More Memorable Title: The last one of the original series OR The one that’s not Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II
Here, we come to it, the final, ultimate movie of Godzilla’s Showa era. And for that matter, the one that brought back Godzilla’s original and best regarded director and composer. In fact, this was director Ishiro Honda’s end to an extended break in production, and reportedly the guy was so into being able to work again that he was taking on way more tasks on set than usual for someone in his position, leaving some of the staff with nothing to do. Its script was picked through a contest, and was scriptwriter Yukiko Takayama’s first produced effort. Positioned as a direct sequel to the previous Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, it also takes a markedly more introspective tone, using its sci-fi elements to explore thoughts of what it means to be human outside of just the form one’s body takes. Ishiro Honda seemed to regard this film highly, feeling it was very refreshing and injected new life into the Godzilla model.
It was also an absolute bomb, in its day. One of only two Godzilla films to sell less than a million tickets, and, depending on whose reports you’re using, is the least profitable Godzilla film in history. On the contrary, it’s also one of the favorites in the series for a lot of people now. But it didn’t really come out of a good environment. The Japanese film industry in general was experiencing a downturn in 1975, giant monster movies in particular were dropping fans all over the place, and it’s coming off a time where the Godzilla franchise wasn’t exactly clear on what type of film they were wanting to make. First the series was psychological horror, then it was fun monster movies with heavy, thoughtful themes and undertones, then it just threw ideas at you for a while, then it was simple kid-friendly movies, then it was adult oriented ultra-violent for its day stuff, then it was… this. So it was a little hard to follow the throughline unless you were a big giant sexy nerd like myself Except they didn’t really have those in the 70s. So rough sales time in there.
But hey, lots of people like it. Does Aether as well? Let’s find out.
The film opens up with a montage of the Godzilla against MechaGodzilla fights from last time. No mention of King Caesar, however. Brother has just been memory holed. Cut to a year later, and there’s a submarine searching the sea floor where Godzilla dropped MechaGodzilla to try and find his remains. Because apparently nobody thought that they should go check out the big giant alien monster up until now. So the submarine gets there, and then there’s this lady on the shore who’s watching them with her magic eye. And then some giant fishy monster starts beating his tail, which causes a whirlpool that forces the submarine up to the surface. And then said fish monster pounces on them, and drags them back down. Where they get destroyed.
Looks like that was an Interpol sub, and now Interpol is investigating what just went down. With a whole bunch of people who aren’t particularly creepy. After last movie, I would have guessed they had those. They call in Dr. Loverboy, a marine biologist, to help them figure out what they’re dealing with. When he heads in for the meeting, he’s greeted by Inspector Average. The two of them are old college buddies, thus elegantly avoiding the need to spend time building a relationship between them. Anyways, the Interpol captain then plays the sub’s final transmission, where the captain’s screaming something like “Oh my God! We’re getting attacked by a dinosaur!” Then Dr. Loverboy deduces “You know, perhaps they were attacked by a dinosaur.” This is why he gets paid the big scientist bucks.
So Dr. Loverboy and Inspector Average follow things up a bit. Turns out that, back in 1960, there was another biologist who was insistent that there existed an underwater dinosaur still surviving in the seas of Japan, and that he was going to mind control it. Unfortunately, for him, he became a laughingstock in the scientific community because A) Even though by 1960, Japan had experienced attacks from two Godzillas, Anguirus, two Rodans, and more mutated living dinosaurs, Japan’s scientist figured those were all isolated incidents apparently and there was no possible way there was another dinokaiju waiting in the wings and B) seriously? Mind controlling dinosaurs? That’s mad scientist material right there. So the biologist, Mad Scientist, resigned in shame and was never seen again. Meanwhile, you remember the Apeliens from last films with the horrible CGI? Well there’s more of them, in their human guise, that didn’t get blown up by Ugly Creeper last movie. So they talk about themselves, schemes and stuff, a bit, and say that Mad Scientist will totally help them because he hates humans and also they saved his daughter’s life.
