Tuesday, December 9, 2014
60 Years of Godzilla - Godzilla x Mothra x MechaGodzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.
Monsters clash in the only sequel of the Millennium era.
Throughout its production, Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla had been intended to be a standalone film, just like the rest of the entries in the Millennium era of the franchise. But when filming had ended, director Masaaki Tezuka felt like he had unfinished business with this story and pitched the idea of making a sequel. Executive producer Shogo Tomiyama, who had been a producer on most of the Godzilla movies of the Heisei era (he was associate producer on Godzilla vs. Biollante and then producer on the rest of the films through Godzilla vs. Destoroyah) and executive produced all of the Millennium films, agreed to have the next entry continue on from the end of GAM.
Toho Studios commissioned four different story outlines for him to choose from, but he found all of them lacking. So he wrote the script, along with Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack co-writer Masahiro Yokotani.
Although it picks up just several months after the events of Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla, this is not a sequel that follows the characters of its predecessor. Dr. Tokumitsu Yuhara does not appear at all, nor does his young daughter Sara. Anti-Megalosaurus Force pilot Akane Yashiro, who had a redemption storyline in GAM, appears only in a cameo. She's leaving Kiryu, the MechaGodzilla built around the bones of the Godzilla from the original 1954 Gojira, behind to study combat tactics and strategy in the United States for a year. Repair work continues on Kiryu, but Akane gets the feeling that the bio-robot really doesn't want to fight Godzilla, and it may be better off left in disrepair.
Young Air Force mechanic Yoshito Chūjō, a member of Kiryu's ground crew, strongly disagrees with that. He is determined to see Kiryu fixed and back in battle with Godzilla, if ever the need arises.
As repairs on Kiryu near completion, Godzilla is stirring out in the Pacific Ocean.
Also drawn to Japan is Mothra. The image of the giant moth shows up on radar as a U.F.O. and military jets fly out to intercept the creature in the night sky, not fully realizing what's in the air with them. Whatever it is, it doesn't respond to their demands to change course and leave Japanese air space. Warning shots don't deter it... They hear singing coming from it. And then it just disappears.
Mothra lands in the back yard of Shin'ichi Chūjō, Hiroshi Koizumi reprising his role as the linguist from the original Mothra film forty-two years later. Yoshito is his nephew, and is at his uncle's place to witness the message Mothra's tiny fairy companions the Shobijin (here portrayed by Chihiro Ohtsuka and Masami Nagasawa, who are neither real life sisters nor a singing duo, a change from past Shobijin/Cosmo casting) have for the elder Chūjō.
According to the Shobijin, using the bones of Godzilla to build Kiryu was an offense to nature, and thus an offense to Mothra. "No human being may touch the souls of the dead." Godzilla's bones must be returned to the sea. If the new Godzilla returns to Japan in the absence of MechaGodzilla, Mothra will take the robot's place and defend the country. If the bones are not returned to rest in the sea, Mothra will declare war on the human race herself.
Chūjō takes them seriously, but no one else who hears it heeds the warning, believing that scrapping their MechaGodzilla would be a suicidal move. Yoshito continues working on Kiryu.
So Godzilla starts swimming toward Japan, drawn by the bones of its predecessor inside Kiryu.
This explains a huge convenience in the storytelling of Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla, which simply had Godzilla, who had been dormant in the sea for four years, suddenly show up as Kiryu was being presented to the public, with no explanation. If he's drawn to the bones, that explains just why he happened to return at that time.
On his way toward Tokyo, Godzilla destroys a U.S. nuclear submarine near Guam, in a scene where he's shot mostly in shadow. The corpse of a giant turtle, a Megalo Matamata or a Kamoebas, a kaiju introduced in 1970's Yog: Monster from Space Monster, a.k.a. Space Amoeba, washes up on the Japanese coast, bearing wounds inflicted by Godzilla.
Tezuka originally wanted this dead creature to be popular kaiju Anguirus, Godzilla's enemy-turned-buddy from the Shōwa era, but that idea didn't fly with Tomiyama. Anguirus is too well beloved to present in such a way, so Tezuka killed off this more obscure kaiju.
Godzilla makes his first clear appearance on screen 31 minutes into the film, as a Naval ship blasts away at him with its weaponry, trying to deter him from continuing toward Japan. He just keeps on going.
Tsutomu Kitagawa, who had played Godzilla in all of the Millennium films except for GMK, took on the role again for this one, wearing the same suit made for Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla, with an addition - a scar across the chest from his battle with Kiryu.
With Godzilla drawing near, work speeds up on fixing Kiryu. Shortcuts are made. The mechanics really need two more weeks to make sure the robot is in full working condition, but that's time they don't have. They also don't have the money for the synthetic diamond needed to repair Kiryu's Absolute Zero Gun, so it's replaced by a Hyper Maser plasma energy gun.
The defense force hopes to lure Godzilla to Shinagawa, a city still in rubble from being the setting of a Godzilla rampage and his climactic battle with Kiryu the previous year. That way the Kiryu rematch will take place in a place already destroyed.
