Movie Review – “The Lego Ninjago Movie” (2017)

 

 

If you asked me what my favorite animated film of the 2010s is so far, I would say “The Lego Movie” without any hesitation. Aside from one of the most visually stunning animated movies of the last decade, as well as having a visual style that no other movie has ever had, it has this massive sense of imagination and wonder where you feel like anything could happen. The movie even has a fantastic twist that makes the whole movie far more understanding and heartwarming.

It’s a movie where Batman, Star Wars, pirates, and astronauts obsessed with building space ships all set out on this massive adventure across equally imaginative landscapes. How can anyone hate this movie? Even “The Lego Batman Movie” still had this great sense of wonder and scope while still doing its own thing by acting as a love letter to everything Batman has ever done.

Which is why it pains me to say “The Lego Ninjago Movie” is such a disappointment. Not only does the film mostly limit itself to action movie clichés, but it does little with its Lego-setup, never fully utilizing that unique concept to its full potential. The movie feels like a 2-D animated kids adventure flick that was converted into a Lego movie at the last minute.

Told through the perspective of an old antique shop keeper (Jackie Chan), he tells a little boy the story of Lloyd (Dave Franco), a Lego teenager who lives in Ninjago City, a relatively peaceful metropolis except for the occasional attack from the evil Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), Lloyd’s father. But everything Garmadon attacks the city, the Ninjago ninjas are always there to stop his evil plans with their giant mechas. Lloyd is the Green Ninja of this group of six ninjas, trained by Master Wu (also Jackie Chan), who face their toughest battle yet when their plan to finally defeat Garmadon goes horribly wrong.

 

 

Part of the problem is that most of these characters leave no impression on me. Most of the ninjas get little to no screen time or development, outside of Lloyd, and are mostly delegated to churning out one-liners or there to fight the bad guys. Lloyd is irritating at times and average at other points. The relationship with his father gets grating especially when the film forces hacky father-son moments near the end of the film.

The only character I enjoyed in the movie was Zane (Zach Woods), the ice ninja of the group. He’s a robot, programmed to act and think like a teenager, which leads to the funniest lines in the movie. He tries to act like he has all these problems every other kid in high school has, only to find out the way his “mother” yells at him is by screaming the old internet dial-up noise. He’s like a comedic-version of Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

This movie would have been so much better if Zane had a bigger focus or if he were the main character in general. He has more quirks and charm than Lloyd does, so that would have at least saved the movie. Instead, he spends most of the time in the background with an emotionless face. This makes it even weirder in the later parts of the movie when the ninjas need to concentrate and calm their minds to gain new powers and they never bring up the fact that one of them is a robot.

 

 

The biggest problem with “The Lego Ninjago Movie” is that it does not take any chances. The reason the previous two Lego movies stood out is because they tried to do so many different things with their characters and plot, some things that no other movies have done before in terms of scope. But this movie is so straight-forward and by-the-books. Even from the opening scene where Jackie Chan explains how to look at something from a new perspective, the point is made that this is your standard animated kids film with little to no surprises.

As a kids movie, “The Lego Ninjago Movie” is fine. It is bright and colorful with a fine story that will keep kids entertained. But as a fan of the Lego movies to this point, I feel let down by this film because it lacks that same grand sense of wonder. The film does not take a piece of plastic and make a grand adventure out of it for people of all ages, it just makes an average yet clichéd little kid movie.

If “The Lego Movie” is like a kid using his toys to reenact “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, then “The Lego Ninjago Movie” is like a kid lazily playing on a Sunday afternoon.

Final Grade: C-

 

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Number 19 – “Godzilla vs. Gigan” (1972)

 

 

As I said in my “Godzilla vs. Megalon” review, “Godzilla vs. Gigan” and that movie are so intertwined that it is almost impossible for me to separate them. Mostly because both of these movies are products of their time. In the 1970s, the daikaiju boom of the 1960s had lost its luster and monster movies in Japan were seen more as children’s films than ones for adults. This certainly was not helped by Daiei making cheesy and campy Gamera movies that were always aimed at little kids, and the Godzilla movies started doing more comedic scenes with implausible plots, even for monster movies.

Both “Godzilla vs. Megalon” and “Godzilla vs. Gigan” are the height of that campy, cheesy era, while also keeping their budgets low and relying probably far too much on stock footage. So not only were these movies made for kids, but they were often lazy too.

The reason I put “Godzilla vs. Gigan” ahead of “Megalon” is because it feels like there was more effort put into the movie. Not much more effort, but enough to notice that there are some good monster scenes to be found here, even if you have to wait some time to get to them. In a way, “Gigan” feels like more of what we got in the 1960s with Godzilla, with its sense of atmosphere, monster battles and music, while still going heavy on the 1970s acid and counter culture antics.

 

 

Our movie begins with a comic book writer, Gengo Kotaka (Hiroshi Ishikawa), trying to sell his ideas for monsters to his publisher, in particular monsters centered around homework and strict mothers. His publisher thinks his ideas are terrible, even though they are what he asked for when he wanted something far away from the kaiju on Monster Island. Gengo starts looking for inspiration and goes to a newly built area of Japan known as World Children’s Land, with it’s main attraction being a Godzilla tower that is just as tall as the real Godzilla.

While Gento is there, he bumps into a young lady who drops a weird tape. He quickly finds out this girl is being chased by the head of security Kubota (Toshiaka Nishizawa), who says that Gento shouldn’t worry about what she was up to. Gento secretly holds onto the tape as he meets with the chairman of the World Children’s Land, Fumio Sudo (Zan Fujita), a young prodigy who is far too busy with astrological calculations to pay much attention to Gento, outside of saying he wants to bring about peace to the entire world.

Eventually, we find out exactly what the chairman means by “peace,” and that is the age-old villain perspective of bringing about peace by wiping out all of humanity. In this case, the chairman needs that tape to broadcast a signal into outer space that would put the monsters Gigan and King Ghidorah under his control. He would then use his two monsters to destroy all human life and anything that stands in his way. Oh, and it turns out the chairman and Kubota are aliens from the Space Hunter Nebula M galaxy – giant cockroaches disguised as humans.

