Each of these series is basically defined by unbroken production schedule, with hiatuses after 1974 and 1995. They also have thematic consistencies. The Showa series starts out seriously then becomes sillier and more obsessed with alien invasions as it goes along. The Heisei series starts out with the relatively serious Godzilla (1984) and Godzilla vs. Biollante, and then morphs into comic book styled adventures. The Millennium series starts with a pretty serious film, but the next film, saddled with the unwieldy and confusing title of Godzilla X Megaguirus: G-Eradication Operation, is a throwback to earlier films in many ways. That by itself is not a bad thing, but this movie isn't a step forward in the ways that it really should be.
"...And to get rid of these
grass stains we have no choice
but to load the washing machine
The opening scenes are promising. A newsreel informs us of the divergent history of Japan caused by Godzilla's occasional raids on Japan. The events depicted here establish that this movie is not a direct sequel to Godzilla 2000, but rather set in a alternate universe where Godzilla forced the capital of Japan to move to Osaka, and the country's power is mostly provided by natural sources in order to avoid Godzilla's wrath.
In 1996, after thirty years of trying to run the country on wind and sunlight, the Japanese government endows an institute to study sources of "clean energy." The result is the plasma energy generator, which, we are told, runs on neutrons. It may as well have also been installed with a giant blinking neon sign that says "Stomp Me to Dust" because Godzilla shows up in Osaka quicker than Britney Spears at a tank top sale.
Kenny: Always asking the hard questions.
In the thirty years since Godzilla's last attack Japan has put some thought into what to do if Godzilla shows up again. They even have a special corps that responds to Godzilla's presence. Sadly, this special corps is clearly out of their depth. First of all, these guys (and girls) have no Super-X, no maser trucks -- hell, they don't even have regular old tanks. They're just running around on foot with personal missile launchers. Their first strategy is to shoot Godzilla in the ankles, which doesn't seem to very likely to kill Godzilla, but it pisses him off real good. As you might guess, Godzilla destroys the clean energy plant, and kills most of the special corps. One of the few soldiers left alive is Kiriko Tsujimori (Misato Tanaka), who watched her commanding officer die in a rain of building rubble.
Five years later, Kiriko is the commander of G-Grasper, a force with more advanced technology which is determined to end the threat of Godzilla. This is one of the least believable things about the film. Don't get us wrong, we have no problem believing a woman could be a military commander, especially of an anti-Godzilla force. Having a little something dangling between your legs isn't going to mean crap to Godzilla. But Misato Tanaka is just about the cutest, most willowy actress they could find. She doesn't look like someone whose spent a long time in the military. She looks like someone who might try to have breakfast at Tiffany's. When she wears a helmet she looks like a super-deformed (squat and cutesy, like many Japanese cartoons) version of herself.
And you thought ants could
ruin a picnic.
Kiriko shows up at the electronics shop run by Kudo. Kudo impresses the local kids with a little conjuring trick where he turns the raw materials for curry rice into curry rice just by putting a bowl over them for five seconds. But Kiriko shows the kids that it was actually done with a special microwave bowl and three little robots hiding in it. Normal kids would have been like, "cool, robots!" But these kids are unimpressed that Kudo can't do actual magic and leave the shop. Kiriko then takes Kudo to the G-Grasper headquarters.
Kudo used to study under Prof. Yoshizawa (Yuriko Hoshi), but was disgraced and left her institute. When Godzilla attacked in 1996 all of the professor's colleagues were killed, so now she asks for Kudo's help with her new invention. Working with G-Grasper, she has come up with a perfectly reasonable plan to kill Godzilla with a weapon that will create an artificial black hole. And if that isn't insane enough, Yoshizawa wants to install the weapon on a satellite and fire the black hole at Godzilla from space. Gee, how could anything go wrong? For a follow-up we're pretty sure she's going to try to tug on Superman's cape and mess around with Jimmy Olsen.
Actually, G-Grasper's follow-up is to test a ground-based version of the weapon in a not-so-remote area. It's supposed to be a top secret test of a weapon that could destroy the world, but G-Grasper fires it at an abandoned building that is within easy walking distance of some inhabited apartments. Even so, the test goes forward and the abandoned building is destroyed but good.
