Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2002)

Two is company but three is a very big crowd!

One year after the fight between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla, the Japanese Defence Force is rebuilding the cyborg in case Godzilla returns. But the tiny little twin fairies who speak for Mothra warn them that Mechagodzilla should be laid to rest in the ocean because it was built using bones from the original Godzilla and it needs to rest in peace. If the authorities will lay Mechagodzilla to rest, Mothra would step in and act as Japan’s defence against Godzilla. But if not, she will declare war on humanity. Their concern is evident when Godzilla does show up again to destroy Japan. Mothra joins forces with Mechagodzilla in an attempt to rid Japan of this menace once and for all.

 

Perhaps more so than the majority of other genre, kaiju eiga films (that’s monster movies for those who don’t speak Japanese) are bound by the sorts of things that its specific target audience expects from any entry. The Godzilla series, the Gamera films and the miscellaneous other giant monsters that have had big screen outings can do all they like with the plot and characters but when it comes down to it, the fans of this type of film want to see giant monsters smashing up cities and then smashing up each other. That’s the bottom line. The latest batch of Godzilla films, dubbed the Millenium series and beginning with Godzilla 2000, have been relatively hit and miss when it comes to this aspect. Whilst the advances in technology are clear to see in the special effects, the new series is lacking something that made the 1990s Godzilla films some of the most entertaining of the entire series and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is definitely the prime example.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is one of the first Godzilla films for a while to directly follow on from its predecessor without re-writing history which is a nice starting point as each new film usually picks and mixes whatever it likes from the previous films and most often pretend that every other film except for the original Godzilla doesn’t exist. Things are different this time around as it not only directly follows on from Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla but, in a nice nod to the original Mothra as well, Hiroshi Koizumi returns to play the same character he did back in 1961. The story is thread-bare though and is just an amalgamation of previous Toho outings involving all of the featured monsters. When the monsters aren’t fighting (which they don’t for the first half), the film is too bogged down with muddled characters and flimsy padding. It’s the same problems that faced the old 60s and 70s films but at least the camp and cheese values of the likes of Godzilla Vs Megalon and Invasion of the Astro-Monsters kept the human side of things entertaining, if only for the wrong reasons. Here none of the characters get enough screen time to make an impression and you’ll be sat watching the clock and waiting for the big fight anyway.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. was the most visually impressive entry to date (though bettered with the following Godzilla films) and the monsters do battle in an hour-long fight which takes up the bulk of the running time. CGI is kept to a minimum and at the end of the day the monsters are still guys in suits smashing up miniature cities on a sound stage but the mixture of old and new technology really brings these monsters to life as they fight each other in a battered city. Godzilla looks as bad ass as ever, Mechagodzilla’s new design looks like it was lifted from one of these Manga comics and Mothra is easily the most beautiful, elegant and fragile monster Toho ever created. Their mixed array of beam and laser weapons look superb, if relied on a little too much, and the miniature sets look as good as they have ever done. When a monster falls into a building here, it looks like it’s collapsing for real.

My major gripe with Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is that Toho has once again delved into the past and wheeled out the same line-up of monsters for Godzilla to do battle with: Mothra and Mechagodzilla. Whilst I can acknowledge the fact that the more popular monsters will get more cinematic appearances, it also means that the films themselves become too alike. You know that Mechagodzilla is going to break down during a fight and have technical problems. You know that Mothra will at some stage be represented in the form of the twin caterpillars before hatching into the beautiful butterfly. No matter how many physical makeovers both monsters get (and a whole new arsenal of weapons in Mechagodzilla’s case), they are the same characters and bring nothing new to the table. Toho has such a great catalogue of monsters from the past that any one of them could be given a bad ass new makeover for this new series (I’m looking at you Gigan)

 

Technically superb, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is the best looking Godzilla film to date (at time of writing) and it’s clear that a lot of time and effort has been put into bringing this series up-to-date with the technology available. It’s a shame that Toho keeps regurgitating old stories and old monsters instead of giving us something fresh that we haven’t seen before. Stop playing it safe and take a chance.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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