We’ll ignore the obvious logical hole of a tapes’ signal reaching beyond the vacuum of space and simply ask why these aliens went to all the trouble of building a land for children and proclaiming peace when all they ever wanted was to wipe us out. Wouldn’t it just be easier to take the tapes, summon King Ghidorah and Gigan and conquer the world? Why even give humans a chance to learn about your plans and stop you?

These aliens have the same problem as the Futurians in “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” – they give our heroes an unreasonable number of opportunities to foil their plans.

Gento eventually meets up with the girl who got her hands on the tape and her hippie boyfriend who threatens Gento with an ear of corn (though Gento believes it is a gun). They play one tape and it has a strange effect on the kaiju on Monster Island – they start talking. Yup, in the English version of this movie, we get to hear Godzilla and Anguirus have a full conversation about how something funny is going on. Personally, I would have liked to see them do an entire Quentin Tarantino-like exchange, maybe the opening scene from “Inglorious Basterds,” but this is still just as hilarious.

 

 

In the Japanese version, Godzilla, and Anguirus have this conversation through word balloons, like a comic book, and it is just as silly. They only have two conversations in the movie, one about how Anguirus needs to go check out what’s going on, and another about how Anguirus needs to keep up if they want to save Tokyo from Gigan and King Ghidorah.

Gigan’s design is one of the more unique kaiju out there. A chicken-looking monster with hooks for hands, one giant red eye shaped like a Cylon visor from “Battlestar Galatica,” with a buzz saw on his chest and huge oddly-shaped fins on his back. His design is certainly the most memorable thing about his character, because otherwise he comes across like a dummy who has no idea how his body even works.

Once Gigan and King Ghidorah are introduced, they spend about twenty minutes destroying Tokyo together until Godzilla and Anguirus show up to engage in the titular monster battle. Most of the destruction scenes with these two monsters are comprised of stock footage from previous Godzilla movies, especially the shots with King Ghidorah, though it is set to Akira Ifukube’s amazing music.

In fact, that’s another thing I should address – this film is not only made up of mostly stock footage, but also all stock music. Just about every piece of music used in “Godzilla vs. Gigan” was composed by Akira Ifukube, but was taken from about ten or twelve different movies that he worked on in the past. Honestly, I don’t mind this as much as the stock footage, because Ifukube’s music is used well here, adding more impact to many of the monster scenes that it would otherwise lack.

I like to think of “Godzilla vs. Gigan” as a best-of compilation for Akira Ifukube’s music.

 

 

Anyway, after another long swim, Godzilla and Anguirus arrive in the middle of Gigan and King Ghidorah’s attack on Tokyo, leading us into a battle that takes up the entire third act of the movie, like “Megalon” and “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla.” But unlike those two films, “Gigan” has these four monsters battling all over the place, starting in the oil refinery district of Tokyo, before moving to a large grassy plain, and then to the World Children’s Land, where the Godzilla Tower gets in on the action and starts shooting the real Godzilla with its beam.

One aspect I’ll give this film credit for is making it look like Godzilla’s having the toughest battle of his life (up to this point), as he gets smothered by King Ghidorah, blasted by Godzilla tower, is practically blind at one point in the fight, and Gigan becomes the first monster in the Showa series to make Godzilla bleed. This was not an easy fight for Godzilla and Anguirus, and it is only due to the interference of our main characters that Godzilla is victorious.

Gento and his friends are able to infiltrate the Godzilla tower at one point and plant explosives in the elevator, causing the head to blow up and destroying the tapes that controlled Gigan and King Ghidorah. With the two being practically incapacitated, Godzilla and Anguirus take advantage of this and do some gravity defying stunts, as Godzilla tosses King Ghidorah around like a rag-doll and Anguirus slams into both monsters with his spikey back with the thrust power of a rocket.

 

 

If there’s one part of this fight that I’m not a fan of it, it is the suits they choose for King Ghidorah and Godzilla. This Ghidorah, while not too different from the one that was around in the 1960s, looks much skinnier and doesn’t have as much detail on the heads and eyes, making it look like this Ghidorah went on a diet. While this Godzilla suit had been previously used in the last three Godzilla movies, the wear-and-tear on the suit is clearly visible. Near the end of the movie, you can practically see the suit falling apart. The bad monster suits bring me out of the fight nowadays, especially as the fight goes on and it relies less on stock footage and more on the crappy cheap suits.

I would normally say the fight between the four monsters was the best part of the movie, but honestly the human characters are so energized and quirky that I liked most of their scenes better than many of the monster fights. Gento’s girlfriend was especially great, since she constantly used her martial arts skills to fight off the cockroaches henchmen and wasn’t afraid to call Gento out every once in a while. It felt like they played an active role in this attempt to save the planet, maybe even more so than Godzilla.

Still, “Godzilla vs. Gigan” is not well-put together. It is cheap, from its monster suits to its use of stock footage, convoluted, and more than a little silly. But it never takes itself too seriously and always has an upbeat attitude thanks to its main cast of characters. The soundtrack all of Akira Ifukube’s greatest hits and is used wonderfully in this movie. I’m not entirely sure if I’d call this one “so bad, it’s good,” but it does blur the line between the two.

 

Number 20 – “Godzilla vs. Megalon” (1973)

 

 

These next two Godzilla films have way more in common for me than they probably do for most people. Not only were numbers 20 and 19 made less than a year apart, they have the same director, both involve aliens using monsters to take over the world while Godzilla comes in to stop them, they were made on the cheap, and are the only two Godzilla films that fall into the “so bad, it’s good” category. To me, “Godzilla vs. Megalon” and the next entry in our countdown, “Godzilla vs. Gigan” are inseparable.

“Godzilla vs. Megalon” is one of the last entries in the first series of Godzilla films, known as the Showa series. At this point in the series, these films were no longer aimed at the general film-going audience, but little kids who were more used to Saturday morning cartoons about super heroes fighting off bad guys. And this film fully embraces that attitude with its pleasant exterior, convoluted yet silly plot, and the way Godzilla is framed as a super hero instead of world destroying menace.

