Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla/Gojira tai Supeisugojira (1994/1999) -***½
Once again, I find myself in the familiar role of the lone voice crying out in the wilderness. I strongly suspect that I am the only person alive that likes this movie, with the possible exception of Hiroshi Kashiwabara and Kensho Yamashita, who wrote and directed it, respectively. Stuart Galbraith IV (author of Monsters Are Attacking Tokyo [Feral House, 1998], a book which every kaiju eiga junkie simply must get their hands on), for example, thinks it’s even worse than Godzilla’s Revenge/Oru Kaiju Daishingeki! I admit that, of the Heisei Godzilla movies I’ve seen, it is by far the stupidest, but it’s also the most fun by a wide margin, fun in the way that the old Toho monster movies were. Yeah, okay, the human characters have almost nothing of value to do, and some of the special effects footage is arrestingly bad, but come on, now! If we learned anything from the last several movies, it was that Toho’s current crop of filmmakers can’t give their human characters anything good to do even when they’re trying really hard, while those Relevant Messages that so many hard-core Godzilla fans make such a big deal about are handled even less skillfully in the Heisei films than the environmentalism of John Frankenheimer’s notoriously dim-witted Prophecy. And as for the occasionally crappy special effects, that never stopped you from appreciating War of the Gargantuas, did it? I didn’t think so.
In what is threatening to become a new kaiju cliche, the movie begins with some big object crashing into the Earth in the Pacific Ocean. Then we cut to Counter-G headquarters to witness the final systems check of Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla’s obligatory anti-Godzilla super-weapon. This time around, the high-tech contraption is MOGERA, which you may remember as the really cool alien mecha from The Mysterians. Naturally, this new MOGERA differs in some significant respects from its late-50’s counterpart (above and beyond the obvious fact of its having been built by humans this time). To begin with, it’s now a “Getta Robo”-style combining robot, whose component parts are the vaguely tank-like (in a “Thunderbirds” kind of way) Land MOGERA and a thoroughly un-aerodynamic flying machine called the Star Falcon. The full effect in robot mode is something akin to a 100-meter cast-iron penguin with a drill for a beak. (Special effects director Koichi Kawakita really gave free reign to that puzzling Japanese power-drill fetish with this one.) Finally, having set up both the arrival of something nasty out of space and the existence of the new wonder-gadget, the film sets up the involvement of... wait for it... Miki Saegusa (Megumi Ogata yet again)! At least this time she actually has a function in the story, unlike in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth. She’s part of “Project T”, in which the “T” naturally stands for “telepathy.” Counter-G’s new big idea for using the psychic’s powers is to implant some sort of receiver in Godzilla’s nervous system, hopefully enabling Saegusa to control the monster, which has by now pissed all over five movies’ worth of attempts to destroy him. Furthermore, perhaps to make up for lost time in the last few films, Miki is accosted immediately after Project T’s expository scene by our friends the Cosmos, in the form of a tiny Mothra, who tell her that a space monster is even now on its way to Earth to kill Godzilla, paving the way for the conquest of our planet by some mysterious agency that the movie conveniently forgets about before circumstances force it to provide any kind of concrete detail.
Without warning, the film next takes us to “Birth Island”, where a pair of Counter-G agents named Koji Shinjo (Jun Hashizume) and Kiyo Sato (Zenkichi Yoneyama) have been sent to rendezvous with a third agent called Yuki (Akira Emoto, from Battle Heater: Kotatsu and Private Lessons II). Yuki has apparently been hanging out on the island for some time, working on his own personal anti-Godzilla project, which involves a machine pistol/sniper rifle hybrid and a few hand-made bullets full of blood coagulant. (Here’s some of that stupidity I was talking about. These appear to be fairly standard 9mm pistol bullets with little windows cut in their jackets to reveal that they are full of red liquid. Leaving aside the problems inherent in trying to snipe with a machine pistol-- leaving aside also the question of whether any small arm would be able to develop enough muzzle velocity to penetrate the skin of a creature that has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to shrug off the full firepower of the Japanese army, navy, and air force-- do you have any idea how much blood a 328-foot-tall, 656-foot-long, 60,0000-ton monster would have?!?! Are we seriously being asked to believe that a handful of 9mm shells could contain enough coagulant to turn all that blood to Jell-o?! Why, yes-- in fact, we are!) And as it turns out, Yuki isn’t the only one who’s been hanging out on Birth Island-- the place has also become the stomping ground of “Little Godzilla,” into which the baby Godzilla from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla has by this point grown. It is one of this film’s minor mercies that this profoundly annoying creature will find itself dropped down a hole and forgotten about after some twenty or thirty minutes. Anyway, Miki soon arrives on the island in the company of a pair of scientists, a Dr. Okubo (Gunhed’s Yosuke Saito) and Miki’s boss Chinatsu Gondo (Towako Yoshikawa). They set up their equipment, Miki unloads this big-ass hippy non-violence tirade on Yuki, Shinjo, and Sato, and everybody settles down to wait for Godzilla.
