Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.

I'm in love with a machine
★★★
☆☆
Released: 
2003
Director: 
Masaaki Tezuka
Starring: 
Noboru Keneko, Miho Yoshioka, Mitsuki Koga, Hiroshi Koizumi
The Setup: 
Godzilla, Mothra and Mechagodzilla mix it up in Tokyo.
Discussion: 

So after watching the original Gojira and then the Roland Emmerich American Godzilla disaster, I find I'm in the middle of a little Godzilla obsession. This one sounded appealing because it is relatively recent, from 2003, which makes it later than my favorite, Godzilla 2000, and also because I was under the (mistaken) impression that it had Gidorah, the three-headed one who is awesomeness itself. This one is also, if you follow the common wisdom on the IMDb, considered one of the best Godzilla movies of all time.

One is also curious--since obviously I don't just want to see mass destruction, I am fascinated by the CULTURAL STUDIES aspect of it all... yes, it is SOOOOO intellectual--to see what kind of story they've dreamt up for this late Godzilla adventure, since the more of these movies I watch it becomes more and more apparent that there are the monster parts and then the human parts one fast-forwards through, and like; how do they keep it relevant? How to they fill out a human story (especially this late in the series) that had resonance with these giant monsters? The answer seems to be interesting enough that gee, In retrospect I wish I hadn't fast-forwarded through quite so much.

This is also apparently the only Godzilla film that is a direct sequel to the previous one, with the same characters. So perhaps I wouldn't be able to understand the whole context anyway? That makes me feel better. It would seem that mankind made a giant robot, Mechagodzilla (MGZ) out of the bones of a previous Godzilla (we are to understand that there is not ONE Godzilla, but numerous incarnations of his race) and in the last installment, Godzilla (GZ) fucked their robot up bad, while also laying waste to an entire section of town. Oh, and apparently MGZ went nuts and turned on mankind! This leads to a news report saying that the repairs are almost done and the government "promises it will not go wild, as it did before," which got a huge laugh out of me.

Meanwhile the mini Mothra Twins appear (though not NEARLY as cool, or in such awesome outfits, as the original Mothra Twins) and they tell one of the guys from the original Mothra film--some 40 years ago--that they need to dump MGZ in the ocean and thus return the bones of Godzilla to his resting place in the ocean--it's a kind of disturbing the dead kind of thing--and if they don't, Mothra is going to open a can of whup-ass on mankind. The older guy goes to the prime minister and relays the message, and is basically told no deal, because if they chuck MGZ they'll have no defense against Godzilla. In this movie, GZ is back to being sort of a terrible natural disaster, not the "protector of Tokyo" bullshit we had in some of the GZ movies of the past. Anyway, meanwhile GZ has woken up for some reason and is headed for Tokyo. WHY does he go there? Why doesn't he check out French Polynesia or something? Maybe this is one of those things explained in the previous films.

Okay, so the first theme is not disturbing the dead. The second is that our main character, Chujo, is a mechanic on MGZ and has developed some kind of feelings for it. He is upbraided by the hot female fighter pilot for being an idiot for feeling romantic over machines while ignoring the hot dewy punanny right next to him, and hey, only the Japanese, right? Who else would seriously make a whole story about being in love with a machine? Anyway, GZ is coming! But MGZ is not ready! Well, they'll have to send him out anyway! Etc.

So Godzilla comes up on land and starts making mayhem. Mothra shows up and attacks him, but... didn't you specifically say Mothra would not help mankind if they didn't return MGZ to the ocean? Christ, giant moths can be so fickle. You really can't take them at their word. Anyway, they battle for a while, and GZ merely sets the big moth on fire with his laser breath, and that's about it for Mothra. Meanwhile, on Mothra's island, a giant egg starts hatching, and out come not one but TWO baby Mothra larvae. Do moths lay giant bird-like eggs? Let's not ask too much from the sense-making side of things. The larvae start high-tailing it toward Tokyo, stat.

