Tag Archives: godzilla

Mechagodzilla Designs

Mechagodzilla has been one of my favorite kaiju since its first appearance in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Its design has undergone several changes throughout the years, some better than others.

Showa era Mechagodzilla
The original Mechagodzilla was a remotely controlled robot designed by the aliens of Black Hole Planet 3 whose aim it was to take over Earth. Later, they controlled it through a link to the brain of a cybernetically enhanced human. Its introduction was unique in that it wore a Godzilla disguise and shocked fans during a brutal fight with Godzilla’s ally Anguirus. It shed its disguise when facing the true Godzilla to utilize an arsenal of weapons including lasers, feet jets for flight, an energy shield, and, my favorite, finger missiles. The design is dated but features classic elements and is instantly recognizable as a mechanical replica of Godzilla.

Heisei era Mechagodzilla/Super Mechagodzilla
The first major overhaul to Mechagodzilla’s design. This robot was built by humans as an anti-Godzilla weapon using salvaged future technology from Mecha King Ghidorah. It could link up with another future-tech machine called Garuda to form Super Mechagodzilla and combine their weapons. The design is very smoothed out compared to the Showa Mechagodzilla and is overall less appealing, though the changes in its form did reflect the changes in Godzilla’s design during the same time. I would rank it last among the three older Toho designs. However, the Power Rangers style combining of mechs into a super mech is always fun.

Millennium Mechagodzilla/Kiryu
Kiryu is a cyborg built using the skeleton of the original 1954 Godzilla as its support structure. It uses Godzilla’s DNA combined with advanced technology to give it the ability to act and react with Godzilla-like instincts. Unfortunately, when it hears the current Godzilla’s roar, the original Godzilla’s spirit is awakened within it, and it is able to resist the control of its creators. This design keeps some elements from Super Mechagodzilla’s look such as the over-the-shoulder cannons, but it returns to using slightly more angular shapes and looks more like Godzilla than ever. It takes the “mechanical Godzilla” concept to its epitome. It has a great balance of complexity for interest vs. simplicity for recognizability. Kiryu is easily my favorite design.

All of these versions had in common the base idea that Mechagodzilla’s appearance should be based on Godzilla’s, and they all succeed in that. There was another similar mecha, M.O.G.U.E.R.A, which was constructed from the remains of the destroyed Heisei Mechagodzilla, but it clearly did not resemble Godzilla and so wasn’t given the Mechagodzilla name. Even the Mechagodzilla seen in Ready Player One is instantly recognizable as such, pulling in all kinds of elements from the original Showa era look, especially in the neck/head design and the inclusion of the finger missiles. It’s an agile update to the character that doesn’t toss aside the signature elements of the source.


Ready Player One Mechagodzilla concept art by Jared Krichevsky.

GODZILLA anime Mechagodzilla
This, however. . . .   This machine was co-created by humans and aliens to be the ultimate anti-Godzilla weapon, and by just the aliens to eventually assimilate Earth through the spread of its nanometal technology. Like with the new anime Godzilla, I feel this role should have been played by an original kaiju. Its appearance and abilities are such a departure from the Mechagodzilla we know that it should simply have been given its own name like M.O.G.U.E.R.A.
On its own, without comparison to the previous Mechagodzillas, this design is overwrought and cluttered. Because of the high level of complexity, it’s difficult to identify its overall form (an issue also plaguing the transformers in their 2007 movie series). To improve this design, I would make sure details which are included to look cool and complex also appear utilitarian. This is a machine designed for a purpose, not for display. I would include larger plates of armor over portions of the frame. Not only would this help clean up the busy design, it would, like actual plate armor, aid in deflecting attacks rather than providing hundreds of little crevices/weak points.

As it is, this new Mechagodzilla is a disappointment that makes me wonder what could have been. I look forward to the next iteration of the character in hopes it will be an improvement.

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review

I’ve had pretty good luck with Netflix originals. I’ve enjoyed most of those I’ve watched. I actually got my hopes up for the new Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters movie/trilogy of which 1/3 is available, and well, that was a mistake.

This is the first official Godzilla movie from Toho which is animated. The three-parter is done in the same CG anime style that I’m seeing a lot of on Netflix. It was strange to see at first in the Knights of Sidonia series (which pulled an Attack on Titan by starting off really intriguing before majorly derailing). I got used to the style while watching BLAME, a much better movie. So I didn’t mind the CG look at all while watching Godzilla. I think it actually made the smooth, gliding walk of the exifs (alien humanoids) stand out well. It’s also fantastic for depicting the complex mechs and machinery used in fast-paced combat, and the action in the movie looks great.

