Written by Danny Toth
Toho’s revival of Godzilla for the contemporary audience had a good start with THE RETURN OF GODZILLA (1984), and kept the series going with the underrated poetic masterpiece, GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE (1989). The stories were fresh, the kaiju were fearsome and unique, and the special effects were caught up with the time. However, once the 90s rolled in, the special effects once again became choppy, the stories were odd and confusing, and a psychic element was thrown in the mix to annoy fans like me.
GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA II was the fifth of the Heisei Series. Many would label it the best one of that particular series, but there are just too many flaws that bring it down to one of my lesser favorites.
After the Godzilla Force recovers the remains of Mecha-King Ghidorah, they learn about cybernetic technology and build a giant robot version of Godzilla. We all remember the cool Mecha G from the 70s; a powerful, villainous war machine built by alien gorillas that proved to be Godzilla’s most powerful foe in the Showa films.
This time around, Mecha G was built by humans on Earth to defend Japan from a rampaging Godzilla.
First off, the human characters are very irritating, though they are developed rather well. Anyway, some of them end up going to an island and find a big egg with a bunch of Pterosaur fossils. They automatically assume it’s the egg of a Pterosaur.
A big, mutated Pterosaur arrives. It’s Rodan, the master of the skies. But, there’s a problem. When we watch the original RODAN (1956), the monster was brilliantly handled via suitmation and props. He looked vicious, with inhuman black eyes, incredible speed and maneuverability, and near indestructibility.
This incarnation of Rodan is so far a stray from the Showa Kaiju, that it’s almost depressing as we see a featherless turkey glide through the sky from clearly visible strings. Rodan just looks down right terrible here, and he is also downsized in comparison with the other monsters. This detracts from his presence in the Showa films, and overall just makes him look like a punching bag for Godzilla and his cyborg double.
Godzilla shows up and throws Rodan from the picture for a while. The egg is brought to Kyoto, with Big G in hot pursuit. It hatches, Miki uses her psychic powers and degree in Godzilla studies to tell everyone that’s it’s a baby Godzillasaurus, and Godzilla arrives close to the city, pretty pissed off and having a field day blowing up oil refineries.
Mechagodzilla is put into action after an extremely long sequence where we see everyone getting prepared to battle Godzilla. It seems to be going well after a few direct hits with a rainbow ray called the Mega-Buster, eye beams, and some measly missiles. Also, Mech G has the Shock Anchor, twin electro harpoons that fire from the wrists.
They shoot Big G, immobilize him briefly, and get a taste of their own medicine as he pushes the electric charge backwards into Mecha G. Godzilla, then after destroying a useless defense line made up of firecrackers and toys, goes to Kyoto.
Godzilla then goes back to sea, while Rodan takes in some energy left over from Godzilla’s visit to the island, grows a bit and changes color. He is also fitted with a purplish heat beam, much like Godzilla’s.
You know what? I’m sick of talking about the movie’s ridiculous plot, so I’m just going to flat out say what I think of it…
Mechagodzilla is quite a problem. His design is pretty cartoonish, and looks very, well, uh, “gee-whiz” as many would say. He’s just lacking something the one from the 70s had: character. He acted on orders, yeah, but he had an AI that gave him independent fighting abilities. The Mecha G in the ‘93 film was just a big, mobile operated toy that simply underestimated Godzilla in the end. Sure, he drew blood from the monster, but nothing like he did in ‘74.
The baby. Is it Minilla? No, not exactly. He’s just called “Baby” and has nothing on Minilla…nothing at all. Minilla was happy, blew smoke rings, and was just plain awesome. Baby hangs out with the scientists and nerds, and eats cheeseburgers.
Godzilla himself gives a good performance, but looks odd at certain angles. From the side, his head looks freakishly small, and his body is really, really bulky. His tail is positioned a little higher than normal, and he just has an odd profile. He looks weird in some shots, and fantastic in others. Now, other words…
Akira Ifukube once again does a superb job with the musical score. Mecha G’s theme is great, giving the cyborg more of a presence of power that he lacks in most areas. It saves him. The G-Force march is quite good, and paces itself well with the action. Other music includes a revived Rodan theme, the dark battle theme we heard in MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964), and an eerie children’s choir singing softly for Baby.
Another plus is the fight between Godzilla and Rodan, which is fun to watch, but a pity as it is kind of brief. Godzilla is pretty badass, but sadly, Rodan can’t do what he did in GHIDRAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964), and isn’t much of a challenge for his enemies.
The flashy ray battles are so overdone, it would’ve been better to spend less on that, and more to make Rodan look halfway realistic. The beams strobe across the screen and rarely hit their intended targets.
Despite fans hailing GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA II as “the best of the Heisei Series”, it doesn’t compare to the pure art of the two 80s installments. I’ll admit that it’s better that GODZILLA VS. KING GHIDORAH, but that’s not saying too much. So, instead of watching this entree, I sit and watch either the two classic Mecha G films from the 70s, or pop in Massaki Tuzuke’s two Kiryu films that I find to be fun and highly enjoyable.
It’s nice to know that Rodan is given proper justice, and that the Heisei baby Godzilla has been scrapped to pave way for Millina’s comeback in GODZILLA: FINAL WARS (2004). With that, I’ll say that GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA II is done, over with, but will still be one of the most overrated Godzilla films in the years to come.
Written by Danny Toth