military is one of the more impactful moments, especially when you see bodies of soldiers flying in the background and their screams can be heard echoing from the city.

Godzilla’s outburst leaves just one naval ship untouched. Just as he’s about to blast it, Godzilla tricks everyone and destroys the weakened Mothra instead, who was trying to sneak up on Godzilla. This leads into the best scene of the movie when all of Mothra’s energy transfers into Ghidorah and finally grants him wings, giving him the title of King Ghidorah. The music swells and the whole city is coated in a golden light as King Ghidorah takes to the skies to continue fight Godzilla, even sending his atomic breath back at him, creating a small wound in his shoulder that the admiral has been waiting for.

While Godzilla and King Ghidorah take their battle underwater, we get some final bits of character development between Yuri and her father, as the two talk about their dedications to their jobs and to each other. I admit that these two aren’t some of my favorite characters in the Godzilla series, but they are likable and fully developed characters that have grown on me. Certainly the best written characters in the Millennium series.

 

 

From this point, the film goes with a much different ending than one would expect. Yuri and her colleague are blasted out of the bridge they were reporting from, King Ghidorah barely saves them from certain death after getting a power-up that finally grants him the signature gravity bolts, it still isn’t enough and Godzilla blasts and kills King Ghidorah, but not before the combined spirits of the guardian monsters force Godzilla down into the ocean to allow the admiral to do something pretty reckless – he flies his small submarine straight into Godzilla’s mouth and launches a D-3 missile from inside of Godzilla.

He successfully detonates the missile and blasts a huge hole in Godzilla’s shoulder, though it doesn’t kill him. As Godzilla tries to blast the helpless Yuri with his atomic breath, he learns that his beam now shoots painfully out of his shoulder wound. So, like a complete idiot, he keeps firing his beam over and over, seemingly forgetting about his wound, until he does it one too many times and blasts himself out of existence.

While Godzilla falling for the same mistake multiple times is a little annoying, I highly enjoy this ending. It is wonderful to see giant monsters and the defense forces working together to bring down an even bigger threat and this is one of the better executed ones, especially with the brave attitude of the admiral.

The film ends with Yuri’s father emerging from his submarine and everyone rejoicing, knowing that Godzilla has finally been defeated. The admiral looks off into the ocean and salutes the many lives that had been lost fighting Godzilla, including the lives of the guardian monsters. The final shot pans down into the ocean to show Godzilla’s still beating heart and the classic Godzilla theme music plays.

GMK is a different kind of Godzilla movie, but in the best possible way. It keeps the core elements of a daikaiju film while still developing its own identity as a fantasy movie, while painting a fascinating picture of the Japanese people, showing both the good and bad. It continues the tradition of using Godzilla as a means to showcase the problems with Japan throughout the generations, by addressing the fact that the newer generation is ashamed of the older generations sacrifices.

When it wants to be a giant monster movie though, it is stunningly beautiful, with great use of miniatures and practical effects. The film takes its time at just the right moments to showcase its scope and size, while the Godzilla suit remains one of his more terrifying designs. While it is unfortunate that Shusuke Kaneko didn’t get to make the movie he wanted with Anguirus and Varan, the final product here is nothing to be ashamed of. This is a wonderful monster movie and one of the best Godzilla films since the end of the Showa series.

 

 

Number 18 – “Godzilla: Tokyo SOS” (2003)

 

 

We are now officially out of the “Bad” tier of Godzilla movies. Now begins the “Okay” tier, the shortest category among Godzilla films. These next few movies are all pretty average or alright, where they either have the same amount of good and bad moments or are just plain from start to finish. And we begin this tier with my definition of an average Godzilla movie – “Godzilla: Tokyo SOS.”

This is the only Millennium film that doesn’t take place in its own separate universe, but rather is a direct sequel to “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla,” completing the Kiryu Saga. In many regards, it feels like the same movie as its predecessor, but has a few added benefits in the form of more monsters and better looking fight scenes, plus a reduced role for the bland human characters.

