Film Discussion

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla – Throwback 20

There’s a trend for protagonists to get villains that are twisted reflections of themselves. Superman has Bizarro, Spider-Man has Venom, and Godzilla has Mechagodzilla. Over the years the mechanical version of the giant lizard has gone through a number of redesigns and re-imaginings to fit with each revamped origin, but none stand out as being as interesting as 2002’s Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.

Despite having appeared in a number of films before, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla represents the first appearance of the mechanical monstrosity in the new Millennium continuity; a series that covers the Godzilla films released between 1999 and 2004.

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This new continuity counted some of the older films, such as the original Godzilla film, but discounted much of the rest, and used this to craft its own tale. The film begins in 1999, 45 years after the appearance of the first Godzilla creature that was eventually killed. During an attack from a new Godzilla, members of the Anti-Special Creature Self Defence Forces are killed in the attack, due in part to the actions of Lieutenant Akane Yashiro (Yumiko Shaku).

After the disastrous attack it’s decided that conventional weapons are no longer a viable defence against the giant monster, and a special project is begun. Using the remains of the original Godzilla creature, scientists create a mechanised creature capable of going toe to toe with Godzilla. With the remains of the former creature inside the machine, this cyborg monstrosity, named Kiryu, can be piloted by humans and taken into battle. Given a new chance at fighting Godzilla, Akane is assigned to pilot Kiryu. Years later, when Godzilla re-emerges, Kiryu is deployed against it.

© 2002 Toho.

One of the things that immediately makes this version of Mechagodzilla different to those that came before it is that this isn’t a machine. Or at least, not a purely robotic machine. Instead, this new weapon is a cyborg creation, a suit of armour built around the skeleton of a defeated Godzilla. This is Godzilla given the RoboCop treatment, or Godzilla if the Cybermen got hold of him. The film’s opening title even reflects the fact that this is a different version of the creature, as it begins with the words ‘Godzilla vs Godzilla’ before ‘Mecha’ fades onto the screen, changing the name.

And this wasn’t done just to give the monster a new origin, as it also impacts the story when during the first fight with the living Godzilla its roar somehow triggers off some kind of genetic sense memory within the remains, sending the un-dead cyborg off on a rampage. This entire set-up would go on to be used again, with a slight tweak, in the Monsterverse movie Godzilla vs Kong, where that version of Mechagodzilla is made using one of the skulls from King Ghidorah, and latent memories and psychic powers allow the dead creature to take over its new, metal body. But when you’ve got a great idea, why not use it again?

© 2002 Toho.

Mechagodzilla didn’t just get a revamped origin, however, as the monster also got an updated design. Less chunky and clunky looking than previous versions, and sporting massive canons on his shoulders, this version more closely resembled the creature that he was supposed to be fighting. And speaking of fighting, the monster scenes in this film make for some amazing moments. The opening sequence features Godzilla in a typhoon, coming out of the rain, stalking towards his enemy in a moment that looks truly phenomenal, and might be his best entrance in any movie. The final fight of the movie manages to land well too, and has some fast paced action aided by some pretty decent CGI work that complements the suit effects and miniature work nicely.

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Whilst the film was released in Japan in December, where it did well in the box office, it also had a one night only screening in the US in November in select theatres. Despite not receiving much advertisement, the movie managed to pull $335,000 for the single day. The film ended up being received well, with many Godzilla fans claiming it as one of the best entries in the Millennium series.

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla was released in Japan on 14th December 2002.


 

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