G-Grasper guy: That went well.
Guy in suit: Yes. It's a success.
In this case success is defined as opening a hole to a hell dimension and letting giant insects (based vaguely on the giant bugs from Rodan) through, because that's exactly what happens. In a dismaying turn of events, the only person who knows about the insects at first is a little boy named Kouchi (in Japanese, its pronounced "Kenny"), who also just happened to witness the weapons test. Yes, Kouchi managed to wander on to a top-secret site. This begs a couple questions: Did the Japanese government give the job of protecting this site to the same people who keep the Joker in Arkham Asylum? And why keep it top secret anyway? It's not as if Godzilla reads the papers.
Later, Kouchi finds a giant egg after seeing a giant bug fly by, and because he is a 10-year-old kid trying to forward the plot of a giant monster movie, he drops it in the Tokyo sewer system. In no time flat Alien-esque insects are mutilating helpless tourists. (In Florida, we call this "Tuesday.") Meanwhile, Kouchi sits around his apartment and watches the giant insects fly around the city, though no one else seems to notice.
"I'm glad we bought this
Audubon Guide to Hell Beasts!"
Trying to kill some time and spend some excess money, G-Grasper comes up with an insane plan. Seeing from satellite reconnaissance that Godzilla is firing his heat ray at something, they go to investigate in the Griffin, a slightly souped-up plane. At this point we really began to wonder about G-Grasper. These guys are like the Science Patrol on Ultraman, only one of their members doesn't turn into a giant alien that likes to wrestle. (In our eyes, this lack of such a member seriously compromises G-Grasper's level of coolness.) They've got a plane that can take off vertically, and that's about it. And we know from watching Godzilla movies, Ultraman episodes, and anime like Fight, Iczer One! that super-weapons, no matter how seemingly invincible, are doomed to be destroyed by the monster. Why does G-Grasper bother? The comfy chair would probably be more effective against Godzilla.
The only thing that saves G-Grasper's pitiful collective behind is that the giant bugs, now called Meganuron, are attacking Godzilla on a regular basis. On a remote island (not a Kenny in sight) Godzilla battles a whole swarm of the little buggers. The scene is quite reminiscent of ones in Gamera 2 and Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. And that's pretty much the story of this movie. Nearly every scene seems like leftovers from some better film. There are some pretty impressive special effects this time around, but nothing groundbreaking.
"I'm tired of this airplane.
Let's go attack Godzilla with it."
The finale takes place in a submerged Japanese city. All the Meganuron somehow transform into one giant insect called Megaguirus, and the real monster rumble starts. Again, there are some impressive effects here, but there are some boners too. For a giant dragonfly, Megaguirus sure doesn't seem to have to flap his wings very much. This seems to be a trait left over from the elegant Mothra, but on a scary monster like Megaguirus it looks fake. Furthermore, some of the flying composite shots look like Terry Gilliam animated them circa 1974.
Some disturbing hints of monster humor creep into the mix. At one point Megaguirus seems to try to do a Three Stooges on Godzilla. Godzilla responds by planting Megaguirus in the ground by his tail and then jumping in the air to get some Jordan hang time and sumo splat on top of him. It isn't Godzilla's finest hour.
If we had to say something nice about this film, we would mention that the music is pretty good, probably the best non-Ifukube (who wrote the original Godzilla music) score yet. Of course, they revert to the master for the scene in which Godzilla emerges from the water to fight Megaguirus.
It looks like this film is the end of the line for the "Millennium" series of Godzilla films. (Though watch after the credits to see evidence that it isn't the end of Godzilla.) The next Godzilla film, which premieres in Japan as we write this, was directed by Shusuke Kaneko of Gamera, Guardian of the Universe fame. The new film looks like a throwback to the Godzilla films of the 1960s, with lots of monsters and a mystical bent. We wish Kaneko luck, but considering that his version of Godzilla will follow a film made up of almost entirely tired elements, he probably won't need it.