Friday, 12 July 2013

Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla 2 (Film Review)

We're skipping between films in the Heisei era for a moment to focus upon this film. While they might have Godzilla Vs. Mothra between them, Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah and this film are two of the best examples of this era's continuity.

Despite the continued development of the JSDF's weaponry, it's becoming painfully clear that conventional attacks are doing nothing to the kaiju. Despite new variants of maser tanks and advanced jetfighters, nothing so far has done anything to scratch Godzilla's hide. The last three times the giant radioactive lizard attacked, he tore though entire cities before being fortunately driven back by other kaiju. Biollante, Mecha Ghidorah and last time by Mothra and Battra. With this in mind Japan opts to fight fire with fire.

Fishing the remains of Mecha Ghidorah from the seabed, the they reverse engineer the futuristic technology and make a monster of their own: Mechagodzilla. Armed with weapons and armour specifically designed to kill the beast, they hope to kill the daikaiju once and for all...

Following on from Godzilla Vs. Mothra's example, this film thought bigger than its predecessors. It had more monsters on the screen, more events to keep the pace going and had Japan doing something besides getting wrecked at every turn. However, unlike with King Ghidorah it never thought too big and went overboard in its ideas keeping things focused. The introduction of Rodan to this era is a big point of this. As well as giving the film another monster, his nest introduces the infant godzilla found there (yes, there's more than one big-G it seems) allowing for Japan to research his biological weaknesses and give Mechagodzilla a fighting chance against the adult. Everything build and links into one another far more effectively and as a result things are much more tightly written.

The infant godzilla itself gives something far more tangible for the actors to work with and makes it feel they're more a part of the film. Not simply running around doing their own things while the monsters duke it out, something which was a big problem in a few of the Heisei era's films. Well, that and actually having pilots fighting Godzilla personally, piloting Mecha-G and giving commands/communicating in a similar manner to a tank crew. Communicating similarly with a command crew from a base, a military support force and even a repair facility.

The kaiju fights themselves are definitely fun but lack some of the wight of previous battles. The Haisei era definitely favoured flying monsters over ground based ones, and that's very clear here. Despite having a very weighty, armored design Mechagodzilla spends much of the time using a jetpack to circle strafe his foes. Rodan is the same, utilising his wings due to, you know, being a giant pteranodon, and the support craft Gaurda.
While this can work at times, it removes a lot of the physicality in the fights and results the monsters often trying to avoid one another. Mechagodzilla blasting away with in-built guns while Rodan more frequently makes hit-and-run attacks, often utilising the slipstream of his fight. The few times either of them get into fisticuffs, it's either due to a malfunction which shuts down the machine (and thus a one-sided beat-down) or is incredibly closely shot to hide the limitations of the monster's designs.

None of this is to say the fights aren't good, they just back some of the elements which made the series enjoyable for so long. When the film truly embraces the monster's abilities it becomes very entertaining with the fight attacks occasionally striking Godzilla at full speed and smashing him to the ground, or he and Godzilla engaging in a full on DBZ-style beam war. Not the standard kind either as visible damage, bleeding and explosions rock both monsters, conveying the genuine harm of their attacks.

While lacking some of the more contemporary elements of the Godzilla franchise, Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla 2's it's definitely one of the strongest entries of the era and feels the most balanced. Containing ham and cheese o' plenty but not going as overboard as with Godzilla Vs. King Gheidorah and acting a bit smarter than the usual rubber monster film. Its influence on Pacific Rim is also obvious in many places, from the eccentricities of the Mechagodzilla projects science team to the kaiju sharing Godzilla's weakness introduced in this film.

If you're at all interested in watching Godzilla films, this one is highly recommended. It displays the quirks, tropes and aspects Pacific Rim is hearkening back to from this genre, along with being a decently enjoyable film in of itself. It's far from perfect, far from serious drama, but there's enough here for people to have fun with.

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