This film was made on an extremely tight budget, far smaller than most other Godzilla films, and was reportedly filmed over the course of three weeks. In fact, originally this wasn’t even supposed to be a Godzilla movie, but was going to be a solo film about Godzilla’s side kick, Jet Jaguar, but Toho thought that kids wouldn’t be sold on just Jet Jaguar, so they included Godzilla at the last minute.

Interestingly enough, the design of Jet Jaguar was supposedly created by some kid in elementary school. Toho let kids submitted their entry for Jet Jaguar’s design, and this is the look they choose – A robot that looks like Jack Nicholson wearing sun glasses and a Mister Rogers sweater. Oh, and Jet Jaguar can change sizes, between being human-sized and giant monster-sized…and yet, Jet Jaguar supposedly programmed himself to do that, even though he’s only equipped to do remedial work, so how he’s able to change size on a whim is anyone’s guess.

Are you starting to see why this falls into the “so bad, it’s good” category?

 

 

The plot of the film begins with a real world issue at the time – underground nuclear testing. It turns out these tests had disturbed an ancient race of people that had been living underground for millions of years in the city known as Seatopia. These nuclear tests have destroyed more than a third of their country, and now they wish to retaliate against the surface dwellers by unleashing their giant monster to give us a good butt-whooping. Their monster is the cockroach monster that has Christmas-tree drills for hands and can spew napalm, Megalon.

Their way of unleashing Megalon is through interpretive dance and a stern talking to from the Seatopian leader. They also didn’t seem to have a solid plan once Megalon reached the surface, outside of cause a general panic and a little destruction.

So a film that was motivated by the horrors of underground nuclear tests has quickly devolved into the ancient ancestors of Easter Island unleashing a bug monster that can’t be tamed without the help of a Jack Nicholson-looking robot and will cause some mild inconvenience in Tokyo. I would say this is the dumbest plot of any Godzilla movie if it wasn’t so hilariously bad that I actually have fun with it.

The first half of the film is spent with the inventor of Jet Jaguar, Goro Ibuki (Katsuhiko Sasaki), his kid brother Rokuro (Hiroyuki Kawase) and Goro’s best friend Hiroshi Jinkawa (Yutaka Hayashi), as Seatopian agents hunt the three of them down to gain access to Goro’s lab and get control over Jet Jaguar, which the Seatopians plan to use as bait for Megalon. Goro claims to have created Jet Jaguar, but doesn’t seem to understand how he works, acting genuinely surprised when he grows, knows how to fight giant monsters, and doesn’t listen to his commands. Rokuro is your typical kid character with an annoyingly high-pitched voice and upsettingly short shorts for a little boy, something you’d see often in the Gamera films at this same time. The friend Hiroshi, on the other hand, is the true badass of the film, always engaging the Seatopians in a fight and often pursuing them in car chases, leading to an excellently hilarious chase scene down the side of a mountain and a large flight of stairs.

 

 

Eventually, Goro and his gang are able to get Jet Jaguar away from the control of the Seatopians and tell him to go to Monster Island and bring Godzilla back to fight Megalon. Upon hearing that Jet Jaguar is getting Godzilla, the Seatopian controller decides to call up the leaders of the Space Hunter M galaxy (I guess he has them on speed dial) so they can lend him Gigan to fight Godzilla.

I’ll give my thoughts on Gigan next time, but let’s just say that he and Megalon are two peas in a pod – outrageous designs that scream of the 1970s, but are ultimately both as dumb as a bag of giant hammers. They work fairly well off of each other, as far as evil mutant monsters go, and it makes for a fairly entertaining fight between the two of them and Jet Jaguar.

Of course, Godzilla eventually shows up (though he takes his sweet ass time to swim from Monster Island to Japan), and we have ourselves a two-on-two monster battle. But Godzilla’s fighting style is a little different from the previous movies. Instead of mostly using his strength, claws and atomic breath, Godzilla uses…kung-fu fighting and props.

If you were ever wondering what it would be like if Bruce Lee was underneath the Godzilla suit, here is your answer.

 

 

Honestly, the fight between these four monsters is pretty entertaining, in much the same way the final battle in “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla” is fun to watch – it takes up the entire last third of the movie and leads to a few clever scenarios. My favorite part is when Gigan and Megalon trap Godzilla and Jet Jaguar in a ring of napalm fire, something Godzilla would normally be able to walk through no problem, but instead Godzilla just rides Jet Jaguar out of the fire and finally uses his atomic breath on the two villain monsters. It is exactly what I would expect from an over-the-top and silly monster movie.

I should also note that about a third of the monster scenes in “Godzilla vs. Megalon” are all stock footage from previous Godzilla and Toho monster movies. That makes sense, considering this film had to be made in three weeks and I don’t mind it nearly as much here as I did in “Godzilla’s Revenge.” The stock footage isn’t incorporated very well though, since one scene has Megalon attacking some jets, but the stock footage shows Gigan’s hook hands destroying the planes.

But in the end, I have a ton of fun with “Godzilla vs. Megalon.” It is by no means a good movie, and might be one of the worst put-together Godzilla films. But it never takes itself seriously in the slightest and offers a lot of stupid, over-the-top, cheesy moments that I can’t help but crack a smile at, especially Godzilla’s now-infamous tail slide.

However, if you’re going to watch “Godzilla vs. Megalon,” there is absolutely a definitive version that makes the viewing experience even better – the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” version of this movie. MST3K riffed on two Godzilla movies, and this one absolutely deserved it, but their jokes only enhance the already ludicrous plot and monsters. As far as I know, there are no cut scenes in the MST3K version, so you get to see the full movie, plus some of the best casual riffing Joel and the bots did in the early seasons of the show.

 

 

Overall, this is my go-to definition of the “so bad, it’s good” movie. All other films that are hilariously awful are compared to “Godzilla vs. Megalon” for me. This movie is barely held together by scotch tape and bubble gum, has the strangest and most outlandish plot of any Godzilla movie, is centered around a dopey-looking robot that can’t even be understood by his creator, and features a monster that knows kung fu. How can you not at least enjoy the absurd nature of this crappy movie?

 

Number 21 – “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” (1991)

 

 

This is a Godzilla movie that I’m always on the fence about – On the one hand, it might just be the most stupid, ludicrous, poorly written mess in the entire Godzilla series. Yet, when this movie is good, it is the best of the entire Heisei series. The problem is that those scenes are harder to come by than a good scene with Miki Saegusa.

“Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” is the third entry in the Heisei series and almost acts as a soft reboot to the series. In the previous two entries, Godzilla had been scaled to roughly 80 meters tall, but Toho realized that this was just too short and wanted to make Godzilla even bigger, scaling him up to 100 meters. This also marked the beginning of Toho reinventing other classic kaijus outside of Godzilla, with the first being his most classic enemy, King Ghidorah, the three-headed golden dragon.

Toho took this opportunity to change Godzilla’s size once again and also used it to show Godzilla’s origin. I’m not exactly sure who was asking to see what Godzilla was like before he was hit by an atomic bomb, but here it is, for all of its good and bad points.

The film begins with a UFO circling around Japan. The Japanese government tracks its strange path and learns that it passed right over the location of Godzilla, resting deep in the ocean. Eventually, the UFO lands in a field and the military is quick to surround it. But much to everyone’s surprise, three humans emerge from the UFO and wish to talk to the Japanese prime minister.

The three tell the government about themselves – they’re actually from the future, the 23rd century to be exact, and the UFO is their time machine. They explain that, in the 23rd century, most of the world has been utterly destroyed by Godzilla, who will only grow stronger with time as he absorbs more nuclear radiation. They have come back in time to prevent Godzilla from ever being created and thus ensuring humanity won’t be destroyed by Godzilla.

We learn earlier in the film that a Japanese platoon was stranded on a seemingly deserted island called Lagos, surrounded by American battleships near the end of World War II. They had just about given up hope, when suddenly they were saved by a dinosaur, who killed all the American ground troops before retreating due to injuries. After hearing reports about the event from some of the surviving Japanese troop members, some reporters are able to piece together that this dinosaur was still on Lagos island when an atomic bomb was dropped on a nearby island and the resulting radiation mutated the dinosaur into Godzilla.

 

 

The Futurians, as those three from the UFO are called, plan on going back to 1945 and move the dinosaur away from Lagos island so that it doesn’t get hit with radiation. No dinosaur on Lagos, no Godzilla.

But our first plot hole reveals itself at this point, and it’s a pretty big one – If the Futurians had planned all along to go back to 1945 and erase Godzilla from history, then why did they stop in 1991 first? Why tell the Japanese government about their plans at this point when their only intention was to get rid of Godzilla before he was born? Why not just go straight from the 23rd century to 1945? It’s not like the Futurians needed anything in 1991 that they couldn’t get any where else.

They try to write it off like the Futurians needed to stop in 1991 by bringing along three passengers from the modern day, a novel writer who would eventually write about Godzilla’s extensive history, a dinosaur expert, and our dear friend Miki Seagusa, because…they had to find a way to work her into the movie. The problem with this is these three are just passengers. They don’t do anything while on Lagos in 1945 other than watch this dinosaur stomp on some American soldiers and then make some Gamera roars when it gets shot by the battleships (I’m not kidding, this pre-Godzilla has Gamera’s roars). They serve no purpose other than to look at WW2 in awe.

Anyway, the Futurians succeed in their plan, as they remove Godzilla from the island and return to the present to learn Godzilla no longer exists. Except that, as far as we can tell, very little has changed about the world they live in. You’d think something like Godzilla, the menace of Japan for over 30 years, being erased from history would change things. Maybe Japan would have picked a different prime minister, one who might be more focused on the Cold War or industrial development instead of handling Godzilla. But nope, everything’ is the same except Godzilla is gone. Oddly enough, everyone still knows exactly who Godzilla is and what he did.

 

 

I’m starting to think this form of time travel is stupid.

But the moment everyone returns to the present, the Futurians show their true colors. When they departed Lagos island, one of them dropped off three tiny future animals known as Dorats, empathic creatures that can be controlled by a computer. As it turns out, they wanted the Dorats to be hit by the atomic bomb instead of the dinosaur, which results in an entirely new monster being created, one that they can control, King Ghidorah.

So I have a question – The film implies that King Ghidorah is pretty useless unless someone is controlling him with a computer, which the Futurians don’t start using until 1991. So does that mean King Ghidorah was just sitting on Lagos island from 1954 until 1991 doing nothing? And no one ever noticed the giant three-headed golden dragon just sitting on Lagos until the Futurians activated him?

In any case, the Futurians unleash King Ghidorah on Japan, saying that they will destroy all of Japan except for Tokyo and then rebuild it as they see fit. The military is about as effective at stopping King Ghidorah as they were with fighting Godzilla, except now their enemy can fly. And with Godzilla being erased from history, there is nothing on Earth that can defeat King Ghidorah.

But one of the Futurians, a Japanese woman named Emmy (Anna Nakagawa), turns on the other two when they start destroying her homeland. She tells the novel writer the truth – Japan in the 23rd century basically owns the world. Every major technological advancement came from Japan, causing the country to become the major metropolis of the world. Japan also outright buys entire continents, including Australia and Africa, and uses their advanced technology to defeat Godzilla. There is no war, no pollution and nothing nuclear-powered.

Which means the Futurians are just a bunch of rogue thieves who got their hands on a time machine and want to change history so that Japan isn’t the powerhouse of the world…even though the future sounds pretty sweet from Emmy’s description. She never tells us why the Futurians were so upset with the 23rd century and why they wanted to change it, so let us just chalk that up to another plot hole.

With Emmy’s help, our characters try to find a solution to stop King Ghidorah and the Futurians, with their best plan being to find the dinosaur that becomes Godzilla and hit him with lots of radiation to create a new Godzilla.

 

 

This leads to a complicated series of events involving a private industrial company buying their own nuclear submarine that ignores international waters and orders and then stumbles across Godzilla in the Bering Sea. Godzilla attacks and destroys the submarine and absorbs all of its radiation, growing even larger and more violent than before.

Now that the plot recap is out of the way, I can finally say that this story is stupid. Granted, stories about time travel are beyond complicated, but if films like “Back to the Future” can make it seem plausible and tell it in a way that anyone can understand, then I’d expect something a little less absurd from this movie. It can sometimes be funny with how crazy and nonsensical things can get at times, especially when Terminator-like robots start chasing after Emmy just to bring her back to the time machine. Still, it took the film over an hour and 20 minutes for Godzilla to finally show up so that could also be a pacing problem.