Dr. Loverboy and Inspector Average track his last known whereabouts down to some island, and interview the locals there who insist the dude’s home is haunted. Undeterred, they head there themselves, seeking Mad Scientist’s info on the dinosaur that attacked their sub. So they go there and ring the doorbell and see some creepy guy, and then Mad Scientist’s daughter, Maddroid, who incidentally is the lady with the magic eyes we say in the opening. Maddroid said her dad is dead and she burned all his notes and research and would they go away right now, please. So they leave, remarking that she is suspicious as hell and they totally need to do spy stuff with her, while Maddroid goes through a secret door in her home to a secret lab where her secret dad, Mad Scientist, is hanging with one of the Apeliens, talking about how much they want to ruin Earth. The Apelien says he has something to show them, and he takes them to the Apeliens’ secret base, where the Apeliens have secreted Mechagodzilla and have been working on rebuilding him. They ask for Mad Scientists’ help, and he agrees, figuring that with the dinosaur, that he calls Titanosaurus, and Mechagodzilla working together, the world is doomed. So he builds the control suite for them, but say that Mechagodzilla requires some connection with living brain matter for the control to work at maximum efficiency.
Interpol decides to send out another submarine to try and figure out what destroyed the last one, and Dr. Loverboy asks “Maybe instead of torpedos, we use the space to give it a much stronger sonar so we can detect the dinosaur from farther away.” And that works for Interpol, so they do that. Dr. Loverboy gives Maddroid a call, saying, “Hey, wanna go on a hot date where we’ll be trapped in very tight quarters with tons of men and maybe we’ll all die at the hands of this monster at the end?” Surprisingly, she doesn’t take him up on that. But she does go home and tell her dad that they’re going to be subbing to check out Titanosaurus again. Mad Scientist figures that this is an absolutely fantastic opportunity to crush them again, because if Interpol got curious after losing one submarine, surely they’ll just give up after losing another. Meanwhile, at the Apeliens’ base, some guy escapes. Apparently they keep prisoners there. But they don’t do a good job about it, because that guy got out. So the guy runs away and a bunch of sci-fi weirdos chase him. He runs by some guy working on a manhole. Remember that, it’ll be important later. And then the weirdos catch him in a forest and they all shoot him and they die. But then they get back to their base, and the boss sends them all to the death chamber because he got out in the first place. Except as we saw last movie, the death chamber is just a slightly uncomfortable sauna, so I think they’ll be fine.
So they send their second submarine to Mechagodzilla’s resting place, and of course the mind controlled Titanosaurus attacks them. And we get our first full view of the beastie. And he’s ok. Poorly named, because he looks nothing like the actual dinosaur titanosaurus. Methinks someone didn’t do their research. He’s structured a lot like Godzilla except there’s fins everywhere. So there’s that. Anyways, he rushes the sub, and when he gets so close, he undergoes a lot of pain, severe enough it apparently disrupts the mind control they have over him. In fact, Maddroid remarks exactly that. Dr. Loverboy, debriefing with Interpol later, comes to the conclusion that it was the sonar that caused that, that Titanosaurus is particularly vulnerable to sound waves. So Interpol starts building a sonar weapon to take down Titanosaurus. Then the guy working on the manhole from earlier shows up at the Interpol offices, where he meets with Inspector Average and the Interpol boss. Turns out the escaping guy was an Interpol officer, and passed off a piece of Space Titanium to this guy and told him to get it to Interpol and tell them about it when he ran past him. And wouldn’t you know it? Turns out that was right by Mad Scientist’s and Maddroid’s house. Inspector Average takes a team to go investigate.
