Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Directed by Jun Fukuda
Back when I knew very little about the original “Godzilla” movies except for some of their titles (two weeks ago), the one that intrigued me the most was “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.” I didn’t know what a Mechagodzilla was, but I could guess…and I thought it sounded awesome. Imagine my disappointment when the penultimate Showa-era “Godzilla” movie ended up being a lazy redux of what had come before it. “Space aliens…just as I thought,” says the character played by actor Akihiko Hirata (who had roles in five previous “Godzilla” movies, including the first). What an on-the-nose assessment of the plot.
Aliens are back and weirder than ever—now, they look like “Planet of the Apes” cyborgs. They want to (you guessed it!) conquer Earth, but these ones come prepared with a metallic Godzilla robot, Mechagodzilla. Smart citizens are kidnapped by the aliens and (you guessed it again!) hatch a plan to stop Mechagodzilla and help their true Godzilla (plus a new monster, an ancient god named King Caesar) defeat the new copycat.
Mechagodzilla is cool. Let me say that right off the bat. He lived up to my lofty expectations. A villainous robot based on Godzilla, exceeding him in strength. Just as I hoped. And his battles with the O.G. (Original Godzilla) are terrific. Godzilla is back in badass mode after losing some of his street cred in “Invasion of Astro-Monster” (the one where he dances) and “Son of Godzilla” (the one where he raises his son). I’m not sure if “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla” received a bigger budget than past films, but regardless, its special effects were impressive. The technical aspects of filmmaking seem to keep improving, as one would expect. There were some really terrific shots from cinematographer Yuzuru Aizawa, too. Filmmakers continued to get better at making Godzilla look his true size, instead of like a man in a costume.
But the plot took a back seat. “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla” seemed to suggest that Toho’s big fear following “Destroy All Monsters”—that they had run out of ideas for “Godzilla” movies—had finally, unfortunately, come true.