Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Seen It: Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)

After unsuccessfully trolling through Netflix for something (anything!) to catch my interest last evening, I came across Crackle on my Blue-Ray main screen. A free, sort of "low-rent" alternative to Netflix, Crackle seemed to present some pretty pedestrian films (many movies that are readily available on small screen cable outlets), except for one: a Godzilla collection for free viewing. Though it was small, it does contain a few (relatively) modern entries into the kaiju canon that I had neither seen as a child or caught on DVD. The one drawback to the Crackle service as a whole is the pop-up ads that drop into the movie every 10-15 minutes. (These are also unable to be skipped or fast forwarded thru).

I am by no means a Godzilla expert, just a fan, but the Godzilla featured in the first film I watched, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, is neither visually or character-wise the King of Monsters I remember... not that this is a bad thing, just different. For one thing, the ping-pong eyeballs and cartoonish antics of my childhood Godzilla, who I've since learned were actually officially part of the Shōwa series of Godzilla films. These include classics such as Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster Hedorah (1971), Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975).

Produced (naturally) by Toho, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994) is directed by Kensho Yamashita and is part of the more contemporary Heisei series of films. The sixth of seven films, an important thing to know as much of the action and understanding of plot points is predicated on having at least a superficial awareness of prior films in the series. While I do possess a passing familiarity with two new characters, SpaceGodzilla and Moguera, from their appearance in X-Box's Godzilla: Save the Earth game, the intricacies of "who" and "why" were new ground for me... except of course the fact that the Big G and SpaceGodzilla somehow share some DNA simply because visually they look similair in basic design.
Minya update, Little Godzilla, sports an
interesting redesign but that does
not help against SpaceGodzilla.

Though the film had entertainment value for a Godzilla deprived, middle-aged soul such as myself, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994) is generally regarded as a weaker entry in the canon. Not completely blinded by fanboy love, I can understand why. For all that works well (giant monsters fighting, Little Godzilla, pretty solid acting and an extensive giant monster fight in the finale confrontation) there are some bizarre shifts in tone and editing-snafus (that can't possibly have been intended) that were just plain weird. For example, watch out for an early naked butt camera pan of the crusty old-Godzilla fighting veteran showering on Birth Island (Little Godzilla's home) as he is being watched by two other male characters. I can't make this up.

Yes, the Earth's latest defense
against Godzilla is a gigantic
robotic mole, Moguera.
According to sources online, this was one of the more poorly received Godzilla films and it is not difficult to see why. To get a taste of the kooky tonal shifts, just watch the trailer above for further evidence. You don't need to fluency in Japanese to wonder if the soundtrack got mixed up when a romantic ballad is dropped in from nowhere followed up by the Godzilla fight song. There is also one character, the one who showers naked in public apparently, who clearly has a friendly relationship with Little Godzilla (the two live alone on the island for an extended period of time) but spends stretches of the movie chasing adult Godzilla with a rifle and magic bullet made of "blood coagulants" intent on killing him. Mix in what I believe to be a "Space" Mothra character (with the space twin miniature pixies in tow), and you get the idea of what you're in for.

For any viewer for whom this is their first experience with the "real" Godzilla, one huge drawback is the apparent necessity for having seen previous films. Questions such as the identities and roles of  human characters and how the entities (G-Force?) coming into conflict with Godzilla (G-Force?) are never answered, or worse yet, even posed. It's very fair to say that one does not watch a film like this for the nuances of subtle storytelling, but to rely on so much background information is asking quite a bit of someone (unlike me) who is not already a fan on some level. If I didn't know who Mothra was in the first place, Space Mothra would have been impossible for me to figure out--heck, even so, I may be reaching to explain her inclusion in the plot.

While it was great that Crackle has given me something of an entre back to the King of Monsters, despite being entertained, actual understanding of what transpired required some online research to make this particular kaiju viewing experience is to make much sense.

Sources: Wikipedia

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