Unfortunately, the intro to the movie wasn’t paced well. There’s in medias res and then there’s garbled mess. We’re thrown into the middle of a stand-off between Character Man and Other People. There’s something at stake. It’s a big deal. It gets resolved. Some people blow up. Character Man is very distraught. From what I gathered during my viewing, the humans living in space wanted to get rid of the elderly to conserve resources, the grandson of one of the old men, Captain Haruo, thinks this is wrong and tries to stop it but fails. Then the story starts and we get some flashback explanation of what’s happening. Earth was razed by Godzilla. Two sketchy alien races showed up in ships claiming they could help, but they failed, and humans and aliens had to escape together on one ship to try to find somewhere else to live. However, the details are still vague and I didn’t feel like I got a chance to get to know any of the characters, much less their names, before the halfway point of the movie. Haruo and his exif priest friend concoct some plan to return for another try at defeating Godzilla.

Here’s the weird part: The humans have been wandering around looking for a habitable planet or hanging around a non-habitable planet. It’s unclear. But they say their plan was to find another planet, and they’ve been searching out there in space for 20 years with no success. Their backup plan was to live on the moon and salvage resources from Earth. So once this plan to have another go at Godzilla is presented, they decide to give it a try. They push a button, and instantly warp back to Earth. Just like that. Twenty years they’ve been struggling to survive out there, they had a safe backup plan, but they decided to terminate a huge portion of their population and keep starving out in space when they had the ability to immediately return to Earth. Why didn’t they use that warp ability to check out the known planets in habitable zones of their stars? They traveled 12 light years in a minute. Proxima Centauri b is only 4.2 light years away. We have a huge list of possibly habitable planets that this group could easily have reached in 20 long years. It’s stated that they’re currently at Tau Ceti e which is on that list, but it’s far from the best candidate. Apparently only the stupid humanoids managed to escape Godzilla’s initial destruction.

(Spoilers)

They get back to Earth and start their mission to locate and destroy Godzilla if he still exists. For Earth, it’s been 20,000 years since the ship left, and the entire planet is apparently covered in a fog enshrouding a metallic forest. Also, there are dragons now which supposedly evolved from Godzilla cells just like the metal trees. There is no real explanation given for this huge difference in the passage of time or this extremely quick evolution of life on the planet. Roll with it, I guess. Our scientist character waffles between speculating that the Godzilla we encounter is the original and reasoning that he’s a descendant. Not sure where he’s getting his information. The plan immediately goes wrong and it’s a big heroic struggle to take down Godzilla once and for all. I finally caught the name of the guy in charge, whom everyone was complaining about, just before he died. I’m still not clear on who the girl soldier is or what her connection to Captain Haruo is though they speak as if they know each other pretty well. I wished somebody had given me some background on these people so I could care about at least one of them. Haruo is the only one with even a slight backstory, but he’s very flat. He’s full of rage and wants to kill Godzilla. That’s all I’ve got.

I have no idea why this is a Godzilla film. In King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), the script was originally written for Frankenstein’s monster instead of King Kong. He would be enlarged by the supercharging power of electricity allowing him to hold his own against the king of the monsters. Somewhere along the way, it was decided that King Kong would be a better choice for role of the western monster. However, they replaced him without reworking the script. So, inexplicably, in this movie King Kong is powered up by electricity. Even though it was a fun bout, it’s clear that he’s the wrong monster for the story because this electricity stuff makes no sense. Similarly, I feel that another, perhaps original, monster would have better suited for Planet of the Monsters. They’ve removed the one vital, trademark trait of Godzilla; his radioactivity. There is no mention at all of radioactivity in this movie. On top of this, he’s given completely new characteristics and abilities apart from the Godzilla we know. He emits EMP, he creates an electromagnetic shield, his hide is metallic, and his fiery atomic breath is now more a laser beam than anything. Aside from his appearance, which is very much akin to Legendary’s Godzilla rather than Toho’s, there’s nothing here which makes me think Godzilla. It’s disappointing.