“Tokyo SOS” takes place roughly one year after the events of the last film, where the end of the battle between Godzilla and MechaGodzilla left both monsters heavily wounded, including the lose of Kiryu’s Absolute Zero Cannon and his right arm. Godzilla has gone into hiding for the last year, while the Kiyru squadron continues to repair MechaGodzilla. But it seems that Godzilla’s wounds have finished healing and he now begins to make his way back to Japan.

 

 

Meanwhile, in the snowy mountains of Japan, we are reintroduced to an aging doctor, Shin’ichi Chujo (Hiroshi Koizumi), one of the original explorers who was on the first mission to Infant Island in “Mothra.” One night, while spending time with his grand children, Chujo is visited by the Shobijin, Mothra’s tiny twin fairies. Rather than coming here to destroy humanity, like I am positive they truly want to do, the fairies are here to make a plea to all of Japan – Stop the MechaGodzilla project and send Godzilla’s bones back to the ocean where they belong.

Chujo, the fairies, and one of his grandsons Yoshito (Noboru Kaneko) debate about what should be done. The fairies say the dead should be left alone for all eternity and that mankind is trying to play god by resurrecting something long gone. Yoshito, who is a mechanic for the MechaGodzilla project, says that Japan needs Kiryu to protect the country from monsters like Godzilla. So the fairies make a promise – If they return Godzilla’s bones to the ocean, then Mothra will always be there to protect Japan from Godzilla.

This is a simple yet effective exchange between two sides that both make sense. From the perspective of the fairies, using the bones of a dead monster to fight other monsters is just asking for trouble, as well as the whole spiritual aspect. On the other hand, Japan is constantly attacked by giant monsters and, like it or not, MechaGodzilla is their best form of protection. I would also be hesitant to take the fairies promise, since Japan knows how strong Godzilla is and that Mothra, being a giant creature that will only attack sweaters, probably couldn’t do much to stop Godzilla.

 

 

Although, an interesting thought I had recently is that this Godzilla didn’t show up until just after the Japanese government got their hands on Godzilla’s bones, and as we will see this Godzilla is always heading right for MechaGodzilla. Even though we’re never told how this Godzilla was created, the theory is that the Earth made a new Godzilla with the sole purpose of getting the original Godzilla’s bones back into the ocean. Meaning that if the government were to send MechaGodzilla to the bottom of the ocean, this Godzilla would never bother them again.

Jeez, it’s almost like putting the bones of a dead animal inside your giant robot was a bad idea or something! Then again, the fairies are being just as cryptic as ever. They could just say how humanity messed up with Godzilla’s bones and that sending them back to where they came from would end Godzilla’s rampage. But nope, they have to be vague and non-descriptive!

Anyway, while Yoshito feels conflicted about the fairies message, the Kiryu squadron gets word that Godzilla is approaching Japan. The prime minister is reluctant to send MechaGodzilla out to fight him, mostly because repairs are not complete and he heeds the warning of the twin fairies. We get a pretty cool naval battle scene with ships and submarines attacking Godzilla, which leads into a neat sequence of Godzilla arriving in Tokyo Bay and the explosion of underwater mines matching up with his theme song.

But while the military strike feels massive in scale, it goes about as well as you’d expect on Godzilla. Like trying to take down an armored truck with foam noodles. Godzilla rampages through Tokyo for a little bit, appearing to head towards MechaGodzilla’s base. But just before Godzilla gets to the heart of Tokyo, the young grandson of Chujo, Shun (Itsuki Oomori), learns about a way to save Japan. He takes a page out of his grandfather’s book and constructs a large version of the Mothra symbol using school desks. And it actually works, the moment Shun finishes constructing the symbol, Mothra appears to defend Japan from Godzilla.

 

 

For me, Mothra is the best part of this movie. Without her, this is just another “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla” but with even more dull characters. Mothra adds so much variety to this movie and its fight scenes. Not only has she gotten a new bright and beautiful color scheme, but she fights unlike any other monster in the Millennium series – like a Showa monster! She has no beams or many weapons at her disposal, which means she has to think on her feet…or feelers I guess.