They get there and confer with the dying Mothra, who tells them something mothy, then promptly explodes in a spectacular way. Now the larvae attack GZ, and at a certain point one of them has bitten the end of GZ's tail, causing GZ to whip it around and smash it against buildings. You'll also notice in this version that GZ can take missiles directly to the chest and back without being hurt. So they send out MGZ, and for a while he and GZ mix it up. This film continues the thing that impressed me in Godzilla 2000, which is where one of them bashes the other, and the one hit staggers backward and hits a whole building, which then crumbles. Effective! Unfortunately, there's not a lot of other excitement happening in the battle, and it's all a bit rote by now.

SPOILERS > > >
Eventually GZ gives MGZ the old laser breath full in the face, causing MGZ to fall down dead. Then it's up to Chujo to get to MGZ, which he does, led by the little Mothra twins, and he goes inside MGZ and starts repairs. Eventually MGZ gets fixed and goes back into the battle, Chujo still inside. MGZ has a sort of drill-hand, and he gives it to GZ full in the gut, which you can tell is hurting the big guy bad, which causes you to feel quite bad for Godzilla. Then he blasts GZ with these laser-things he has, until GZ is defeated and just stands there, overpowered. Then the Mothra larvae shoot webbing over him, until Godzilla is this huge thing totally wrapped up in web. Then MGZ goes off the grid and the people are worried that they have lost control of him once again--but they PROMISED he wouldn't!--and he grabs GZ, all wrapped in a neat webby package, and shoots off into the sky. Chujo is still inside.

It is soon surmised that MGZ is taking himself and GZ out to the deep ocean where they will bury themselves for eternity. The humans talk in portentous tones about how the dead must be left in peace--remember MGZ has real GZ bones inside--and there is much seriousness about how much all this means. Meanwhile, the hot female jet pilot is in her F-14 (or whatever) trailing them, hoping to rescue Chujo. You'll recall that she is the one chagrined that Chujo chooses machines over her hot steamy lovin', and now Chujo must make a symbolic gesture in which he lets MGZ go to its resting place and literally flies toward the woman he loves. He jumps out of MGZ (after much emotional anguish) and leaps out into the air. Then--get this--the girl ejects from her fighter jet, and the two MEET IN MID-AIR, whereupon they parachute together to safety. Pretty amazing, right? But I guess we shouldn't ask for much in the way of realism from a movie about a giant lizard, his robot counterpart, a massive moth and its enormous sentient larvae.
< < < SPOILERS END

So we're left with these themes and, as an American, have to wonder what kind of cultural resonance they must be alluding to in Japan. That we should respect the dead and leave their bones undisturbed, I get, although I don't see why it's such a big deal anyone would make a movie about it. Then there's the cautionary material about choosing the love of machines over people. Hmmm, not sure what this is about. I mean, we can guess: people who spend most of their energies on their gadgets and computers and retreat from real socializing with actual humans? But the fact is it remains a bit obscure and one can't be sure. Nevertheless, this movie has larger themes, in the tradition of Godzilla films, and even if I can't puzzle out why these things could supposedly have cultural relevance, I feel better knowing that they probably do. I'd be interested in a pop-culture piece that goes through every Godzilla movies and discusses the social commentary of each one, but not interested enough to watch all these films and write such a thing myself.

Regardless, worth watching? If you want to see a decent, relatively recent Godzilla film and have already seen the restored version of the original (i.e. NOT the American version). That film is somewhat essential. The rest of them, at least from my limited knowledge, are purely optional. Still, if you want wide-scale mass destruction with guys in lizard suits, I think there are few of them will lead you astray. When I started this review I thought I had quite little to say about this movie, and look, here we are, many paragraphs later. This isn't going to change your life (unless maybe you love machines over people?), but it's also not a total mindless waste of time. I am totally behind the continued production of Godzilla films far into the foreseeable future.

Should you watch it: 

Sure, why not? You've been working hard and deserve some fun.