Once Godzilla shows back up in Japan, the Futurians immediately send in King Ghidorah to kill him, resulting in our first fight between the two.

 

 

This is where the film starts getting good, if not great. These fight scenes are some of the best in the entire Heisei series, with the opening fight between Godzilla and King Ghidorah showcasing some great background and setting effects. Their fight takes place on a large grassy field and every once of the monsters’ blasts tears up the field and often shows the type of smoke you’d see with a forest fire. Even though the two monsters mostly use beams throughout their fight, it shows that their attacks do carry immense weight and damage, especially when you see little amounts of damage to King Ghidorah’s wings.

The problem with this opening fight though is the pacing and the need to cram in as many human scenes in the middle of the fight. The scenes with Godzilla and King Ghidorah are always cut short when we cut back over to Emmy and friends infiltrating the time machine to blow up the computer controlling KIng Ghidorah. We hardly ever get a moment to just enjoy the fight on its own when there’s so many other things going on. It turns what would be an amazing five-or-six minute fight, including Godzilla lifting up King Ghidorah by his tails and slamming him to the ground, into a 15-minute sequence. Lame.

Eventually, they are successful in destroying the computer that controls King Ghidorah and Godzilla destroys the time machine with the two evil Futurians inside before they can return to their own time. King Ghidorah tries to escape but Godzilla blasts off one of his heads and a giant hole in his wing, causing King Ghidorah to fall into the ocean. But the Japanese quickly realize that, because of this new more evil Godzilla, they may have created a far more dangerous and more powerful monster than King Ghidorah.

 

 

One thing that annoys the crap out of me about “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” is that the film insists that Godzilla is a good monster who would never hurt Japan. They get this from the dinosaur on Lagos only attacking the American forces and not the Japanese, implying that Godzilla has a soft spot for the Japanese. Except that this is the same Godzilla that already ravaged Japan in the previous two movies. Godzilla’s behavior is hardly any different in this movie from those other two, so they have no reason to act surprised when he attacks Japan after King Ghidorah is gone. If this were the Godzilla from the 1970s when he was a hero to Japan, then I could buy that, but this particular Godzilla has always been portrayed as evil.

Emmy and her friends think of a new plan to deal with Godzilla, coming to the conclusion that King Ghidorah probably isn’t dead at the bottom of the ocean and could be repaired to fight Godzilla again. Emmy returns to the 23rd century to use their technology to rebuild King Ghidorah, but not without admitting her feelings for the novel writer.

In the present, Godzilla arrives in Tokyo and starts to destroy the city. In the middle of his rampage, he spots one of the soldiers he saved back on Lagos and actually seems to recognize him…before blasting him with an atomic ray.

But in the middle of Godzilla’s attack, we get the crowning moment of the movie – In an explosion of electricity and technology, King Ghidorah emerges out of no where, with new metal wings and a metal third head, bringing forth the new monster Mecha-King Ghidorah. Set to Akira Ifukube’s awesome King Ghidorah theme, Emmy arrives piloting the rejuvenated monster to do battle with Godzilla in the heart of downtown Tokyo.

 

 

This is one of the best monster fights in the entire Godzilla series. The effects are always impressive and carry the weight of two huge monsters fighting in the middle of a metropolis, especially when the massive buildings around them start collapsing in on them. Akira Ifukube’s music is at its full strength here, providing an even greater impact to the destruction and battle. The pacing is perfect, with nothing to interrupt the fight this time and every action feeling genuine. There is never a boring moment in this fight also, with each one gaining the upper hand at one point or another, especially when Emmy starts using restraints on Godzilla.

For all the problems I have with this movie, the ending fight between Godzilla and Mecha-King Ghidorah makes it all worth it.

In the end, Emmy forces Godzilla back into the ocean, but at the cost of Mecha-King Ghidorah. As she prepares to head back to the 23rd century again, we learn one last thing about her – Emmy is actually related to the novel writer…the writer that she seemed to have a crush on. I guess this film ran out of things to say or do, so it chose to end on the thought of incest!

While “Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah” has more than its share of problem, I cannot bring myself to say I hate it or that it is a bad movie. There are genuinely good scenes here, in particular anytime Godzilla and King Ghidorah fight. While it takes forever to get to those scenes, and even then the film suffers from pacing problems, the effects and music really shine through. The story can sometimes be enjoyable bad, if only for the crazy time travel elements and the stupid plot holes. Watch this one with some beer and some good friends and you’ll have a great time.

 

Number 22 – “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” (1995)

 

 

And now we follow up the beginning of the Millennium series with the end of the Heisei series.

“Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is the seventh and final entry in the second Godzilla series, and is the film that continually boasts about how it features the death of Godzilla. Outside of “Godzilla: Final Wars” and “Godzilla 2000,” this is the Godzilla film that got the most attention worldwide. I remember watching a news report when I was five about how, after 40 years of making Godzilla movies, Toho was finally killing off the king of the monsters. This was a huge worldwide event, or at least as big as a Godzilla event could get.

Did it pay off? Financially, “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” did alright at the box office, mostly because everyone already knew Godzilla was going to die before the film started. Critically, the film did okay, but most of the audience reactions seemed to be positive, as they liked how Godzilla’s death was handled. But personally, “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” falls into the same trappings that many of the other Heisei films did. This leaves me with a boring, uninteresting Godzilla movie that is only saved by the last 15 minutes.

If I have to sit through about an hour-and-a-half of crap before we get to 15 minutes of the good stuff that is still a bad experience.

The film begins shortly after “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla” ended – Godzilla has returned to his home on Birth Island to be with his son. But as our dear old friend Miki Seagusa flies to Birth Island to pay a visit, she learns that the island has suddenly disappeared off the face of the planet. Shortly after this, Godzilla appears in Hong Kong glowing bright red and is putting out a tremendous amount of heat, now only able to use his incredibly destructive hyper spiral beam instead of his standard atomic breath.

