When “Godzilla 2000 Millennium” failed to set the box office on fire, Toho Ltd. fired the creative team and slashed the budget for the following film. The result should have been a disaster, a cut-rate film by a rookie director. Fortunately “Godzilla vs. Megaguirus” managed to transcend its handicap to become one of the strongest Godzilla films this decade.
Like before, the filmmakers wipe out any previous continuity and begin with a clean slate. “Megaguirus” is a direct sequel to the 1954 original, with no films taking place in-between. Through newsreel footage, we learn that after Godzilla originally destroyed Tokyo, Japan’s capital was moved to Osaka in hopes of avoiding future attacks. But Godzilla continues to occasionally reappear, his return always coinciding with Japan’s experiments in fission energy. It is concluded that Godzilla is attracted to fission the way Britney Spears is attracted to an open bar, leading to the banning of nuclear energy.
When Japan realizes the ban on nuclear energy won’t be enough to deter Godzilla, they invent a machine that can artificially create a black hole. The plan? Use the device to suck Godzilla into another dimension! But instead of making the world safer, the device makes matters worse by unleashing a prehistoric wasp from another reality that goes on to challenge Godzilla for supremacy. No matter who wins the fight, Japan loses.
The most impressive aspect of “Godzilla vs. Megaguirus” is the script by Hiroshi Kashiwabra (“New York Cop”) and Wataru Mimura (“Godzilla 2000”). Both veteran Godzilla writers, they show an excellent grasp of their gigantic star. The script gives Godzilla chances to express emotion through body language and facial expressions instead of simply being a big dumb monster that smashes things. Another interesting aspect of Godzilla’s personality is his possessive side, as he begins to act more territorial when Megaguirus arrives. Godzilla is now fighting to protect his turf, not simply fighting for the hell of it.
As for Megaguirus, there hasn’t been a fiercer or more original enemy for Godzilla in a long time. Evil-looking with even more evil intentions, this is one bug that gives Godzilla a run for his money and will have you buying industrial strength Raid. The Dimensional Tide, which creates the black holes, is also a highly inventive concept. Why bother wasting your time trying to kill Godzilla when you could just send him off to some other dimension? It’s a terrific concept, and it’s a shame that future films have ignored it in favor of more conventional and less interesting methods with which to dispose of Godzilla.
Neophyte director and self-professed Godzilla fan Masaki Tezuka (“Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla”) shows no lack of enthusiasm for helming “Megaguirus”. This comes through in the battle sequences, where Godzilla and Megagirus grapple with a ferocity bordering on pure hatred. These two creatures fight like they know only one will walk away. Unfortunately the film tends to be a bit uncertain with the human aspect of the movie, which at times seems a bit stilted and as a result slows down the pacing. Another slight problem is that the beasts easily overshadow the cast. When recalling the movie, Godzilla and Megaguirus easily spring to mind, but it’s hard to remember anything but vague details about the human cast.
Overall, the special effects in “Megaguirus” are rather good. Godzilla retains the look from the previous film, but somehow manages to look more feral and menacing. The faux newsreel footage, meant to show Godzilla’s 1954 rampage, are especially a treat for nostalgic fans. As for Megaguirus, you can’t help but wonder how much more magnificent he might have looked had Toho just loosened its purse strings a bit more.
“Godzilla vs. Megaguirus” is the film Toho should have used to herald Godzilla’s return instead of its inferior predecessor. As good as the film is, imagine what a bigger budget and heightened fan fervor would have done to make it the spectacle it deserves to be. What we’ve been given is certainly nothing to complain about; it’s an imaginative and enjoyable romp through the ruins of Japan that’s a surefire pleasure for both Godzilla and sci-fi fans alike.
MasÃ¢ki Tezuka (director) / Hiroshi Kashiwabara, Wataru Mimura (screenplay)
CAST: Misato Tanaka …. Kiriko Tsujimori
Shosuke Tanihara …. Hajime Kudo
Masato Ibu …. Motohiko Sugiura