Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla

It's almost like Toho knew how badly they screwed up. After a series of bombs at the box office, the studio needed their franchise star to come back strong. The question remains as to why they let the films slack off in the first place, but they made up for it somewhat with "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla."

Aliens from the third planet from the black hole have invaded Earth. Intending to take over the world using a giant robotic Godzilla replica, they launch their plans quickly. What they didn't count on was the resurrection of an Azumi god through an ancient prophecy called King Seesar. They planned on Godzilla, but two monsters just might be enough to end the mechanical titans reign.

Toho allotted a decent budget for this entry, the 20th anniversary film, in order to draw people back. It's an earnest attempt at returning to form, but the limitations and carelessness are still present. Adding some level of respect to the film are some of Toho's recognizable genre actors including Akihiko Hirata and Hiroshi Koizumi. Mix them in with a complete lack of stock footage, and you have the ingredients for a winner.

The suit used here is the same as in "Godzilla vs. Megalon," a big-eyed, friendly looking beast that doesn't really seem to mesh with a film that's trying hard to be somewhat serious. For a bit, Mechagodzilla is covered with skin to "fool" the human characters (though what purpose this services is unknown). That suit is a disaster. It looks like it has a huge smile and even worse, it is interchanged with normal Godzilla suit in a few shots during the final struggle. It's an annoying and jarring switch.

Special effects are a major improvement and there are plenty of opportunities to show them off. Albeit simple, there is some great matte work here, flawlessly done every time. Mechagodzilla seems to have various rays shooting from every conceivable area of his body and these create a colorful extravaganza on screen. It's great to watch this metal beast work.

Destruction is limited in order to obviously save on the budget, but the one scene where the team went to work is spectacular. Another oil refinery brawl, the pyrotechnic team once again answers the call as both Godzilla's exchange rays in a blaze. Explosions are plentiful in one of the best scenes out of the 70's movies.

Then again, it almost seems like they had to make sure to keep this one a bit campy. Wires are obvious during an all-too brief battle with Angilas, again when Mechagodzilla takes to the air, Godzilla appears out of a building (!), and the King Seesar suit is flat out terrible. The aliens turn into some sort or gorilla/monkey when they are killed and that is never explained. It was more likely to cash in on the "Planet of the Apes" success at the time than to add anything to the story. There's also a tremendous amount of bloodshed, odd for a series that attracted mostly children at this point.

Yes, this is another oddball entry into a series that struggled with itself for many years previous. That doesn't mean it can't provide some solid entertainment. The sequel, "Terror of Mechagodzilla" is arguably better (even with countless plot holes), but this is a solid Godzilla flick that can help anyone pass the time. (*** out of *****)

Sony has transferred this film even better than Toho did. The print used is in remarkable shape and the compression problems that somewhat plagued the region 2 version is a non-issue. Colors are just gorgeous in the daylight scenes. Darker moments have some problems with grain, but the solid black levels offset that issue. Godzilla fans are in for a treat with this one. (****)

Once again, the Japanese language track is crystal clear while the English track is muffled and mixed lower. The dub is the usual Toho international version. It's serviceable, but no substitute for the original dialogue. The goofy, rather happy sounding music is no trouble for this Dolby 2.0 mono track. Much like all of these 50th Anniversary discs, it's a shame the remastered 5.1 mixes didn't make it over here. (***)

Extras are non-existent, save for some trailers. On a side note, whoever translated this movie for the subtitles did a pitiful job. King Seesar is spelled Caesar, Space Titanium is simply called Space Metal (even though the actors obviously say titanium), and at one point the subtitles simply show question marks instead of words. Go figure. (No stars)

Human-like aliens would once again return to Japan in the sequel, the fifth time they would make an appearance in the Showa series alone. The reigns of Mechagodzilla would be turned over to the Earthlings in the Hesei and Millennium series giving the large cyborg five appearances total as well. Coincidence?

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