 

 

The scientists of the world gather at G-Force Headquarters to deposit their theories about what happened to Godzilla. They come to the conclusion that a large volcanic event must have occurred on Birth Island that not only destroyed the island, but caused Godzilla to take on massive amounts of energy at once. Since Godzilla’s heart is basically a nuclear reactor, the energy he took on became too much for him, and now his heart is beginning to meltdown.

To make matters worse, the scientists figure that Godzilla’s heart will eventually give out, not only killing Godzilla, but igniting the Earth’s atmosphere and wiping out all life on the planet. Naturally, the military wants to prevent this from happening, but the scientists deposit that any weapons used on Godzilla might only speed up the meltdown process.

So yeah, by the nature of the plot, “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is a disaster movie, with the fate of the planet hanging in the balance. Or at least that’s what the film wants to you believe.

The G-Force eventually becomes desperate to find anything to stop the meltdown and retrace Godzilla’s past to see if they can find anything. Keep in mind, while all the Heisei films are contained in their own universe, the events of the first Godzilla movie from 1954 still happened. This leads them to a young student named Kenichi Yamane (Yasufumi Hayashi), the grandson of the famous Dr. Yamane from the first film. Kenichi has spent most of his life studying and analyzing Godzilla, so the G-Force asks for his help. He says there is only one solution to stopping Godzilla’s meltdown – Recreate the Oxygen Destroyer, the weapon that killed the first Godzilla.

In the first Godzilla, Dr. Serizawa created the Oxygen Destroyer, a device that splits oxygen atoms into a fluid and then disintegrates those molecules, causing everything to die of asphyxiation. He had intended to keep the device hidden away from the rest of the world until he felt it was ready to be revealed, but the arrival of Godzilla forced him to put his destroyer to use. To make sure something this powerful never fell into the wrong hands, Dr. Serizawa destroyed all his research and notes on the Oxygen Destroyer and sacrificed himself while using his creation on Godzilla. Which means in present day, no one knows how to make an Oxygen Destroyer.

At the same time, one of Japanese leading scientists has begun working on micro oxygen, so G-Force tasks him with creating a new Oxygen Destroyer. But while he’s busying with this, one of his soil samples breaks free from its container. He studies the soil to find out that it was taken directly from Tokyo Bay in same area where the original Oxygen Destroyer was used on Godzilla.

It turns out that soil sample contained a colony of microscopic organisms that had been mutated by the Oxygen Destroyer and have been growing ever since. The colony begins feeding on micro oxygen, while also acting as a miniature Oxygen Destroyer, killing anything it touches. They continue to grow until these crustaceans are bigger than humans and start running amok in the city.

As far as I am concerned, most of that is just techno-babble for “this is how we get a dying Godzilla to fight a physical manifestation of the Oxygen Destroyer.”

By now you’ve probably guessed this other monster is the titular Destoroyah (not Destroyer). Eventually, all the human-sized creatures are able to combine into one monster that is even bigger than Godzilla. Destoroyah’s design is unique, with everything on its body being a dark shade of red or orange, covered in spikes and a face that make it look like a devil. This is a monster that some artistic goth kid would design while he was bored in science class.

 

 

The problem with Destoroyah, like with most other Heisei villains, is its motives or need to destroy everything. We never learn why Destoroyah feels the need to be wreck havoc on the world and we’re just supposed to assume it is because Destoroyah is pure evil. Near the end of the film, when Godzilla messes Destoroyah up, it is clear the colony monster is acting out of revenge and anger, but as a kaiju, Destoroyah as always left me a bit cold.

It also doesn’t help that Destoroyah is born from a device that was used because of the first Godzilla. The last two Heisei films, “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II” and “Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla,” both featured Godzilla fighting clones of himself, and now we have another monster closely intertwined with Godzilla. It comes across like the filmmakers of the Heisei series just gave up near the end and could only think about how they could get Godzilla to fight himself.

 

 

So why is “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” this low on my countdown? Well keep in mind this is, at its core, a disaster movie. The world if coming to an end at the hands of Godzilla and even the most advanced minds of the planet feel like there is nothing we can do to stop it. Remember in other disaster movies, like “Titanic” or “The Poseidon Adventures,” how the characters had to fight for their lives while trying to remain rational and logical in a time when all they want to do is panic? We don’t get any of that in this movie.

The acting in “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is stale, wooden, and lacks the desperate emotional punch that could have saved this movie. Most of these characters go about their day like nothing is wrong. Just another day at the office with the possible Armageddon hanging over our shoulders. Nobody seems upset that the world could be ending at any minute. Granted, they’re all actively trying to prevent that from happening, but they do so with all the excitement of a pencil pusher.

The song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” has never been more applicable.

 

As for what’s going on with our buddy Miki Saegusa, she’s still working for the G-Force and is now in charge of studying Godzilla’s son, who survived the explosion on Birth Island as well and has grown up quite a bit as a result, becoming Godzilla Jr. Her annoyance in this film is downgraded, though still present when they give her a sidekick, another psychic person, Meru Ozawa (Sayaka Osawa).

Because if any character in this series needed a sidekick, it was Miki Saegusa!

In my recent viewing of “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah,” there was a point where I had to stop and contemplate something – Meru Ozawa mentions she was at the top of her class with her psychic powers and is upset that Miki hasn’t been practicing with her powers in a while. I stopped and wondered how we’ve gone nearly six movies with Miki and yet this is the first time we’re hearing about a high school or college-like place for psychic users only. We saw a preschool for psychic users back in “Godzilla vs. Biollante,” but I always thought that was a throwaway gag so it could have a hilarious scene of two dozen kids holding up their drawings of Godzilla destroying Japan while cheering like they don’t have a care in the world.

So this entire world is filled with potential psychic users? Miki isn’t a one-in-one-hundred-million chance to get powers like that? How are psychic wielders treated throughout the world? Is it like the X-Men where they’re looked down on by society and treated like outcasts? Are there special schools stationed all across the globe to help them develop their powers? How come we haven’t seen more of them throughout the series? Wouldn’t more of them be helpful in their constant fight against Godzilla? If they’re as common as Meru implies they are, what kind of impact have they had on the world? What kind of job does a psychic wielder normally get in the real world? And why is this the first we’re hearing about all this?

