Review Terror of MechaGodzilla film review by The King of the Monsters
Written By The King of the Monsters on 2015-01-05 20:49:04
Terror of MechaGodzilla MovieLearn More
The last of the original series of Godzilla films, and the last entry to be directed by the great Ishiro Honda, Terror of Mechagodzilla is vintage Godzilla at its finest. This film combines the dark tone of the original 1954 classic, as well as the colorful and fun monster battles of its numerous sequels. Combine this with a masterful musical score by Akira Ifukube and a unique if unevenly executed human cast, and you have a memorable and exemplary entry in the long-running series.
*SPOILERS MAY FOLLOW* Terror of Mechagodzilla tells the story of Akira Ichinose, a marine biologist working for Interpol to investigate the sinking of the research submarine Akatsuki allegedly by a giant dinosaur. Ichinose and his old friend, Interpol agent Jiro Marukoshi, inquire at the Japanese Oceanographic Institute, where they are informed about Dr. Shinzo Mafune, a once-respected marine biologist who studied ways to control sea life remotely. Mafune eventually claimed to have discovered and taken control of a giant aquatic dinosaur called Titanosaurus. Ichinose and Marukoshi visit Mafune's home on Manazuru Island, where they are greeted by his daughter Katsura, who insists that her father is dead and that she burned all of his notes as his last wish. In reality though, the disgruntled Dr. Mafune has joined forces with a mysterious group of men, who have agreed to help him get revenge on the world for shunning him using Titanosaurus and a weapon created by the strange men. Mafune is led to the men's base in the mountains, where he discovers that they are actually Aliens from the Third Planet of the Black Hole and their weapon is none other than Mechagodzilla. The Aliens inform Mafune that they will provide him and Katsura a place in their new utopian society after humanity is wiped out if he will assist them in rebuilding and improving Mechagodzilla. When Mafune informs the Aliens' leader, Mugal, that Mechagodzilla requires living brain tissue to be truly perfect, the Aliens install Mechagodzilla's controller in the body of Katsura, whom they had actually transformed into a cyborg many years ago unbeknownst to Mafune after she was mortally wounded in a lab accident. Untrusting of the Aliens, Mafune and Katsura summon Titanosaurus to attack Japan themselves. Godzilla arrives and does battle with Titanosaurus, who retreats after a brief skirmish. When Katsura is injured in a gunfight with Interpol, Mafune witnesses what the Aliens have done to his daughter as they repair her. Mafune expresses deep regret and guilt to Katsura for what he has caused to happen to her, and begrudgingly agrees to assist the Aliens in their final assault on Tokyo. Ichinose, smitten with Katsura, travels to her home to try and speak to her, but is beaten and captured by the Aliens. Ichinose is tied up in Mafune's lab, where he comes face-to-face with the scientist and his mind-controlled daughter. Ichinose pleads with Katsura to end this madness, but she complies with her Alien controllers' orders and unleashes Mechagodzilla and Titanosaurus into Tokyo. The monsters reduce Tokyo to a smoking ruin in a matter of minutes before Godzilla rises to fight them off. Godzilla finds himself outmatched by the larger Titanosaurus and superiorly-armed Mechagodzilla, and is subsequently beaten into submission and buried underground. Meanwhile, Interpol has discovered that Titanosaurus is rendered helpless by supersonic waves, and build a supersonic oscillator to subdue the monster. Supersonic waves are fired at Titanosaurus from a helicopter, occupying the monster while Godzilla rises from his tomb to take on Mechagodzilla. Braving Mechagodzilla's missiles and lasers, Godzilla gets in close and tears the head from his mechanical double as he did a year before. However, this time Mechagodzilla's brain has been placed below his head and is outfitted with a laser cannon. The headless Mechagodzilla blasts Godzilla to the ground and moves in to finish him. Meanwhile, Interpol locates Mafune's lab and storms it. Most of the Aliens are killed in the subsequent gunfight, as is Dr. Mafune. Katsura snaps out of her trance and is comforted by Ichinose. Katsura realizes that the controller for Mechagodzilla is still inside her body, and that in order to stop the machine she must be destroyed. Katsura begs Ichinose to kill her, but he refuses and says he can't. Katsura grabs a pistol from the ground and shoots herself in the chest, tragically but heroically sacrificing her own life to stop Mechagodzilla. Mechagodzilla shuts down, and Godzilla wastes no time in destroying his robot doppleganger for good. Godzilla turns his attention to Titanosaurus, and manages to knock the aquatic monster into the ocean with a blast of atomic breath. Mugal and the remaining Aliens try to escape in their spaceships, but are shot down by Godzilla's atomic breath. With the world saved, Ichinose stands with Katsura's body in his arms, watching Godzilla return to the sea.
On paper, the plot of Terror of Mechagodzilla is absolutely brilliant. The story retains the alien invasion plot of most contemporary Godzilla films, but introduces a very diverse and conflicted group of humans caught in the middle. Unfortunately, the character development leaves a little to be desired. Dr. Mafune comes off as little more than the stereotypical mad scientist, with big glasses, a labcoat, and long white hair. Katsura seems pretty cold and unfeeling, as is to be expected since she is a robot, but it gives us little glimpse into her humanity. Akira Ichinose isn't the most likable character either. He seems to care more about his sudden love interest in a strange woman he just met than doing his job and saving the world from a giant monster. The Aliens Mugal and Tsuda are extremely cliched bad guys who spout typical bad guy dialogue and laugh maniacally from time to time. The excellent premise for the characters is unfortunately undermined by the very limited and typical development they are given.
