Review Godzilla vs. Megaguirus film review by Jamaal
Written By Jamaal on 2015-04-01 18:55:28
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Godzilla X Megaguirus was the offset to the dark tone of Godzilla 2000 Millennium. With it, the pendulum, so to speak, swung the other way. And it was a big swing.
In GxM the action hits the ground running (literally) with a bazooka (?) attack on Godzilla in Osaka. I, too, never really got the tactical thinking behind confronting Godzilla with such small ordinance. I mean, he’s proven impervious to virtually everything in the arsenal of the JSDF. So why bazookas? Why? Well, because it makes, in theory, for an exciting opening in the form of a cat-and-mouse attack on Godzilla. And this sort of sets the tone for the rest of the film: things don’t necessarily have to make sense. They just have to be bold and outrageous.
For example: the Dimension Tide. An artificial black hole shot at Godzilla from space. You can’t say, in terms of originality, that they weren’t trying. It’s an interesting concept that leads to the test firing that results in the Meganulon appearing through a wormhole from another dimension. So, we have a space-fired weapon, an artificial black hole that will swallow up Godzilla, and time travel from another dimension in the form of giant insects who’s hatching results in the flooding of Shinjuku.
GxM has the now familiar protagonist on a mission plot line: Major Tsujimori, angry at Godzilla for causing the death of her commanding officer in Osaka. But wasn’t it really Tsujimori’s fault? It was her refusal to obey an order to retreat that led to them being where the collapsed building could fall on her commander. So, in addition to just plain old revenge, we can add guilt to the psychological impulses driving the leader of the ‘G-Graspers.” This Captain Ahab/Moby Dick angle to GxM could have been exploited if Tsujimori’s obsession with Godzilla would have led to serious errors in judgement in the field. She did demonstrate some anger-driven misconduct when she physically assaulted the inventor of the Micro Black Hole, Hajime Kudo, as well as in her outburst during the briefing of the senior military staff prior to the Kimajima Island Debacle. Perhaps a tactical misadventure, with dire, near catastrophic results could have added a layer of seriousness to the film that would have made it a bit more engaging. But, I think a lighthearted romp, Showa-esque, as so aptly described by Daikaiju Danielle, is what the production staff was aiming for. And they hit the target (no pun intended-well, maybe a little). As I mentioned earlier, GxM is the offset to Godzilla 2000 Millennium. In an issue of Fangoria Magazine, SPFX Director Kenji Suzuki said that G2K turned as out a little darker than desired. So, as if to compensate for the dark, semi-documentary tone of Godzilla 2000 Millennium, in Godzilla X Megaguirus, we get the Head Shake, the Great Flying Leap, an organization called the “G-Graspers,” the head of the said organization riding Godzilla like he’s an orca at Sea World, an artificial black hole placed on a satellite so that Godzilla can be taken out from space, and an overdone, but delightfully sinister corrupt government official with something to hide (and, of course, superiors to protect).
I’ve found that the best way to get your kaiju-eaga money’s worth out of GxM is to approach it the way one would a film like Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. That way, the little things, things that raise questions that cannot be satisfactorily answered, don’t spoil your fun. Like, why not air strikes or deploying helicopter gunships during the assault in Osaka? Or, how could a little boy, a civilian, be allowed to get so close to a top secret test of a dangerous, heretofore unheard of weapon, so that he could see the test firing take place!? Where was the perimeter security? Plus, how could a weapon like the Dimension Tide (I love this name, by the way) have been developed in such secrecy, yet, the firing of it, another presumed top secret operation, could be seen by a boy who would later be called “Dr. Insect” by the head of the ‘G-Graspers.” Then, after speaking with him, all she does is ask him not to tell anybody about it? Sure. Scout’s Honor.
So, Godzilla X Megaguirus asks a lot of the viewer, fan or not. But, it’s worth it.
However, there are other issues in the area of the technical aspects of the production of the film.
