aka Godzilla Vs Mechagodzila III
(Gojira Tai Mekagojira)
Director – Masaaki Tazuka, Screenplay – Wataru Mimura, Producer – Shogo Tomiyama, Photography – Masahiro Kishimoto, Music – Michiru Oshima, Visual Effects Supervisors – Fumio Araki, Nobutaka Doki, Tomokazu Enya, Osamu Izumiya, Hajime Matsumoto, Yuji Matsuoka & Shigefumi Takayama, Special Effects Director – Yuichi Kikuchi, Art Direction – Yukiharu Seshita. Production Company – Toho.
Yumiko Shaku (Akane Yashiro), Shin Takuma (Dr Tokumitsu Yuhara), Kana Onodera (Sara Yuhara), Ko Takasugi (Colonel Tagashi), Yusuke Tomoi (Lieutenant Hayama), Akira Nakao (Prime Minister Igarashi), Junichi Mizuno (Lieutenant Sekine), Kumi Mizuno (Prime Minister Machiko Tsuge)
In 1999, Godzilla reappears after 45 years and attacks Japan. During the attack, Megalosaurus Defence Force soldier Akane Yashiro is in a vehicle that is sent down an embankment and is the only survivor after all her comrades are killed. She takes this badly. Three years later, Dr Tokomitsu Yuhara, an expert in creating robots built out of animal DNA, is recruited as part of a scientific group set up to form a defence against further attacks by Godzilla. They have salvaged the bones of the Godzilla that was killed in 1954 and Dr Yuhara is given the job of building these into a robot to fight back against the new Godzilla. His creation is unveiled as Kiryu, which is nicknamed Mechagodzilla. Akane is chosen as its pilot. She and Yuhara form an attachment after she is rebuffed by her comrades over the deaths of her fellow soldiers. As Godzilla emerges again, Mechagodzilla is placed into action. However, in being made of the same DNA as Godzilla, it is found to have a will of its own that overrides commands.
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla was the 26th Japanese Godzilla film. It was the fourth screen incarnation of the nemesis known as Mechagodzilla. Mechagodzilla first appeared in Godzilla vs the Cosmic Monster (1974), also known as Godzilla vs Mecha-Godzilla and Godzilla vs the Bionic Monster, where it was a robotic copy of Godzilla created by alien invaders. Mechagodzilla reappeared in the subsequent film Terror of Mechagodzilla (1976), the last of the classic Godzilla films, where it was rebuilt by a scientist working for different alien invaders and unleashed against Tokyo. Mechagodzilla was revived by Toho in the modern era with Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1993), although there Godzilla was the aggressor and Mechagodzilla was a giant mecha robot built by Japanese defence forces to fight against it. There is some confusion over the three films, all of which are titled some near-identical variation on Godzilla vs/Against Mechagodzilla in English-language release. This has resulted in modern video/dvd releases titling them respectively Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla I (the original 1974 film), Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla II (the 1993 film) and Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla III (this entry) on the dvd cover in order to avoid confusion. Mechagodzilla also appears in Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018) where it has evolved into an artificially-intelligent city. Mecha-Godzilla also later makes a cameo appearance in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One (2018).
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is yet another of the modern (post-1985) Godzilla films that returns to Godzilla as an aggressor. (Modern Godzilla films seem to want to avoid playing Godzilla as something cutsie but seem undecided as to whether it is hero or villain). To do this Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, like many of the other modern Godzilla films, has to pretend that nothing has happened in terms of continuity between it and the original Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954) nearly fifty years before. Though the Godzilla rampaging across the countryside would appear to be a different Godzilla (whose existence is never explained), the Mechagodzilla here is built up out of the bones and DNA of the original Godzilla that was destroyed in 1954. We do get some clips from the original film, as well as references to other classic Japanese monster movies, including the screening of footage from Mothra (1962) and War of the Gargantuas (1966).
There is a fine opening introduction of Godzilla, it seen rising up out of the ocean behind a tv reporter in the foreground, rampaging through the docks and then seen in a wonderfully primal image howling against the sky in the midst of a rainstorm. On the other hand, the film slows down after the opening. The effects sequences are fine but the complaint you could make is that they are very sparingly used throughout the first hour. There is much focus on military training and hi-tech weaponry and fighter planes being wheeled into action – the hi-tech attack force theme has come to the fore in some of the modern Godzilla films, which now tend to resemble something like Thunderbirds (1964-6). There is also the inevitable cute kid (Kara Onodera) added to the mix – very much a feature of the late 60s Godzilla films and especially their rivals the Gamera series. Far more than any Godzilla film one can think of, more time during the first hour is given over to characterisation – the wisely kid missing her mother; the female fighter pilot (Yumiko Shaku) haunted by past failures and trying to prove herself to hostile comrades; and the father (Shin Takuma) awkwardly attracted to the girl pilot.
Nevertheless, when the film finally gets its act together, it delivers all the goods we expect of a Godzilla film. There are some fine scenes with Godzilla emerging from the bay and blasting down the tanks and planes arrayed against him with his radioactive breath. The showdown between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla is eventually worthwhile – from Mechagodzilla’s first appearance, jumping in to side bodyslam Godzilla just as it preparing to incinerate a nurse and patient escaping from a hospital. There is a kick ass battle between the two with Mechagodzilla firing rockets from its backpack and using an energy sword; Godzilla fighting back and biting off the attachments; Mechagodzilla flying off in great leaps; Godzilla bodyslamming it through entire buildings and so on. It’s a fairly good battle as these films goes – even if the end reached is eventually one of dramatically unsatisfying irresolution.
The other Godzilla films are:– Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954), Gigantis the Fire Monster/Godzilla Raids Again/The Return of Godzilla (1955), King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962), Godzilla vs the Thing/Mothra vs Godzilla (1964), Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Monster Zero/Invasion of the Astro Monster (1965), Godzilla vs the Sea Monster/Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966), Son of Godzilla (1968), Destroy All Monsters (1968), Godzilla’s Revenge (1969), Godzilla vs the Smog Monster/Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971), Godzilla vs Gigan/Godzilla on Monster Island (1972), Godzilla vs Megalon (1973), Godzilla vs the Cosmic Monster/Godzilla vs the Bionic Monster/Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974), Terror of Mechagodzilla/Monsters from an Unknown Planet (1976), Godzilla 1985 (1984), Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991), Godzilla vs Mothra (1992), Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1993), Godzilla vs Space Godzilla (1994), Godzilla vs Destoroyah (1995), Godzilla 2000 (1999), Godzilla vs Megaguirus (2000), Godzilla Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003), Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) and Shin Godzilla/Godzilla: Resurgence (2016), plus the anime Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017) and Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018) and Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018). Both Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998) and Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) are big-budget, English-language remakes.