In the 1974 entrant of the Godzilla franchise, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, we see an expansion of Toho Studios’ kaiju-centric stories. The film opens in Okiana with an Azumi priestess chanting in front of her temple. She is suddenly frozen in place due to a vision/prophecy she received of Okinawa destroyed by a giant monster. Meanwhile, a cave explorer (spelunker), Masahiko Shimizu (Kazuya Aoyama), discovers a strange metal during a cave exploration and takes it to Professor Miyajima (Akihiko Hirata), who identifies it as space titanium.
These events lead to ominous black clouds appearing over Mount Fuji and the awakening of two giant monsters, Godzilla and his known ally, Anguirus. This time though, Godzilla attacks Anguirus, whose cry summons a second Godzilla… what? That’s right! The first Godzilla is a fake. In fact, it’s a giant robot in a Godzilla suit, and it handily beats the king of the monsters.
Returning to the land of the regular-sized people, Shimizu is being followed by Nanbara (Shin Kishida), who claims to be a reporter. He learns that Miyajima wants Shimizu to find a mysterious idol that may summon Okinawa’s guardian monster, King Caesar. Who is controlling the giant robot, Mechagodzilla? Can Godzilla or King Caesar beat the technical marvel?
“…a second Godzilla…what? That’s right! The first Godzilla is a fake.”
I’m not the biggest fan of this “evolution” of Godzilla. He’s evolving appearance-wise in the wrong direction. In earlier movies, Godzilla maintained his reptilian features. In Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, our hero is turning into a cartoon character. Gone are the sharp, chiseled edges. He now has giant, round, ultra-white eyeballs, making him just inches away from becoming a Precious Moments figurine. His head, body, and feet are more rounded and, in turn, are softening his menacing features. One shot of Godzilla’s feet looks like warm, poofy slippers.
On the plus side, the story has become more sophisticated. There’s now a religious tone added to the film with the addition of temple guardian, King Caesar. Then we have Interpol agents adding a spy element to the fun. Then there are the aliens. It is probably the laziest part of the story, and it seems to be there out of convenience to justify a giant metal robot. Their sadistic, homicidal nature is a nice touch, though. Still, we get to know very little, except for an occasional transformation from their human cloak to their Planet of the Apes-like appearance.
Though it suffers from, again, trying to do too much, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is a fun movie. I’m still thinking about the cruise ship fight involving lightweight deck chairs. James Bond would be proud. Godzilla’s story is far from over, and I like the new turn to expand the folklore and intrigue of the Kaiju. I am just not sure that introducing 1960s aliens is a step in the right direction. Though, time and history will tell.
"…the story has become more sophisticated. There's now a religious tone added..."