Then, Maddroid calls, asking to meet with him in the city. Dr. Loverboy goes, and Maddroid is all like, “I found myself inexplicably attracted to you for no reason. Also, although I told you I burned all his work, here’s a bunch of my father’s files on the Titanosaurus. By the way, how did you survive your sub trip, you handsome devil?” So Dr. Loverboy spills all the beans on the sonar weapon. And Maddroid brings that info back to Mad Scientist. Who’s all like “My monster? Weak to sonar? No way, I’ll show them!” And he immediately has Titanosaurus attack Tokyo. The Apeliens are talking amongst themselves, like “WTF is he doing? This isn’t the plan.” But then the Apelien boss tells them to chill and says it’ll work out, that Godzilla will show up, beat up the Titanosaurus but take some damage meanwhile, and then Mad Scientist will realize he needs the Apelien’s help while Godzilla will be weakened and make be easier for Mechagodzilla to kick over. So Titanosaurus goes to Tokyo and wrecks a bunch of stuff. Somewhere, someone sabotaged the sonar weapon Interpol built. I don’t know who or when. It really feels like a scene was missing there. I’ll say this. Titanosaurus’s design is not particularly impressive. But the special effects team did a great job of getting that wreckage looking good. The destruction, the devastation everything falling apart, the buildings getting crushed, it’s probably the best of the Showa era. Anyways, let’s take a look at what Titanosaurus is actually capable of. For the most part, he’s kind of like Aquaman. Naturally super strong and super tough, but doesn’t have a whole lot else going on outside of water. One exception to that, however, is his ability to generate powerful winds by beating his tail. They’re Mothra quality, able to blow over buildings and kaiju alike. Anyways, then, eventually, Godzilla shows up. They tussle for a while. Again, Godzilla has a hard time breaking through him in close combat. Titanosaurus is stronger, while his tough hide seems to allow him to shrug Godzilla’s blows off. His wind can also knock Godzilla off his feet. But then, Inspector Average shows up in Maddroid’s town, and finds her hanging out. And he thinks to himself, “You know, I could take her in for questioning, but maybe I’ll just shoot her instead.” So he does. And when he finds out about that, Mad Scientist stops mind controlling Titanosaurus. Then Apeliens show up and do gun battle with Interpol. So the kaiju wanders around a bit confused, and Godzilla takes the opening to hit him with his atomic breath. And Titanosaurus gets bodied, and then runs back into the ocean.
The Apeliens recover Maddroid’s body, and take her back to their base to operate on her. And then we get a flashback, back when Mad Scientist was first trying out his mind control device on Titanosaurus. It shorted out, explosively, and killed Maddroid in the process, but the Apeliens just showed up out of nowhere, took her body, and brought her back to life. And we see how, now, with boobs in a Godzilla movie for some reason. Like, they’re operation on her stomach, but the made sure to pull the sheet up far enough to reveal her bare chest as well. Anyways, in her stomach, it’s all robotic and clockwork. Turns out that when they saved her life last time, they turned her into a android! Who would have guessed! And that’s why she’s all cold and mechanical to humanity now! Anyways, they fix her up. And then tell the Mad Scientist that they implanted the Mechagodzilla control device in Maddroid, because he said they needed it connected with living brain tissue. So now she can pilot Mechagodzilla with her mind. Speaking of which, Mechagodzilla takes off from their secret base, and the Apeliens set it to self destruct, believing it’s only a matter of time before Interpol discovers it and they can use Mad Scientist’s house as their base now. Inspector Average sees Mechagodzilla flying out, goes to investigate, and frees all the prisoners they had in there just before the place blows up.
Dr. Loverboy goes to Mad Scientist’s house, I don’t know why. Apeliens knock him out and tie him up. Dr. Loverboy wakes up, and begs Maddroid for his freedom, but she just ignores him. And then the full suite of folks arrange themselves around the control device while they leave Dr. Loverboy alive for some reason, and have both Titanosaurus and Mechagodzilla attack Tokyo again. And once again, the destruction looks good. Mechagodzilla’s gotten some upgrades, spikes all over, a new paintjob, spiral finger missiles and what now, and the city crumples underhim well. Again, if you’re into the scenes of destruction, this movie’s probably the best of the Showa era. And then, of course, because this is the movie you’re watching, Godzilla shows up. And you know, this Godzilla has fought through a lot of circumstances. He’s been 1-on-1. Or 2-on-1, quite often. Even 3-on-1, once. And 2-vs-2, that’d been rather frequent in his later appearances. But he’s never been 1-on-2, never on the down side of a handicap match. And it doesn’t go well for him here. Mind controlled Titanosaurus was able to hold his one by himself, although he was probably doomed once Godzilla started using his atomic breath more frequently. Mechagodzilla has also proven himself able to stand up and come out on top of Godzilla in the prior movie, and Godzilla’s not super charged by lightning like he was when he beat metal G last time.