Her opening fight with Godzilla might be my favorite scene in the movie, when she makes her presence known to Godzilla and then proceeds to cause hurricane force winds. It doesn’t bring Godzilla down, but it does bring up a lot of dirt to create a smokescreen, which Mothra uses as an opportunity to sneak behind Godzilla and send him hurdling to the ground. It returns to the classic days of monster fighting, when it wasn’t all about energy blasts and massive amounts of damage, but outsmarting your opponent and using your strengths and their weaknesses to your advantage. To my knowledge, this is the only monster fight like this in the entire Millennium series, and it is a welcomed change of pace.

Godzilla and Mothra spend a while fighting until Godzilla finally starts getting the upper hand and throws Mothra into a building. Mothra breaks out her “weapon of last resort” which are her scales. They weaken Godzilla and reflects his atomic breath back at him, but the more she uses her scales, the more difficult it becomes for her to fly. Once enough of her scales are gone, Mothra will become immobile and helpless against Godzilla.

This leads into another great moment where the fairies sing Mothra’s theme song. In previous Mothra movies, this song was heavily overplayed and butchered to the point that it lost all of its meaning. But this version is beautiful and sung wonderfully, complete with a nice background tropical island tune to make it unique. Because of Mothra’s struggle against Godzilla, the song feels natural at this particular moment and works nicely in this scene.

 

 

After the prime minister sees Mothra’s losing fight against Godzilla, he decides that he will not let Mothra sacrifice herself in vain, and immediately orders MechaGodzilla to join the attack. This leads to about a ten minute sequence of the Kiryu squadron prepping MechaGodzilla before sending him into combat. Again, they were going with a realistic approach, and I still say it was a dumb approach to MechaGodzilla in the first place.

But yeah, MechaGodzilla is send in to fight Godzilla while Mothra has been grounded due to losing too many scales. This leads into a fight between the two Godzilla’s that feels exactly like the last time they fought – with Kiryu barely making a dent and then going down to just one or two blasts of Godzilla’s atomic breath.

Are you starting to see why Mothra is my favorite part of this movie? Because without her, this is exactly like the last Godzilla movie.

There’s a couple of neat parts, like when Kiryu uses a building for cover and the two monsters basically fight around and through the building. Or when Kiryu shows off that his new rocket pack can cause a massive explosion upon impact that does send Godzilla to the ground. But other than, it is a copy-and-paste of the long fight from “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla.”

 

 

The fight changes up a bit when two Mothra larva show up in the middle of downtown Tokyo to continue to fight their mother cannot. But since they’re newborns, they do about as well as you’d imagine against Godzilla. But as all three Mothra’s gather for a tender moment, Godzilla has to ruin it by blasting the three with his beam and kill the adult Mothra. It is a sad moment to watch Mothra catch on fire and then explode from the inside out. Too bad it’s ruined by the noises the Mothra larva make that make them sound like chimpanzees.

At the same time, Godzilla causes a critical injury to Kiryu that incapacitates the robot. Yoshito happens to be in the area, to save his grandfather and nephew, and is sent in to repair MechaGodzilla. This leads into a long sequence where the Kiryu squadron has to get Yoshito to the robot, while the pilots protect them from Godzilla, and then the repair scene. This is low point of the movie for me, since it all feels way too basic and lifeless. It’s like I’m watching someone play a video game, trying to complete the mission and get to the next checkpoint, with no emotional investment in their struggle to get to MechaGodzilla or repair him.

In fact, that’s the problem with the majority of the Millennium series, it just feels like its going through the motions without understanding why it has to do that. Like every human character is just a checklist of clichés or plot points. Even if the Heisei series had plots that were ludicrous and made no sense, I’d still take the silly stories over the ones that don’t even seem to be trying.

 

 

As expected, Yoshito is successful in getting MechaGodzilla repaired and he reengages the fight with Godzilla. And suddenly, this is the point where Kiryu starts getting cool. First he wrestles Godzilla to the ground, while also destroying the old Tokyo capital building, then Kiryu turns his new right hand into a drill arm that pierces Godzilla’s skin and puts a massive hole in him. He follows that up by showing his replacement for the Absolute Zero Cannon – the Triple Hyper Maser Cannon. The pilots unleash the full force of that cannon, as well as the regular maser cannon in Kiryu’s mouth, right into Godzilla’s open wound. How come we couldn’t get a kick-ass MechaGodzilla like this in the last movie, or even earlier in this movie?