They had a golden opportunity to do some fantastic world building and they messed it all up. Maybe they could have shown that these psychic powers were caused in part by Godzilla’s unique radiation to tie it back to the monsters. Instead, all we get are two increasingly annoying psychic users who do little to the story outside of teasing us about a huge missed opportunity.

 

 

Miki’s dumb contribution to the story is that G-Force wants to use Godzilla Jr. to lure Godzilla closer to the main land so that he would fight Destoroyah, hoping the two would kill each other and prevent the meltdown. Naturally, Miki is against this plan, saying that she doesn’t want to risk killing Godzilla Jr. for all this, because he is his own strong independent man and don’t need no psychic woman telling him what to do! Except that Miki seems to have forgotten that the fate of the world rests on this plan, so maybe she should set her personal attachments and feelings aside and think about the greater good for a change.

Miki Saegusa is like one of those obnoxious, groan-inducing hippie characters who just wants peace and love for all living creatures, except even more poorly-written than that.

Like I said near the beginning of all this, the only good thing about “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is the final 15 minutes, when Godzilla is on the verge of melting down and his power is uncontainable. Suddenly, the film takes a tragic turn when you look at it from Godzilla’s perspective – He just witnessed his son die before his eyes, is unsuccessful at bringing him back to life, his body temperature starts going critical, his body starts to melt, and to top it all off Destoroyah wants a rematch. But even then, it’s the military that gets the killing blow on Destoroyah, so Godzilla doesn’t even get to wipe out his final enemy.

While the effects before this final scene were sub-par at best, especially when dealing with the smaller forms of Destoroyah, they pulled out all the stops for this one. Godzilla’s beam has grown massive and causes explosions that are bigger than both monsters, you can visibly see Godzilla slowly melting away. It does add to the grand scale that this insanely powerful creature is dying.

The actual death of Godzilla is handled quite well. As Godzilla melts down, the military tries everything they can to stop him from taking the Earth with him, and for once it feels like the military does damage to Godzilla. I can almost feel Godzilla’s pain as his body gives up and is reduced to a pile of bones, and his final roar still gives me chills.

 

 

The other highlight of “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is the music. It was composed by Akira Ifukube, who composed over a dozen Godzilla movies, including the first Godzilla film, and this was the final time he would create the soundtrack for Godzilla. That theme I loved so much in “Godzilla 2000”? That was originally written for this movie and was used equally well here when Godzilla makes his stand against Destoroyah. His music sounds more boisterous and grandiose than usual, which adds to this being Godzilla’s final act. If there’s one thing that has always given Godzilla far more impact, it has been Ifukube’s music and he certainly goes out on a high note.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that I had to sit through lots of techno-babble, stale acting and more Miki Saegusa being insufferable for 90 minutes before we got to the good part. The final scenes are some of the best in the Heisei series, but overall “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” is not a pleasant film to get through. Watch Godzilla’s initial attack on Hong Kong and then skip to the last 20 minutes and save yourself the trouble.

 

Number 23 – “Godzilla 2000” (1999)

 

 

At this point, I’ve only seen four Godzilla movies on the big screen – the two American films, “Shin Godzilla” and my next entry, “Godzilla 2000.” I saw this movie in theaters when I was ten years old with my best friend and father (who fell asleep in the middle of the movie, though I don’t blame him now), and I remember walking out of the movie theater liking it.

Keep in mind this was only two years after the 1998 American “Godzilla,” a film which left a bad taste in my mouth even at a young age. Then along comes “Godzilla 2000” which felt more like a traditional Godzilla movie instead of some random mutated T-Rex wandering around New York. I recall being bored during many of the human scenes, but my heart was racing during any scene that had Godzilla in it.

Then I let a few years pass before I decided to watch it again. After doing so, the quality was certainly diminished. The initial hype of seeing Godzilla in theaters had died down and now I saw it as the definition of an average Godzilla movie, with some good parts and an equal amount of bad or average elements. I didn’t see it as a bad movie, but it certainly wasn’t good anymore.

But then I rewatched “Godzilla 2000” again while preparing for this countdown, and I finally realized how stupid, nonsensical, and brainless this movie truly is. Before I started watching every Godzilla movie again, I made a list of how I ranked every film in the series. Compared to my old list, “Godzilla 2000” certainly has the biggest drop-off of any picture in the franchise. This movie got bad over the years.

 

 

Toho made “Godzilla 2000” as a direct response to the 1998 film. The American movie proved that Godzilla could once again succeed at the box office, but also showed that American studios needed to be reminded on how to make a proper Godzilla movie. Toho had stopped making Godzilla movies in 1995 after the end of the Heisei series, with “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah,” where they killed off Godzilla and wanted to give him a long rest. That rest ended up being four years before they were back to making a movie every year, leading to the creation of the Millennium series.

As with every new series, the image of Godzilla was tweaked ever so slightly, in this case giving Godzilla a change in his design and a new roar. This new Godzilla has a pretty similar body structure – bulky, thunder thighs, stubby little arm. The major changes to his design are his spines, which are now massive, taking up almost as much space as the rest of his body, razor sharp, almost crystal-like and had a distinct purple tint to them. Godzilla’s roar now has a reverb effect and still sounds like something you’d expect from Godzilla, so I have no complaints with that.

What I do have complaints with is the story. Right off the bat, we are thrown into this world without an explanation as to how or why Godzilla is here or how long he’s been around. What we do learn is that there are small teams roaming around Japan, known as the Godzilla Prediction Network that track Godzilla’s movements, like storm watchers who go out looking for tornadoes. While each team seems to have only two or three members, they do have advanced technology that alerts them to every movement Godzilla makes and allows them to take data on Godzilla’s biology and radiation development. And yet, we hardly ever see the government use this same technology.

The film follows one of these teams, a father/daughter team, Yuji and Io Shinoda (Takehiro Murata and Mayu Suzuki), as they spend the first half of the movie following Godzilla around as he destroys a city and makes an attack on a nuclear facility. They are able to keep up with Godzilla and learn a lot of new information on him with their tech, but I tilt my head when we learn they make little to no money from doing this. They have this great and useful technology that even the Japanese government doesn’t seem to have, yet they are broke. How have they turned this into a profitable endeavor? Where did they get all this technology? How come they haven’t sold the tech to the government so they could use it to protect all of Japan and the world? None of these questions are answered.

