With Godzilla vs. Kong coming soon to a
theater streaming service near you, Godzilla fans are no doubt looking for an appetizer to fuel their appetite for destruction. That’s where yours truly steps in as I want to share two Godzilla films a casual fan might have missed: Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.
Godzilla is the undisputed King of the Monsters, but as any fan knows, there are a proverbial shit-ton of films to peruse that feature Japan’s greatest contribution to urban renewal. Godzilla connoisseurs will gladly inform you that there are four distinct Japanese eras of Godzilla films (not to mention America’s half-assed attempt at recreating Godzilla’s gentle mayhem).
Gentle reader, I’m not going to pass myself off as a Godzilla guru but I know what I like and that’s watching Godzilla tear cities apart, stymie the Japanese Self-Defense Force’s futile efforts to stop him, and of course, battle other giant monsters. There are a number of Godzilla films that do this, but I think you’ll consider these more recent Japanese efforts to be worth your time and two of the best.
2002’s Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (not to be confused with 1974’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla) is fantastic for a number of reasons. There’s no crazy continuity to deal with as this film is a direct sequel to the original Godzilla film so you don’t have to get a scorecard or ask the guy down the hallway who looks like Harry Knowles which monster is which and what year Godzilla battled him. The film also has surprisingly
sensational passable special effects (compared to say, Godzilla films from the 60s and 70s) so you can enjoy the film without laughing at rubber-suited monsters (although as any Godzilla aficionado will tell you, that’s part of the early films’ charm). Best of all, the battle scenes are just what you want; Godzilla tearing up Japan and Japan sending its anti-Godzilla weapon Kiryu (aka Mechagodzilla) to deal with the annoying giant radioactive lizard. Naturally, things don’t go as planned and it’s up to Japan’s best and brightest minds to come up with a Plan B.
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla is a solid Godzilla film. While it suffers from the annoying tendency of the story focusing on people rather than Godzilla, it doesn’t take itself seriously like the recent Godzilla: King of the Monsters which featured way too many scenes with people. This monster mash also comes in at 88 minutes which is really all the time you need to tell a Godzilla story unless you’re planning on producing the kaiju equivalent of War and Peace.
Next up is Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S., a sequel to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla which deals with the aftereffects of Godzilla’s rampage in the first film and the return of that lovable Mothra. This film is a sequel to 1961’s Mothra but like Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, a few scenes and lines of dialogue tell you all you need to know. This smash-and-bash has all the things that make Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla so entertaining and even more monster mayhem. It’s a bit longer at 91 minutes but no bladder-buster borefest like 2014’s Godzilla.
The best part about Godzilla films is that films like these are good family films. Be sure to get the Japanese versions with subtitles to avoid the awful dubbing and to get your future cinephiles ready for subtitles (plus it will help their reading). On one hand, there’s mindless destruction but the films do convey a message about the importance of family and teamwork (and without hitting the viewer over the head with morals).