So it really doesn’t go well for him. Godzilla is absolutely crushed by his two opponents. Like, they keep raining punishment down on him, and he’s barely able to defend himself. At one point, Titanosaurus bites Godzilla’s lip and begins throwing him around by that, and Mechagodzilla bombards him with his spiral hand missiles, and the beating continues until they knock Big G unconscious. They chuck him into a ravine, and blast the surrounding earth to fill it up, and then Titanosaurus starts dancing on the makeshift grave they made for him. But then an Interpol helicopter comes up, and it looks like they’ve got the sonar weapon fixed. They fire a receiver into Titanosaurus’ neck, and then fire it up, which completely incapacitates Titanosaurus. Mechagodzilla takes aim at the helicopter, but Godzilla bursts out of the earth and blocks the shot. Godzilla and Mechagodzilla tussle for a while, the momentum of battle shifting between them, until eventually, Godzilla grips Mechagodzilla’s head and, just like last time, rips it off. But the Apeliens saw the last movie and prepared for that, because they put a smaller, back up head inside Mechagodzilla’s normal head. That head still stick out of the robot’s neck, and lasers Godzilla down. Mechagodzilla goes wild on Godzilla’s prone form.
Meanwhile, Interpol starts raiding Mad Scientist’s house, because IT’S A BAD IDEA TO PICK A PLACE THE POLICE ARE ALREADY SUSPICIOUS OF FOR YOUR NEW SECRET BASE, APELIENS! Maddroid draws a gun to execute Dr. Loverboy, but Inspector Average wings her in her gun arm before she’s able to. Then, Inspector Average shoots at the Apelien leader, but the leader uses Mad Scientist as a human shield. As Mad Scientist dies, he calls out to Maddroid, which shocks her back into humanity and she starts feeling things again. Dr. Loverboy partially breaks free of his bindings and he chokes out the nearest Apelien as Interpol starts chasing out the others, and then Maddroid begs him to shoot her to destroy the Mechagodzilla control system. He won’t, so she shoots herself, and dies in his arms as he confesses his love.
Mechagodzilla becomes unresponsive at that, so Godzilla throws him around and then destroys him in atomic fire. And then he kicks the now uncontrolled Titanosaurus around, until he atomic breaths him back into the ocean. And then a bunch of the Apeliens start escaping on their flying saucer, and he atomic breaths them too. Interpol start immediately honoring Maddroid for her sacrifice, while Godzilla wanders back into the ocean and gives them a roar and a wave.
And that is how the Showa Era ends.
So let’s hash out this film. Tone-wise, definitely darker than much of the previous Godzillas, even moreso than its immediate predecessor, which already provided a pivot away from the kid-friendly stuff. It’s also a more mature level of darkness, what with the onscreen deaths, the scenes of what makes for humanity, the conflicts driven by familial, romantic, and self love, etc. It does reach the levels of earlier Godzillas in term of having that introspective exploration of concepts that Honda loved putting in those films. At the same time, though, you can also tell the screenwriter wasn’t that experienced. A lot of that exploration turns on a dime, a lot of start and stops, rather than having arcs where it builds up and winds down its twists and turns. It’s definitely trying, and I appreciate that. But it doesn’t quite stick the landing.
The special effect work on the city destruction, as I said before, was top notch. It felt like it’s been a while since we’ve seen them go full bore like this here on those scenes, and they definitely didn’t disappoint. The monster suits are kind of fine. Nothing wrong with them, although Titanosaurus has something of a goofy design, but they don’t especially inspire. I do appreciate that they changed up Mechagodzilla a bit, they could have just fixed up the old suit and called it a day, but they put the effort in and made some decent changes. The monster fights were kind of uninspiring to me. To be fair, a lot of people really love this films monster fights. I can’t say I see what they’re seeing; they didn’t hit me the same way. In fact, re-writing them for this review here was a little difficult; they made so little impression on me that I don’t actually remember most of the monster combat.