Their vague, confusing plan works and they defeat Godzilla. But wait! The mountain behind him shakes and the REAL Godzilla rises from beneath it towering a ridiculous 200m taller than any previous incarnation of the character. He blows everyone up except Haruo, and we wait to see part 2. I can only suspend disbelief so far. A 100m tall Godzilla slowly lumbering through Tokyo, okay. But this new mountain-sized behemoth . . . I can only picture him plastered to the surface of the Earth, unable to move due to his enormous mass. It might serve to make him more intimidating if it weren’t so silly. He doesn’t compare to Shin Godzilla when it comes to intimidation, anyway. Out of nowhere, the exif priest tells us he’s seen planets create monsters like Godzilla hundreds of times to quell the pride of the dominant species which is overpopulating the planet, and that no one has ever defeated their monster. First of all, why mention this only now? Second, this concept was done better in Blue Gender (1999).

All-in-all, this movie was just bad. Again, great visuals, but that doesn’t make up for the frustrating, boring experience. I don’t have hope for the next one to be better, but I’ll probably set my bar low and give it a watch just to see Mechagodzilla.

Godzilla 2014

Long story short: Too many humans; not enough monster battle. Not nearly enough.

Long story long:
(spoilers obviously)
I haven’t been a Godzilla fan for very long. My husband, several years before he was my husband, is the one who pretty much forced me to watch my first film of the franchise. Luckily for him I was no stranger to campy Japanese action (go, go, Power Rangers!) and I enjoyed it. I can’t remember now which one it was, but I think Mothra sacrificed herself and turned into glitter. Yeah, that doesn’t narrow it down much.

Anyway, now that he’s my husband, I have of course watched every Godzilla movie multiple times, and I feel like I have a sense of what a good Godzilla movie is supposed to be. I also have a King Ghidorah plushie that roars and makes his silly tweedly flying noise. Let’s face it, Ghidorah is the only monster that always seems to swoop in having a total blast doing his thing. His cry sounds almost like a giggle. Godzilla’s great, but he’s more of a grumpy personality unless he’s winning a fight, and then a victory dance is sometimes in order.

Naturally, we were off to see the new movie as soon as we were able. Thanks to the catastrophe that was the ’98 adaption, we set our bars very low and expected to have a good time despite this not being a Toho-made entry. I was prepared for the human plot that anchored us to be silly and pointless, for the monster action to be crazy and fun, and for the whole thing to take itself a little too seriously. We both came away feeling really “meh” about it.

There were some good things, to be sure. Godzilla’s new look is spot-on. I was afraid he wasn’t going to be given any personality at all, but he did seem to express irritation with the MUTOs and satisfaction at smacking them down. Just enough without getting campy (not that there’s anything wrong with campy, but it would clash with this movie’s tone). Although, that moment where he and the protagonist are looking at each other really close and he almost nods at him like, “nice job destroying that nest, dude,” was kinda dumb.

The MUTOs themselves were alright if a little boring. I did like that they aaaaalmost look like they could have been played by guys in suits if it was the good ole days. We got both a flying monster and a ground monster, so that was nice. They seemed very insect-like, so it bothered me a little that they roared all the time. Every monster these days seems to have a gaping mouth and a samey roar no matter what sort of creature it is. Regular insects don’t exactly make teeny tiny roaring sounds. I’d just be happy with a little more variety from the sound people. Hissing, screeching, croaking, squawking, something other than the same old tiger roar mixed with elephant trumpet and jet engine that we always get. Even Godzilla had that going on, unfortunately covering up most of his trademark cello sound. It’s best if the monsters can get some unique, otherwise unthreatening cry to inflict dread simply because it accompanies their destructive power (see King Ghidorah’s trill).

I appreciated the sense of sheer terror that the movie showed us. I mean, how would it really be when faced with something that huge, dangerous, and out of your control? Sure there are screaming people running everywhere in the older movies, but we’ve never gotten to see it quite from this perspective before. I think that’s thanks to the very real presence Godzilla had in this movie. His entrance was pretty lackluster though. Someone was talking about how Godzilla was going to come, and then he just sorta swam up. My husband put it well: Godzilla was like an overblown movie star that got asked to make a small appearance in some new movie, and he didn’t really care so he just agreed to show up at the time they gave him with no enthusiasm at all. Godzilla is so great at making an awesome entrance. I’m not sure why they’d just have him wander up from the water without any style.