Godzilla isn't interested in their plans. He goes right past Shinagawa, toward Hachioji and the Minato District. Toward the base where Kiryu is kept. He's met at the waterfront by standard tanks and maser tanks... and he just blows them apart with his atomic breath.
Godzilla makes landfall and starts causing all new damage. Kiryu/MechaGodzilla is ready to go, but the Defense Agency holds off on giving it the greenlight because the machine's new pilot, Kyôsuke Akiba, is the son of a Defense Agency bigwig who doesn't want his kid to get hurt. Even though Kiryu is controlled from an aircraft that flies over the battle, piloting it is still a dangerous job.
Chūjō's grandson has a different line of defense in mind - he takes dozens of desks out of his school to form the symbol that is supposed to bring Mothra. Once the symbol is completed, Mothra shows up immediately.
Just as the Shobijin said she would, Mothra flies into battle to protect Japan from Godzilla.
Mothra puts in a valiant effort and batters Godzilla around a good bit, it soon becomes clear that she is not strong enough to defeat him on her own. Seeing that Mothra is near death, the Defense Agency finally decides to send Kiryu out into the field.
During Godzilla's fight with Mothra, a blast of his atomic breath destroys Tokyo Tower, a structure which was also destroyed in the original Mothra.
Godzilla is just about to deliver the killing blow to the winged kaiju when Kiryu arrives on the scene and engages Goji in a rematch a year in the making. And a rather spectacular battle it is, full of rockets, explosions, and crumbling buildings.
Mothra repays Kiryu and saves the robot from an atomic blast, but unfortunate gets hit with the blast herself. As Mothra falls to the ground, two Mothra larvae hatch from an egg on Himago Island, one of the Bonin Islands. The larvae head to Japan to help out their mother.
The larvae arrive just as Godzilla has damaged Kiryu enough to knock out its control system, but they aren't able to help their mother. In fact, Mothra makes her final sacrifice to save her larvae, taking a fatal blast of atomic breath while shielding them.
Yoshito, already out in the streets to find his uncle and nephew and get them to safety, goes to the battleground to make repairs to Kiryu on the spot while military forces and the larvae distract Godzilla from the fallen MechaG. Realizing how important Kiryu is in this situation, the Shobijin even help Yoshito out in his efforts.
Kiryu is successfully repaired and goes back into battle... with Yoshito stuck inside of it.
In this final battle, Kiryu delivers some devastating blows, turning its right hand into a drill that it uses to dig into Godzilla's stomach, blasting him with the Hyper Maser... Godzilla begins to slow down... It appears he may be dying... And the larvae take the opportunity to cover him with webbing.
As the new Godzilla's life begins to wane, the spirit of the original Godzilla awakens inside Kiryu and its memories and feelings are even shared with Yoshito. He knows now that the Shobijin were right, the '54 Gojira just wants to rest peacefully and his bones must be returned to the sea.
The spirit of Godzilla '54 takes over the bio-robot, grabs the webbed-up new Godzilla, and flies him out over the Pacific.
Thanks to Akiba and fighter pilot Asuza Kisaragi, Yoshito's would-be love interest, if only he weren't so distracted by machines, Yoshito is able to escape from inside Kiryu moments before the original Godzilla sinks itself into the Japan Trench with its doppelganger.
Just before exiting Kiryu, Yoshito sees Gojira '54 communicate with him through a message on a computer monitor. Godzilla says SAYONARA YOSHITO.
The larvae swim back to Himago Island with its Shobijin. It looks like Yoshito might start paying more attention to Asuza that to his mechanic work. Both Godzillas are put to rest. And Japan has learned a lesson in humility.
At least, that's what they say before the end credits start rolling. But in a post-credits scene, we're shown a lab at a Special Biotechnology Institute in which a Godzilla DNA sample is being kept, likely for some kind of horrible experiment that will cause the country all sorts of trouble. But this is a thread that was never picked up on in another film.
Like the movie it follows, Tokyo S.O.S. is exceptionally simplistic. I thought the filmmakers were getting by with doing as little character work as they had to in Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla, but that's nothing compared to how little time Tezuka spends on Yoshito's life outside of the Kiryu business. It'd be impossible to do less with characters like Asuza and Akiba and still be able to call them characters.
The bulk of what you can call story happens in the first half hour, the remaining hour is nothing but battle.
Still, what was in that first half hour I found to be more interesting than anything in Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla, largely because it felt like a welcome return to the Shōwa era style. More than forty years had passed, but it played like a solid follow-up to the 1961 Mothra. Mothra being upset about the desecration of a fellow kaiju's bones makes total sense to me. And, unlike in Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, Mothra was classic Mothra here.
Then the action begins and never lets up, which is fun to watch, but it's also nice to have a bit more depth. The issue of the bones largely gets brushed aside until the final moments in favor of spectacle.
Tokyo S.O.S. is a good movie and quite entertaining, but I'm left with the feeling that it could have been better. Mothra being ready to wage war could've been played up more - that idea is really just tossed away after that one line. The action could have been broken up with more character scenes. It could have been structured differently.
But as it is, it is an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half.