To top things off, as Godzilla is stunned by Kiryu’s onslaught, the Mothra larva wrap Godzilla up in their silk string so he cannot go anywhere.

The film ends with MechaGodzilla preparing to strike the final blow, only for the original Godzilla to take control of Kiryu’s body. He grabs the captured Godzilla and the two of them fly out into the Sea of Japan to finally bring things to an end. The people of Japan comment on how this feels like a hollow victory, since it cost them MechaGodzilla, but act like they’ve learned not to mess with the souls of the dead…even though the end credits reveal that they still have a vault filled with the DNA of every monster that’s ever attacked Japan, including the original Godzilla.

 

 

From what I understood, this was added to try and push Toho to make a third film in the Kiryu series that never happened. The plan for the third movie sounded pretty neat though, with robot versions of many different kaiju, including Varan, Baragon, and Mothra. But maybe that was for the best, since both entries in this series were average at best.

“Godzilla: Tokyo SOS” is a definite improvement over “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla,” if only for many of the Mothra scenes. This film emphasized how beautiful and majestic Mothra is, while also how different she is from any other monster in the Toho movies – one that relies on intelligence and wit instead of brute strength. Some of the fight scenes between the two Godzilla’s were better here, but only near the end when MechaGodzilla broke out his new weapons. The human characters and the story are still just as bland as ever, but at least they seem to be downplayed this time. Overall, I wouldn’t call this one a bad Godzilla movie, but it certainly isn’t a good one either.

 

Number 24 – “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla” (2002)

 

 

Part of the problem I have with the majority of the Millennium series is how basic and uninteresting most of these films feel. Most of them act like coloring books by the numbers, with very generic and bland stories that we’ve either seen a dozen times before or just never do anything with its concepts. We’ve already seen this first-hand with entries like “Godzilla 2000” and “Godzilla X Megaguirus,” both of which had cool ideas, like storm chasers that follow Godzilla or imagining a world where the first Godzilla never died, but ultimately does nothing of value with that.

We have yet another Millennium film that does just that with “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla.” This is sort of another one of those “What if” story ideas, in this case is it “What if the Oxygen Destroyer still killed Godzilla, but did not destroy his bones?” It is a very minor change and one I do not mind, since the first Godzilla still died to the Oxygen Destroyer. In this case, the film’s answer to that question is – The Japanese military has captured Godzilla’s bones and now plans to make a giant robot around them to fight other giant monsters…like you do.

“Godzilla X MechaGodzilla” once again takes place in its own little universe, separate from any other Godzilla movie outside of the first one. Although, strangely enough, the filmmakers say that some other Toho films from the 1960s happened as well, in particular “Mothra” and “War of the Gargantuas.” Except this movie also changes the events of those films as well – In “War of the Gargantuas” there were two giant monsters, Gaira and Sanda, supposedly created from the remains of Frankenstein (long story, but check out “Frankenstein Conquers the World” if you’re interested). But “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla” erases Sanda from history, saying there was only Gaira who was defeated by their newest invention, the Maser Cannon, because “Maser” sounds way cooler than laser.

The Millennium series seems to take joy in screwing with the history of Toho’s giant monster movies.

 

 

The film begins in 1999, when a huge typhoon hits a Japanese island. But in the middle of that storm, a new Godzilla rises out of the ocean and starts causing chaos and destruction. The military is sent into deal with Godzilla, but a few tanks and a maser cannon can only do so much to him. The government is surprised to see Godzilla return again and they find themselves unprepared for another monster attack, since the last kaiju appearance was supposedly over 30 years ago. This leads the prime minister to enact a new battle plan to take care of Godzilla.

Japan’s leading experts on biology, mechanical engineering and robots are called into to show that the government have gotten their hands on the bones of the first Godzilla. The government officials say they want these scientists to construct a cyborg body around the bones, which could potentially be their strongest weapon against Godzilla and any other monster that attacks Japan.