 

 

The two end up getting most of their money from a passenger they sign on as their third member, Yuki Ichinose (Naomi Nishida), a photographer for a big newspaper in Tokyo. She agrees to become a member of the GPN, as well as pay for all their meals and gas, as long as they can get her close enough to take some good pictures of Godzilla. Except that her boss doesn’t seem to be that interested in getting pictures. My guess is that there are only so many pictures you can take of Godzilla in this world before you’ve seen them all, so Godzilla photos probably don’t go for much anymore.

Yuji and Yuki spend almost the entire movie fighting about whose the bigger imbecile and bickering like an old married couple. Yet the film wants you believe there is some sort of romance going on between the two, even though they never share a tender moment together or show anything for the other outside of annoyance and dislike. To Yuji, Yuki is just there to get in the way and only keeps her around because she has money. While to Yuki, Yuji is stopping her from doing her job but is her best way of getting to Godzilla. Their relationship never evolves beyond that.

The final character worth mentioning is the head of the CCI, Crisis Control Intelligence, Mitsuo Katagiri (Hiroshi Abe). Apparently, he has a history with Yuji, after they worked on the same team for a while, but Yuji left and they had a bitter falling out. So Katagiri spends the entire movie dissing Yuji, talking about how worthless Yuji is and how much better he has it. Outside of a small scene which is extremely vague about Yuji and Katagiri’s past, we never learn why these two hate each other so much.

But before Katagiri focuses his attention on Godzilla, he finds something ancient on top of a bunch of underwater volcanoes. When his team starts to remove it, the giant rock starts moving on its own, rising to the surface and then moving again based on the position of the sun. Eventually, it starts flying on its own once Godzilla makes land fall and reveals itself to be a UFO.

After the UFO and Godzilla have a short exchange of beams, the UFO becomes the primary focus of the film, as it makes its way towards a major city and starts hacking into every electronic device in the city to gain information. Yuji, Io and Yuki take a back seat to Katagiri’s attempts to bring down the alien ship and stop it from destroying everything electrical.

 

 

At one point, Yuki decides to go into the building the UFO is resting on to find out anything she can, even though she only finds out one thing – this alien is interested in Godzilla. Even after the military says to clear the building so they can blow it up, Yuki still goes in and Yuji and Io have to rescue her. Hey remember when this movie was about Godzilla and not a bunch of idiots trying to rescue other idiots from an exploding building in a “Die Hard”-like sequence? Good times.

Our characters eventually come to the conclusion that whatever is controlling the alien ship is a shapeless mass and is looking for the perfect life form on our planet to copy and imitate so that it can conquer our world. Of course, the life form the alien has chosen to copy is Godzilla, mostly because of a new element Yuji found in Godzilla that allows to regenerate major cellular damage in seconds.

Interestingly enough, major plot elements of “Godzilla 2000” were changed when the film was released in America. The plot description I just gave is for the American version, the only way I’ve ever known the film. But the Japanese version is different, namely that the UFO was supposed to be responsible for the Y2K bug. Yeah, remember that random bit of nothing from 1999 when experts believed every computer and bit of software was going to crash when we switched to the new millennium? Apparently the Japanese version of this movie was centered around that, and it was removed completely from the American film.

Now we get to the best part of “Godzilla 2000,” the one scene that made my face light up when I was ten and still gets my heart pounding to this day. I give you – one of the best uses of the Godzilla theme song in any movie.

 

I know this scene may not seem like much. It’s just Godzilla coming out of Tokyo Bay and walking to the UFO to begin the fight while the Godzilla theme plays. But imagine a little kid, who spent his childhood loving everything related to Godzilla. Now he finally gets the chance to see Godzilla rampage through Tokyo, set to the tune of one of the greatest theme songs in cinema. I may not like the majority of “Godzilla 2000,” but this one short scene of Godzilla doing what he does best makes it all worth it.

There’s something so awe-inspiring about the Godzilla theme song that I cannot help but love it. It is so intrical to Godzilla, so foreboding and powerful at the beginning, and yet so triumphant near the end without ever losing its strength. It makes Godzilla even more menacing than he already is, complimenting his size and ferocity, like a good theme song should do. This theme is played a lot throughout all the Godzilla movies, and this one always stands out to me. Maybe because of nostalgia, but I think it has to do with how well the theme song compliments Godzilla’s movements.

After this awesome sequence, Godzilla and the UFO fight for a while until the alien gets the upper hand and starts copying Godzilla’s cells to create a physical body, leading to our true antagonist – Orga. It starts out as a lump of gray mass with huge forearms that become claws and its head being the entire upper body. It has Godzilla’s healing factor, so every time Godzilla blasts chunks away from Orga, they just grow back within seconds. As long as Orga is touching Godzilla, the more Orga begins to look like Godzilla, even growing spines and turning green.

 

 

Even though Orga doesn’t appear until the last fifteen minutes of the movie, I’ve always thought it was an effective villain monster. His design is unique and weirdly alien that it’s almost terrifying. He’s unlike most of the Heisei villain monsters, relying more on close combat tactics and using how huge claws to fight, and only uses his beam attack a couple times. Plus, his introduction gives us a modified version of the Godzilla theme song, which I’ve always called the nega-Godzilla theme. Fitting for a monster that’s trying to be a copy of Godzilla.

In the end, Godzilla is victorious over Orga, destroying an alien space ship that sat at the bottom of the ocean for millions of years in less than a day after it awoke. Then Godzilla goes out of his way to kill Katagiri for some reason, and we are left with our final lines of dialogue that make the whole movie stupid.

One of Katagiri’s men says, “We scientists produced this monster, Godzilla. And ever since we’ve tried to destroy him.” Yuki then asks, “Then why? Why does he keep protecting us?” This leads to the closing line from Yuji – “Maybe because Godzilla is inside each one of us.” And then Godzilla sets most of Tokyo on fire.

No further comments.

 

 

 

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.