There are several SPFX lapses that cannot be overlooked or explained away.
First, there Megaguirus. The design is scary and imposing. And, in several shots it emotes well as a vicious, territorial adversary for Godzilla. For example, before dropping a dome-like structure on Godzilla, Megaguirus smiles. And, it’s huge with a tremendous wingspan. Its ability to disrupt microwave signals and cause power outages was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, it was underutilized. A blacked out Tokyo being attacked by two giant monsters, who are also fighting each other, could have yielded not only some great, indeed, stunning visuals, but could also have been mined for instances of peril in the human drama. I’m thinking of Godzilla and Megaguirus silhouetted against the nighttime Tokyo sky, with the whole Kanto Region blacked out, and the military handicapped, its electronics and avionics disrupted, and thus removed from the field of action as these two, giant monsters battle to the end.
Oh well. What could have been.
Instead, we got a giant flying insect, whose menace was really only hinted at. The lost opportunity with Megaguirus stands next to the lapses in her realization as an actual creature. How could a creature, a monster of these proportions, hang in midair without flapping her wings? This is compounded by the fact that we do see a digital effecting of her wing movements during her ninja-like attacks on Godzilla. The confusion these attacks caused Godzilla was both humorous and exciting.
But, there are times when the costumes just don’t look organic. The sounds made when the Godzilla and Megaguirus are fighting at close quarters just don’t covey a sense of mass or actual life. It is at these moments that one is compelled to adopt the kaiju-eiga as a Japanese art form mode outlook, and try to enjoy the unconvincing effects as one would enjoy Kabuki or Bunraku. But, the problem with this is that it takes you out of the story. When seeing this giant insect kaiju hanging in midair, for no apparent reason, instead of wondering what this flying monster is going to do next, I wonder: what happened to the production schedule? How did this particular shot, and the ones similar to it, pass muster?
There are some great visuals, well-realized, actually. The flooding of Shinjuku. Godzilla’s fight with the fighter planes at sea. Tsujimori riding Godzilla. The Meganula swarm flying out of Tokyo against Michiru Oshima’s string-driven, flying monster theme. Godzilla, up close, underwater, being tracked and filmed by an SGS (Search Godzilla System-you have to love these inventions). In one shot, in which his life-like nature is realized, he blinks when the light from the SGS hits his eyes. Also the rather violent killing of the young couple by one of the Meganulon in Tokyo is well done, as it is an example of more being less.
The human narrative includes an implied hostility-as-attraction relationship between Kudo, the annoying, boyish, but genius inventor, and Major Tsujimori, the overly serious and obsessed-with-Godzilla-to-the-point-that-she-does-not-have-a-life-military leader. Both of these characterizations are a bit overdone. But, they have to be, don’t they, in order to not only ‘work,’ but also to ‘fit’ the general tone of Godzilla X Megaguirus: over the top and scarcely believable. So, they’re fun to watch.
My favorite character in GxM Masato Ibu’s corrupt, obstructionist, lying Motohiko Sugiura. He’s the face of government malfeasance and deception. And he coveys this well, even when he’s not speaking. Minister Sugira’s silences are telling. Like when asked by Professor Yoshino Yoshizawa (Yuriko Hoshi) as to what he is doing, where he is going as Godzilla closes in on a certain building in Tokyo, he says, very meaningfully, nothing.
Tsujimori’s well-placed overhand right fits GxM like a glove (sorry, couldn’t resist). The dramatic ending, which turns out, not to be the end, is exciting right up until the not so impressive splash of Tsujimori in a pool that just happens to be where she was falling.
The end sort of encapsulates Godzilla X Megaguirus. If you’re willing to give it the passes it needs to be watched, and you’re ready to take in effects that are not always so effective, you may enjoy the ride. It’s rather obvious that GxM was made by a fan, a great fan at that, Masaaki Tezuka, and this is its saving grace.