There’s a simple question I’ve always wondered with this movie – Why do they need Godzilla’s bones to be the base for their giant robot? It’s not like the bones carry any special power or give the robot a power boost, they’re just inside this thing. In fact, it sounds like it would be more trouble than its worth, since having the bones of a dead animal inside your fighting machine can go bad fast. If they needed it as a frame to build around, then just make a metal copy of Godzilla’s skeleton and use that for your frame.

But no, they had to try and make it sound cool by saying this robot is built around Godzilla’s bones, whether or not it makes any logical sense.

This leads us to our first look at MechaGodzilla, my favorite Godzilla villain. Of all the monsters Godzilla fought more than once, MechaGodzilla was always the one that seemed to give him the hardest time, easily able to overpower Godzilla and was almost always a few steps away from ending the King of the Monsters for good.

It’s a pity that this MechaGodzilla leaves such a disappointing impression. The first slip-up is that they rename the robot Kiryu (which is Japanese for “Metal Dragon”). They hardly ever call this thing MechaGodzilla, even though that’s his given name in the title. Any time they call MechaGodzilla Kiryu, I roll my eyes at their pointless need to give their robot two names.

 

 

But the bigger problem I have with Kiryu is how they present him during his fights with Godzilla. I’ll talk about this more in detail when we get to other better entries that have MechaGodzilla, but Godzilla’s mechanical copy is supposed to be leagues strong than Godzilla, equipped with weapons that can destroy entire city blocks, or send Godzilla’s atomic beam back at him, or being able to pierce Godzilla’s second brain and cripple him. He is the ultimate anti-Godzilla weapon.

This MechaGodzilla? His missiles and lasers hardly ever warrant a reaction out of Godzilla, the maser cannon in his mouth does little more than make Godzilla slightly annoyed, and all it takes is one or two blasts of Godzilla’s atomic breath to bring Kiryu to a screeching halt. For the majority of the movie, it comes across like Godzilla has no problem walking right through MechaGodzilla, like he was made of cardboard and was tossing Nerf darts at him. This isn’t an anti-Godzilla weapon, it’s a five-year olds’ attempt to play the same game as his older brother and only gets mangled as a result.

Admittedly, the movie is attempting to go for a realistic approach to MechaGodzilla…sometimes. Aside from the whole “the original Godzilla bones are inside our giant robot” thing, they also equip Kiryu with a cannon that can freeze anything to absolute zero. While that is a neat concept, it does go against the realistic approach to Kiryu, so why couldn’t they at least give MechaGodzilla the ability to tank Godzilla’s atomic breath like the previous MechaGodzilla’s?

Also, every attempt they make to use the Absolute Zero Cannon on Godzilla goes horribly wrong, so the thing never works the way they want it to work. It also drains Kiryu’s power cells every time he uses it, so it seems like a waste of space if they cannot get it to work right and use up all their power. Why not just build an Absolute Zero Cannon and attach it to a large tank? Why put on the fragile and malfunctioning robot that cannot fight Godzilla very well?

 

 

I don’t think the “realistic” approach to Kiryu works well in this movie. Since Godzilla remains his usual unstoppable and unflinching self, having a robot fight him that’s made from material that he can easily rip apart and toss around like it was nothing makes for a stale fight. It becomes even more annoying because they named it MechaGodzilla, a monster has nearly killed Godzilla on more than one occasion. If you’re going to do MechaGodzilla properly, stay away from a realistic approach and go all-out crazy instead.

One thing people have pointed out about “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla” is that it feels very similar to an anime. In particular “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” about giant monster gods that want to bring about the end of the world and humans combat these monsters by building their own robot cyborgs, which admittedly took a lot of inspiration from Godzilla in the first place. For a while, I didn’t see the similarities, but now I notice a lot of the same tropes – An overly oppressive military force that does everything they can to protect their country, putting their fate in the hands of emotional and flawed individuals while they face an overwhelming threat.

One big difference between the two though is the sense of a war. Both “Evangelion” and this movie feel like they’re fighting an on-going war against an impossible foe. In “Evangelion,” that feeling makes sense, considering that there are multiple monsters that keep them on their toes. But in “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla,” they only ever fight one enemy – Godzilla.

Can your “war” truly be considered a war if you’re only fighting one creature? That’s a fight or struggle, not a war.