Now, as for the battling. . . I want to throw something at whoever decided to keep cutting away from the monster battles. We were there specifically for the monster battles. We wait and wait, and Godzilla finally arrives and comes face to face with the first MUTO. Oh, man, here we go. It’s gonna be great. Finally! Aaaaand we cut away to a kid watching the news before they even get started. What? Okay here comes the second fight. Godzilla’s going to face off with both MUTOs at once. This is the finale! It’s gonna be awesome. Aaaaand we cut back to what the soldiers are doing. Oh, we almost get to see the monsters over behind those build—nope back to the soldiers. I’m not sure why film makers don’t realize this, but fans don’t like to be teased like that. It’s not funny, man. If we had been allowed to see the first fight in Hawaii, I feel like maybe that would have been a more fulfilling amount of battling, but with only parts of the final rumble I was left very unsatisfied.

The battling, when we got to see it, was very unenergetic. Yes, I liked the weight of the monsters in the lumbering way they got around. I liked the realistic way they moved. But when they’re fighting they’ve gotta pick it up a little bit. Compare this to the fighting in Pacific Rim and you’ll see how much more face-paced and therefore exciting it could have been. I also feel like there was some fan teasing going on in how long it took Godzilla to remember he could do his well-known tail whip and atomic breath. That final kill, though. Very cool.

Why did we go to Hawaii for the first fight? There was a huge missed opportunity in not staging the first encounter of Godzilla and Male MUTO at the reactor where it hatched. Didn’t anyone notice that perfect setting in the surrounding abandoned city? Prime monster fighting ground—no evacuation needed—and it was left untouched. I’m just bewildered by this.

Moving on. . .ah, to the humans. Oh, the humans. Alright, so, you got Bryan Cranston for your movie. Good job. You start him off as the protagonist, give him a background and personality, and we start to latch onto him as our viewpoint for the movie and invest in him emotionally. Going good so far. Now, you make him smartly making the best decisions he can in a time of crisis, and you make him tragically lose his wife after sending her in to do her job. Great! He’s got motivation for spending the next several years working on how to discover and deal with the monsters that caused this, and he’s perfect for eventually coming up with the plan that will save the day at the end.
No? What? You’d rather kill him off after half an hour and jar us with a switch to his completely generic, uninteresting, boring, barely-capable-of-emoting son as the main character? WHY?

The generic protagonist, Ford, with his generic wife and son were the most boring thing about the movie, and boy did we stay focused on them for a long time. I was almost squirming in my seat whenever any of those three came back on screen because I really didn’t want to watch them. I wanted to at least go back to the admiral or the scientists or somebody slightly less boring. Heck, I want to go see what that awesome bus driver is up to. But no, we’ve got to stick with dull Ford the whole way. And he makes such stupid decisions sometimes, too. What is he thinking? Oh no! There are flaming tanks flying at me and nearby explosions and bits of vehicles and it’s dark and foggy. Ah, it’s probably fine to tell the train that it’s safe. No monsters nearby, right? Oh no! The Fem MUTO is walking right by me. Better stay still and be quiet, and while I’m at it, point my flashlight directly into her eyes.

The other humans weren’t much sharper though. The most facepalm-worthy moment was when the military team went to check for the second MUTO egg in the Nevada facility. They really went inside without noticing the massive gaping hole that had been torn in the building. Most of the building was gone. How did they not see this coming in? And then -gasp!- there’s the Fem MUTO, big as a skyscraper, sauntering toward the city not a few miles away. They were in helicopters. They flew in on helicopters and nobody saw that thing walking across the barren landscape? Hah. And how about all the human stupidity in the finale? It is well established that the monsters emit EMP which has a very specific range, and yet there are jets raining from the sky when it goes off because they were flying within that range. What did they expect, and why are they still acting surprised?

I think I can see the idea that this was to be the first Godzilla movie for a new audience. It’s been a long time since the last one, after all. So I understand the approach of the slow, suspenseful buildup to the battle at the climax, mimicking the original 1954 movie. However, it still dragged on too long. I started to lose focus about halfway through. My husband was yawning. A couple miffed fans walked out of the theater. People began chatting. Monster movies aren’t supposed to be boring at any point. It’s my hope, if they plan to make more of these now, that sequels will focus more on the exciting monsters and get to the action much quicker. That was the trend in the earlier movies.

On the whole, this movie wasn’t terrible by any means. It was boring for quite a stretch, entertained decently in the later third, and at least occasionally felt like a Godzilla movie. They showed plenty of reverence for the original films and for Godzilla himself. Unfortunately, it feels like they missed the point of these movies, both of the original allegory and the reason the whole series is so much fun to watch and watch again.