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Posts Tagged ‘Masaaki Tezuka’

It can sometimes be difficult to keep track of where you are in the arcane world of Godzilla continuity – you have to navigate your way around thirty-odd movies set in at least half a dozen different timelines, the connections between which are frequently rather obscure. Of course, most of the time this doesn’t really matter, because it’s not as if there’s some sort of breathtakingly subtle meta-plot unfolding – these are Godzilla movies, after all. But, for the diligent follower, it’s nice to at least try.

The movies made between 1955 and 1975 mostly stuck to the same continuity, as did the ones appearing between 1984 and 1995. The bunch of films which followed took a different approach and are notable for two things: firstly, they mostly stand alone and don’t refer to one another (with the exception of Tokyo SOS, which is a direct sequel to the preceding Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla), and secondly, they feature a Godzilla with ridiculously huge dorsal plates.

Actually, one convention which nearly every Japanese Godzilla continuity adheres to is that the original 1954 Godzilla ‘actually’ happened, they just disregard all the other intervening sequels. The one exception is Masaaki Tezuka’s 2000 movie Godzilla Vs Megaguirus, one of the aforementioned ridiculously-huge-dorsal-plate films, which makes some odd choices generally.

Godzilla_vs_megaguirus_poster_02

Things start promisingly enough as the movie outlines the parallel world in which it is set: with Tokyo destroyed by Godzilla in 1954 (the key fact being that the big lizard was not killed by the Oxygen Destroyer in this timeline), the Japanese capital is moved to¬†Osaka and reconstruction begins. Further attacks by Godzilla in the following decades leads to the abandonment of nuclear energy, as the boffins conclude an atomic pile is basically just a help-yourself buffet as far as Godzilla is concerned, and other non-renewable energy sources aren’t much better.

It’s an interesting tack to take, and it does make sense that the existence of giant monsters would inevitably result in a very different world. However, all the stuff about the capital going to Osaka and so on has no bearing on the plot whatsoever. The alt-history angle does not inform the plot in any significant way, and it just feels like the director and scriptwriters getting carried away with their own enthusiasm. Not for the last time.

Anyway, at this point we meet Tsujimori (Misato Tanaka), a hard-as-nails soldier, and laid-back young boffin Kudo (Shosuke Tanihara). Tsujimori recruits Kudo into an elite group of the JSDF, tasked with eliminating Godzilla forever. Again, fine in theory, but what code-name has this task force been assigned? They are… the G-Graspers. Yes, they will seek Godzilla out and firmly grasp him. He will be grasped as he has never been grasped before.

I mean, I suppose there are theoretically worse names to give your Godzilla-hunting task force than ‘the G-Graspers’, I just can’t think of any right now. And beyond this, the whole set-up and look of the… sigh… the G-Graspers, their vehicles, their uniforms, everything – it just feels like something that Gerry Anderson would have come up with if asked to think of an idea for a new series at very short notice while suffering from a heavy cold. A atmosphere of distinct cheesiness persists.

The task force want Kudo to help with their current plan, which is to shoot Godzilla with a satellite-mounted cannon which launches miniature black holes at its target. If you are anything like me, I imagine your imagination has just slammed on the brakes at this point. Giant nuclear-powered dinosaurs I’m on board with, but black hole cannon? Just how outrageously comic-booky, not to mention slightly silly, can you get?

Well, somewhat more, it turns out: the black hole gun is test-fired but briefly leaves a wormhole as an after-effect (the G-squad’s response is ‘oh well, that’s interesting’ before they completely ignore it). However, a giant insect flies through the wormhole and deposits an egg before returning from whence it came, and the egg, through a slightly ridiculous plot contrivance, ends up in the sewers of Tokyo, where it begins to divide and develop.

Before long giant predatory bugs are making the lives of hapless Edoites miserable. Apparently these things are Meganulons, making this a call-back to a bunch of minor monsters in the original Rodan movie, but the connection isn’t highlighted on-screen presumably because Rodan doesn’t exist in this continuity. The Meganulons pupate into giant dragonflies, although not before they somehow cause half of Tokyo to flood – and this isn’t just a get-your-wellies on flood, the streets are submerged to the depth of about thirty feet. How have the bugs managed this? It is never gone into.

Anyway, because they apparently home on energy too, the dragonflies zip off to hassle Godzilla just as the G-squad are getting ready to fill him full of black hole, confusing the issue no end (cue another sequence of a kaiju getting swarmed by a horde of smaller monsters, which was practically a genre staple for a while in the late 90s). However, due to the tech not being properly tested or something, the black hole cannon (apparently code-named ‘Dimension Tide’, which is just more evidence that the Japanese government needs to rethink how it code-names things) just doesn’t shoot Godzilla hard enough and he survives and heads off to Tokyo to complain.

However – and this is perhaps not 100% clear on screen – some of the dragonflies have also survived and zip back to Tokyo too, where they inject some of the juicy goodness they sucked out of Godzilla into a big chrysalis at the bottom of the swamp Shibuya has turned into. Sure enough, out of the chrysalis emerges a giant mutant dragonfly which a passing boffin helpfully names Megaguirus, and which is sure to make Godzilla’s looming visit to Tokyo even more fraught…

Writing about Godzilla 2000 a while back, I said that it wasn’t quite the textbook example of how to make The Bad Godzilla Film, but it was getting there. Well, this was the next film into production and their technique seems to have developed, but only in the sense that this is a much more comprehensively developed Bad Godzilla Film. You may have noticed the multiple ridiculousnesses and redundancies deftly woven into the story; well, I promise you there are a bunch more which lack of space has prevented me from mentioning. I haven’t even touched on how boring and unappealing the human characters are.

And it has to be said that, for a film called Godzilla vs Megaguirus, the fight between the two feels more like a contractual obligation than an essential element of the plot. The realisation of Megaguirus is, well, slightly dodgy, mainly because its wings just don’t beat remotely fast enough to let it hover the way it generally does, and the actual battle between the monsters only lasts as long as it does because Megaguirus somehow keeps managing to sneak up on Godzilla without him noticing. Once Godzilla has disposed of the big bug, your heart sinks when you realise there are still another fifteen minutes to go and that this will inevitably be filled with cheesy machismo from the G-Graspers and another frankly ludicrous plot contrivance (experimental and delicate the black hole gun may be, but it still works while the satellite it’s fixed to is burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere).

In short I would say this was an eminently dismissible Godzilla movie like few others since the early 1970s, but for the fact that the film does mount a certain kind of spectacle with a confidence and ability you would not expect given the quality of the script and direction. There’s a sequence in which Godzilla surfaces beneath a couple of characters in an inflatable dinghy, and one of them ends up clinging to his (ridiculously huge) dorsal plates as he swims along, and this is really well achieved. Some of the battles between the JSDF and Godzilla are also extremely impressive.

Are some good special effects enough reason to watch a movie with a silly script and no sympathetic characters? (Even Godzilla isn’t sympathetic, although that could be because the writers can’t seem to decide what their attitude to him is – if he’s the bad guy, shouldn’t we be cheering for (the otherwise evil) Megaguirus? If he’s the good guy, why should we be rooting for the G-squad in their efforts to blast him into a black hole?) That’s a decision each of us must make for ourselves. All I will say is that while there are many things this film does well – monster suits, special effects, plot insanity – there are many other Godzilla movies which are equally accomplished in these areas, and which don’t have the bizarre deficiencies this film also displays.

 

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