 

 

As a result, I feel the military aspects of “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla” are overplayed, especially since they dominate most of the human scenes. Most of the characters only spout the same general platitudes about how strong the military is, and that they’re capable of anything, and they’ll never surrender. And then they get trounced by Godzilla, so now they just look like buffoons.

The fight scenes are okay, if a bit too long at parts. The entire third act is the final battle between Godzilla and Kiryu, with a few cool scenes after MechaGodzilla discards most of his missiles and lasers to gain better mobility and starts smacking Godzilla around. Since the remainder of the movie is pretty beam-heavy, it is nice to see MechaGodzilla wailing on Godzilla and then tossing him around by his tail.

The music in “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla” is also pretty good. It was composed by Michiru Oshima, who also composed “Godzilla X Megaguirus” and led to a new theme song for Godzilla that is pretty catchy and atmospheric. There’s a great sense of triumph and grandeur to the music here, which makes it stand out a bit more from the other Millennium films.

Overall, “Godzilla X MechaGodzilla” is a slightly-improved version of “Godzilla X Megaguirus,” but only just barely. The story does its job well enough and the action sequences are alright, but it doesn’t feel like it amounts to anything. The film doesn’t do anything particularly well and just makes me wish I was watching better scenes with MechaGodzilla. There is nothing of value to be found here, but it isn’t that terrible either. This is just a film that exists to take up space.

 

 

 

Number 27 – “Godzilla X Megaguirus” (2000)

 

 

As a whole, the third series of Godzilla films, known as the Millennium or Shinsei series, is just as spotty and hit-or-miss as the Heisei series, but takes it in the opposite direction of that era. While the Heisei films focused on having a continuous continuity between entries, the Millennium series were mostly self-contained entries, with each movie taking place in its own little universe where none of the other Godzilla films happened outside of the first movie. Even then, these movies would often change the events of the 1954 movie to suit their needs.

We’ve already seen one film from the Millennium series, “Godzilla: Final Wars” and that didn’t turn out so well for anyone. Now we meet another terrible entry in that series, “Godzilla X Megaguirus.” This is one of those movies that changes things about the first Godzilla film, namely that after Godzilla’s initial rampage on Japan, rather than using the Oxygen Destroyer to kill him, they decide to do nothing and let Godzilla continue to roam the oceans. There is no mention of the Oxygen Destroyer or it’s inventor, Dr. Serizawa. They simply just let Godzilla go free after leveling Tokyo.

To me, the Millennium series is a bunch of “What if” questions, but most of the time they’re not interesting questions. It can often be great to explore alternate paths through history, especially with established fiction, to see how differently the worlds we’ve come to know and love would change, as well as its characters. But with “Godzilla X Megaguirus,” the question it wants to pose is “What if the Oxygen Destroyer was never used on Godzilla?”

Well, then Godzilla would still be at large. There, that was an easy answer.

 

 

If the question is a simple and boring one, then it’s going to lead to a simple and boring movie. If they wanted to go with a far more fascinating route, they could have asked something like “What if Dr. Serizawa chose not to use the Oxygen Destroyer on Godzilla?” Not only could they still continue their many of the plotlines this movie starts, but have the addition of Dr. Serizawa still being alive and watching the destruction Godzilla causes, possibly regretting every day his decision to protect his invention from the world. Or maybe he doesn’t regret it, thinking that he made the right decision because the Oxygen Destroyer could have killed far more people than Godzilla ever could if it fell into the wrong hands.

There would not only be a plot about a helpless military trying to combat Godzilla, but also one about the most classic human character in a Godzilla movie getting another chance at redemption. I think that would have made for a far more intriguing monster movie while still staying within the confines of the Millennium series. But instead, we get a bare bones monster movie with extremely unlikable characters and poor pacing. Think of “Godzilla X Megaguirus” as the “Godzilla Raids Again” of the Millennium series.

The film opens with a timeline recap, showing how Japan rebuilt after Godzilla attacked in 1954. The country shuts down all of its nuclear facilities, focusing instead on alternative fuel and energy sources, moves the capital of Japan from Tokyo to Osaka and eventually develops a new form of energy based on plasma. But every time the Japanese make further strives in that field, Godzilla shows up and destroys everything they’ve worked on.