The King of the Monsters puts in an appearance not much later. Yuki’s sniping does not, in fact, have any appreciable effect on him, and though Shinjo and Sato are successful in tagging Godzilla with Project T’s psychic wave receiver, Miki has no more luck controlling him than she had keeping him away from Japan in Godzilla vs. Biolante.
Now, about that space monster... Earlier in the film, some representatives from NASA (which this movie’s characters insist on pronouncing “Nassau”) met with some Counter-G people to show them some film depicting the destruction of an American manned spaceship (which, for this chain of events to make any kind of sense, would have to have been operating outside of our solar system) at the hands (okay, so they aren’t exactly “hands”) of some big quartzy-looking things that rather resemble the titular creatures from The Monolith Monsters. These people are apparently much smarter than you or me, because they instantly recognized this as the work of “some kind of space monster.” Anyway, while Yuki, Miki, and company are failing to accomplish anything on Birth Island, the Counter-G people decide to send MOGERA out into space so that they too can get in on the failing-to-accomplish-anything action. The battle that follows between MOGERA and the space monster (set in what I take to be the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter) is one of my favorite scenes in this movie. We’re talking serious Edward D. Wood, Jr.-ness here, with the combatants duking it out amid some of the shittiest styrofoam asteroids I’ve ever seen in my life. This is where we get our first look at the monster. Oh boy... I guess the best way to put this would be to say that it looks like somebody took a big heap of quartz crystals and glued a little rubber dinosaur to its underside. This monster bitchslaps MOGERA and continues on to Earth-- to Birth Island, to be exact.
From this point on, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla is almost non-stop ass-kicking. First, the space monster lands on Birth Island, and picks on Little Godzilla for a while before dropping him into a pit lined with the same kind of plasticky-looking crystals that it has growing out of its back and shoulders. Then, it beats up on Godzilla for a while before reverting to its flying mode (on land, the beast’s quartz-to-dinosaur ratio is tiny; in flight, it’s about four to one) and taking off for Japan (‘cause that’s just where monsters go). This is followed by the monster wrecking Fukuoka (I love the name of this city), Godzilla sparring with a repaired MOGERA, and finally an amazingly lengthy battle in which Godzilla and MOGERA tag-team the space monster in the middle of Fukuoka’s financial district (a battle that naturally ends with the destruction of all concerned except Godzilla).
In the small stretches of downtime between battle scenes, we have some really choice bullshit to laugh at. First is the inevitable scene in which Dr. Gondo briefs the Counter-G bigwigs on the space monster. Where to begin? It seems that the monster was spawned from bits of tissue from Godzilla that found their way into space, either when Mothra flew out to divert the global-killer asteroid at the end of Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth or when Biolante did whatever the hell it was that she did at the end of Godzilla vs. Biolante. This tissue then entered into a symbiotic relationship with some kind of crystalline life-forms in deep space before it was “sucked in through a black hole and then pushed out through a white hole,” finally growing into a 100-plus-meter-tall dinosaur with quartz growing out of its back. Seeing as it comes from space, and is cytologically identical to Godzilla, the geniuses at Counter-G’s research center have decided to name it “Space Godzilla.” Space Godzilla!?!? Are you fucking kidding me?! Is it possible that nobody at Toho could think of a better name for this monster than that?!
But we’re not done yet. There’s also a surpassingly bizarre subplot in which the fucking Japanese mafia kidnaps Miki in an attempt to use her potentially Godzilla-controlling psychic powers for the benefit of organized crime. I don’t know, I think this might even top the Greco-Roman-demigod-working-for-the-mob angle in Hercules in New York. I mean, really-- Godzilla the yakuza?
And then there’s the ending, which is straight out of a goddamned Gamera movie. Not only is it straight out of a Gamera movie, in fact, it’s also easily the longest tooth-crumblingly sappy smiles-and-hugs-and-chirping-birds ending in kaiju eiga history. I tell you, it’s a damn good thing that 1995’s Godzilla vs. Destroyer ended up being the last movie in this particular story-arc, because the ending of Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla suggests that Toho was thinking about making Godzilla cute again.
Like I said, I seem to be the only person who doesn’t think this film is crap on a stick, but I really don’t see what everybody’s problem with it is. We’ve got subplots that don’t make any sense, an endearingly goofy opponent for Godzilla, more fight scenes than your average monster movie even knows what to do with, the destruction of a few famous Japanese landmarks, a space battle worthy of the very worst American sci-fi flicks from the 50’s, and a giant robot armed with drill weapons to boot. What’s missing from this list that you might want to see in a kaiju eiga?