The acting in Terror of Mechagodzilla is not terribly noteworthy, but it is still serviceable. Katsuhiko Sasaki, who previously played the male lead in Godzilla vs. Megalon, improves over his last performance in a Godzilla film as marine biologist Akira Ichinose, but just doesn't bring the charisma of other leads like Akira Takarada or Akira Kubo. Sasaki does little to make his sort of annoying character much more likable, and in some scenes is pretty melodramatic, but his performance is far from being considered bad. Tomoko Ai plays Ichinose's love interest, Katsura Mafune, and varies from being downright emotionless to over-the-top emotional. Now, since Ai's character is a cyborg who is at times under the control of the Black Hole Aliens, her performance mostly fits, but the scenes where she is injured or distressed are almost laughably over-the-top. The great Akihiko Hirata turns in his final performance in a Godzilla film as Dr. Mafune, and his experience and acting prowess shine through the very stereotypical mad scientist character. Hirata makes Mafune a very human and tragic character, especially in scenes where he tries to comfort Katsura or convince her that his vengeance is just. The standout scene acting-wise in the film fittingly comes from Hirata, where Mafune breaks down in grief and guilt upon seeing the mechanical innards of his beautiful daughter as she lays motionless on an operating table. The grief that Hirata expresses as he pitifully utters "I'm sorry Katsura. I'm so sorry" completely humanizes his character and lets the audience really empathize with the mad scientist who wants to help enslave his own race. Goro Mutsumi returns to play the new leader of the Black Hole Aliens, Mugal. Though Mutsumi played an extremely similar character in Kuronuma in the previous film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, he comes off as entirely different this time. While as Kuronuma Mutsumi was a scenery-chewing, faux-affably evil villain, as Mugal he is a sadistic, brutal madman. Unfortunately Mugal is such a cheesy over-the-top villain that all Mutsumi does is laugh maniacally and talk about his evil plan while cursing the Earthmen and any kinks in his plans. This makes him not shine nearly as well as he did in the previous film. Toru Ibuki, another veteran of Godzilla films, plays Mugal's right-hand man Tsuda. Ibuki gives a cold, evil performance, but this is merely staus-quo for such a character. His character laughs evilly along with Mugal while cursing the Earthmen and, you get the picture. Katsumasa Uchida plays Interpol agent Jiro Murakoshi, and with such a limited character does a good job. He is the film's needed badass gun-toting good guy. While the male lead Ichinose is sentimental and kind, Uchida's character is not afraid of putting a bullet in those aliens' heads when given the opportunity.
The special effects are some of the best the Showa series has to offer. The Godzilla suit from the last two films returns, but with a much meaner and fiercer face while still looking like a good guy. The Titanosaurus suit is impressive, with its realistic fins, well-sculpted muscular build, and detailed bumpy multicolored flesh. Mechagodzilla, I daresay, looks even better than he did in the last film. The suit is a bit different, and to me looks scarier and more dangerous. Its joints and metal fringing are sharper, its body is dark gray rather than light silver, and the eyes seem to give off a bigger and more eerie orange glow, which contrasts nicely with the darker metal body. Mechagodzilla himself fights much less physically than he did in the previous film, but Titanosaurus picks up the slack while his metal ally stands back and fires some missiles and beams into the battle. Titanosaurus and Godzilla's fistfight is a great example of physical brutal combat that is unhindered by the thick and heavy rubber monster suits. Titanosaurus lifting Godzilla by the jaw is kind of a funny-looking scene, but despite its ridiculousness it's not too bad-looking.
Now, the special effect highlight of the film for me are the pyrotechnics. When Mechagodzilla demolishes Tokyo with his finger missiles and lasers, the resulting explosion-fest is something to behold. I am absolutely mesmerized by watching a city block explode building-by-building. I daresay, the explosions in this film would make Michael Bay get teary-eyed. The best part is, these explosions are real. The Tokyo set was really blown up with real pyrotechnics, and the effect looks downright impressive. Despite this being the result of some small explosives blowing up a miniature set, the sense of scale it gives off makes it look like a city exploding. The sheer force of the explosions combined with the powerful sound effects really sell the scene. And this sequence lasts quite a few minutes. Several minutes of Mechagodzilla firing a missiles or a laser, and buildings and streets exploding brilliantly. And it never gets old.
Akira Ifukube returns with an all-new score, and it definitely fits this dark film. Ifukube seems to have re-arranged quite a bit of his score from Frankenstein vs. Baragon and it works very well. The film's main theme plays throughout the film quite a bit, but never becomes repetitive. It's just simply foreboding and epic. But what's impressive is that aside from the powerful blaring themes, Ifukube adds in some softer, atmospheric pieces for the human scenes, making use of violin, piano, organ, and even synthesizers at times. One piece that is really of note is the return of the main theme from the 1954 original film. While that piece was originall meant to underscore the military, Ifukube applies it here as Godzilla's theme. It has a powerful, heroic feel to it and really compliments this film's version of Godzilla well. The fact that Ifukube chose to reuse the piece for Godzilla's theme eventually led to it becoming widely recognized as Godzilla's theme in later films.
Terror of Mechagodzilla isn't the absolute best of the Showa series, but it's definitely on par with its predecessor, if not even better. The film manages to be dark and serious despite its fantastical science-fiction story. Unfortunately, Terror of Mechagodzilla was a failure at the box office, and led to Toho putting the franchise on hiatus for almost a decade. The film has gradually gained a strong fan following, and is often cited as a favorite by many fans. Terror of Mechagodzilla is a great movie, and falls just short of being a masterpiece. As the last film directed by Ishiro Honda and starring Akihito Hirata, the movie is a wonderful swan song for Godzilla's golden age.