 

 

So basically, Godzilla’s role in this movie is to come yell at Japanese scientists every time they try to play God.

Eventually, the Japanese defense force gets tired of Godzilla always attacking their country and decides to find a way to get rid of him for good. Rather than developing a new Oxygen Destroyer, they come up with the next most sensible plan – creating a black hole gun!

Normally, I am all for ludicrious plans to deal with equally ludicrious threats, but this is one that I never got into because of how idiotic it is. Disregarding the science of creating an artificial black hole, that could be far more dangerous than Godzilla. Keep in mind that, as far as we currently know, nothing can survive or escape the grasp of a black hole. How do they know the black holes they create to contain Godzilla won’t continue on for all eternity and consume our entire solar system? Or that someone won’t hijack the black hole gun? Or what if it misses and ends up destroying an entire city (or even the world)? There are so many ways creating black holes on Earth can go horribly wrong that you have to step back a bit and ask yourself, “What the hell were they thinking?”

Of course, this is also Godzilla we’re talking about, a monster that survived five years inside of an active volcano and fought off a monster made from machinery from the 23rd century like it was nothing. You also have to ask if this black hole gun will even work on him.

 

 

So while scientists are testing out their black hole gun, nicknamed Dimension Tide, they fire off a round and immediately notice dimensional rifts starting to form near the impact sight. They theorize that they’ve opened up a portal to another dimension. Because I am sure having a gateway to another plane of existence won’t go wrong at all.

Immediately following this, a large dragonfly-like monster breaks the barrier between the dimensions and starts to lay her eggs all over the place. And yet the defense force continues to support Dimension Tide, saying it is the only way to defeat Godzilla, despite releasing another dangerous monster upon the world.

This other monster is known as Megaguirus, a giant dragonfly that can suck the energy out of just about anything and can fly really fast. And that’s about it. We don’t learn more about the dimension Megaguirus comes from, why she feels the need to cause destruction or what her ultimate goal was. She’s just another monster created to fight Godzilla, leaving little impact on the story outside of some little kid trying to explain that she’s based off the Meganulon and Meganula.

When I first watched “Godzilla X Megaguirus” I felt there was something off about it that I could never put my finger on. It just didn’t feel like a good monster movie. While part of this is because of the slow as molasses pacing, taking over an hour before Godzilla even gets close to Japan and spending way too much time with the little kid, I think I finally figured it out on my most recent viewing of the movie, and it comes down to the characters.

Every single character in this film comes across as a smug asshole, where they feel compelled to handle everything on their own and tell anyone trying to help them to piss off. Our protagonist is Kiriko Tsujimori (Misato Tanaka), the leader of the “G-Grasper” unit of the defense force and always seems to have a chip on her shoulder. She constantly feels the need to show off in front of her subordinates, even tell her fellow pilots to sit out their final mission because “It’s my show.”

 

 

There’s also Hajime Kudo (Shosuke Tanihara), a young tech-wizard who constantly infiltrates computers and technology that doesn’t belong to him. Like Kiriko, he sends away all support and help when Dimension Tide starts to collapse so he can take all the glory when things start going his way. Even the little kid acts like he knows better than anyone else when he starts describing Megaguirus’ evolution process, like everyone else is an idiot for not seeing it and he should be the supreme leader of Japan.

Honestly, of all the Godzilla films, “Godzilla X Megaguirus” probably has the most selfish, poorly written and unlikable cast of characters. There wasn’t a single person in this cast that I enjoyed or didn’t want to see trampled by Godzilla. Since they’re a huge focus on the film, that made the majority of it a hard one to get through.

There are many Godzilla movies I have watched over a dozen times because they’re so much fun and bring me so much joy. Since the release of “Godzilla X Megaguirus” in 2000, I think I’ve seen this one two times. It is poorly paced, boring, and has some of the worst characters in the entire franchise. The scenes with Godzilla are few and far between and his fight with Megaguirus is okay but made worse by pacing problems. The only redeeming quality is the music by Michiru Oshima, as it provides some amount of atmosphere and tension. Other than that, don’t bother with “Godzilla X Megaguirus.”