The plot, I do feel pretty similarly about. I appreciate it more now that I’ve looked over some synopses for review and can see what they were going for, and how it played out, and there were definitely some solid ideas the played through there. I feel like this is a film that gets better in the rewatching, when you can absorb more of what they were going after. As is, yeah, some of it was kind of through the mind and done without leaving much of a lasting impact.
And that’s my overall perception of it. Things happened, and it was done. I didn’t hate it. It won’t be on my list of least favorite Godzillas or anything like that. It just kind of failed to make an impression with me. I imagine I’ll give it a go another time, and it might improve in the retelling, but there’s a long list of Godzillas that seem more worthy of rewatch, to me.
Interestingly, this wasn’t intended to be the end of Godzilla for like 10 years. Toho did entertain other projects, look towards developing other Godzilla films. For one reason or another, nothing ever came to fruition, until 1984, when they figured they really needed to have something to celebrate Godzilla’s 30th anniversary, and kickstarted the Heisei era of Godzilla films. We’ll get into that next time. For now, let’s say goodbye to this Godzilla and this whole continuity, because when we come back, we’ll have wiped the slate clean.
Also, as we close this out, I want to thank Red Metal again. There would have been much fewer films in this series of mine had he not stepped in let me know when the Criterion Collection of the complete showa series was coming out and where and when to get it on the cheap, relatively. So major props to him.
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I’m glad I was able to help you with this project! You sure picked a great time to start it; that compilation was released pretty much as soon as you announced it.
Bit of a shame the Shōwa era ended on such a meh note, although I suppose that’s better than ending with All Monsters Attack or something. It would be nice if the Criterion Collection comes out with a Heisei box set (which is possible; they’ve been releasing a lot of good box sets lately), although it seems the Heisei-era films are a bit easier to find on normal Blu-Ray sets. Stuff like Mothra vs. Godzilla was really hard to find before this compilation’s release. How do you think the Shōwa era compares with the Heisei era, by the way?
Yeah, that was really excellent timing. Ended up changing the course of this series, I was originally planning on just doing posts for each era after the first one.
That’s true. If All Monsters Attack was the end of it, well, that’d just be painful by this point. And yeah, most of the rest of the Godzilla films in general are pretty easy to find. Last I was shopping for them, Sony owned the American distribution rights to most of the Heisei era and all of the Millennium era, and has done a very good job of making them all accessible, particularly in the very affordably priced DVD box sets I picked up. Of the ones they don’t have the rights to, whoever had them for the Return of Godzilla at least pumped enough copies onto the market that they’re pretty cheap to get now. On the other hand, the second Heisei era film, Godzilla vs. Biollante, was a real pain to get hold of. Not streamed anywhere, and the company that has the rights to it hasn’t released it recently, so I ended up having to pay much more than I wanted to to get a copy. Oh, the sacrifices I make for my art.
That’s a really interesting comparison, Showa vs Heisei eras. I’d say it really depends on how you’re watching these. I’d be more likely to pick something from the Showa era if I was just wanting to grab something to watch on its own, its highs are higher than the Heisei era’s films. But the Heisei era is a lot more consistent, it feels like they developed a lot stronger idea of what they wanted the franchise to be and kept it up throughout, and those a lot better of a job building upon itself, so if I was going to be marathoning through a whole bunch of Godzilla films, the Heisei line would probably be it.
And for that matter, not what you asked, but if we’re working the other eras in there, the Millennium era is of really mixed quality, kind of like Showa, but it does have my favorite film in there, as well as a couple other really solid entries. And it’s kind of too early to call it on the Reiwa era, particularly as I haven’t watch the Netflix Godzilla movies, but they are showing an interesting propensity to really, greatly experiment with the franchise, while letting the American movies take the lead on providing that traditional Godzilla goodness.